Washington (AFP) Mar 04, 2007
The number two US military commander in Iraq said Sunday that the security crackdown in Baghdad was slowly progressing but that it would take at least six to nine months to hand security over to Iraqis. Major General Raymond Odierno told CNN television the new security plan, announced by President George W. Bush on January 10, was still in the "very early stages" but that operations had already begun.
"We're starting to see some progress, but it's very slow," Odierno told CNN's "Late Edition." "We expect it to be because we think this will take months, not weeks, to accomplish."
Iraqis have deployed 18 battalions into the Baghdad area, Odierno said, although they are not at full strength. Seven units are at 55-65 percent strength levels, seven others are at 65-85 percent and the last four battalions are at 95 percent strength, he said.
"They're learning as leaders, they're learning how to deploy forces in and around Baghdad, and we're seeing significant improvement in that as we continue to move forward," Odierno said.
He added that Iraqis are training 7,500 soldiers every five weeks to be used as replacements for the Baghdad units, and that US and Iraqi forces will fight side by side until the right level of security is achieved to hand over the reins to the Iraqis.
"Iraqi-led, coalition forces, Iraqi army forces, Iraqi police, we stay together until we get the right level of security, and then we turn it over to the Iraqi security forces," Odierno said.
"I think that will take some time. I don't want to put an exact time on it but a minimum of six to nine months," he said.
Odierno spoke as a large US-Iraqi force moved into Baghdad's notorious Shiite militia bastion of Sadr City on Sunday, without meeting any armed resistance.
The commander also said US forces were working "extremely close" with tribal leaders in restive Al-Anbar province, which is also part of the new US strategy in Iraq.
"We are having some great success right now in Al-Anbar province, and it has to do with the tribes," he said.
"They understand that they don't want to be associated with Al-Qaeda and Al-Qaeda-associated organizations. Through the last several months when they (were) working with them in some cases, they found them to be -- they were extremely lethal against their own families," Odierno said.
"And they realized that they would like to come in with the coalition and work with the coalition forces to defeat and go against Al-Qaeda," he said.
The largest recruiting drive has taken place in Al-Anbar over the last three months, with more than 1,000 Iraqis joining the army and police each month, he said.
"We've seen a significant movement in Al-Anbar province over the last three or four or five months, and it's continuing to move forward," Odierno said. "We still have a threat out in Al-Anbar province, but we believe now we have a good way ahead working with these tribal leaders."
earlier related report
"The key is we're doing this jointly," Odierno said. "Coalition forces, Iraqi army forces, Iraqi police, we stay together until we get the right level of security and then we turn it over to the Iraqi security forces. "I think that will take some time," he continued. "I don't want to put an exact time on it, but a minimum of six to nine months."
Odierno said military officials have begun to see some progress in the plan's early stages. The United States is in the process of moving its second brigade into Baghdad, and Iraq has moved 18 battalions into the area, he said.
The Iraqi battalions have not reported at full strength, the general acknowledged. Seven battalions came into the area at 55 to 65 percent of their end-strength, another seven came in at 65 to 85 percent. The final four were over 95 percent of their end strength, he said, noting that improvement is evident as Iraqi military leaders learn the ropes.
"They're learning about how to deploy their forces," Odierno said. "They're learning as leaders how to deploy forces in and around Baghdad. We're seeing significant improvement in that as we continue to move forward."
Additionally, the Iraqis are training 7,500 soldiers every five weeks. Those newly-minted Iraqi soldiers will be used as replacements for the units in Baghdad, Odierno said.
But despite the progress seen so far, Odierno cautioned against unrealistic expectations. The Iraqi government will need time to establish itself as the security situation improves, he explained.
"We could maintain security here; we could have things look good for one or two weeks," he said. "The key to this is being able to show that we can maintain the security in Baghdad over a long period of time -- six (to) seven months -- which enables the Iraqi government to mature."
That sustained security also will enable the Iraqi security forces to continue to mature and take control, the general said.
Illegal militias in Iraq are another concern. One of the best-known militia leaders, radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, has taken a low profile as of late, and rumors have said both that he's fled to Iran and that he's back in Iraq. Odierno is not fazed by the rumors.
"I choose not to worry too much about that. I try to concern myself with what's going on here in Iraq," he said.
And what's going on in Iraq is encouraging, he said.
"It's about understanding who's reconcilable and who's not," the general said. "Over the last 60 to 70 days, we've taken over 700 members of Shiia extremists."
He said the military's hope is that the Iraqi government will reach out to the Shiia extremists and that they'll respond in nonviolent means.
"(We) hope most of them will come across and become a part of this government and become a part of the Iraqi security forces," he said. "It's a military and political line to reconcile these militias."
While it's clear the Sunni extremists conduct about 70 percent of the attacks, the Shiia militia attacks have proved more devastating, Odierno said.
