By Sgt. Sara Wood, USA
American Forces Press Service
May 3, 2007 – Though they face daily challenges that will continue, U.S. forces remain dedicated to the fight in Iraq and are making steady progress, the deputy director for operations on the Joint Staff said here today. Three of the five additional combat brigades slated for the Baghdad security plan have arrived and are operating with Iraqi security forces, Army Brig. Gen. Perry L. Wiggins told Pentagon reporters in a news conference. "We are seeing early indications of steady progress. It's not often flashy, but it's the sort of progress that can make a difference over time," Wiggins said.
Since the Baghdad security plan began, sectarian murders in the city are down by two-thirds, and the number of tips from Iraqi citizens leading to weapons caches has increased dramatically, Wiggins said. Through these tips and cache finds, U.S. forces are learning more about the insurgent networks and how they operate and are funded. The networks often involve foreign influence, and some are tied to Iran, he said.
Despite the progress made, the number of high-profile attacks on civilians in Iraq continues to rise, Wiggins said. These attacks are carried out by al Qaeda to incite sectarian violence, and preventing them is a top priority for the coalition, he said.
"We're working hard to enhance security, and we're working hard to better secure the areas where people live and meet, as well as go after the networks that support these attacks," Wiggins said.
Wiggins cited Anbar province as an example of progress in Iraq. There, the tribal sheikhs have decided to turn against al Qaeda and put a stop to indiscriminate killing, he said. "The key element has been the local population, predominantly the Sunni Arabs, who have stepped up and taken a more active role to secure their own destiny," he said.
While everyone would like to see faster progress on the part of the Iraqi government, coalition forces remain dedicated to the mission in Iraq, and Iraqi security forces continue to show their dedication as well, Wiggins said. Iraqi security forces lost more than 300 people in April, but have remained committed to their duty and the hope for a peaceful Iraq, he said.
Wiggins conceded that April was a tough month for U.S. forces in Iraq, as more than 100 servicemembers were killed. There will undoubtedly be challenging days ahead, he said, but "we remain dedicated to the fight."
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