By Melinda L. Larson
American Forces Press Service
Sept. 23, 2007 - Attacks and violent incidents in Iraq are down, but Iraqi and coalition forces still have a lot of work ahead, a top coalition spokesman in Iraq said today. "In a whole sense there is no question about the fact that, in our minds, the trend is going in the right direction," said Navy Rear Adm. Mark I. Fox, communications division chief for Multinational Force Iraq. "Our efforts to continue the reduction in violence will allow Iraqi society to begin to mend. There is a lot of hard work to do."
Hard work means stopping extremists before they strike, Fox said in a news briefing. To that end, he said, Iraqis are reporting insurgent activity in their neighborhoods.
A boost to local neighborhoods this week is the addition of some 744 new Iraqi policemen who graduated Sept. 20 from the Baghdad Police Academy. Thousands more new Iraqi security force members are expected in the coming months.
"Another class of 800 will graduate Tuesday," Fox added. "Over the next six months, some 12,000 new Iraqi security force members will be trained -- a clear indication of local Iraqis taking ownership of their own security."
Maintaining security in Iraq means keeping al Qaeda off balance and eliminating safe havens terrorists once enjoyed, Fox said. "Al Qaeda is off balance; they're on their back foot. They're responding and we own the initiative," Fox said.
The surge force initiative that's been in place since mid-June has meant coalition forces have been able to conduct simultaneous operations more than ever before. The surge has made a difference, Fox said. "We've seen demonstrable results in terms of the reduction in violence and the reduction of violent incidents in Iraq," he said.
The admiral said he is confident the trend toward reducing violence in Iraq will continue as coalition forces continue to pressure extremists.
"While Iraq remains a violent place beset by many problems and challenges, we continue to keep pressure on the extremist networks and to build on the tactical momentum that our soldiers, the Iraqi people and their security forces have fought so hard to achieve."