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General Touts Growth in Iraqi-Run Operations

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 18, 2006 – More than 80 percent of operations in Iraq currently are being performed either solely by Iraqi security forces or in concert with coalition troops, officials here said today.

In 446 operations during the week ending May 12, Iraqi and coalition forces cooperated in 223, new coalition spokesman Army Maj. Gen. William Caldwell said in his first press briefing. Iraqi army or police forces handled almost a third -- or 139 operations -- on their own. Coalition forces performed 84 operations -- 19 percent -- alone during the week.

Even Iraqi forces operating alone still need coalition help in logistics, transportation, close-air support, and medical assistance, said Caldwell, Multinational Force Iraq's deputy chief of staff for strategic effects.

"We know we have challenges still with logistics and resupply and the like for Iraqi security forces," he said. "But we do have forces that are organized, that are trained, that are able to go out there and operate independently."

Caldwell replaced Army Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch in the job.

The general said he was encouraged by the growing use of the Baghdad tip line, adding that almost 70 percent of the tips received from Iraqis are "effective."

He pointed to a recent operation in Baghdad as an example of how Iraqi forces are maturing. During the operation, U.S. and Iraqi troops responded when three men in a van fired on them. The van fled to the Abu Abbas mosque in southern Baghdad, where the men jumped out of the van and ran onto the mosque compound.

American troops from 1st Battalion, 87th Infantry, 10th Mountain Division, and Iraqi troops from the 6th Division searched the van and found it loaded with weapons. "So clearly, these are anti-coalition personnel who ran into the compound," Caldwell said.

The Iraqi forces gained permission from the imam to enter the mosque compound, escorted by local officials. They found guns, grenades, rocket-propelled grenades and RPG launchers, mines, TNT, artillery rounds, bombs, and other ordnance used for making improvised explosive devices, and 11 military-age men in the compound. The forces detained nine of the men.

"The good thing about this operation was they pursued a van; they didn't just go shooting up the neighborhood, went into the van and found something in it, which gave them probable cause to continue searching. They dealt with local officials; they didn't just go bursting into the mosque area. They were escorted there by somebody, and they treated the place with dignity and respect, and they accomplished the mission," Caldwell said of the Iraqi forces involved.

In another operation in southwestern Baghdad, Iraqi police captured Abu Jebril, leader of an al Qaeda in Iraq cell and an expert in car bombs. Iraqi police also captured two of the man's associates and confiscated about 500 pounds of ammonium nitrate and black powder.

The important thing in both these operations, Caldwell said, is that Iraqi forces took the lead. "You'd expect that to happen," he said. "And it is."

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