By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
March 14, 2007 – Violence is down in Iraq and Iraqis "are starting to see this growth and gaining new confidence," a coalition spokesman in Baghdad said today. Army Maj. Gen. William Caldwell told reporters at a news conference that the decrease in violence has created an opportunity for new progress.
Combined efforts between coalition forces and Iraqi fighting forces have brought down the level of violence in the Iraqi capital, Caldwell said.
"Iraqi forces are getting better each day, and are demonstrating the commitment needed to defend the government and the people," he added.
He cited two recent incidents in which Iraqi forces demonstrated their willingness to defend all citizens. On March 10, a terrorist attempted to penetrate Sadr City, a Shiia enclave in Eastern Baghdad. Seven Iraqi soldiers manning a checkpoint were killed, but the the unit foiled the attack. Had the bomber been able to gain access, hundreds could have been killed, Caldwell said.
On March 12, another terrorist tried to take a car bomb into a crowded area in Ramadi. "The Iraqi security forces did not let him succeed," Caldwell said. "They stopped him at the gate with small-arms fire, causing him to prematurely detonate his car bomb."
The attack wounded three Iraqi soldiers and eight civilians, including two children. But the actions of the Iraqi forces prevented a greater tragedy, the general said.
In both cases, terrorists were again "trying to spark that cycle of violence by creating another high-profile massacre," Caldwell said.
"For decades, the Iraqi army was used to divide and oppress the Iraqi people," he said. "Now the Iraqi people are being protected by an Iraqi army that is demonstrating great resolve and is starting to prove its loyalty to all."
The decrease in violence allows political and economic progress in the country, Caldwell said. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki - a Shiia Muslim - visited Ramadi yesterday and met with Sunni tribal leaders and the Anbar provincial governor. The prime minister said terrorists driven from Baghdad as part of the security plan will try to move to other areas of the country. He promised to help the provincial forces fight the insurgents.
All of this requires patience and determination, Caldwell said. The Baghdad security plan is well started, but it is in its early stage, Caldwell said. Two of the five U.S. brigades that ultimately will work in the city have arrived, and another is in Kuwait. Defense Department officials said the surge will be finished by the end of May.
"We are seeing positive signs in the streets," Caldwell said. "There are signs that life is improving for the people in Iraq. There has been a decrease in violence, but things need to get better. We still need to be patient."
Caldwell said the way forward in Iraq requires more than the military. "We can and we will win every battle," he said. "But we cannot win the peace alone. In the end, Iraq needs political and economic solutions."
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