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Ramadi Mission at Turning Point, U.S. Commander Says

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 14, 2006 – Anti-insurgent efforts in the Iraqi city of Ramadi are beginning to bear fruit, a senior U.S. military officer said today.

"We're in a transition point in the fight for Ramadi. There's still a lot to do, but we're on the right track," Army Col. Sean B. MacFarland said from his headquarters in Ramadi during a satellite teleconference with Pentagon reporters.

MacFarland is the commander of the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division. The 1st Brigade assists Iraqi soldiers and police in defeating insurgents within the unit's area of operations, he said. Ramadi is the capital of Anbar province and is located west of Baghdad. The 1st BCT contains members from all of the U.S. armed services, MacFarland said.

The 1st BCT was initially deployed to the Tal Afar area in western Ninevah province in January, MacFarland said. The unit moved and took up anti-insurgent operations in Anbar on June 11, he said.

MacFarland said his troops work in partnership with Iraqi soldiers and police in the area.

Ramadi was known as a hotbed of insurgent activity. But today, "we're beginning to take the city back from the insurgents," MacFarland said. "And, now, it's important for us to hold what we've got and to begin to build where we hold."

The efforts of Iraqi police and soldiers are the key to ultimately securing Ramadi, MacFarland said. "And, they're make good progress, and we're committed to helping them get to where they need to be."

Ramadi's residents are historically known for their recalcitrant views in regard to authority, MacFarland said. This situation likely accounts for some of the insurgent activity in the area.

Al Qaeda used violence -- including murder -- to cow Ramadi citizens to stay at home and away from their jobs, MacFarland said.

Iraqi soldiers and police are taking an increasing role in conducting security operations in Ramadi, the colonel said. This is a development that's paramount to achieve victory against the insurgents, he said. Multiple control points established around the city also are helping to disrupt insurgent activities, MacFarland said.

"We are beginning to reintroduce the Iraqi security forces back into the city and establish the secure conditions for people to come back out of their homes and begin productive employment," he said. "The tide is beginning to shift."

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