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Iraqi Forces Conducting More Independent Operations

By Sgt. Sara Wood, USA
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 16, 2006 – Iraqi security forces continue to grow in capability and are planning and conducting more operations without coalition support, a U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad said today.

Of the 435 company-level or higher operations conducted in Iraq last week, 31 percent were independent Iraqi operations, Army Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, Multinational Force Iraq spokesman, said at a news briefing.

A very notable victory for the Iraqi security forces was a peaceful Ashura holiday last week, Lynch said. Two million pilgrims participated in the Shiite Muslim festival without any violence or attacks by insurgents, he said. This year's calm was in stark contrast to the 2004 and 2005 holidays, which saw significant violence. Lynch attributed the success to the development of the Iraqi security forces.

"The Iraqi government planned the security for the Ashura commemoration, the Iraqi security forces executed it, and it was indeed an Iraqi success," he said.

Iraqi security forces further demonstrated their capability last week by capturing 102 insurgents in the Diyalah province and discovering 950 mortars that were well placed for insurgent access and in extremely good condition, Lynch said.

Coalition forces are seeing reduced casualty rates as Iraqi forces take over more missions and take responsibility for more areas, Lynch said. Less than 30 percent of operations are now independent coalition operations, but the coalition still supports the Iraqis wherever they're needed, he said.

Insurgents continue to attack throughout Iraq and are increasingly targeting Iraqi security forces and Iraqi civilians, Lynch said. The insurgency maintains its primary objectives of derailing the democratic process and discrediting the Iraqi government, he said, but more local leaders are using the political process to combat violence and encourage the people to embrace democracy.

"Over the next days and weeks, the elected representatives of the Iraqi government and the Iraqi people will form a government -- a representative government -- that truly meets the rights of all Iraqis," he said. "You've got to applaud the Iraqi citizenship, as they've worked over the last year through three successful elections as they march from tyranny to democracy."

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