By Sgt. Sara Wood, USA
American Forces Press Service
Sept. 24, 2007 - As coalition troops work among the people of Baghdad to improve security, they also are training Iraqi forces, who in turn are securing their own neighborhoods and taking more responsibility, the U.S. general in charge of coalition forces in the city said today. "This is tough work; it would be challenging even if we weren't fighting a brutal enemy at the same time," Army Maj. Gen. Joseph F. Fil, commander of Multinational Division Baghdad, told civilian defense experts in a conference call. "But there is progress, and I see steady progress both in terms of the security situation and in terms of the progression as a whole of the Iraqi military and the Iraqi security forces."
Violence in Baghdad has been reduced considerably, Fil said. There has been a 70 percent decrease in casualties caused by car bombs and a 125 percent increase in the number of car bombs that are discovered and disarmed, he said. Civilian casualties are also down, he noted.
"Despite these trends, it is clear that a lot of work is needed to continue to reduce the casualties and to improve the security in some parts of the city," Fil said. "I am very encouraged, though, by the ongoing grassroots reconciliation movements that are also occurring across Baghdad."
Throughout Baghdad, volunteers are stepping forward to help the Iraqi security forces maintain security, Fil said. These volunteers not only are providing much-needed extra manpower for Iraqi forces, but also are going through training to qualify them for service with the Iraqi police officers or military, he said. Tomorrow, 800 such volunteers from the Abu Ghraib area will graduate training and join the police officer forces.
"Areas where these efforts have taken root have gone from being actively contested, which were requiring deliberate clearing operations, to controlled areas through a partnership of Iraqi security forces, our coalition forces, and the local populace," he said.
As security improves throughout the city, citizens who were displaced by the violence are beginning to come back, Fil said. Those citizens who moved to other areas of Baghdad, those who moved elsewhere in Iraq, and even those who moved out of the country are starting to move back as they hear about the improved conditions, he said.
"Everybody senses that the conditions are starting to change," he said. "This movement, I think, is going to accelerate."