By John Valceanu
American Forces Press Service
Sept. 16, 2007 - Coalition and Iraqi forces must maintain the momentum generated by the troop surge in Iraq to defeat terrorists and insurgents, a senior military official in Baghdad said today. Army Brig. Gen. Joseph Anderson, chief of staff for Multinational Corps Iraq, talked about results of the increase of offensive operations made possible by the troop surge. Anderson spoke during a joint conference with Navy Rear Adm. Mark I. Fox, Multinational Force Iraq spokesman.
In the wake of Multinational Force Iraq Commander Army Gen. David H. Petraeus' recommendations to President Bush and testimony before Congress, forces in Iraq "will continue to build on the momentum of the last few months," Anderson said.
"Over the past few months, we've gained the initiative. Attacks are down. Car bombings and truck bombings have decreased, and the Iraqi people are choosing to reject extremism and violence," Anderson said. "We've now had several weeks of improved security, by most of our measures, both in Baghdad and throughout the country."
Anderson said Iraq and coalition forces are putting considerable pressure on al Qaeda in Iraq, and they have the terrorist organization on the run.
"Operations in Baghdad and Diyala, in particular, have caused Al Qaeda to move constantly, and they are now off balance," Anderson said. "We are in pursuit, and we will not allow the enemy to create new sanctuaries, nor allow them to regain territory."
Al Qaeda has been "clearly neutralized here inside of Baghdad proper, and we always knew with the surge of forces by the increased presence of boots on the ground in the tense security districts that we would be successful in pushing them out," Anderson said.
"Our assessment is right now they are very fractured," Anderson said. "And the ability for them to conduct large-scale sensational attacks has been greatly decreased."
But the pressure on al Qaeda is not only the result of military action, Anderson said, Iraqi citizens are also playing a pivotal role in turning the tide against Al Qaeda.
"The most powerful element at work against Al Qaeda is the Iraqi people themselves," he said. "Throughout the country, citizens are rejecting the violence and control Al Qaeda wants to impose upon them."
Many Iraqis have formed civilian groups supporting the Iraqi security forces, Anderson said, noting that many people in these groups may eventually have the opportunity to seek membership in the Iraqi security forces.
Anderson emphasized that coalition forces are not, however, providing weapons to these groups of Iraqis.
"Let's be clear, though, we are not arming these groups," he said. "We are facilitating their desire to reject al Qaeda and become part of the governmental process."
Though the momentum is currently with coalition and Iraqi forces, Anderson said that there are still many challenges to long-term stability, and pressure must be kept on the enemy to prevent them from regaining strength.
"We know much work needs to be done. We know extremist militants remain intent on disrupting the growth and development of the government of Iraq," Anderson said. "Al Qaeda remains dangerous and remains capable of significant attacks."
Other remaining problems, according to Anderson, are high civilian death tolls and "many political objectives ... that are necessary for the long-term stability of this country."
Anderson said that coalition forces will be there to help, when those political objectives are met.
"As the government of Iraq moves forward, we will assist in expanding progress to the local level," Anderson said. "We will also assist the government as it seeks to achieve its constitutional objectives."