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Iraq Taking Significant Steps Forward, Spokesman Says

By Sgt. Sara Wood, USA
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 27, 2006 – As coalition and Iraqi forces continue security operations in Baghdad, the Iraqi government and security forces are making significant progress and moving closer to an independent future, a U.S. military spokesman in Iraq said today.

More than 60,000 Iraqi and coalition forces are in Baghdad as part of Operation Together Forward, which is designed to reduce sectarian violence in the city, Army Maj. Gen. William Caldwell, Multinational Force Iraq spokesman, said in a news conference. Iraqi security forces outnumber coalition forces three to one inside the city and are leading most of the operations, Caldwell said.

“Iraqi security forces are making a concerted effort to defeat the insurgency and stop sectarian violence,” he said. “They clearly carry the preponderance of the weight, with the amount of security forces they have operating within the city.”

As the Iraqi army grows in size, it also continues to increase in capabilities, Caldwell said. Today, six divisions, 27 brigades and 88 battalions are in the lead in operations in their areas, and two Iraqi army divisions are under the control of the Iraqi ground forces command, he said.

Iraqi security forces are specifically targeting death squads and illegal arms groups in an effort to reduce the number of civilian casualties in Baghdad, Caldwell said. Since mid-July, about 29 cell leaders and 254 cell members have been killed or captured, he said.

During the past two weeks, coalition and Iraqi forces have also targeted al Qaeda in Iraq, conducting 47 operations, resulting in 29 terrorists killed and 140 suspected terrorists detained, Caldwell said.

Success by the Iraqi security forces paves the way for development of the political system, Caldwell said. This week, the council of representatives announced the formation of a constitutional review committee, which will work over the next four months to make recommendations for constitutional changes, he said. Also this week, Dhi Qar province came under provisional Iraqi control, with the governor assuming responsibility for day-to-day governance and all law enforcement and security.

The Iraqi government is working diligently to deal with key challenges, such as the implementation of legislation to encourage investment and equitable distribution of power and wealth, federalism, a hydrocarbon law, “de-Baathification,” and reconciliation, Caldwell said.

“Iraq is living a critical moment in what Iraqis and all our coalition partners supporting the mission here hope is the beginning of a long history of democracy for both this nation and this region,” he said. “The process may seem slow, but Iraqis have many difficult choices to make to bring unity, security, and prosperity. As Iraqis persevere, we must maintain the patience to allow their critical efforts to come to fruition.”

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