By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service
April 2, 2007 – Over the past month in Baghdad, Iraqi security and coalition forces seized more than 300 weapons caches, detained more than 1,400 suspects, and found and cleared more than 300 improvised explosive devices, a coalition spokesman told reporters in the Iraqi capital yesterday. "Additionally, the more than 5,000 tips from Iraqi citizens last month contributed to Iraqi security and coalition forces' ability to conduct these operations," said Navy Rear Adm. Mark I. Fox, communications division chief for strategic effects, Multinational Force Iraq.
The Baghdad security 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.
"To protect the Iraqi people, 31 joint security stations and 22 combat outposts, manned 24 hours a day, seven days a week by the Iraqi army, Iraqi police and coalition soldiers in various combinations, are currently open in all 10 districts in Baghdad, and more are being built," Fox said.
Updating reporters on the operation's progress, the admiral said the additional coalition forces required to fully implement Fardh al-Qanoon are still being deployed, and will not be in place for several months. The final elements of the third U.S. brigades are in or approaching Kuwait, with lead elements moving into Baghdad, he said.
"About half of the U.S. troops requested are currently in place, with the remainder expected to be in place by early June," he said. "The new division headquarters is on the ground in Baghdad, conducting preliminary reconnaissance and coordination missions."
Fox said posturing troops permanently in Baghdad's district neighborhoods has increased the number of "additional actionable tips."
"They're living there, and they're operating in the neighborhood and getting to know the Iraqi people in those neighborhoods," he said. "Increased contact between security forces and the people in the neighborhood increases the level of confidence that the people have in those neighborhoods in the security forces, which in turn creates an additional level of cooperation."
Despite signs of progress, it's important to keep a realistic view of Baghdad security, Fox said, stating that current violence levels are unacceptable.
"We expect to see a high level of violence over the coming weeks and months," he said. "Al Qeada and other extremists will continue their high-profile attacks in an attempt to cause chaos by sectarian violence."
Though there has been initial progress, combined forces' work will not be accomplished in days or weeks, but will require sustained effort over the course of many months, Fox said. The commitment by coalition forces, in cooperation with Iraqi security forces, to enforce the law and bring security to Baghdad "remains undiminished," he said.
"The Iraqi people deserve to live happy lives, to go to the corner coffee shop (or) walk to work or school without fear," Fox said. "With our Iraqi partners, we are working diligently to make this happen, but it's going to require patience, resolve and commitment."
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