By Sgt. Sara Wood, USA
WASHINGTON, Aug. 18, 2006 – Combined U.S. and Iraqi operations in Baghdad have done much to reduce violence and bring stability to the area, but the ultimate solution depends on the Iraqi people's willingness to reject violence and cooperate with Iraqi security forces, a U.S. military commander in the area said today. "The security situation confronting the capital is a complex one, and the solution must be long-term," Army Col. Michael Beech, commander of 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, said in a news conference from Iraq. "The Iraqi government, coalition forces and Iraqi security forces are dedicated to establishing peace in Baghdad."
U.S. and Iraqi forces have been conducting combined missions in Baghdad as part of Operation Together Forward, an Iraqi-led campaign to reduce violence in the capital. The missions have been successful in the security arena, but also in terms of developing relationships between the Iraqi people and Iraqi security forces, Beech said. "Along with providing essential services, our current plan makes provisions for long-term stability within this area," he said. "To ensure the population (that) is living in these neighborhoods knows who's responsible for securing them, we have worked to establish habitual relationships between particular Iraqi security forces, U.S. forces with a particular neighborhood."
Neighborhoods within Baghdad are being paired with a particular Iraqi police company and a U.S. military company, Beech said. "This is in an effort to establish true community-based policing and security and build trust and confidence in the national police and the people that they protect," he said. Attacks in the 4th Brigade's area of operations have decreased over the past few months, and Iraqi forces are taking the lead in more missions, Beech said. Recent operations have focused specifically on the Dura neighborhood, in the eastern part of Baghdad's Rashid district, where there were previously as many as 20 murders a day. the 6th National Police Brigade of the 2nd Division now secures that area, and coalition forces are working with local leaders to promote civic activity, he said.
"It's hard not to be optimistic," he said. "I walk the streets of Dura every day, and what I see is every day there are additional shops open that weren't there before. I see the Dura market has increased traffic and people in the Dura market shopping every day. The feedback that I get from people on the streets is absolutely very promising."
One indicator that the Iraqi people trust their security forces more is the increase in communication between the people and the Iraqi police, Beech said. The Iraqi brigade commander in his area has been receiving more and more phone calls from concerned citizens with tips, and imams of the local mosques are talking to him more, he said.
The Iraqi people's cooperation with and trust in the Iraqi security forces is essential, as Operation Together Forward moves from a clearing operation to a holding operation focused on stability, Beech said. "This is a collaborative effort between U.S. forces and national police, and what we have to get is the support of the Iraqi people to trust their security forces," he said.