By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
Oct. 8, 2009 - Attacks committed by al-Qaida and other insurgents operating in Baghdad and its environs continue to drop three months after U.S. combat troops moved out of Iraqi cities, a U.S. brigade commander posted there said today. "Security is still the first order of business for the units in this brigade, as well as our Iraqi partners in uniform. Overall, I think we've been making steady progress in this area," Army Col. Tobin L. Green, commander of the 1st Cavalry Division's 1st Brigade Combat Team, told Pentagon reporters during a satellite-carried news conference.
Green's Fort Hood, Texas,-based brigade falls under Multinational Division Baghdad and supports and trains Iraqi security forces operating in and around Baghdad. The brigade has slightly less than 4,000 troops, Green said, noting his soldiers also participate in combined counterinsurgency operations with Iraqi forces.
On June 30, Iraqi soldiers and police assumed security duties in Iraq's cities, to include Baghdad, as U.S. combat forces moved to outlying areas, Green said. Since July, he said, enemy attacks on U.S. and Iraqi forces have declined.
Today, overall enemy attacks in the Baghdad region -- including improvised explosive devices and explosively formed projectiles -- "remain pretty low," Green said.
Concurrently, he said, casualties among U.S. forces in the Baghdad area have experienced "a significant downturn."
Iraqi security force casualties ticked upward in July, Green said, but they since have declined. Iraqi civilian casualties did rise in August, he said, due to the terrorist bombings of the Iraqi foreign and finance ministries in Baghdad on Aug. 19. One hundred Iraqis were killed and 600 were injured by the blasts.
During his Oct. 6 remarks at the annual Association of the U.S. Army conference here, Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of U.S. Central Command, described the Aug. 19 Baghdad bombings as "a particularly difficult day."
However, Petraeus added, the overall number of enemy attacks in Iraq have declined about 85 percent since the spring of 2007.
And, Iraqi civilian casualties in Baghdad have "steadily declined" since the Baghdad Aug. 19 bombings, Green pointed out.
Yet, Green remains "mindful of still lethal and capable enemy cells and networks that seek to inflict harm on security forces and innocent Iraqis every day." Most of the attacks in the Baghdad area, he said, are attributed to "al-Qaida or associated types" of insurgent groups.
Meanwhile, Iraqi soldiers and police "continue to stand up to extremists and insurgent groups like al-Qaida," Green said, while "Iraqi citizens continue to reject attempts by these groups to incite sectarian violence."
Al-Qaida and other insurgent groups' ability to sow destruction in and around Baghdad, Green said, has been "significantly degraded over time." However, he said, the threat has not been eliminated.
That's why members of the 1st Brigade Combat Team will continue to assist and support Iraqi security forces "as they target sources of instability and secure their people," he said.
Green's brigade trains Iraqi security forces, and provides aviation, unmanned aerial vehicles, intelligence, working dogs and other types of support.
"We also conduct combined operations with our [Iraqi] partners upon their request," he said. Such anti-insurgent operations are conducted outside of Baghdad, and can involve the targeting of enemy safe havens, interdiction of lines of communication and disrupting the flow of ordnance and weaponry, he said.
Relocation of U.S. combat troops out of Baghdad "has enabled operational successes against the enemy in their support zones, while strengthening relationships with Iraqi units in these more rural areas as well," Green said.
Meanwhile, the pace of reconstruction has picked up, Green said, noting his brigade has helped to complete 101 projects valued at about $25 million. Another 63 projects valued at $8.6 million are ongoing, he said, while another 58 projects are under development.
"I believe we've been able to generate and sustain our momentum in helping the Iraqis build civil capacity because of how we have organized ourselves for this challenge," Green said, noting his brigade works closely with local provincial reconstruction teams.
"And, we're pretty enthused by the results today," he said.