By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
Dec. 19, 2007 - The latest quarterly report on the situation in Iraq notes significant improvement across nearly every major category measured, with big security and economic progress and momentum in reconciliation at the local and provincial levels. But the report, "Measuring Stability and Security in Iraq," says it's now up to the Iraqi government to capitalize on this progress, with continued help from the United States, its coalition partners and others in the international community.
The Defense Department released the latest in its series of quarterly reports, covering the period from September through November, to Congress yesterday.
It cites the success of the troop surge in improving security and states that, if maintained, this success could lead to sustained stability.
Examples of positive developments include:
-- Growth of the "tribal awakening" movement in which Sunni and Shiite sheiks are now working together with the Iraqi government and the coalition, including provincial reconstruction teams, to improve security and economic conditions at the local level.
-- New "concerned local citizen" programs in which community members work with coalition and Iraqi forces to protect their neighborhoods and critical infrastructure.
-- A drop in security incidents to the lowest levels since the summer of 2005, with decreases in overall civilian casualties, enemy attacks and improvised-explosive-device attacks.
-- A continued decline in the capabilities of al Qaeda in Iraq and militia extremists, and increased tribal initiatives to hamper their efforts.
-- Radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's ceasefire order to his Jaysh al-Mahdi militia.
-- Increased capability of Iraqi security forces, both in the army and police sectors.
-- Separation of Iraq's previously mixed sectarian communities into homogenous neighborhoods, with sustained presence of coalition and Iraqi forces among the population.
The report notes continued growth in both numbers and capability within Iraq's military and police. As of Nov. 15, 117 army battalions were conducting operations at varying levels of capability, and 10 divisions, 34 brigades and 108 battalions had the lead in counterinsurgency operations in their areas. In addition, the Oct. 29 transfer of security responsibility in Karbala province to the Iraqi government gives Iraqis the security lead in eight of the country's 18 provinces.
While citing the impact of these developments, the report emphasizes that they must be matched by progress in Iraq's economy and within its central government to be effective. "However substantial the security progress made since the last report, sustained and durable progress depends on further progress in attaining political and economic objectives," it notes.
The report states Iraq's lack of progress on key legislation is "disappointing" and hindered the type of "top-down" reconciliation to match "bottom-up" gains being made locally.
It recognizes that the concerned local citizen program is proving to be critical to the counterinsurgency effort, but notes that efforts to integrate citizens-group members into government institutions is moving slower than hoped.
In addition, it expresses officials' concern that Iraq's domestic security forces still fall short in logistics and in qualified manpower to fill command officer ranks.
"In summary, tactical and operational momentum has been achieved, and there have been notable overall improvements in the security situation," the report says.
These developments have created an environment that enables other improvements to occur. The key to success will be for the Iraqi government to "capitalize upon local gains, pass key legislation, and promote national reconciliation," it concludes.