By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
April 28, 2008 - Iraqi security forces fought and performed well during recent battles against insurgents in the Iraqi cities of Baghdad and Basra, a senior U.S. military officer posted in Iraq said yesterday. "We've had significant achievements in the fight against criminal groups over the last several weeks," Navy Rear Adm. Patrick Driscoll, a Multinational Force Iraq spokesman, told reporters at a Baghdad news conference. "In Basra and Baghdad, Iraqi security forces have demonstrated bravery and professionalism and have made great strides in securing those areas where Iraqis were held hostage by those who oppose the rule of law and commit acts of violence that endangered innocent Iraqis."
Iraqi and coalition security forces have cleared hundreds of roadside bombs and other deadly ordnance from the streets and byways of eastern Baghdad's Sadr City sector, which houses 3 million Iraqi residents, noted Maj. Gen. Qassim Atta, an Iraqi military spokesman who accompanied Driscoll at the news conference.
The roadside-bomb removal improves safety and security and also "alleviates the traffic jams and also provides more freedom to the citizens to move from one neighborhood to another in Baghdad," Atta said.
About two weeks ago, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki directed his security forces to confront illegal militias in the southern city of Basra. The fighting in Basra then spread to eastern Baghdad, primarily in Sadr City, the home to thousands of followers of Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.
Recent anti-insurgent efforts by Iraqi and coalition forces in Basra and eastern Baghdad have improved security in those two areas, Atta reported. The Iraqi government has earmarked more than $100 million for reconstruction needs in Basra and $150 million for redevelopment in Sadr City, the Iraqi general said.
Security in Basra has "improved dramatically over the last several weeks," Driscoll observed, noting the Iraqi security forces have driven out criminals and have moved into the city's neighborhoods to ascertain citizens' needs.
The Iraqi Interior Ministry reports that Basra's citizens are returning to their marketplaces and the city's children are going back to school, Driscoll said.
Capacity has been expanded at Basra's civil military operations center. Basra's CMOC team manages reconstruction efforts across the city and includes Iraqi, U.S., and other-agency participation, he said.
"This will help facilitate the quick delivery of essential services, get business going again, and provide basic aid to the populace," Driscoll explained.
In addition, coalition forces are reprioritizing funding to accelerate Basra reconstruction projects such as sewage services, new street lighting, medical care and business incentives, Driscoll reported. Similar reconstruction operations are taking place in eastern Baghdad, he noted.
"Once again, this is the process we're hoping for, where security is established, and then that will allow us to bring in the services I've mentioned and also let people get back to a normal life," Driscoll said.