By Carmen L. Gleason
American Forces Press Service
July 16, 2007 – Local trust in Iraq security forces is leading to a record number of seizures of weapons caches throughout the country, a spokesman for Multinational Force Iraq said during a press conference yesterday. For example, more than 500 villagers outside the new security outpost near Taji have formed a grassroots movement to run al Qaeda out of the community, said Navy Rear Adm. Mark Fox.
Since the outpost was established June 24, neighborhood watch groups have made reports resulting in the discovery of four caches of mortar rounds, makeshift mortar tubes and improvised explosive device timers, he said. Last night one such report led soldiers from Multinational Division Baghdad to destroy a car-bomb factory filled with deadly materials.
"It's an illustrative example of the value of neighborhood watch programs and the trust the Iraqi people have in their local security forces," Fox said. "Because of their commitment, many are being vetted for training as future police or security officers."
"We've seen a significant drop in the number of citizens murdered in Baghdad," Fox said, although nine indirect fire attacks on July 12 hit several Iraq neighborhoods.
These indiscriminate attacks are a perfect example of the nature of a brutal enemy, the admiral said.
"The attacks show the same disregard for civilian life that turned the Iraqi population against al Qaeda," Fox said. "The Iraqi people themselves realize that their best interests are not being served by these extremist groups...and the Iraqi people are turning against them."
The increasing trust, along with the steady growth of Iraqi security forces and additional coalition forces, is making a difference on the ground, he said. To date coalition forces have helped to train and equip more than 349,000 Iraq security forces.
"Iraq security forces are getting stronger every day," Fox said. The Iraqi security forces reflect the quality of their leaders. There are well-trained, well-equipped and well-led units within the Iraqi security force, but there are also units that still need to improve, he said.
The job of the coalition is to help prepare the Iraqi army and police to establish a level of security and stability they can sustain on their own. Fox emphasized that while the fight is hard the Iraqi forces are in the fight along with coalition forces.
"Their losses reflect their commitment, courage and sacrifice," he said. In June alone, Iraq security forces, working as a first line of defense, sustained three times more casualties than coalition forces.
Long-term solutions will ultimately be Iraqi solutions, Fox said. This is a joint fight with Iraqi and coalition troops working and fighting together to protect the Iraqi people and create conditions for political progress to take root.
Quoting a commander from the 3rd Infantry Division serving in Iraq, Fox said, "The Iraqi forces we are fighting alongside are truly improving every day. They are out there and (they) are doing a phenomenal job."