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Baghdad Central to Fight for Iraq, U.S. General Says

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 24, 2006 – Iraqi security forces are increasingly taking the lead in operations as Baghdad becomes the focal point in the fight for Iraq, a senior U.S. military officer told reporters today.

Iraqi soldiers and police are at the forefront of operations "to make their capital safer, to set the stage for their capital to emerge as a center not of violence and strife, but some day for business and learning, for commerce and for culture," Army Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell IV said at a Baghdad news briefing

Insurgents have blanketed Baghdad with bombings, murders and kidnappings over the past week and a half as insurgents "seek to uproot democracy and derail the legitimate governance process," Caldwell, spokesman for Multinational Force Iraq, told reporters.

"Baghdad is the center that everybody is fighting for," he said, pointing to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's assessment published today in the Wall Street Journal. Caldwell quoted Maliki as writing: "Security plans to quell the violence in Baghdad, the capital and most populous city, face serious challenges that must be overcome. Together, we can and will succeed."

That success, Caldwell said, appears near. Recent tips provided by Baghdad citizens to Iraqi soldiers and police have led to the capture or killing of insurgents and the foiling of bombing and kidnapping plots, he said.

Such triumphs demonstrate the growing capability of Iraqi security forces, Caldwell said. America remains firmly in Maliki's camp, Caldwell said, noting U.S. troops will do whatever it takes to bring security to Baghdad.

Recent murders and kidnappings in and around Baghdad don't seem to be the work of any one particular group, Caldwell said. "It's been a random of Iraqi personnel that we've picked up that have been associated with death squads."

He added that people conducting illegal activities in Baghdad will be arrested.

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