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Commander Sees Security Gains East of Baghdad

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 16, 2007 – The commander of U.S. soldiers posted east of Baghdad has seen tangible security improvements in his area of operations since his unit deployed there in March as part of the surge in forces.

The current level of violence in his section of Baghdad province “is significantly decreased from what it was when we first got here,” Army Lt. Col. John S. Kolasheski told military analysts and reporters during a conference call today.

Kolasheski leads 3rd Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment, a component of 3rd Infantry Division’s 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team. The lieutenant colonel’s 700-member contingent of U.S. and coalition troops is responsible for security and stability operations radiating out from the Iraqi community of Jisr Diyala, located about 30 kilometers east of Baghdad.

The surge of forces into his sector has enabled stepped up counterinsurgency operations that have resulted in the capture of nearly 300 extremists since March, Kolasheski reported. Fifteen high-profile terrorists are among the captives, he added.

A special U.S. rapid-deployment platoon that has effectively disrupted local insurgent activities during the past few months has greatly contributed to the reduction in violence in his sector, Kolasheski said.

Increased stability across his area of operations has produced more economic opportunity for local Sunnis and Shiites, alike, and created a climate for rapprochement between the two previously bickering groups, Kolasheski reported.

“There’s open communications, and they are working together in security issues, on central services and employment opportunities,” Kolasheski said of improving Sunni-Shiite relations in his area of operations.

In addition, concerned local citizens are volunteering in increasing numbers to join homegrown security forces, Kolasheski said. Such activity, he added, provides jobs for local Iraqis that are fed up with insurgents and want to eject them from their communities.

The concerned Iraqi citizens “provide a foundation at the local level to really get at restoring essential services and putting people to work,” Kolasheski observed.

There’s still violence in his area, Kolasheski acknowledged, but, it is sporadic in nature and greatly reduced from levels seen just four months ago. Most attacks now, he observed, are perpetrated by criminal groups, rather than by sectarian militia members or al Qaeda operatives.

“It is definitely moving in the right direction,” Kolasheski said.

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