By Jamie Findlater
Special to American Forces Press Service
Nov. 13, 2007 - Captures of al Qaeda operatives and seizures of weapons caches in Iraq are up, and casualties are down, a senior military official in Baghdad told online journalists and "bloggers" today. Air Force Col. Donald Bacon, a Multinational Force Iraq spokesman, attributed a large part of this success to the surge of operations, the increase in activity among Iraqi security forces, and most recently, the formation of concerned local citizens groups, known as CLCs.
Since surge operations began in June, Bacon said, al Qaeda attacks are down 55 percent, civilian deaths are down 60 percent, coalition casualties are down 55 percent, and Iraqi forces casualties are down 40 percent.
Iraqi security forces are becoming increasingly active, with Iraqi forces now bearing a big brunt of the casualties, taking 50 percent more casualties than U.S. forces, the colonel explained.
Bacon touted the CLC program's importance.
"Concerned local citizens are part of the force protection plan; without them, al Qaeda would move back in the region," Bacon said. In October, Bacon noted, 43 al Qaeda leaders were captured or killed, up from 29 in September, 25 in August, and 18 in July. To become part of the CLC, citizens are given biometrics and put under a contract which includes a sworn allegiance to protect the Iraqi government.
CLCs also have increased the number of uncovered weapon caches. Of the 72 caches uncovered in October, 40 of them were found by CLCs.
The 5,365 caches uncovered so far this year far exceed the 2,667 uncovered last year. "These are the fuel that al Qaeda uses to attack Iraqi security forces and civilians," he noted.
The goal going forward, Bacon explained, is to make the CLC groups 20 to 25 percent of the Iraqi security force. He said the program is seen as a way to engage more and more Iraqis in their own government, aiding security and leading to more encouraging statistics in the future.
"CLC is a recently new initiative in recent months that has made a tremendous impact on the security here in the region," Bacon said. "We are working hard with the Iraqi government to make this fully an Iraqi government program. We are working with national and local leadership to work on this program."
(Jamie Findlater works in New Media at American Forces Information Service.)