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Iraqis Clear in Desire for Freedom, General Says

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 23, 2005 – Iraqis are very clear in their desire for freedom and are taking steps to ensure that freedom is secure, a senior military commander said during a briefing from Mosul, Iraq, today.

"They want their freedom. We see that in a number of ways," Army Brig. Gen. Kevin Bergner, deputy commanding general of Multinational Force Northwest, said. "One of the most quantifiable (ways) is in the number of tips and information that they pass (along) that allow Iraqi security forces and our own to interrupt and preclude attacks."

Iraqis also are volunteering to serve in security forces. On any given day, about 800 Iraqis are training to become police officers, Bergner said. Each week about 600 graduate the eight-week basic police-training course.

Attendance at provincial government meetings is setting records as well. At the beginning of the year, such meetings would typically draw 25 people. "Today, ... the number is 250 to 400 people that will attend the meeting," Bergner said, calling this "an encouraging sign that the Iraqi people increasingly have confidence in their own government."

This confidence is evident in Tal Afar as well. Residents, sheiks and the local government there trust and respect the Iraqi security forces, Bergner said. And the security forces display their effectiveness by their willingness to more frequently stand their ground against attackers. They're also increasingly developing intelligence used to conduct operations.

Bergner credits the 1st Brigade, 25th Infantry Division, Stryker Brigade Combat Team, which recently completed its tour in Iraq, with much of the security success in the Tal Afar area. The Iraqi government has capitalized on those successes to transition into reconstruction and reconciliations efforts in the area. Augmented by Iraqi police, the 3rd Iraqi Army Division and the U.S. Army's 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment continue to lead efforts to maintain this stability, Bergner said.

One dividend of stability in Iraq's northwest is seen in the number of Iraqis registering to participate in the Oct. 15 constitutional referendum.

"Over 100,000 new voters were registered in Ninevah province during the pre-referendum registration period," Bergner said. "I should point out that in the election in January, only about 150,000 people total voted."

Both Iraqi and coalition forces are ready for the upcoming draft constitution referendum vote on Oct. 15, he said. Iraqi security forces have developed plans, and coalition forces "feel very confident" in their preparations to assist in securing polling sites.

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