General: Baghdad Division Curbing Violence as Government Forms
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Mar. 31, 2006 The beefed-up force in and around Baghdad is helping curb violence and likely will stay at current levels as Iraq's new unity government forms, the force's commander told Pentagon reporters today.
Army Maj. Gen. James Thurman said Multinational Division Baghdad, with about 32,000 Iraqi security forces and just over 29,000 U.S., Georgian, Macedonian and Estonian troops, is likely to keep its current strength until the government becomes operational. "I see that as being a critical piece in getting the overall rule of law of law established in all of Iraq," and specifically, Baghdad, he told reporters in a video teleconference from Iraq.
Multinational Division Baghdad got an additional 3,700 troops when it launched Operation Scales of Justice earlier this month to enhance security in the capital city as the parliament began meeting to select the new government.
Fanned out over a 17,000-square-mile battle space that includes not just Baghdad, but also the Babil, Karbala and Najaf provinces, these troops "are succeeding in their mission," Thurman said. "We are setting the conditions for stability and security in Baghdad in this decisive period on the campaign as Iraq transitions to self-governance."
What's made that possible, Thurman said, is "the Iraqi security forces' assumption of more battle space and their ability to protect their citizens." Eighteen of the 29 Iraqi battalions in Multinational Division Baghdad have their own battle space, and "Iraqi security forces are in the lead" in division operations, he said.
Similarly, the Iraqi police are carrying out their civil law enforcement duties. "The police academies are training new recruits every day as more citizens volunteer to serve and protect the Iraqi people," Thurman said.
The Iraqi people are taking note and gaining trust and confidence in their security forces, he said. Of more than 3,000 tips Iraqis have called in to an anonymous hotline since Thurman took command of Multinational Division Baghdad on Jan. 7, more than 2,500 led to successful operations, he said.
"Iraqi forces are succeeding, they are in the lead, and they are gaining in capability every day," Thurman said.
These troops, along with the U.S. and coalition soldiers supporting them, run 115 to 120 patrols a day and man 138 checkpoints, Thurman said. By disrupting terror cells and foiling attempts to inflict violence, he said they're stopping terrorists from achieving their objectives.
"The terrorists are failing," Thurman said. "Terrorists failed to stop the elections, they failed to stop the recent seating of the council of representatives, ... and they have failed to incite civil war by the attack on the Golden Shrine in Samara."
In each case, Thurman said, "Iraqis rose to the challenge and prevented the terrorists from succeeding."
Thurman acknowledged that despite their efforts, violence continues in Baghdad, mostly within five of its 10 districts. Most isn't sectarian violence, he said, but rather, "desperate acts of terrorism designed to derail the formation of the national unity government," or simply criminal activity.
Just returned today after visiting "one of the toughest spots in Baghdad" that's experienced drive-by shootings, roadside bombs, kidnappings and intimidation by terrorists, Thurman said he was impressed by his observations.
"What I saw today was a true Iraqi force in the lead - with the Iraqi army, Iraqi national police and Iraqi police, with coalition assistance -- performing a great job out there," he said. "And I think part of what we are seeing every day is our ability to work closely with Iraqi security forces as we continue to grow their capability and support them."