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Iraqi Forces on Track to Provide Baghdad Election Security

By Sgt. Sara Wood, USA
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 8, 2005 – Iraqi security forces in and around Baghdad are making progress in their training and will be ready to assume responsibility for security measures for the October elections, the area's top U.S. commander said today.

Speaking by satellite from Baghdad in a Pentagon news briefing, Army Maj. Gen. William Webster, commander of Task Force Baghdad and the 3rd Infantry Division, said two Iraqi brigades already are operating on their own in Baghdad, and two more will be operational in about two months. The remaining two brigades that will make up the Iraqi army division in Baghdad will be ready by the elections, he added.

The plan is for the Iraqi division, made up of six brigades, along with Iraqi special police and commandos, to plan and conduct security for the elections in Baghdad, with backup from U.S. forces, he said. Iraqi forces are facing difficulties in supporting themselves logistically for long-term operations, he explained, and it will be at least spring before they are fully independent in that capacity.

Iraqi and coalition forces have been successful at reducing the number of vehicle-borne improvised explosive device attacks in Baghdad, largely due to an increased presence of Iraqi forces, Webster said.

"We attribute our success to better trained and experienced Iraqi security forces patrolling the streets, talking to the Iraqi people and gathering greater intelligence," he said. "The people are gaining more confidence, and they're providing them lots of information."

Since the beginning of Operation Lightning in May, the number of vehicle-borne IED attacks per week in Baghdad has been cut in half, thousands of suspects have been captured, including 51 foreign fighters, and more than 2,500 traffic-control points have been established, the general said. The insurgency in Baghdad has been suppressed to a point where political and economic progress can continue, and despite continued threats, the terrorists will not maintain a large presence there, he said.

"We don't think the enemy is capable of sustained, long-term operations against us and the Iraqi security forces," he said.

Defeat of the insurgency, however, is a more ambiguous concept, Webster said. The insurgents are highly adaptable enemies who are hard to keep track of, he explained.

"It's very difficult to know it's over until the Iraqi people are comfortable with the level of security that they have around them and they're able to go on with their lives in a normal way," he said.

Iraqi and coalition forces are continually improving in their tactics against insurgents, he said, and the strength of the government and confidence of the Iraqi people prove there is hope for the future of Iraq.

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