By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
July 7, 2008 - Success is building on success in Iraq, a senior military official said yesterday at a news conference in Baghdad. Navy Rear Adm. Patrick Driscoll, a spokesman for Multinational Force Iraq, said the total number of security incidents in Iraq now sits at 2004 levels.
"As the [Iraqi security force] enforces the rule of law and improves security in places like Basra, Mosul, Amarah and Sadr City, the people are finding new confidence in those that lead and protect them," Driscoll said. "Iraqis see security forces in their neighborhoods providing protection, and they are increasingly providing the army and police with valuable information that enhances safety."
The police and army have been able to enter neighborhoods where they could not always operate in the past, Driscoll explained.
"The Iraqi security forces are taking more weapons off the street, which further limits the ability of criminal and terrorists to conduct violent attacks against Iraqi citizens, Iraqi security forces and coalition forces," he said.
Operations in Basra have taken thousands of weapons off the streets. In late March, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki ordered Iraqi security forces in to the southern city. Since then, Iraqi soldiers and police have captured more than 6,200 mortars, almost 8,000 artillery rounds, more than 20 surface-to-air missiles, some 750 rockets, nearly 200 rocket-propelled-grenade launchers, almost 340 roadside bombs and more than 50 bombs specifically designed to pierce armor-hulled vehicles, Driscoll said.
In Mosul, Iraqi and coalition forces seized 33 weapons caches during the last week of June alone, and in Baghdad, Iraqi and coalition forces found and safely cleared 67 weapons caches during the same period, he said.
The same is true in other areas of the country. Since Iraqi army operations intensified in Sadr City, forces have seized 217 arms caches. In Amarah on June 29, Iraqi soldiers seized a significant weapons cache that included enough shaped, charged components to build between 40 and 50 of the deadly armor-piercing bombs, and 400 blocks of C-4 explosives and small arms, Driscoll said. On July 3, Iraqi soldiers found another weapons cache with 152 copper disks that are the key components of the armor-piercing bombs.
"We have taken a lot of the enemy weapons off the battlefield, and it's making for significantly improved security," Driscoll said. "We still face a tough fight. And it is increasingly an Iraqi effort, with the [Iraqi security forces] most often in the lead and coalition in support with key enablers."
Essential services follow in the wake of these security operations. In Baghdad's Mansour district, the Iraqi government opened the capital city's largest public works substation. The facility will provide the community with its own center that supports street cleaning, sanitation and garbage removal, Driscoll said. The embedded provincial reconstruction team of the 101st Airborne Division's 2nd Brigade Combat Team supported much of the work.
In the south, work continues on the Basra Children's Hospital.
"When this hospital is completed next year, it will be a highly advanced pediatric cancer treatment center, a truly valuable resource for families in need in the region," the admiral said. "The recent operations undertaken by the government of Iraq in Basra are improving the prospects that this hospital will open and provide children of Iraq with a world-class medical center."
Much work remains, but the Iraqi government is proving it's up to the job, Driscoll said, noting that coalition forces will continue to help the Iraqi security establishment accomplish its missions.
"We continue to pressure those who want to destroy rather than rebuild Iraq, and coalition forces are committed to supporting the Iraqi security forces in preserving our hard-fought gains," he said.