U.S. Assists Efforts to Boost Security for Iraqi Elections
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jan. 6, 2005 The U.S. military is working with coalition and Iraqi forces to boost security as part of preparations for Jan. 30 nationwide elections, a senior U.S. military officer said today in Baghdad.
"Iraqi security forces are increasing their capability (and) their capacity for security operations daily," Army Lt. Gen. Tom Metz, commander of Combined Joint Task Force 7, told reporters at a Baghdad press conference.
Iraqi security forces, Metz observed, "have proven themselves in operations throughout Iraq in recent months in places like Najaf, Samarra and Fallujah."
He said U.S., coalition and Iraqi forces are now "focused on setting security conditions in order to conduct successful elections" on Jan. 30.
Although insurgents continue to attack Iraqi government, police and military officials -- as well as U.S. troops -- Metz pointed out that 14 out of Iraq's 18 provinces "currently are prepared and secured enough to hold elections."
The independent electoral commission of Iraq, the general noted, "is leading the way in an effort to operate approximately 9,000 polling centers."
Iraqi police and National Guard units are "focused on providing security" at polling places on election day, Metz explained, while U.S. and coalition troops will provide technical assistance and back up quick-reaction forces.
Metz said he's confident the elections will be held as planned, noting any delay plays into the hands of the "thugs and terrorists."
The vast majority of Iraqis don't support the insurgents, he pointed out, since the terrorists only offer the Iraqi people "brutal oppression, just like Saddam." Insurgent acts of intimidation, including murder, kidnappings and torture "are not tools of a popular movement."
Each Iraqi vote cast Jan. 30 "is a vote against the insurgency," Metz maintained, noting he is "very optimistic" about Iraq's future.
The general said he expects an increase in insurgent-generated violence as the elections near. However, he predicted the insurgents' efforts would fail "and freedom will prevail."
Baghdad is a place where insurgents are evidently concentrating their efforts in recent days, Metz noted, because it is Iraq's capital and media center. The insurgents want "to get as much publicity from each attack as they possibly can," he said, in order to terrorize the population.
Metz said "everything possible" would be done to secure election-day polling sites, but added he couldn't guarantee total safety for everyone going out to cast their vote.
While he doesn't want the enemy to know election-day security plans, Metz did hint that part of the security strategy would be "to intercept the enemy" en route to doing any mischief.
Despite continued attacks on Iraqi police and military units, there is no shortage of Iraqi volunteers for security jobs, Metz said.
"And we have equipment available," the general pointed out, noting the "critical component" now is finding good Iraqi leaders for the security forces, "which is exactly what the enemy is fearful of."