Iraqis Making Commitment to Secure Democratic Future
By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Sept. 23, 2005 Iraqi officials estimate 93 to 96 percent of eligible Iraqis have registered to vote in the country's constitutional referendum and national elections, a U.S. general in Iraq announced.
In a news conference from Baghdad Sept. 22, Army Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, a spokesman for Multinational Force Iraq, talked about "amazing results" in a recent voter-registration drive. He noted that only 72 percent of eligible Americans are registered to vote.
"So the people of Iraq, like the people of Afghanistan, are moving towards democracy," he said. Afghanistan held successful provincial elections Sept. 18. "Democracy in action," Lynch said, "and that is so exciting."
Much of Iraq is secure enough to carry out elections without incident. Lynch noted that 85 percent of attacks in the country take place in only four of the 18 provinces: Baghdad, Anbar, Ninevah and Salahuddin. Forty percent of the Iraqi population lives in these provinces, he said.
The other 14 provinces average less than one attack per day. In contrast, Baghdad averages 26 attacks per day; Anbar, 24.
The general explained the insurgency in Iraq has three components: terrorists and foreign fighters, Iraqi "rejectionists," and Iraqis still loyal to deposed dictator Saddam Hussein. Officials believe foreign fighters entering Iraq from Syria through the Euphrates River Valley "account for the majority of the horrific acts of violence against the people of Iraq."
Still, successes are piling up. For several months Iraqi security forces and coalition troops have been conducting combined operations to help secure the border and return it to Iraqi control. Operations have centered around Qaim, Rawah, Haditha, Hit, Ramadi and Fallujah.
Iraqi civilians led coalition forces in Haditha to a car-bomb factory Sept. 16. U.S. Air Force planes destroyed the site with precision-guided munitions after ground troops confirmed the site was full of "vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices" in various stages of completion, Lynch said.
Since March, coalition and Iraqi forces have captured 325 foreign fighters and killed another 300, Lynch said. The capture of several high-profile terrorist leaders and facilitators in Fallujah, Ramadi and Mosul also is yielding positive results in those areas. For example, Mosul has seen a 70 percent reduction in car-bomb attacks in the past several months, he said.
The Iraqi government is making its own progress as well. Over the past six weeks, Iraq's central criminal court has prosecuted 54 foreign fighters for illegal entry into the country, among other crimes. Fifteen of those individuals received life sentences for their crimes.
Lynch called this "a clear indication that the sovereign government of Iraq is working to re-establish control of their borders and won't tolerate people coming in from outside nations to conduct these horrific acts of violence."
More than 350 calls poured in to the national tips hotline during the first week of September, Lynch said, adding that the majority of the calls provided solid intelligence.
"The people of Iraq have united to say, 'We're not going to tolerate the insurgency in our country any more,'" he said.