Thursday, January 3, 2008

Good News from Iraq: 3 Jan 2008

From MNF-I, Local Leaders, Iraqi Police Celebrate Securing Town near Baghdad.

CAMP LIBERTY — Community leaders, Iraqi Police and supporting Coalition forces met recently here to celebrate securing Aqur Quf, a town in the district of Abu Ghraib near Baghdad.

The town has seen a dramatic decrease in the levels of violence since earlier this year, said Louisville, Ky. native Capt. John Nelson, commander of Company D, 2nd Squadron, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division.

“Before we came to the area,” he said, “there were a lot of improvised explosive devices directed against Coalition Forces as well as a high level of sectarian violence between the Shia sect and the Sunni sect here in this immediate area.”

Maj. Jasem Muhammed, the local Iraqi Police commander, seemed to agree.

“This area was one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in Iraq,” Jasem said. “Because they had a lot of different Iraqi tribes and the two different sectors, Sunnis and Shias, they had a big sectarian problem in this area.”

Since the local population and the Coalition forces have been working together, the area appears to have become safer and more secure.

“Finally, when Coalition forces came to the area, the tribal sheiks and these good people of Iraq stood up for themselves to bring security to their own area,” said Jasem.

When the Coalition forces first began working with the people of Aqur Quf, they worked with members of the Concerned Local Citizens program. Together they stood up against al-Qaida, who had intimidated many of those in the town, said San Jose, Cal., native Lt. Col. Kurt Pinkerton, commander of 2nd Sqd., 5th Cav. Regt., 1st BCT, 1st Cav. Div.

“By doing that, we proved to the Government of Iraq that these people are willing to support and fight for their government and for their country,” Pinkerton said. “That’s when the Iraqi Police were allowed to be recruited and trained.”

The efforts of the local population and Coalition forces seem to be paying off.

“Last year, at this time, there was nobody on the streets; people were fighting,” said Pinkerton. “Now, (when) you drive around, you see soccer games, volleyball games. You see the Soldiers over watching kids going to school. You see people interacting with the Soldiers.”

The improved security also seems to have had a positive impact on other aspects of the local life. Security was established after the first month Soldiers were here. They were then able to begin concentrating on civil military operations, to include improving the water and electricity situation, Nelson said.

“There were a total of 16 backup generators installed in villages in order to provide backup security for when city power is out,” said Nelson.

Pinkerton said redeploying will be bittersweet. While he is looking forward to returning home, he would also like to see Aqur Quf continue building on the security local leaders, Iraqi Police and Coalition forces have been able to establish during the last six months.