By Army Staff Sgt. Michael J. Carden
American Forces Press Service
Nov. 17, 2008 - After a year of operating in two of Baghdad's most historically violent districts, coalition forces are beginning to see the effects of a more confident Iraqi government and Iraqi security force, a U.S. Army brigade commander told reporters during a Pentagon press briefing here today. "Significant amounts of progress have been made in the last year in terms of security," said Army Col. John H. Hort, commander of the 4th Infantry Division's 3rd Brigade Combat Team. Hort noted the positive effects security has had on governance, economic and essential services improvements in Baghdad's Adhamiyah and Sadr City District.
Attack levels in Adhamiyah one year ago averaged more than six each day, but now less than one attack daily is reported there. Before Muqtada al-Sadr and Iraq's government agreed on the May ceasefire, more than 40 attacks were reported daily for weeks, Hort said.
Hort credits the confidence boost to success Iraqi security forces had fighting in Basra and Baghdad earlier this year. As a result of their accomplishments against Iranian-backed "special groups criminals" and other insurgents in those areas, the Iraqis seem more focused today than they did a year ago, he said.
"Today we see a tremendous amount of confidence in the government of Iraq and their willingness to go after the special groups criminals. I'd say that's a huge change, a significant change that we did not see as little as seven months ago," Hort said.
The security improvements have allowed Hort's brigade and the local provincial reconstruction team to focus on healthcare, education, recreation, electricity and sewage initiatives. The developments are giving the people a sense of normalcy and bringing this part of the city back to life, he said.
"We've actually got street lights working in old Adhamiyah," he said. "Today I had to park my humvee and wait for the red light to turn green. I'd never seen [that] here before."
Hort said more than $40 million has been spent developing essential services as well as refurbishing schools and providing small-business grants to inject revenue into the community.
Hort said coalition forces are "very encouraged" with the progress now evident, which was not visible even in March of this year. He said that U.S. forces "will continue to work in this part of our district or this part of our operational environment, to try to support the local government as well as the Iraqi security force."