Iraqi Referendum Seen As a Security Success
By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Oct. 24, 2005 With insurgent attacks down and voter participation up on Oct. 15, Iraq's constitutional referendum is being viewed as a security and participation success, a senior military official said in a news conference in Iraq on Oct. 23.
"(In) January there were 89 attacks against polling sites, while there were only 19 during the referendum," said Air Force Brig. Gen. Donald Alston, director of strategic communications for Multinational Force Iraq. "The safe and secure environment resulted in higher voter turnout, estimated at over 60 percent - about 10 million people. (Iraqi forces) had the lead for security for the referendum and they excelled."
Iraqi security forces led security operations for the referendum, including security at the polling centers and a cordon outside those centers. Coalition forces provided support with outer perimeter security, he said.
Three days after the referendum, Iraqi security forces independently conducted 10 of 35 offensive operations throughout the country. In the future, this will more frequently be the case, Alston said.
"What you will see in the next coming months (is) more and more portions of Iraq turned over to Iraqi security forces," he said. He added that though some limited areas of Iraq are patrolled solely by Iraqi security forces, none are ready for a complete handover of security to Iraqi security forces.
There are now more than 206,000 trained and equipped Iraqi security forces. That number is expected to close in on 275,000 in about a year, Alston said.
Turning attention to the insurgency, the general said 18 foreign fighters had been captured this month, part of the 311 captured since April. He also noted that 60 percent of the 376 foreign fighters captured in 2005 were from Egypt, Syria, Sudan and Saudi Arabia.
The Iraqi border is long and difficult to defend, Alston said, though measures are being taken to reinforce security there.
"We have been, throughout these last two years, ... building border forts to improve the infrastructure along the borders," he said. "The plan is to increasingly deploy ready Iraqi security forces out to the border areas. Now ... there are more Iraqi security forces who are now better able to step up to that mission to man those borders."
Another important step to a new Iraq came Oct. 19 with the beginning of Saddam Hussein's trial for a July 1982 attack on the village of Dujail, Iraq, Alston said. That attack resulted in the arrest and torture of men, women and children.
"As you saw (on) television, the Iraqi special tribunal proceedings clearly demonstrated that the trial will be open and transparent, fair and just, and most importantly, led by Iraqis themselves," he said.
The trial on the Dujail charges began in Baghdad, but the defense was granted a continuance after citing missing and illegible case file documents. The trial is scheduled to resume Nov. 28.
Saddam also faces more charges for other crimes against humanity.