U.S., Iraqis Continue Flow of Troops to Baghdad
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Mar. 20, 2007 More Iraqi army units have deployed into Baghdad as part of Operation Law and Order, while an American aviation unit’s deployment to the Iraqi capital city has been sped up, a senior U.S. military officer said here today.
“The Iraqi government has completed the deployment of three additional Iraqi army brigades to the capital,” Army Maj. Gen. Michael D. Barbero, the Joint Staff’s deputy director for regional operations, told reporters at a Pentagon news conference.
The Iraqi and U.S. governments launched Operation Law and Order in mid-February to stem insurgent violence in Baghdad and Anbar province. “Overall violence has declined in Baghdad or remains slightly below pre-operation levels,” Barbero said.
The additional Iraqi units are joining nine Iraqi national police brigades and seven other Iraqi army brigades already in the Baghdad area, Barbero said.
Iraqi government leaders have given the green light for U.S. and Iraqi troops to operate everywhere in and around the capital city, the general said. “Now, Iraqi and U.S. troops are operating in all (Baghdad) neighborhoods, even those where operations were once restricted,” the two-star general said.
Additionally, the U.S. 3rd Infantry Division’s combat aviation brigade will arrive in Baghdad sooner than originally planned as part of the plus-up of forces in Iraq ordered by President Bush earlier in the year, Barbero said. Commanders in Iraq observed that aviation usage was increasing over time, so they requested a faster deployment of the aviation brigade, he said.
Meanwhile, U.S. soldiers with the 82nd Airborne Division’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team and the 1st Infantry Division’s 4th Brigade Combat Team are already in Baghdad, Barbero said.
In addition, the 3rd Infantry Division’s 3rd Brigade Combat Team is making its way north into Iraq from Kuwait “as we speak,” Barbero said, while two additional U.S. Marine battalions have arrived in Anbar province. All five U.S. combat brigades participating in the surge will be in the Baghdad vicinity sometime in June, he said.
About half of the planned 33 joint security stations have been established in neighborhoods across Baghdad, Barbero said, while four of 10 planned combat outposts have been completed. “So, in terms of arrival of forces and rules of operations, progress has been made, and these forces are starting to have an initial effect,” the general said.
In fact, hundreds of Baghdad families who’d earlier left the city to escape the violence are now returning to their homes, the general said.
Violence directed against Baghdad’s citizens has dropped by about a third since Operation Law and Order began, Barbero said, noting murders have decreased by about 50 percent.
He acknowledged that car bombings and suicide attacks continue to occur in and around Baghdad. However, “the effectiveness of these high-profile attacks has dropped,” he noted.
The general also commented on operations in Afghanistan, noting an additional U.S. Army brigade combat team will be deployed there to bolster border security.
U.S., coalition and Afghan forces participating in Operation Achilles in southern Afghanistan have been working to blunt an expected new spring offensive by the Taliban, the general said. “It is a full-spectrum effort that includes reconstruction and stabilization, focused in the southern region,” Barbero said.
The general praised the contributions made by U.S. servicemembers deployed in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere in support of the war against terrorism. “It is their continued determination and sacrifice that makes this progress possible,” Barbero said.