By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service
Aug. 20, 2009 - A U.S. commander in Iraq condemned yesterday's wave of attacks in Baghdad that killed at least 95 people, saying a security lapse allowed the deadly assault. Army Lt. Gen. Frank Helmick said the Iraqi government is investigating the attack that involved two truck bombs exploding minutes apart near ministry buildings in Baghdad, killing scores and injuring more than 500 others.
"Clearly, there was a lapse of security, or this would not have happened," Helmick, who heads the U.S. command that oversees Iraqi security forces' training and development, told reporters at the Pentagon today.
The attack came nearly two months after U.S. troops withdrew from Iraq's cities and villages as part of a deal to hand over increased authority to Iraqi forces. At the Iraqi government's request, Helmick said, American troops provided intelligence, surveillance and medical assistance after yesterday's attacks.
The bloodshed underscored that security in Iraq is an evolving process of training, partnering and development, Helmick said. He echoed Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in saying that the bombings warranted a re-evaluation of security methods.
"These events clearly demonstrate that security is not only an ongoing process, it really is a never-ending commitment," Helmick added.
While the general acknowledged that future attacks are likely, he characterized yesterday's attack as an isolated security breach that is overshadowed by broader trends that indicate improved safety in Iraq compared to previous years.
Some 80 weekly attacks occur in Iraq, compared to an average of 1,600 a week during the height of violence in June 2007, he said.
"Do we anticipate more attacks in the future? I think there are going to be some bad days ahead," he said. "But again, if you look at the progress of the Iraqi security forces across the board, there are more good days ahead than there will be bad days ahead. And again, this is a constant challenge and a constant commitment to maintain security in this country."
Helmick said the declining number of attacks over time is proof of the Iraqi security forces' increased capability.
"Yes, we have much work to be done," he said. "And the U.S. forces will continue to work with the people of Iraq to improve the capabilities of their security forces."