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Security Situation in Al Anbar Province Improving, Says 82nd Airborne Commander

By K.L. Vantran
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 18, 2003 – Attacks against coalition forces in the Al Anbar province have decreased in the past weeks, 82nd Airborne Division Commander Maj. Gen. Charles H. Swannack Jr., said in an interview from Baghdad, Iraq, today.

The security situation is a "good news" story, he added. "We're receiving fewer attacks and even fewer effective attacks. An enemy may use an RPG (rocket- propelled grenade) to fire into the compound that we occupy and it's way off the mark doesn't even come close. IEDs (improvised explosive devices) that were put along side the road are nowhere close to attacking a convoy. They're ineffective in their motor fires. I believe we're taking a huge chunk out of the organization and capabilities of this insurgency through our precision attacks. We're taking the fight to the enemy and making progress. Overall our security architecture is improving day by day."

The general said he works on growing the Iraqi capacity for security daily. This includes generating the Iraqi civil defense corps. Ultimately there will be six battalions with two brigade headquarters, or about 5,400 civil defense corps military personnel.

There are about 6,400 in the police force, but 50 percent are not sufficiently trained, said Swannack. "We're running a three-week training course to improve their skills," he added. This will be followed with on-the-job training.

Training and work with the Iraqi security forces in Ramadi, the provincial capital, is going so well, the general said coalition forces might be ready to leave as early as January.

Noting some towns are more "hostile" toward coalition forces than others, Swannack said this is not the case in Ramadi. "The police are working in concert with us," said the commander. "They're doing a very credible job. We still need to continue training, but I believe joint operations with police in Ramadi between now and about the first of January will allow us to move to a second stage."

This phase will allow "American forces to step back, pull some joint patrols with Iraqi police but allow the police to do the major function," explained Swannack. "Should something get out of hand, we'll be in radio communication with them and we'll be able to assist them. But they're taking the lead and we're taking the backup. That's a positive step for Iraqization that's where we want to go."

Reducing the unemployment in towns like Falujah where upwards of 60 to 70 percent of the population is jobless is also high on the general's list. "What we have to do is create jobs so the Iraqis have legitimate work to do that they get paid for, as opposed to being available for some former regime loyalists who get them to carry out attack on Americans," he said.

Swannack said there have been almost 9,000 jobs new jobs in the Al Anbar province in the last two months. This includes putting Iraqis back to work at a brick factory as well as those who have joined security forces.

The general said there are many ammunition supply points throughout the province. Six hundred Iraqis and 100 trucks from the Al Anbar truckers union have been hired to collect these munitions. Also, "we're trying to sign a contract with the truckers to transport supplies throughout the battle space," he said.

There are also jobs through construction and restoration. This includes restoring 315 of 700 mosques in the area, and improving sewer systems, schools and health clinics.

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