Baghdad – Iraqi and Coalition Forces started off the New Year optimistic about the future and focused on the work ahead. Speaking to reporters on New Year’s Eve, Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, spoke about the past year while outlining plans for the future.
“I think 2005 was really very, very successful,” he said, citing advances in training the Iraqi military and the successful elections on Dec. 15.
“Stability in the country is part of the conditions for withdrawal,” Pace said, “The faster that the Iraqi government is able to stand up and take charge, the faster we’ll reach the conditions where they’re able to lead their own armed forces and their own military in a way that will allow us to transition more of the overall security responsibility to them.”
Iraqi Security Forces are increasingly in the lead on operations throughout the country. In many cases, the Iraqi Security Forces are operating independently of Coalition Forces. Brig. Gen. Donald Alston, spokesman for Multi-National Force – Iraq, highlighted the Iraqi contribution to the ongoing fight in a press conference Sunday.
“As Iraqi Security Forces continue to grow in capability and size, now numbering more than 223,000, they are conducting more and more successful independent operations throughout Iraq, including Baghdad,” Alston said.
Operation National Unity is currently being conducted by Iraqis Security Forces and resulted in an 11 percent decrease in attacks across Baghdad in the last week, according to Alston. In other operations, such as Operation Carentan, the ISF works along side Coalition Forces to disrupt terrorist activities.
Carentan, targeted in Diyala and Salah Ad Din provinces in northern Iraq, had resulted in over 700 insurgents being detained and more than 120 weapons caches located and cleared as of Nov. 1. But Alston pointed out that the success of these operations went beyond the obvious.
“The proven success and growing commitment of the Iraqi Security Forces has led to strong public support in the region and a corresponding drop in support for Al Qaeda in Iraq,” he said. Citing that 50 percent of all IEDs found and cleared in the Kirkuk area came from local citizen’s tips, Alston added, “The people of this great nation are exposing the insurgency and have made it clear that Iraq is no longer a place where the insurgency can continue to exist.”
Responding to reports of car bombs throughout the country on the first day of the New Year, Alston acknowledged that officials expected attacks to increase after the security measures put in place for the Dec. 15 elections were lifted.
“We’re seeing that increase right now,” said Alston. “This is perceived, inappropriately I would say, or inaccurately perhaps, by the enemy as a time of vulnerability as the government transitions … to a permanent government.”
However, Alston continued to remain optimistic.
“The insurgents will continue to try to intimidate the people of Iraq. In turn, Coalition and Iraqi Forces will continue focused operations to eliminate the terrorists, and enable an environment in which freedom and democracy can prosper,” He said.
Over the past year the Iraqi Security Forces grew by 77 percent while the country passed a number of milestones on the road to democracy. Elections in January and December gave the Iraqi people a voice in their government resulting in the successful drafting and ratification of a constitution and selection of a permanent Government set to take over as soon as all the votes are verified.
As the New Year begins Alston put all the events of the past year into perspective.
“Collectively, these changes mark the progression of the Iraqi government towards a truly democratic system which will be capable of providing positive change for the people of Iraq and a beacon for the Middle East,” he said.
Source: Multi-National Force-Iraq
By Staff Sgt. David Green