By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
April 4, 2007 – Murders and kidnappings, the hallmarks of sectarian violence, have decreased in Baghdad since reinforcements of U.S. and Iraqi security forces began to flow into the city in mid-February as part of Operation Fahrd al-Qanoon, a senior U.S. military official said in Baghdad today. "A clear reduction in the number of kidnappings and execution-style murders" has taken place across Baghdad since Fahrd al-Qanoon, or "Enforce the Law," was launched to secure and tamp down violence in Baghdad and western Iraq, Navy Rear Adm. Mark I. Fox, spokesman for Multinational Force Iraq, said to representatives of U.S.-based veterans groups during a telephone conference call.
There are "some preliminary good signs" that security measures are taking hold in Baghdad, Fox said, as U.S. and Iraqi forces continue to make their presence felt as they operate from 31 joint security stations established across the city.
"Our troops now are living and operating in the districts of Baghdad," Fox said.
However, it is too early to say if the reduction in violence is permanent, Fox said, noting there have been an increase in the numbers of car-bombings and other spectacular attacks in Baghdad.
The political commitment of the Iraqi government to confront and defeat the insurgents and the joint embedding of U.S. and Iraqi troops at specific sites inside Baghdad's neighborhoods represent a departure from past anti-terrorist offensives, Fox noted.
For example, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki "has been very clear and unambiguous about the even-handed application of the law," Fox said. No Baghdad neighborhoods are off-limits to being patrolled at any time of the day or night by U.S. and Iraqi troops.
Also, Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, Multinational Force Iraq commander since Feb. 10, has instituted "a much higher level of counterinsurgency tactics, in which we understand that the people of Baghdad and the people of Iraq are at the center of gravity of this fight," Fox said.
Baghdad's residents gain confidence at seeing Iraqi security forces patrolling their neighbors, Fox noted, which in turn leads to more citizen-provided tips and cooperation that is used to break up insurgent groups and stem the violence.
About 28,000 additional U.S. troops, including 21,500 combat and 7,000 support forces, have been committed to participate in Operation Fahrd al-Qanoon, which, in addition to Baghdad, encompasses an area of operations that includes Anbar province in western Iraq.
Three of the five U.S. Army combat brigades committed to the security operation are now in Baghdad, Fox reported. The two other brigades are slated to arrive in Baghdad during April and May, he noted, with all U.S. units in place by early June.
Although buoyed by the early successes, Fox acknowledged "it's going to take months," perhaps not until the fall, until the results and effectiveness of Operation Fahrd al-Qanoon can be fully assessed.
The increase of Baghdad car bombings indicates the insurgents "are doing everything they can to create terror," Fox pointed out, as they kill even innocent children to further their aims.
America's military forces are serving in Iraq "to protect the people of Iraq, to protect the people of Baghdad and to create a breathing space (and) enough of a window of opportunity for the Iraqi government to get its feet under itself," Fox said.
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