Iraq Unity Government Brings "Hope and Encouragement," General Says
By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, June 1, 2006 Noticeable changes have taken place in Iraq since the country's national unity government was inaugurated, a Multinational Force Iraq spokesman told reporters today in Baghdad.
"We've seen a lot of activities and events that give us a lot of hope and encouragement as we watch the leadership of the Iraqi government and the Iraqi (security forces) take greater control," Army Maj. Gen. William Caldwell said.
He noted that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has told Iraqis they all need to be part of the solution to the problems facing the country.
Caldwell also addressed several topics affecting coalition operations, such as the troop increase in response to insurgent activity. Two battalions from the 2nd Brigade, 1st Armored Division, from Kuwait are moving to Iraq's Anbar province. The nearly 1,500 soldiers will support current ongoing operations in the area.
"This will be a short-term deployment, which, in the long term we hope will contribute more to the security and stability in that area," Caldwell said. "Commanders in the field will continue to re-evaluate the status (in Anbar province), and at which time they're no longer needed, we'll move those forces back to Kuwait."
Commanders also are keeping a close eye on the conduct of all coalition forces, the general said, referring to the recent focus on alleged actions of a group of U.S. Marines in the city of Haditha in November 2005. Both Multinational Corps Iraq and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service are investigating the incident, in which Marines allegedly shot Iraqi civilians during a raid.
Multinational Corps Iraq's investigation is focusing on policy and procedure. NCIS is looking into criminal allegations.
"This tragic incident is in no way representative of how coalition forces treat Iraqi citizens," Caldwell said, adding that any allegations of such conduct would be fully investigated and those found guilty would be held fully accountable.
"The key thing to remember is we tell all members of the coalition force here, 'We're here as guests of the Iraqi government. We're here as guests of the Iraqi people, and as such, that's exactly how we should conduct ourselves,'" he said.
U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli, Multinational Corps Iraq commander, has directed "core warrior values" training for all coalition forces. The training is meant to reinforce and sustain the legal, moral and ethical standards guidance for battlefield conduct that coalition forces received before arriving in Iraq, Caldwell said.
As political progress moves forward in the country, operational gains also are being made, Caldwell said.
In the past week, coalition forces conducted only 8 percent of the total military operations independently. Two weeks ago, that percentage was slightly higher, he said. "Out of 389 military operations conducted this past week, Iraqi security forces only -- with no coalition support -- conducted almost 40 percent of them," Caldwell added.
He also highlighted operations in Baghdad that resulted in the capture of Sheik Ahmed Hussein Dabash Samir al-Batawi, a key financer and facilitator in the al Qaeda network. Caldwell said coalition forces see this capture as very significant for the information they believe the terror leader can provide on the al Qaeda network.
Operations in other areas of Iraq also have resulted in the capture of 14 suspected terrorists and the killing of at least four more, Caldwell said. Several large weapons caches also were discovered during operations in the past week.
Iraq also continues to add to its security forces. The Iraqi Interior Ministry reports 148,000 members, with an end-strength goal of 188,000. Just over 1,400 police recruits will graduate this week, and another 8,000 recruits are in training, Caldwell said.
The Iraqi government also is establishing a police ethics and integrity center that will be operational in the next few weeks.
"The minister of the interior made that decision, which ... should encourage leader development, advanced ethical motivation and apply the principles of human rights to their policing," he said.
While the Iraqis work to take greater control of, and responsibility for, their country, Caldwell said the coalition is focusing on infrastructure. "Water and electricity (are) two of the basic services that the people of Iraq keep telling their leadership that they want to have fixed," he said.
In response to those requests, a new water treatment plant and an electrical substation have been brought on line. The water plant will bring fresh water to 650,000 people in the Karada district of Baghdad, and the electrical substation will provide electricity to 50,000 Iraqi citizens.
Also, the Iraqi government, with coalition force support, has almost concluded its crop-spraying program. Just over 300 square miles of date palms have been sprayed, as well as Iraq's wheat and barley crops.
"The idea of spraying (the crops) is very, very important so that we can hopefully boost revenues in the date exportation and then reduce the amount of money going out as we increase the amount of crops we grow here in (Iraq)" Caldwell said.
Iraq is importing nearly 3 million tons of grain to feed its people annually, Caldwell said. The crop spraying is a first step in shifting the balance to importing less grain and exporting more dates, which was once Iraq's second largest export behind oil.