By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
May 23, 2007 – The increase in troops in Iraq means more contact with terrorists and extremists in the country, a U.S. general there said today. "We have not seen an increase in violence, just an increase in fights with terrorists and extremists of all affiliations," Army Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell IV, Multinational Force Iraq spokesman, said during a news conference in Baghdad. "This is to be expected. We now have more troops conducting more operations, resulting in more confrontations."
The general also said it is too early to tell if a body Iraqi police found today is that of one of the U.S. soldiers missing in Iraq since a May 12 attack.
"We have received the body, and we will work diligently to determine if he is, in fact, one of our missing soldiers," Caldwell said. "We have not made any identification yet."
In other news, U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker and Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, the commander of Multinational Force Iraq, are on track to submit an assessment of the new strategy's effectiveness in September.
U.S. citizens should be aware that the road ahead in Iraq is tough, Caldwell said. "It's going to get harder before it gets easier," he said.
A lot is being asked of the Iraqi government, which has been in office a little more than a year. The Iraqi government is trying to build a professional security force loyal to the people. It is establishing a judicial system that treats all Iraqis equally under the law. It is "trying to show everyone that true security lies in compromise through civil governance; not through thugs or militias or outlaws," Caldwell said.
"And they are trying to do all of this while under assault from terrorists, extremists and outlaws," he noted.
In the past week, coalition forces conducted 45 focused operations against al Qaeda. In these raids, forces killed 19 terrorists and captured 88 more. Caldwell said coalition forces raided a sanctuary for foreign al Qaeda fighters in Karma, north of Baghdad.
The terrorists had kidnapped 17 Iraqis in an attempt to intimidate the population. One of those kidnapped and "grotesquely beaten" was a 13-year-old boy, Caldwell said. The terrorists had attached an electric wire to his tongue and shocked him repeatedly, the general said.
The coalition and Iraqi forces are confronting all who operate outside the law and who attempt to undermine the legitimate government, Caldwell said. The Iraqi government wants the coalition's help, he added, noting that coalition forces are operating in the country under a United Nations Security Council resolution.
"Those who attack Iraqis and our soldiers will be hunted down until they are captured or killed," he said. "We are here to secure progress and provide hope for the Iraqi people. This mission is vital for security in the region."
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