By Sgt. Sara Moore, USA
American Forces Press Service
Dec. 4, 2007 - While the fight in Iraq remains tough, coalition and Iraqi forces have made significant gains against al Qaeda recently, a U.S. military spokesman there said today. In November, coalition and Iraqi forces killed or captured 40 al Qaeda in Iraq leaders, U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Kevin J. Bergner, Multinational Force Iraq spokesman, told reporters in Baghdad. Those leaders included senior-level emirs, improvised-explosive-device cell leaders, foreign terrorist facilitators, and facilitators of logistics, communications and finances for terrorist networks.
In addition, Multinational Division North recently launched a new operation, Operation Iron Reaper, to pursue al Qaeda in northern Iraq, Bergner said. This operation follows Operation Iron Hammer, which captured or killed hundreds of terrorists and found and cleared several large ammunition caches, he noted.
Within the first three days of Operation Iron Reaper, Iraqi and coalition forces have already discovered and destroyed several weapons caches, Bergner said, noting that operations like this improve security and build confidence among the people. In northern Iraq, 6,000 concerned local citizens have volunteered to improve security in their towns and the region, he said.
"As security improves, Iraqi citizens continue to step forward to work with Iraqi and coalition forces to reduce the violence in Iraq," Bergner said.
Another example of citizens stepping forward is in the Mansour district of Baghdad, where 1,100 security volunteers have been screened and vetted for training as Iraqi police, Bergner said. While waiting for their training to begin, these volunteers are working with security forces in the area to help secure their neighborhoods by manning checkpoints, searching vehicles and protecting the streets, he said.
"These courageous citizens are a further signal of the collective resolve in Iraqi communities at the local level today, working together with citizens, security forces, tribal and government leaders to reduce violence and help further isolate extremists," he said.
Despite the successes achieved, Iraq is still a violent country beset by many challenges, Bergner said. Iraqi and coalition forces both have a sustained, determined commitment to see this tough fight through and improve conditions in Iraq, he said.
"Amidst the improving statistical trends, growing courage and the confidence of local citizens and their security forces, this remains a tough fight, and it's one that requires the sustained effort by both coalition and Iraqi forces, sustained over time and sustained through their courage and the patience to see it through," he said.