By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
Nov. 7, 2007 - Decreased violence in Iraq is the result of ongoing U.S. surge operations and Iraqi citizens' increasing willingness to confront al Qaeda insurgents, a senior U.S. military officer said here today. "No matter how you categorize it, you cannot deny that multinational force operations against al Qaeda in Iraq have had significant effect," Army Lt. Gen. Carter F. Ham, the Joint Chiefs of Staff director for operations, told reporters at a Pentagon news conference.
Large numbers of al Qaeda leaders have been killed or captured, and their operations have been disrupted since the surge took hold, Ham said.
Ham also credited the actions of thousands of concerned Iraqis who have volunteered to fight al Qaeda. Led by their tribal leaders, those Iraqis have said they "are not going to tolerate this any more," Ham pointed out.
The general also addressed the slated redeployment of a U.S. brigade from Iraq next month, saying it is part of a process that must be performed carefully so as not to "place a burden on the Iraqi security forces prior to them being ready to accept it." And although he declined to get into specifics, Ham reported that Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Gen. James E. Cartwright and Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of Multinational Force Iraq, have been directed to have "a closer dialogue and collaboration" with senior Turkish officials on Turkey-Iraq border issues.
"That process is ongoing," Ham said. Army Maj. Gen. Richard Sherlock, the Joint Chiefs' director of operational planning, "is leading that effort on my behalf," Ham explained. Sherlock will work with his counterparts at U.S. European Command, U.S. Central Command, Multinational Force Iraq and the Turkish General Staff. U.S. European Command is working with Turkish officials in setting up technical systems that can be used to provide intelligence that can be shared with Turkey, Ham said.
Meanwhile, insurgent forces in Afghanistan have been consistently thrashed this year during a series of ground battles directed against U.S., coalition and Afghan security forces, Ham reported.
It is sometimes difficult to distinguish between Taliban or al Qaeda conducted operations, the general acknowledged, since the two groups' actions in Afghanistan have been known to occasionally overlap. The insurgents' lack of success on the ground using traditional methods may explain their adoption of asymmetrical tactics that employ suicide attacks and high-powered roadside bombs, Ham said. In fact, scores of innocent Afghans were killed or injured yesterday during a bombing in Baglan province.
Insurgents in Afghanistan may try to launch a few more attacks before the onset of winter weather lessens their activities as it has in the past, Ham predicted.