Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Good News from Iraq: 10 Oct 2007

From MNF-I, 300 sheikhs gather to plan security transition.

BAGHDAD — Iraqi governmental officials met with more than 300 sheikhs from the Mada’in Qada in Baghdad to discuss the way ahead for reconciliation in their area, Oct. 4. (A qada is roughly equivalent to a county in the U.S.).

Leaders from the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division and Multi-National Division Center attended as observers.

“When this many sheiks attend a meeting such as this, it is an indicator that the people are tired of the violence and have a desire to return to normalcy,” said Maj. Dave Fivecoat from Delaware, Ohio, 3rd BCT operations officer.

The sheikhs agreed security in the qada had improved since the arrival of the 3rd BCT in March 2007, and pledged to continue cooperation with U.S. and Iraqi security forces (ISF) to fight terrorism. To that end, they discussed a plan that would lead to the eventual acceptance of concerned local citizens into the Iraqi security forces.

The sheikhs also proposed a plan to increase coordination between tribal leaders and the government.

U.S. commanders hold out the concerned citizens programs as Iraq’s best hope for reconciliation and stabilization from the ground up, but stress that the concerned citizens must, in a timely manner, be folded into the official Iraqi security forces.

According to Maj. Jeremy Moore, 3rd BCT Iraqi security force liaison, the meeting was a positive step toward that transition.

“We are optimistic that their inclusion will ultimately enable the ISF to accurately represent and effectively secure the local populace,” Moore said.

In the meantime, actions and intelligence from the concerned citizens have led to a dramatic turnaround in the security situation.

“We’ve seen a large increase in tips that have led to the seizure of caches in the areas where concerned citizen groups are formed,” said Maj. Rhett Griner, 3rd BCT effects coordinator. “We have received 34 tips that have led to the arrest of 91 insurgents in the last 90 days.”

The 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division is from Fort Benning, Ga.