By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service
March 19, 2007 – During the new Baghdad security plan's first month, civilian casualties were reduced by about 50 percent from the previous 30 days, a senior military official told reporters in the Iraqi capital today. "It's the first positive sign that we see in terms of ... protecting the Iraqi people in Baghdad," Navy Rear Adm. Mark I. Fox, Multinational Force Iraq's communications division chief, said.
The operation, called Fardh al-Qanoon, an Iraqi phrase that means "Enforcing the Law," was announced Feb. 13 and included initiatives to split Baghdad into 10 districts and create joint security stations in the capital city.
"We currently have 25 Joint Security Stations operational throughout the city," Fox said. Combined forces' current goal is to establish 70 such stations and combat outposts, he said.
"This is a conditions-based effort," Fox added. "If we need more, we will build more."
Fox said the reduction of civilian casualties in Baghdad is heartening, but it will take patience, resolve and commitment to make peace in Baghdad a "long-term trend."
The admiral noted that three of the five U.S. surge brigades have yet to arrive in Iraq.
"I think it will take a number of months, rather than days or weeks, for us to see the results that we want to see," he said. "This is a struggle between the overwhelming majority of the Iraqi people who want peace and security, and against those who would use terror to sow their own seeds of chaos and division."
An example of such terror was visible March 16, Fox said, when an al Qaeda member drove his truck, laden with explosives, into a small village outside of Fallujah.
"He then maliciously detonated his chlorine bomb in an attempt to murder a crowd of innocent Iraqis," Fox said. "The terrorist only managed to kill himself, but regretfully, 95 Iraqi villagers suffered the effects of chlorine gas exposure."
The admiral mentioned this and another recent bombing as evidence that al Qaeda and other extremists "are determined to use massacres and intimidation to spread terror and create division."
"This is what the people of Iraq are up against," he said.
But Iraqi security forces' efforts are working to protect civilians, Fox said. He cited the Iraqi army's March 16 discovery of a large weapons cache that contained more than 1,800 pounds of bulk explosives, six surface-to-air missiles, 124 rockets, 260 mortar rounds and 79 projectile rounds in Mosul.
"This was a significant find," he said. "It was so large that the Iraqi forces didn't have enough room in their trucks to move the entire cache in one trip."
This operation is true evidence of Iraqis in the lead taking ownership of their own security, he said. "They're showing bravery and growing professionalism every day."
This article is sponsored by criminal justice online leadership as well as police and military personnel who have authored books.