By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service
March 28, 2008 - Iraqi security forces are focused on reducing criminal activity in Basra, Iraq, Multinational Force Iraq's deputy chief of staff for strategic effects said today during a conference call from Baghdad with military analysts. "In Basra, as you know, Iraqi security forces have undertaken operations specifically to improve the rule of law," said Army Maj. Gen. Kevin Bergner. "They have been conducting operations in Basra now for about four days."
The forces, about 3,500 troops, are working through the different districts of the city, where they have encountered some tough fighting that likely will continue, he said.
"They are being supported by the coalition in the way that they typically and traditionally do," Bergner said. That support includes transition teams, advisors and assistance with intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. Close-air and other forms of aviation support are being provided, as well.
"The Iraqi government has taken a very strong position" in terms of dealing with criminal activity in the city, Bergner said. "They have been very specific in pointing out that this is centered on criminal activity and not directed at a specific political entity or trend," he noted.
Iraqi government officials are in agreement on Basra, he went on to say. "The presidency council today did issue a statement supporting the action," Bergner said.
Members of the Council of Representatives have been encouraging support for the Iraqi security forces and dialogue among the political parties to help improve the security situation, he added.
The general also briefly addressed recent attacks on the International Zone and other Baghdad neighborhoods. Support for those attacks comes primarily from "special groups," which are relying on Iranian Quds force networks to supply mortars, training, funding and other forms of tactical direction, Bergner said. U.S. and coalition forces are reorienting themselves to deal with those attacks, the general said.
"(Multinational Division Baghdad), in fact, had some success again today at identifying some launchers and taking those out," he said. "They are also conducting operations against specific cells and the individuals we think are involved in planning and conducting those operations."