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Regimental Combat Team Commander Sees Progress in Anbar

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 21, 2008 – The commander of Multinational Forces West’s Regimental Combat Team 1 described the enemy in his area of operations as “neutralized" during a briefing in Camp Fallujah, Anbar province, Iraq.

“We still see occasional [al-Qaida] violence in the area, [but] we’re very watchful to ensure we don’t allow a resurgence of [al-Qaida] activity,” said Marine Col. Louis Craparotta. “Most people believe that [al-Qaida] has fled al Anbar, at least for the time being.”

It’s his team’s responsibility make sure al-Qaida doesn’t reestablish itself in the area, which covers about 5,000 square miles from the western border of Baghdad beyond the western edge of Ramadi, and protect citizens living there.

To protect the population of between 1.1 million and 1.5 million citizens, Regimental Combat Team 1 has partnered with the Iraqi army outside the urban centers and with the Iraqi police in the cities. By partnering, Craparotta means that some of his troops are living, training and operating with their Iraqi counterparts 24 hours a day.

“The development of the Iraqi army and the Iraqi police in Anbar is a result of both the time we’ve invested and the relationships that have been developed,” he said. “I think I could characterize it as mutual respect between our forces with the common goal of protecting the citizens.”

In addition to its security duties, Craparotta’s team works alongside State Department officials to help the Iraqis build local governance, identify reconstruction projects, and implement rule of law, he said.

On the local level, mayors and city councils understand their responsibilities and are taking on more every day. They’re successfully beginning to establish links between the cities, the districts and the provincial government, Craparotta said.

Beyond governance issues, Regimental Combat Team 1, again in coordination with its State Department partners, is helping restore irrigation systems to help get farmers back into fields along the Euphrates River, he added. The team also is working to restore small businesses, coordinating minor and major reconstruction efforts, and working side by side with the Iraqis to restore essential services.

“From my perspective, we’re seeing a great deal of progress being made,” Craparotta said.

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