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Enemy Fighters ‘Punching Back, Hard’ After Iraqi Government Crackdown

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 12, 2006 – A recent spike in Baghdad violence is the insurgents’ response to Iraqi, U.S. and coalition efforts to rein in sectarian murder squads and gangs that operate in some sectors of the city, a senior U.S. military officer said today.

For example, in Baghdad’s violence-prone Dora neighborhood, “there’s no question that the anti-Iraqi force elements are punching back, hard,” Army Maj. Gen. William Caldwell, a spokesman for Multinational Force Iraq, told reporters at a Baghdad news conference.

Through stepped up bombings, murders and kidnappings, insurgent leaders seek to sow fear and instability among Baghdad’s citizens as part of their efforts to discredit the new Iraqi government, Caldwell said.

The insurgents want to disrupt Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s stabilization plan and demonstrate that security cannot be maintained in Baghdad or elsewhere in Iraq, Caldwell said. The insurgents, he said, will go to any length, no matter how horrific, to prove their point.

Since July, when Operation Together Forward began, U.S., Iraqi and coalition forces have moved into several Baghdad areas that were formerly the domain of anti-Iraqi groups, Caldwell explained.

There’ve been increased attacks in and around Baghdad because the insurgents “are trying to get back into the focused areas,” Caldwell said. Total attacks in the Baghdad area have increased about 15 percent since August, he said.

Caldwell said officials predicted an up tick in violence in Baghdad and some other parts of Iraq during the Ramadan period, running this year from late September until mid-October. The general said the violence was likely to continue in the near term.

However, “operations have been effective in the neighborhoods we’ve cleared and continued to protect, where attacks have decreased by approximately 11 percent,” Caldwell said.

Maliki and his government are determined to fight back against insurgent violence as United States’ and coalition forces’ -- numbering about 25,000 in the Baghdad area -- continue to provide assistance, Caldwell said.

As Baghdad neighborhoods and other areas in Iraq are secured, Iraqi forces will move in to keep the peace, followed by targeted, Iraqi-recommended reconstruction projects designed to revive local economies, he explained.

“The multinational force and the U.S. mission in Iraq supports the efforts of Prime Minister Maliki’s government to diligently work to stabilize the security situation, increase prosperity and unite this fractured population,” Caldwell said.

Iraqi government efforts to promote the cessation of violence between tribal factions in western Iraq appear to be working, Caldwell said. Several tribal groups in western Iraq have decided to cooperate to fight al Qaeda and other insurgents “because they’re finding they don’t want them out there in their area anymore,” Caldwell said.

“We’re very optimistic that this political track that the prime minister’s working will, in fact, bear some fruit and show some results here over time,” he said.

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