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Trends Positive in Baghdad, Joint Staff General Says

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 30, 2007 – Though it’s still in its early stages, the surge operation in Bagdad is showing positive results, the Joint Staff’s deputy director for operations said here today.

Army Maj. Gen. Michael D. Barbero said attacks against Iraqi civilians are down about 20 percent, and civilian deaths are down 30 percent nationwide. In Baghdad, attacks against civilians are down 20 percent, with deaths down 50 percent.

Attacks using explosively formed projectiles are also down, from 38 in December to 22 this month, though the number of attacks against coalition forces has remained constant, Barbero said.

The Iraqi public also shows increasing signs of support, the general said.

Officials measure the support from polling data and from the number of tips they receive from Iraqi citizens, he explained. The number of tips is increasing.

“On 24 March, a tip from inside Sadr City led Iraqi and coalition forces to a cache inside Sadr City of more than 450 deadly anti-tank mines,” Barbero said. The general said he considers the raid especially important because Sadr City is a stronghold of support for radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr’s militia.

He cited polling data taken March 16-22 that indicates the Iraqi people are beginning to see results. The data shows Iraqis “are hoping the security plan will last and (that it is) showing signs of improvement. Iraqis are expressing greater confidence in the security plan and in their security forces.”

The general said people now are more concerned about basic needs such as electricity, water and sewage treatment rather than security.

The surge is designed to provide security and reduce violence in Baghdad to levels that will allow the Iraqi leadership to make political progress, he said. Barbero acknowledged that while the operation is off to a good start, problems remain.

High-profile attacks, especially those using suicide vests and vehicle bombs, have increased by about 30 percent, but they are less effective now, he said, crediting “increased and more effective security.”

While it is too early for rejoicing, the general said, but he noted that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s government continues to fulfill its promises under the new security plan. The security plan calls for five U.S. brigades to be in place when it’s fully implemented.

The trends in Iraq are positive, Barbero said, and coalition and Iraqi forces are working to stay ahead of the enemy.

“We're seeing an enemy who is trying to make a statement and reacting to our operation, which is just … about six weeks old,” he said. “Only two of the brigades are on the ground, so we have a ways to go.”

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Maj. Gen. Michal D. Barbero, USA

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