By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
Nov. 19, 2007 - Terrorist-committed violence in Iraq has plummeted since the start of the surge of forces, a senior U.S. officer reported yesterday from Baghdad. "Terrorist attacks are at their lowest level since January 2006," Navy Rear Adm. Gregory J. Smith, a Multinational Force Iraq spokesman, told reporters at a Baghdad news conference. The overall number of attacks in Iraq is 55 percent lower than the period before the surge took hold in June, Smith said.
Civilian fatalities across Iraq are down by about 60 percent during the same period, Smith said. And civilian deaths in Baghdad are down 75 percent, he added.
Iraqi security forces casualties are down by 40 percent since the beginning of the surge, Smith said. And on Nov. 16, Iraq experienced just 33 terrorist incidents, he pointed out. "This is the lowest number of any attacks in a single day in Iraq in nearly three and a half years," Smith said.
While the current trend of decreased violence is encouraging, "a tough fight remains ahead and progress will be uneven," Smith predicted, noting violence in Iraq remains too high as the enemy maintains the ability to commit barbaric attacks.
Meanwhile, Iraqi and coalition forces continue to act on concerned citizens' tips to uncover and destroy vehicle-bomb factories and weapons caches, while detaining hundreds of insurgents, Smith said. These and other anti-insurgent actions taken since the surge have contributed to the lessened violence in and around the Iraqi capital city, he said.
However, al Qaeda in Iraq isn't finished yet, Smith cautioned. Car- and truck-mounted bombs constitute the main threat against Iraqi citizens, while roadside bombs are the insurgents' primary weapons used against Iraqi and coalition forces, he said.
"We know al Qaeda will attempt to reconstitute these lethal (bomb-making) networks in order to try and once-again raise fears and foment sectarian strife, especially here in Baghdad," Smith pointed out.
Much of the current violence in Iraq is centered in the northern part of the country, Smith explained. The two-week-old Operation Iron Hammer is targeting al Qaeda insurgents in northern Iraq, he said. To date, the operation has netted 50 weapons caches, more than 500 mortar and artillery rounds and homemade explosives, and more than 100 machine guns, and other items. Hundreds of al Qaeda suspects have been detained, he added. Separate operations are going after al Qaeda extremists operating southwest of Baghdad, the admiral said.
"Coalition and Iraqi security forces do have the momentum," Smith pointed out. Increased effectiveness of Iraqi security forces, the actions of concerned Iraqi citizens, and the efforts of coalition troops have combined to produce improved security, Smith said.
Iraqi citizens' hotlines have helped Iraqi and coalition forces to foil the plans of myriad extremists and other criminals, said Phillip Reeker, Baghdad counselor for public affairs, who accompanied Smith at the news conference.
The citizens' efforts "have allowed authorities to detain hundreds of insurgents, terrorists and criminals, and led to the recovery of hundreds of weapons caches that no longer endanger Iraqi and coalition lives," Reeker said.
A recently-opened national hotline center boasts 40 operators and work stations, with room to add 80 additional employees, Reeker reported. The new center complements a series of very effective local hotline facilities located across Iraq, he added.
Meanwhile, U.S. State Department- and military-staffed provincial reconstruction teams continue their work in Iraq as part of efforts to resuscitate the country's economy for a better future for its people, Reeker said.
One such team operating in Baghdad just purchased more than 200 pieces of furniture from a newly reopened Iraqi factory, he reported. The PRT partnered with a U.S. military brigade combat team to restart seven of 27 previously state-owned businesses in the area, which included the furniture factory, Reeker said.
"These increased opportunities for employment are a priority, not only for the government of Iraq and the local governments, but for the coalition forces and the United States government assistance program, as well," Reeker said.