By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
Sept. 24, 2008 - The partnership between the coalition and the Iraqi government has been enormously productive and is continuing to pay dividends, Brig. Gen. David Perkins, a coalition spokesman in Baghdad, said. Perkins and Iraqi Army Maj. Gen. Qasim Atta spoke about a range of subjects during a news conference today.
Atta, the spokesman for the Iraqi Army's Baghdad Operations Center, said that as the holy month of Ramadan closes and Iraqis begin to celebrate the Feast of Eid on Oct. 1, security forces will take extra precautions, such as not allowing vehicles to enter parks where the feasting will take place. The change is a precaution, even though violent incidents during Ramadan – usually a month when attacks spike – are down, he said.
Since the beginning of September, 2,613 dislocated families have returned to their homes in Baghdad, Atta said. "The number of returning families are increasing every day and we expect that after Eid, this number is going to double," he said through a translator.
More than 6 million students returned to schools at the beginning of the month, Atta said. "Security forces took all the procedures necessary to provide the right atmosphere for our students in all provinces," he said.
Atta warned Baghdad residents that terror groups are attempting a new tactic of placing "sticky" bombs – those made of glue or magnets – on the underside of vehicles. He urged all Iraqis to examine their cars before driving them. "These attacks try to disrupt security operations...and try to affect the morale of the people," he said. "It's a desperate way to prove they are still there."
In the first news conference since Army Gen. Ray Odierno took over as commander of Multinational Force Iraq, Perkins said Odierno will continue the partnership with the Iraqi people. The results are plain for all to see, he said. "If you even took a look at Ramadan a year ago ... overall there's a 60 percent reduction in attacks," he said.
Still, al-Qaida and other terrorists continue to try to thwart progress, but the partnership between the coalition and the Iraqi government continues to show results. Anbar province – once almost written off as an insurgent province – returned to Provincial Iraqi control earlier this month. There has been no increase in attacks there since, Perkins said.
The Sons of Iraq citizen patrol program is another partnership effort that has worked for the benefit of the whole country, the generals said. Next month, the Iraqi government will take over responsibility for 54,000 members of the Sons of Iraq.
"All the Sons of Iraq in Baghdad will transfer to the government and they will move either into security forces or job training centers," Perkins said. "We partnered with the Sons of Iraq during very tough times, very volatile times, and we are now partnering with the Sons of Iraq and the government to take advantage of the security situation."
The improved security situation will allow the coalition to partner with the Iraqi government to increase governmental capacity. In the past week, national and provincial government officials met in Baghdad to address the problems affecting the southern provinces. They are examining what Iraqi government and coalition resources can be brought to bear against these problems.
Economic opportunity is another area for partnership, Perkins said. The United States invested $10 million to develop the economic base for a hotel and office space at the Baghdad International Airport. Officials hope this will provide a base for further economic development and foreign investment.
Stability is the key not only to economic development, but also the rule of law and the development of democracy, Perkins said. The Iraqis recently completed a voter registration drive in which nearly 3 million Iraqis registered to vote with almost no security incidents.
"This again furthers the democratic process and increases the confidence that the people of Iraq have that they are in control," he said.