By Steven Donald Smith
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Sept. 8, 2006 – August saw "a significant decrease in violence" in Iraq, the commander of Multinational Corps Iraq said yesterday. Sectarian violence in Iraq is a serious issue, Army Lieutenant General Peter W. Chiarelli told reporter Ray Suarez on PBS' "NewsHour with Jim Lehrer." But he stressed many good things also are happening in the country. "The last two days, I have been in two of the areas that we have cleared and been able to see firsthand what is going in those areas. ... People are beginning to get on with their lives," he said.
These areas are seeing the beginning of economic revitalization, Chiarelli said from his headquarters in Baghdad. "And, before too long, we will see some long-term projects, where basic services kick in and, we think, really, really contribute to the security of Baghdad."
The general said violent militias determined to wreak chaos and division in Iraq must be stopped. "There are small groups of individuals -- we call them death squads -- who are intent on attempting to try to continue this level of sectarian violence," he said. "It's our job to go out on the security line of operation and find those death squads and bring them to justice."
Chiarelli said he felt the situation in Iraq has drastically changed from a few years ago. "There's no doubt in my mind this is a different war than we fought two or three years ago," he said. "This is a different war than the United States has ever fought."
This different war requires U.S. forces to change the way they operate by using more "non-kinetic elements," such as winning over the population through rebuilding efforts, he said.
The non-kinetic elements are absolutely critical. "I never thought that I would know anything about how a sewer system in a city of 7.5 million people works, but I do now," Chiarelli said. "And I know that only because the people of Baghdad want their sewers fixed. It is important that I understand how it works.
"I can help the Iraqi government do what is necessary to make sure that it works, that fresh, potable water works, that sewage systems work, that electricity works, that health care systems work," he said.
"If we can have the people in Baghdad and all over Iraq believe that their life is getting better, ... it will definitely contribute to the security line of operation, and make Baghdad and Iraq a much more secure city and country," he said.
The new Army field manual on detention operations released earlier this week will help U.S. forces adjust to the evolving situation in Iraq and the overall war against terror, Chiarelli said. "Along with that field manual and many, many others, we're going to have to look at the way we do things across the board to fight this kind of conflict," he said.
Chiarelli said American servicemembers are working tirelessly to bring stability and democracy to Iraq. "The individual American Marine or soldier is out every single day, trying to bring peace to Iraq and trying to help establish the democratic government of Iraq," he said.
He added that U.S. forces will continue to help the Iraqi government gain credibility with its citizens, which will ultimately hurt the terrorists in Iraq. "When that happens, it will be very, very difficult for the terrorists to operate anywhere in Iraq," he said. "This isn't something that happens overnight."