By Meghan Vittrup
American Forces Press Service
June 4, 2008 - Positive trends in Iraq can be attributed to the increasingly successful Iraqi army and the cooperation of the country's citizens, a senior military official in Iraq said today. "For the third week in a row, security incidents in Iraq are at the lowest levels in some four years," Army Maj. Gen. Kevin Bergner, a Multinational Force Iraq spokesman, said in a Baghdad news conference.
"These numbers reflect fewer attacks on Iraqi civilians, fewer attacks on Iraqi and coalition forces, and fewer attacks on the government's infrastructure," Bergner said.
Operations from May 15 until yesterday show an increase in the capability of the Iraq army and the country's other security forces to take charge, clear neighborhoods and take care of their citizens, the general said. The Iraqi security forces grew in size from 400,000 members a year ago to 559,000 in May of this year, he noted.
Citizen involvement also is playing an important role in the positive trends, Bergner said. Iraq citizens are providing the security forces with more tips, and the "Sons of Iraq" – the name given to citizen-security groups in many communities -- are helping to provide even more protection on the local level, he noted.
Since May 20, 94 weapons caches have been found, Bergner said. Iraq and coalition forces and Iraqi police have found hundreds of pounds of TNT and bomb-making materials, thousands of rounds of small-arms ammunition, mortars of various sizes and blocks of explosive materials.
"There is no doubt, though, that extremists retain the ability to replenish these weapons stocks," Bergner said. "So operations to pursue and continue the pressure on their networks must be sustained."
Bergner also clarified what he said was some misinformation being spread about the strategic framework and status of forces agreement that is still under negotiation between the United States and Iraq. He reiterated the position often stated by U.S. officials up to and including President Bush that "there is absolutely no plan or any desire for permanent bases in Iraq."
"Multinational Force Iraq is here only at the request of the government of Iraq, and will only stay at the request of the sovereign government of Iraq," the general said. "Any agreement on the presence of forces will also include the necessary coordinating mechanisms that would further respect Iraq's sovereignty."