By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
June 1, 2007 – While the "surge" in U.S. and Iraqi troops is continuing in Baghdad and other areas of Iraq, progress is being made in quelling violence there, a top U.S. commander in Iraq said yesterday. Baghdad is the center of gravity for the fight, and six coalition brigades with 24 battalions are in Baghdad, Army Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, commander of Multinational Corps Iraq, said during a teleconference with Pentagon reporters. In the belts of villages around Baghdad -- from which extremists often launch attacks -- there are six brigades with 20 battalions.
Another U.S. brigade moving into the belts around Baghdad -- the 2nd Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division -- will complete the surge, the general said.
But U.S. forces are not alone in the fight. More than 79,000 members of Iraqi security forces are in the city and its surroundings as well, officials said. There are 22 Iraqi security force brigades in the city, 35 Iraqi army battalions and 19 national police battalions. More than 25,000 local Iraqi police are also in the city.
These units are moving into the neighborhoods, called "mahalas," of the city. "This is all about establishing 24-hour, seven-day-a-week presence inside the city of Baghdad and protecting people where they sleep," Odierno said. "Currently, we have 28 joint security stations and 28 combat outposts operating throughout greater Baghdad area."
Under current strategy, coalition soldiers live, work and patrol with their Iraqi counterparts. The U.S. and Iraqi servicemembers develop relationships with each other and build the trust of the local residents, the general said.
"In addition, we hope this will help to build confidence of the populace in their own Iraqi security forces," he said. "We believe overall this will provide confidence and hope to the Iraqi people. People are thanking us for driving away gangs, criminals and terrorists, but we have not completed the mission."
The close cooperation allows coalition and Iraqi government officials to identify Iraqi security forces that do not operate according to the rules, or who continue to have sectarian agendas. "We have systems in place to do this with the government of Iraq, and we try to execute those vigorously," Odierno said.
The pace of operations has quickened in the city. Since January 15, U.S. servicemembers have conducted 98 battalion-level operations, Odierno said. The troops neutralized six car-bomb factories and dismantled four improvised-explosive-device cells. Coalition and Iraqi forces have killed 837 insurgents and terrorists and wounded 180.
In addition, coalition forces have found 441 arms caches in Baghdad just since January. In all of 2006, coalition troops found 266 caches, the general said.
Humanitarian progress also continues throughout Iraq, officials said. The military has partnered with the U.S. Agency for International Development to produce 32,000 jobs in the country. The goal is to create 40,000 jobs before the end of June, Odierno said. The command is working with USAID to fund business loans and grants to jumpstart economic development.
The military is working to establish the Baghdad International Airport as a business zone.
Odierno said civilian deaths and sectarian killings are down in Baghdad. "There are some positive signs," he said. "But it's not enough. We still have much more to do."
Local commands in Baghdad also have invested $3.3 million in various areas around Baghdad. This helps fund garbage hauling, educational supplies, agriculture, transportation and water and sanitation improvements.
"We have not made the progress that I think is necessary yet," the general said. "But I hope over the summer that we will continue to make progress."
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