By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
Jan. 28, 2008 - Iraqi security forces increasingly demonstrate their professionalism and willingness to step up to protect the Iraqi people, a spokesman for Multinational Corps Iraq told reporters yesterday. During a briefing in Baghdad, Navy Rear Adm. Gregory J. Smith pointed to numerous signs of progress in training and equipping the Iraqi army and police forces and the greater role these forces now play in Iraq's security.
"We continue to see examples of the increasingly professionalized Iraqi security forces stepping up to protect their people," he said.
Smith noted the gains being made by soldiers, police officers and groups such as "The Awakening" and concerned local citizens. For example, last week in Karmah, an Iraqi army unit discovered two critical stockpiles that together included more than 2,500 pounds of homemade explosives.
"The Iraqi army, being on the ground and among its people, saved an unknown number of lives with this find," Smith said.
In a similar incident, Iraqi soldiers operating northeast of Ramadi responded to a tip from a local citizen and recovered a stockpile of plastic explosives, rocket and mortar rounds, detonating cords and ammunition.
"These finds happen every day, and ... in every corner of Iraq," Smith said. "As Operation Phantom Phoenix continues, we are seeing Iraq's commitment to its security forces produce real results."
Meanwhile, Iraqi security forces continue to grow and increase in capability, Smith said.
More than 1,800 new police officers recently graduated from the National Police Training Center in Numaniyah, Smith noted. The officers received individualized, specialized instruction and education, with some focusing on anti-terrorism operations and others in investigations.
"These officers will enrich and expand the capabilities of their nation's security forces," Smith said. "All of these officers have pledged their loyalty to the united, democratic Iraq. They have expressed their commitment to all the people of Iraq. And they have bravely chosen to stand with those who want a better tomorrow instead of violence and anarchy offered by Iraq's enemies."
In addition, more than 2,000 newly trained police officers have graduated from the Habbaniyah Police Training Center in Anbar province since it opened in June, Smith said. That school offers three specialized schools: one in convoy operations and street survivability, another train-the-trainer school designed to equip the Iraqi police to educate and lead on their own, and an officers' transition integration program.
"These capabilities matter and are having positive effects in the lines of Iraqi citizens," Smith said.
Iraq's enemies are responding to this new capability with ever-more-desperate attacks, he said. He pointed to two incidents last week in Mosul and Tikrit, in which 15-year-olds were exploited to carry out murder-suicides.
"Children are not only humanity's future, they are the most innocent and vulnerable among us," Smith said. "We have a trust to care for them, to raise them up as good citizens. Al Qaeda is instead trying to brainwash children ... with hate and death. We see a stark contrast between those who are building a strong, secure and peaceful society and those who seek to create a culture of violence, hate and despair."