By Fred W. Baker III
American Forces Press Service
Oct. 6, 2008 - Violent attacks in northern Iraq have dropped by 60 percent in the past year, and progress in the region has left the insurgency broken, a senior commander in the area said today. Our assessment is that the insurgency has become fractured, certainly still capable and lethal, and they are increasingly relying on intimidation to garner support from local populace," said Army Maj. Gen. Mark P. Hertling, commander of Multinational Division North. Hertling briefed Pentagon reporters via satellite from Contingency Operating Base Spiker outside of Tikrit, Iraq.
Coalition forces working alongside improved Iraqi security forces have killed or captured thousands of enemy fighters in the region, Hertling said, crippling their efforts to hang on to control of the larger cities in the region, such as Mosul.
"Iraq's forces showed new signs of independence, confidence, professionalism, and -- above all -- national commitment," Hertling said.
Changes on the political landscape also have helped security efforts, as both the provincial and central governments have begun rebuilding efforts and have worked to stimulate the economy. Government agencies are executing their budgets and working to pave roads and improve access to electricity and water, Hertling said.
That, combined with recent violence targeting civilians, has left the local people disenfranchised from the various insurgency groups fighting in the region. Just yesterday, a terrorist detonated a suicide vest in Mosul as coalition forces were trying to capture a wanted man. Three women and three children were killed.
"I think there is a feeling ... that the Iraqi citizens are sick of the insurgents," Hertling said.
Recent operations in Diyala province resulted in significant security gains there, and operations in Mosul and Ninevah province continue to deliver increased security gains there, Hertling said. Also, the flow of foreign fighters from Syria into Mosul has been interrupted, he said.
Still, the fighting is not done and gains are tenuous, the commander said. His area still sees the highest number of attacks in Iraq. "There is still a desire by al-Qaida and other extremist groups to hold on to key areas," Hertling said.
Hertling said progress in the area cannot be measured in terms of wins or losses.
"It is more and more apparent to me, we measure progress in Iraq not by wins and losses, but by gains and regressions -- steps forward and steps backward," he said.
More work is needed on infrastructure, especially schools and hospitals and access to water, and unemployment is still as high as 50 percent in some areas, Hertling said.