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Attack Uptick Doesn't Undermine Progress

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 21, 2005 – It's difficult to know whether the uptick in attacks on Iraqi and coalition targets in Iraq is a trend or an aberration, said Pentagon spokesman Lawrence Di Rita today.

"Every commander we talked to in Iraq ... believes that ... the development of the Iraqi security forces is proceeding in an effective and appropriate fashion," Di Rita said.

Intelligence is getting better and the ability to interdict attacks is getting better. Still, the enemy is running out of time. With the installation of an Iraqi government, the enemy can no longer say it is attacking an occupying force, he said. There are now almost 156,000 trained and equipped Iraqi security forces.

The number of attacks per day is in the 50 to 60 range. This is well down from the period just before Iraqi elections in January. However, the insurgents seem to be targeting innocent Iraqis rather than trying to go against coalition targets. Roughly half of all attacks inflict no or minimal damage.

Iraqis themselves are stepping forward and working to stop or disrupt attacks. "There's a sense that the attackers recognize that they are increasingly being identified as people who are against what most Iraqis want, and so there will be a desire to grab headlines with more spectacular attacks," Di Rita said.

Commanders are mindful of the pitfalls and the possible changes in enemy tactics. "But there isn't a commander over there who doesn't think there is progress and the Iraqi security forces are getting better," he said.

Di Rita had little information on a helicopter crash today in Iraq that claimed the lives of six Americans. News reports said the six worked for Blackwater USA - a security firm based in North Carolina. The crash of the helicopter - chartered out of Bulgaria - also claimed the lives of three Bulgarian crewmembers and two Fijians. The flight was on its way to Tikrit from Baghdad when it appears to have been shot down, according to a Blackwater press release.

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