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Progress in Baghdad Continues on all Fronts, Commander Reports

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 23, 2009 – Almost two months after the new status-of-forces and strategic framework agreements took effect in Iraq, a brigade commander in Baghdad today reported record-low violence as Iraqi security forces assume ever-increasing responsibilities.

“We’ve been constantly amazed at the changes that have occurred in just the last four months since we arrived,” Army Col. Joseph Martin, commander of the 1st Infantry Division’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team, told Pentagon reporters during a video teleconference from Camp Victory, Iraq.

The Dagger Brigade’s 3,800-plus soldiers operate in an area in northwestern Baghdad that Martin said is seeing steady improvement in security, economic growth and building projects.

“Violence is at an all-time low since 2004, with record-low attacks against coalition and Iraqi security forces,” he said.

Two years ago, Multinational Division Baghdad was experiencing 25 attacks a day. The current daily rate is 1.5 attacks. “That’s 5 percent of what it was in January 2007,” Martin said. Martin credited the growing partnership between his soldiers and the 6th Iraqi Division and five Iraqi police districts with ensuring the positive trend has continued.

The Dagger Brigade has embraced the partnership, which was solidified in the security agreement that took effect Jan. 1, Martin said.

“Our role is to fully support and assist our Iraqi counterparts,” he said. “We’re seeing U.S. forces move out of selected sites within Baghdad, transferring them to the Iraqi government ministries or security forces as designated by the government of Iraq.”

As a result, Iraqi security forces are stepping up to the challenge and making steady improvement, Martin reported.

In one of the first major tests of the new arrangement, Iraqi security forces maintained the security lead during Iraq’s provincial elections, with coalition troops in support. The elections proceeded with no noticeable uptick in violence.

But despite this progress, Martin cautioned against declaring victory over the insurgency.

“The enemy is severely disrupted, but still present and evolving,” he said. “And our partner Iraqi forces take nothing for granted when it comes to the security of Iraqi citizens.”

Martin praised his soldiers for their instrumental role in the continued progress. “We can’t thank them enough,” he said. “We can’t train them hard enough. We can’t provide them enough of the best equipment on the face of the Earth, because they are at the heart of the mission every day. They are amongst the Iraqi people, standing guard, on point, on patrol, with their security counterparts, ensuring that every Iraqi has the possibility of a bright future.”

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