Insurgency Weakening; Iraqi Security Forces Growing Stronger
By Terri Lukach
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Mar. 8, 2005 As the second anniversary of Operation Iraqi Freedom approaches, efforts to help the Iraqi people transition to a constitutionally elected government by the end of 2005 are on track, insurgents are failing in their efforts to break the will of the Iraqi people, and Iraqi security forces "are doing a magnificent job," the U.S. general in charge of coalition forces in Iraq said here today.
"Jan. 30, 2005 (election day in Iraq), was a great day for the Iraqi people, for the coalition, and for Iraqi security forces," said Army Gen. George W. Casey Jr., commander of Multinational Force Iraq, during a news conference at the Pentagon.
"On that day, more than 8 million people exercised their right to choose their government, many for the first time in their lives," he said. "Insurgents tried their best to cause them to fail but were unable to crack the indomitable spirit of the Iraqi people or the cordons of the Iraqi security forces."
Casey said the insurgents are tough and aggressive, but they are not "10 feet tall." They continue to murder, he said, and also continue to offer no positive vision for Iraq, only intimidation and subjugation -- a message that is "resonating less and less with the Iraqi people."
As proof, Casey noted that while insurgents vowed to disrupt the elections, they were unable to breach a single polling center. "We took away their options and relegated them to drive-by shootings, ineffective indirect fire, and a few suicide attacks," he said.
Of the roughly 300 attacks that took place on election day, "maybe 70 percent were ineffective," Casey said. He added that the level of violence has also dropped significantly in the post-election period, with last week marking the lowest level of attacks since April 2004.
Casey had high praise for Iraqi security forces, saying they are growing in competency as well as numbers. Today there are more than 140,000 trained and equipped Iraqi troops and more than 90 operational combat battalions engaged across Iraq, both with coalition forces and, in some cases, independently.
"They continue to get stronger every day," Casey said. "The election success was a great boost not only to their own self-confidence, but to the Iraqi people's confidence in them."
Casey said that while much work remains to be done, reconstruction in Iraq also continues to go forward. In June, there were just under 200 building projects under way. They were valued at about $1 billion in total. Today, he said, there are more than 2,000 projects under way, valued at about $5 billion.
Casey noted that three of the four U.S. units extended in Iraq to help ensure the success of the Iraqi elections have now been redeployed, and other units will leave Iraq on schedule at the end of March. "The contribution of those units was invaluable," he said.
The general said the American people can take great pride in the performance of U.S. military men and women in both the months leading up to election day as well as on the day itself.
"They performed brilliantly in Fallujah, north Babil, Mosul, Salahuddin, and Baghdad -- all difficult places where Iraqis took advantage of the security they provided to go out and vote," Casey said.
He also had a message for the families of servicemembers "who made the ultimate sacrifice."
"Your loved ones were part of something profound on the 30th of January, something that has the potential to change the political face, not only of Iraq, but of the Middle East," he said. "We thank them for their sacrifices. They made a difference."