By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
July 26, 2007 - Security progress in Iraq is undeniable, Iraqi and American leaders in Baghdad said today. Iraqi army Lt. Gen. Abood Qanbar, commander of the Baghdad Operations Center, said sectarian violence is decreasing and his country will not slip in civil war.
U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, commander of Multinational Corps Iraq, attributed the success to three factors. The first is that the surge of coalition forces has had an impact on the situation in the capital. The surge is denying sanctuary to al Qaeda in Iraq and Shiia extremists.
"The important element to long-term effectiveness is holding these gains," Odierno said during a news conference. "The Iraqi security forces and coalition forces have made a commitment to ensure we hold these gains."
The second factor is Iraqi forces' growth in strength and capacity, the general said. "With such professional growth comes the confidence of the population," Odierno said. "Security provided by competent Iraqi security forces allows the people to go about their business of restoring economic, political and social growth of the nation."
Third is reconciliation efforts that tribal leaders and sheikhs have been engaged in. "Ultimately, reconciled groups come to understand that the political process is the best way to achieve their objectives peacefully and under the rule of law instead of through violence and fear," he said.
Abood said the number of bodies discovered by authorities has decreased by 90 percent. He added that improvised explosive devices are down 40 percent, and car bombs are down 15 percent. "Life is normal in many areas of Baghdad," Abood said through a translator. "We have noticed more stores opening after a long suspension. Work in the government offices is now organized."
The general said many projects are under way in Baghdad, and students were able to finish the school year with minimal interference of their exams.
With the return of more peaceful life, the number of Iraqis using medical facilities has jumped by 300 percent, Abood said.
"Iraqi people in some hot areas rejected the terrorist groups after they felt that the Iraqi forces can protect them," he said. "People are cooperating with the Iraqi security forces."
He said terrorists are not pleased with the unity the Iraqi people have shown. "We know that terror has no religion," he said. "It is the enemy of all the nations and all humanity."
Abood is under no illusions. Even with the progress in Baghdad, a lot of work remains, he said. "We have to face sectarianism, and all the people must support the operations," he said.
Odierno congratulated the Iraqi soccer team for its victory over South Korea in the Asian Games. "As hard-working men from many different and diverse backgrounds, they represent what is best about this nation," the general said. "I wish them the best of luck against Saudi Arabia, and I hope they can take home the Asian Cup for the first time in history this Sunday."
Following the soccer team's victory, extremists launched an attack on Iraqis celebrating the win. "These cruel acts of terrorism like this have gone on far too long," Odierno said. "Together we can put a stop to this, and we can throw these heartless zealots out of this country for good."
Operations Fahrd al Qanoon and Phantom Thunder are supporting the Iraqi government's plan to secure the Iraqi population, Odierno said. Forces are concentrating operations on ending terror inflicted on the population by al Qaeda and other illegal groups.
"Our combined forces have captured hundreds of weapons and ammunition caches, found and cleared well over 1,300 explosive devices and more than two dozen car bombs," he said. "We have captured key al Qaeda and extremists Shiia leaders."
Odierno also acknowledged the suffering of the Iraqi people and thanked them for their sacrifices. "It is my hope that we will be able to continue standing alongside you until the job is done," he said.