By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
Oct. 22, 2008 - Security improvements throughout northwestern Baghdad have prompted reconstruction and residents' returns to their homes, but the successes remain fragile in light of insurgent cells intent on disrupting progress, a commander in Multinational Division Baghdad told Pentagon reporters today. Army Col. William Hickman, who commands the 101st Airborne Division's 2nd Brigade Combat Team, said his soldiers and their Iraqi security partners have "helped bring about big progress" during 11 months in Iraq and set conditions for continued progress.
Speaking from Camp Victory via videoconference, Hickman said reduced violence throughout Iraq is "especially visible in our area." He cited an 83 percent decrease in attacks throughout the Multinational Division Baghdad area and a 92 percent drop in attacks in northwestern Baghdad since January 2007.
"All in all, security in the area is vastly improved, as a result of the great work of our soldiers and increasingly competent and capable partners, the Iraqi security forces," he said.
Hickman noted ever-improving capability within the eight Iraqi Army battalions and two Iraqi Army brigades with whom his soldiers partner. Operating in the Kadhimiya, Mansour and Karkh security districts, these Iraqi forces are led by "highly competent Iraqi generals who consistently demonstrate their will to deliver security and facilitate reconstruction efforts in northwest Baghdad," Hickman said.
The "Sons of Iraq" citizen security groups have played a key role in improving security, Hickman said, partnering with Iraqi Army and police in their communities to create a more unified security effort and helping to create an environment that supports reconstruction efforts.
"Our soldiers, in conjunction with our Iraqi security force partners, have set the conditions for increased positive growth here," Hickman said. He noted that 1,700 reconstruction projects have been launched since the 2nd Brigade Combat Team arrived in November.
Hickman credited the embedded provincial reconstruction team with delivering capability and know-how to support reconstruction and reconciliation efforts.
"With the EPRT, we are focused on extending the reach of the government, providing businesses access to financial capital, and to the development of public work stations" that employ local people to provide essential services, he said.
As reconstruction continues, 16,000 families have returned to the area, thanks to improved security and the Iraqi government's support for resettlement, Hickman said. Also, he said, 2,100 families have returned to the Hurriyah and Ghazalia neighborhoods since Sept. 1.
"With our Iraqi partners, we are fully engaged and committed to the security of the Iraqi people and the reconstruction of northwest Baghdad," Hickman said. "It has been a solid year. ... We think we made a difference in Baghdad."