By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
June 22, 2008 - After successful efforts to restore order in the Sadr City section of Baghdad, as well as Basra and Mosul, Iraqi security forces now are focused on conducting anti-insurgent operations in the southeastern city of Amarah, a senior U.S. military officer said in Baghdad today. Navy Rear Adm. Patrick Driscoll told reports during a Baghdad news conference that Iraq's soldiers and police are doing "their job to make sure the citizens of this country are no longer intimidated by terrorists and extremist militias and their work is being followed by other areas of government."
On June 18, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki launched a crack down on illegal militias and criminal weapons smuggling networks that operate in Amarah, the capital of Maysan province that's located near the border with Iran. The militias are loyal to anti-American Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.
Meanwhile, Driscoll said U.S. and coalition forces also are involved in security operations, while concurrently assisting the Iraqi government as it works to restore essential services, reconstruct businesses and homes, and create jobs and opportunities for Iraqi citizens.
"This has happened as security operations have progressed in Basra, Baghdad and Mosul," Driscoll pointed out. "It is part of the plan for operations in Amarah."
Operation Bashaer as-Salaam is an Iraqi-led, planned and executed security operation conducted in Amarah to enforce the rule of law, reduce criminal safe havens and disrupt weapons-smuggling networks.
Current operations in Amarah are proceeding well, Driscoll said.
"So far in Amarah, there has been little resistance to the restoration of the rule of law," Driscoll reported. "Weapons have been turned in and calm is prevailing."
The operations in Amarah demonstrate the Iraqi government's resolve and commitment to extend security to citizens living across the country, the admiral pointed out.
"The people of Maysan (province) need to have the same opportunity to live free of fear as the people of Anbar and the people of Basra," Driscoll said. Anbar province in western Iraq once was a hotbed of insurgent activity, until its citizens united to throw out al-Qaida operatives.
Regarding the situation in Amarah before Iraqi forces moved in, Driscoll observed that "no place can be a haven for weapons smuggling, just as no neighborhood can be left to militias that will impose their own codes."
The government of Iraq "is on the offensive to secure all areas of Iraq," Driscoll said. Operations in Amarah, he said, demonstrate the Iraqi army's improving capabilities.
The Iraqi army still requires some assistance from coalition forces, Driscoll acknowledged. Nonetheless, he said, Iraqi military leaders are now demonstrating the ability to professionally lead, plan and execute military operations.
Iraq's military leaders "can maneuver troops to where they are needed," Driscoll said, noting that the presence of those troops "is inspiring greater confidence from the people."
As security takes hold across Iraq, then hope and opportunity for it citizens increases, Driscoll observed.
"We will continue to work with our Iraqi counterparts create the security conditions that will allow hope and opportunity to become the norm," Driscoll said.