News | Sept. 1, 2009

Attacks prompt Iraqi security assessment

By John J. Kruzel , American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON (Sept. 1, 2009) – Iraqi security forces have undertaken a broad self-assessment in the wake of series of deadly attacks in the Iraqi capital last month, a U.S. commander there said Tuesday.

A wave of truck bombings in Baghdad killed at least 100 people and injured more than 500 others in a deadly Aug. 19 assault that exposed a lapse in security, according to U.S. defense officials.

“The Iraqi security forces, as a result of that, have done a great deal of introspective assessing, to make sure that they understand how they can mitigate that from ever happening again,” Army Col. Joseph Martin, commander of the 1st Infantry Division’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team in Baghdad told reporters at the Pentagon today.

“They continue to assess the overall security situation as a whole, in order to mitigate any attacks, not just [car bomb] attacks, but just any attacks that can occur here,” he added.

The attack, which came nearly two months after U.S. troops withdrew from Iraq’s cities and villages as part of the U.S.-Iraqi security agreement to increase the authority of Iraqi forces, prompted Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to call for a re-evaluation of security operations.

In the wake of the explosions, top Iraqi military officials met to discuss security methods. The meeting culminated in a directive that changed aspects of security, including procedures and locations for checkpoints and inspections, said Martin, who declined to discuss specific details about the security reforms.

“It's reflective of them understanding, based on our discussions, … the importance of being an introspective organization and entity providing security for the people here. It helps everybody improve,” he said. “It's a sign of a very mature chain of command that can take a look at themselves and their operations and improve – improve their overall capability.”

While defense officials have acknowledged that future attacks are likely, they characterized the attacks as an isolated security breach that is overshadowed by broader trends that indicate improved safety in Iraq compared to previous years.

Violence in Iraq since 2004 is at all-time low, Martin said, adding that since his unit’s arrival in October, attacks have decreased by almost 40 percent. The brigade’s area of operations averages fewer than two attacks per day, compared to 30 daily attacks two years ago.

“This achievement is due to the hard work of the soldiers and the partners at the company level and below who relentlessly attacked the enemy, then stood watch to protect the people they came here to protect,” Martin said.

But the bloodshed underscored that security in Iraq is an evolving process of training, partnering and development, defense officials said.

“This event demonstrates that security is not only an ongoing process, but really is a never-ending commitment,” Martin said.