"What has gotten some attention about the Shiia extremists is that they've used these explosively-formed projectiles, which, per event, are the most deadly that we've had," he said. "There's a lower number of those that occur, but per event, they're more deadly."
Because of the machining and materials required to make these weapons, the general said he's sure he knows where they're coming from.
"I am convinced that they are coming in from Iran," Odierno said. "We have seen people try to replicate them here in Iraq, and they have not been able to do it."
He pointed to a large cache found recently as evidence that the weapons couldn't be made in Iraq. The raw materials found in the cache could have produced nearly 140 of the deadly projectiles, he said.
While he's sure the weapons are coming in from Iran, Odierno said, forces won't go into the neighboring country to deal with those brining them across the border. "I will deal with them inside of Iraq," Odierno said. "If they come into Iraq and we believe they're acting against the government of Iraq, we'll take action no matter who it is."
Looking to the Anbar province, Odierno said forces there are having success in quelling the violence. That progress has to do with the tribal leaders who, after harsh treatment at the hands of al Qaeda elements, now saying they don't want to be associated with al Qaeda or al Qaeda-associated organizations.
"They realized they would not live like that, and they realized that they'd like to come in with the coalition and work with the coalition forces to defeat and go against al Qaeda," he said. "We've seen a significant movement in al Anbar Province over the last three or four or five months.
"We still have a threat out in al Anbar province," he continued, "but we believe now we have a good way ahead working with these tribal leaders."
Iraqi army and police recruiting numbers have hit record highs in Anbar over the last three months, Odierno added. U.S. forces have contributed greatly to all the progress in Iraq, Odierno said, adding he is confident in the training they receive before deploying to the country and the technology and equipment they receive when they arrive.
"I'm extremely confident in them and their abilities and the training they've got," he said, adding it's the troops' attitude is most important.
"They have great attitudes. They understand why they're here, (and) I'm extremely proud of them every day," he said.
Iraqi Forces Take Control of Baghdad Security By Fred W. Baker III American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, March 2, 2007 - Iraqi security forces for the first time have taken control of Baghdad's security, a senior military official there said today. Iraqi security forces took control yesterday of Operation Fard al-Qanun, or "Enforcing the Law," a plan designed by the Iraqi government and led by Iraqi army Lt. Gen. Abboud Gambar, said Army Brig. Gen. Joseph Anderson, Multinational Corps Iraq chief of staff.
U.S. forces are working in concert with Iraqi security forces to provide a 24-hour presence in the city, but Abboud and his staff now plan and execute the strategy from a new command post established in Adnan Palace in the Green Zone.
Anderson called establishing the Iraqi-led Baghdad operations command a "monumental feat," and said that the Iraqi security forces have come a long way in the past month as a command organization.
Both the Iraqi police and the Iraqi army are "very capable, competent, ... and the ability to plan and coordinate operations with coalition forces gets better every day," he said.
Coalition and Iraqi forces have built joint security stations and combat outposts throughout the city to begin securing the area.
This presence represents a critical shift away from operating out of forward operating bases and instead maintaining a constant presence in the city - a presence that is needed to hold areas security forces have cleared, Anderson said.
"In the past, we have been able to clear areas, but were not able to hold the areas and secure them over time," Anderson said. "We must demonstrate our ability to maintain the security in Baghdad over a long period of time."
Anderson said making it safe for local citizens is necessary to develop the economic and political processes needed to achieve stability in the area.
About 20,000 Iraqi security force troops will eventually operate in Baghdad, he said. Currently, the 6th and 9th Iraqi army divisions and two national police divisions patrol the city.
Up to 15 U.S. Army brigade combat teams will be stationed there. The U.S. Army's 2nd BCT, 82nd Airborne Division, and the 4th BCT, 1st Infantry Division, have recently moved into Baghdad, he said. It is expected that the full complement of U.S. troops will be on the ground by the end of May, Anderson said.
Anderson said that the increased presence already has resulted in as many as 20 fewer daily attacks on coalition forces and the local population. Still, he said, there are typically up to 90 attacks per day in Baghdad.
Iraqi citizens also are more willing to help coalition forces with the increased presence, Anderson said. This has led to recent large weapons caches found in the area.
Even with the operation's recent successes, Anderson acknowledged it will not be an easy road to a safe and secure Baghdad.
"We know hard days certainly lie ahead," he said.
Email This ArticleGenome Sequence Shows What Makes Bacteria Dangerous For Troops In Iraq
New Haven CT (SPX) Mar 02, 2007
Researchers at Yale have identified multiple pathogenic "alien islands" in the genome of the A. baumannii, bacteria that has been responsible for new and highly drug-resistant infections in combat troops in the Middle East, according to a report in the March 1 issue of Genes and Development.
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