By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
Oct. 20, 2009 - The security situation in northern Iraq has improved greatly in recent years, a senior U.S. military officer told Pentagon reporters today. Al-Qaida, which several years ago launched attacks with abandon in northern Iraq, is now "desperate," Army Brig. Gen. Robert B. Brown, deputy commanding general for Multinational Division North and the 25th Infantry Division, said during a satellite-carried teleconference.
Today, the division's area of operations "has completely changed," said Brown, who was in northern Iraq as a Stryker brigade commander in 2004 and 2005.
Brown, whom President Barack Obama has nominated for promotion to major general, assumed his present duties in November 2008, with headquarters in the Mosul area. Brown's area of responsibility comprises the seven northernmost Iraqi provinces, including the Kurdish region. He commands about 25,000 U.S. servicemembers.
Security in his area of operations is "totally different than it was four years ago, and it's a change for the better," Brown said.
The improvement in security came about, in large part, because of a strong partnerships between the U.S. and Iraqi governments, Brown said, as well as good relations among U.S. troops and vastly improved Iraqi soldiers and police.
"That, in turn, has led to an overall increase in security," he added.
Brown said he appreciates "the professionalism and dedication" demonstrated by the Iraqi security forces. Iraqi soldiers and police, he told reporters, have taken the lead in providing security in his area.
The general attributed increased targeting of terrorist activities, especially the actions of al-Qaida operatives, as causing the reduction in violence.
Terrorists did target Mosul a few months ago during a spate of bombings, Brown noted, but added that al-Qaida's ability to carry out such attacks is greatly diminished.
"Now, because of the relentless pursuit of terrorist organizations such as al-Qaida, these large-scale spectacular attacks are rare," he said. "In fact, (numbers of) attacks are at their lowest level since 2003."
Though al-Qaida in Iraq is a nearly spent force that knows it cannot win in Iraq, it remains a dangerous enemy, the general added.
Meanwhile, U.S. troops remain busy coaching and teaching their Iraqi soldiers and police, Brown said. Though U.S. forces moved out of Iraqi cities and towns on June 30, he said, Iraqi and U.S. troops occasionally join forces to conduct anti-insurgent operations outside municipal areas.
Momentum gained by improved security in northern Iraq "has been the key to our success," Brown said.
And as long as that momentum is maintained, Brown said, the northern Iraqi provinces "have a very bright future ahead of them."