Urban Centers in Iraq’s Anbar Province Enjoying Stability, Renewal
By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Nov. 5, 2007 Iraqi and coalition forces have largely purged extremists from urban areas in Iraq’s Anbar province over the past 10 months, allowing renewal efforts to flourish with reduced meddling by terrorists, a coalition commander in the region said today. (Video)
During a video teleconference from Fallujah, Iraq, Marine Col. Stacy Clardy, commander of Regimental Combat Team 2, told reporters at the Pentagon that the combined force is achieving peace in the western Iraqi province.
“I would simply say that we -- the Iraqis and the Americans -- are now winning, and for us, winning is peace,” he said. “The situation allows progress with governance, economic development and the rule of law.”
In January, when the colonel arrived to his area of operation, which encompasses 30,000 square miles and half a million residents, the western Iraqi province was one of Iraq’s most dangerous places, he said. One of Clardy’s main tasks has been to interdict insurgents and terrorists bent on getting into the major urban areas of Ramadi, Fallujah and Baghdad.
Now, some 10 months later, Clardy described a significant crippling of al Qaeda’s and Sunni insurgents’ capabilities, citing a 75 percent overall reduction in enemy incidents.
Aiding security efforts by the 6,000-strong Multinational Force West were tribal sheiks who cooperated with coalition forces in purging extremist elements from local societies, Clardy said. He said the sheiks share a belief that peace and prosperity is achieved through legitimate governance focused on people’s needs and driven by a rule of law.
“On several occasions they've said to me that they want to move on and they want to move into the 21st century. They're tired of war,” he said. “They understand that prosperity only comes through security and stability.”
In Anbar, civilian populations mainly have been separated from insurgents and terrorists that mainly operate in the region’s deserts and less densely populated villages, Clardy said. He noted that his combat team continues to protect the local populace while hunting insurgents who were pushed toward Anbar’s sparse areas.
The Iraqi security forces in Clardy’s area of operation include 5,200 Iraqi police, several hundred highway patrolmen and 4,200 soldiers of two brigades of the 7th Iraqi Army Division. The colonel noted that with the local sheikhs’ influence, the Army brigades also have grown 200 percent in the last seven months and are now responsible for their own security areas and missions across the province, particularly in urban areas.
“They are now in charge of security within the city and towns and proactively hunting down the insurgents and terrorists throughout their districts and working with the Iraqi judges,” Clardy said of the Iraqi police. “The growth and improvements in Iraqi security forces highlight the commitment by the tribes and the population to their own future alongside coalition forces and Iraqi governmental institutions.”
Clardy added that he has seen a marked reduction in the number of foreign fighters entering Iraq from Syria.
“Based on our detentions over the last 10 months, where we were in the past detaining, capturing or killing foreign fighters in our city areas and out in the desert,” he said. “We very seldom find one now.”
In urban centers where Iraqi and coalition forces have established security, municipal and financial services have come to life, Clardy said. “As a result of our operations and efforts over the last 10 months, each urban area is now functioning -- has a functioning municipal government, a court, banks, markets and a police force,” he said. “These results reflect the significant and courageous effort on the part of the Anbaris to take charge of their own destiny.”
Local governments are using reconstruction funding to fix basic services repair an infrastructure that endured some 20 years of damage and neglect. Embedded provincial reconstruction teams under Clardy are making efforts to improve other public programs, including the sub-par electrical and water systems, he said.
“We are now diligently attempting to improve the linkages between the municipal governments and the provincial central governments as appropriate,” he said. “I see progress every week as services (improve), construction begins and a sense of normalcy returns to the Anbari people.”