Saturday, May 17, 2008

Good News from Iraq: 17 May 2008

From MNF-I, U.S. General Cites Steady Progress in Baghdad, Basra, Mosul

BAGHDADIraqi and U.S. forces are making progress while performing counterinsurgency and reconstruction missions across Iraq, a senior U.S. military officer posted in Iraq said May 14.

Iraqi and coalition forces continue to make gains in establishing security and enforcing the rule of law in Baghdad, Mosul and Basra over the past week, Army Maj. Gen. Kevin Bergner, a Multi-National Force - Iraq spokesman, told reporters at a Baghdad news conference.

In Basra, Iraqi forces involved in an operation dubbed “Sawlat al Fursan,” or “Charge of the Knights,” are busily removing illegal weapons, fighting and arresting insurgents and other criminals and providing assistance to local citizens.

“The Iraqi security forces are maintaining a strong presence” in Basra, Bergner reported, noting Iraqi soldiers and police are setting up security stations throughout the city and chasing down insurgents.

About 3,000 Basra residents are involved in cleanup operations as part of a nearly $60 million program designed to improve the city’s health care system, municipal services, electricity provision capability, public communications and youth services, Bergner said.

Iraqi soldiers and coalition troops recently provided medical services to residents of Basra’s Qibla district, Bergner reported. And, at the Umm Qasr port, Iraqi sailors increased water-borne patrols by 20 percent, he added.

In Baghdad, Operation Enforcing the Law, or “Fardh al-Qanoon” in Arabic, continues onward, Bergner said, with Iraqi and coalition forces working in tandem with residents to increase security, restore essential services such as water, sewage and electricity, open businesses, build schools, and repair streets and dwellings.

A recent economic seminar held in Baghdad’s Hurriya sector drew more than 150 local businesses, Bergner said. Members of the neighborhood council told budding entrepreneurs how to obtain micro-loans to start up businesses, he said.

A Baghdad-based school for gifted students was reopened after being closed for seven months, Bergner said, and a new public works substation was opened in the Ghazaliyah district. The substation will provide four more sewage-collection trucks, six trash trucks, and other equipment to provide essential services.

However, Baghdad continues to be plagued by insurgent violence, Bergner acknowledged.

“Criminal violence continues to disrupt efforts by the government of Iraq and coalition forces to restore services, encourage business development, and ensure the safety of schools and other municipal activities,” Bergner said.

For example, an Iraqi army detachment in Sadr City was recently attacked by an insurgent’s roadside bomb, the general said.

“These attacks have caused loss of life and considerable hardship for innocent Iraqis, and seeing the attacks stop would be heartening,” Bergner said.

In Mosul, Iraqi forces have launched a new counterinsurgency offensive, Bergner reported.

The initial phase of the Mosul effort “has featured intensified operations by the Iraqi security forces and it is building on the operations that have been under way for the past several weeks,” Bergner explained.

“These Iraqi-planned, Iraqi-led operations have established bases and checkpoints in Mosul,” he continued, “and have featured numerous raids on al-Qaida in Iraq cells that are using indiscriminate violence to intimidate, assassinate and wound innocent people in the city.”

For example, the Iraqi and coalition forces-conducted Operation Lion’s Roar in Mosul has resulted in the detention of some 500 terrorists and criminals, Bergner reported. Scores of enemy weapons caches containing explosives, machine guns, mortars and ammunition, and more have been uncovered across the city, he added.

“Much of the recent progress we have seen in Basra, Baghdad and Mosul is due to the efforts of Iraqi security forces,” Bergner said.

Iraqi police posted in Baghdad’s Kut, Yusufiyah and Radwaniyah districts have embarked on security patrols in recent weeks to uncover corruption and to improve neighborhood security and police station operations, Bergner said.

And recent police and recruiting drives for “Sons of Iraq” citizen security groups across Baghdad have shown Iraqis from all communities volunteering to protect their country, Bergner observed, adding that nearly 500 new Iraqi police officers recently graduated from the Baghdad police academy.

In addition, about 43,000 new Iraqi soldiers completed basic combat training this year, Bergner said. In April, some 700 Iraqi army engineers completed six months of extensive training in electrical and pipeline repair and explosives ordnance disposal, he added.

Several Iraqi military engineering graduates helped to build two floating bridges in Beiji that connect Salahuddin and Kirkuk, Bergner said.

By these accomplishments, Iraqi military forces demonstrated “that they are not only improving security, but they are also providing reconstruction support to help local communities,” Bergner told reporters.

Meanwhile, Iraqi security forces continue to gain the confidence of the citizens they serve, while “increasing their capacity to hold onto hard-fought gains,” the general said.