Iraq violence at 4-year low

By John J. Kruzel , American Forces Press Service


WASHINGTON (May 28, 2008) – Last week, Iraq experienced the lowest level of “security incidents” since March 2004, a reduction that military officials attribute in part to improvements in Iraqi security forces.

“The collective efforts … to increase the capacity of the Iraqi security forces is a key part of the reason why we saw last week the lowest level of security incidents in Iraq the past four years,” Army Maj. Gen. Kevin Bergner, a Multinational Force Iraq spokesman, said this morning during a news conference in Baghdad.

“It is also why we are seeing Iraqi citizens increasingly supporting their security forces by calling in tips on criminal activity and illegal weapons,” Bergner continued. “And it is why we are seeing the Iraqi security forces conducting effective operations in Basra, Mosul and Baghdad to enforce the rule of law.”

Army Lt. Gen. James M. Dubik, commander of Multinational Security Transition Command Iraq, said he and other officials tasked with building and training the national security forces in Iraq are seeing continued progress.

“The last 12 months have witnessed a marked decrease in violence, along with a corresponding increase in the capability, professionalism and effectiveness of the Iraqi security forces,” he told reporters during the news conference.

The media have devoted much attention to the temporary 33,000-troop surge announced last year, which military officials have praised for helping tamp down violence in Iraq, Dubik said. But equally important, he added, is the complementary surge in the numbers and overall quality of the Iraqi forces.

Since June 2007, the Iraqi army has added 52,000 soldiers, the air force has expanded by 21 aircraft, and Iraq’s special operations forces have increased by 1,400 personnel. At the same time, the nation’s armed forces have dramatically increased their ability to sustain and replenish themselves, Dubik said.

“Last year at this time, the Iraqi army had only about 2,500 up-armored Humvees; right now it’s almost 3,200, and by the end of this year, there will be over 6,200 up-armored Humvees in the army alone,” he said, adding that the Iraqi air force increased its number of sorties over the same time from 30 weekly missions to 225.

Since this time last year, Iraqi security forces have grown by about 46,000 Iraqi police members and 15,000 Iraqi national police, Dubik said. As the forces swell, the Interior Ministry has made a “concerted effort” to ensure the members are trained to comport themselves professionally at the national and provincial levels.

“This has contributed greatly to an increase in confidence in the people that the police are to serve and protect,” he added. “I’m very proud to be a partner in this endeavor.”