By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
April 4, 2007 – The Iraqi people are starting to show more confidence in their security forces, and this is paying off with better security in Baghdad, coalition officials said today. The largest indicator is that sectarian killings have dropped 27 percent in March from February, Army Maj. Gen. William Caldwell, coalition spokesman, said during a Baghdad news conference.
But although that and other indicators point in the same direction, Caldwell cautioned, security should not be measured in progress over days or weeks, but rather over months.
With the 3rd Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division, in place, three of the five U.S. brigade combat teams slated for deployment as part of the surge are in place. Two more coalition brigades will move into Baghdad in the late May, early June time frame.
Iraqi security forces are holding up their end of the deal, Caldwell said. All nine Iraqi battalions that are part of the surge are in place and contributing to security in all neighborhoods of the capital.
"The progress of the Iraqi forces is good and will get better," said Iraqi government spokesman Dr. Ali Aldabbagh. "Despite all the challenges of the terrorist groups against the Iraqi people, and despite all the terrorist operations carried out in March ... the Iraqi people now have more trust in their Iraqi security forces. This will lead to more cooperation between the Iraqi people and the security forces."
Caldwell said security is the key to change in Baghdad.
"When the people feel more secure, everything else is possible," he said. "That's why we are working diligently with our Iraqi partners to secure progress and provide hope."
Iraqi and coalition efforts are centered in Operation Fahrd al-Qanoon, and Arabic phrase that means "enforcing the law."
"The effects of our commitment will be felt over many months," Caldwell said. "We know our increased presence among the people is having an effect."
The Iraqi people are seeing more Iraqi army and police personnel patrolling the streets and manning checkpoints in the neighborhoods. This higher level of contact is building increased confidence, which in turn is leading to greater cooperation, Aldabbagh said.
The cooperation between the Iraqi people and their security forces is at an all-time high, Caldwell said. While Iraqis can still use a national tip line to turn in terrorists, insurgents and criminals, more in the Baghdad area are taking advantage of the fact that security forces are in the neighborhoods.
"It is a true community police effort," he said. "Police and soldiers live among the people and share their knowledge and concerns. Now, the people can report criminal activity directly to the stations."
As Iraqi and coalition forces patrol and as the security situation improves, Baghdadis are engaging the forces more and providing them far more information than in the past, the general said.
"This cooperation is helping to bring down the levels of sectarian violence," he added. "Results produce more results. As the people feel more confidence in their protectors, they are less likely to take the law into their own hands. There are encouraging signs that more people are buying into restraint rather than retribution."
Al Qaeda in Iraq continues its high-profile car bomb attacks to massacre innocent civilians, Caldwell said. Even with Iraqi security forces foiling more attacks at checkpoints, "too many still occur," Caldwell said.
The general said al Qaeda in Iraq is trying to ignite a cycle of tit-for-tat violence, but the downward trend in sectarian attacks may mean the Iraqi people increasingly aren't letting themselves be drawn in by al Qaeda's tactics. "The decline in sectarian murders may be a sign that the people of Iraq are rejecting this cycle of violence," he said.
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