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Iraqis Will Have Safe Environment for Referendum, General Says

By Sgt. Sara Wood, USA
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 6, 2005 – Coalition and Iraqi security forces are committed to providing a secure environment for Iraqis to participate in the Oct. 15 constitutional referendum, and they have the abilities to do so, a military spokesman in Baghdad said today.

In a news briefing, Army Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, a spokesman for Multinational Force Iraq, said officials predict significant acts of violence between now and the referendum, but that coalition and Iraqi forces are prepared to combat them.

"We are poised and ready for a safe and secure environment for the people of Iraq for the conduct of the referendum," Lynch said.

The goal is not to create security for only the referendum, Lynch said, but to establish lasting security for the December elections and beyond. The desired end state for Iraq is a country at peace with its neighbors -- an ally in the war on terror with a representative government that respects human rights and a security force that can maintain domestic order and deny terrorist activity, he said.

Combined coalition-Iraqi operations are going on in the Euphrates River Valley to put pressure on terrorists and to restrict their movement into Iraq, Lynch said. About 4,800 coalition troops and more than 4,000 Iraqi security forces are working together in these operations, he said. Also, a major operation is going on inside Baghdad involving more than 20,000 Iraqi police. The goal of this operation is to create a safe environment for the referendum and elections, Lynch said.

The Iraqi people have been demonstrating their desire and willingness to be involved in the political process, Lynch said. The number of Iraqis who applied to work at polling centers is four times what it was for January elections, he said, and the numbers of registered voters and polling centers have increased.

"The people that are going to win this counterinsurgency operation are the people of Iraq," he said. "We are seeing, routinely, indications where the people of Iraq are uniting against the terrorists and foreign fighters."

Coalition operations over the past few months have been effective, Lynch said. From May to August 2005, casualties of coalition forces, Iraqi security forces and civilians have decreased 40 percent, he said. Also, suicide attacks and car bombs have decreased, and the number of bomb makers captured or killed has increased significantly, he said. However, the coalition isn't conducting operations on its own, he said.

"It's not the coalition out doing business in the absence of Iraqi security forces," he said. "Everything we do is in conjunction with them. Sometimes we lead; sometimes they lead."

In a recent significant development, the 6th Iraqi Army Division assumed control of battle space in four districts of Baghdad Oct. 3, Lynch said. The division has command and control of the districts and is conducting operations with coalition forces, he said.

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