By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
March 28, 2007 – The crackdown on insurgents in Baghdad is showing progress, but a senior military official there warned that it's likely to drive the enemy to strike out dramatically before succeeding. "Like backing a rat into a corner, increasing pressure on the extremists by limiting their available resources and places to hide leads to desperate changes in tactics," Navy Rear Adm. Mark Fox, a spokesman for Multinational Force Iraq, told reporters during a roundtable session in Baghdad today.
Fox cited a Feb. 23 suicide-bomb attempt in Ramadi as an example of that desperation. When Iraqi police apprehended a would-be attacker whose vehicle failed to detonate, they found the truck filled with five 1,000-gallon barrels of chlorine and almost 2 tons of explosives.
"We are seeing preliminary signs of progress," Fox said of Operation Law and Order, an effort focused on establishing security in the Iraqi capital that's entering its second month.
"Our commitment to provide security for the people of Iraq remains unshakable," Fox said. "Together, Iraqi and coalition forces are clearing the streets of insurgent activity and taking back the neighborhoods of Baghdad, block by block. We are holding our positions, living and developing relationships with the people of Baghdad instead of commuting from forward operating bases."
Those relationships are paying off as Iraqis continue to step forward as valuable intelligence sources, he said. Tips they provide Iraqi security forces and coalition troops help them find more weapons caches. "Living in the neighborhoods (and) building relationships is making a difference," Fox said.
That difference was evident during clearing operations in southern Ghazaliya and Yahmariya last week that yielded 31 terror suspects and two weapons cache discoveries, including containers of nitric acid and chlorine, Fox said.
But providing security "is more than just seizing weapons from the hands of murders and terrorists," he said. "It is providing basic services to begin building a community."
Fox pointed to a step forward in that effort over the past weekend with the first large-scale humanitarian aid project in Adamiyah since Operation Law and Order began. Iraqi security forces and coalition troops used the city schoolhouse as a temporary medical clinic, treating more than 100 local residents.
Fox said continuing to build on this progress to secure Baghdad won't come easily. "It will take patience, resolve and commitment (and) will not be measured in days or weeks, but rather, months," he said. "And to be sure, there are still rough days ahead."
He expressed confidence the effort will ultimately prove successful.
"We are working hard to secure progress (and) provide hope for the people of Iraq in order to begin the process of building better communities," he said.
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