Note: We receive updates on progress in Iraq & Afganistan on a daily basis. We have not included them in this blog, but we can if anyone is interested. If you'd like to get more info like the following, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll start adding. If we don't hear from anyone, we may stick one in on rare ocassions but will not do so daily or even weekly! (Two articles, 2nd is titled: Troops in Iraq Kill Enemy Fighters, Detain Suspects, Seize Weapons)
Variety of Factors Contribute to Progress in Iraq, General Says
By John D. Banusiewicz
American Forces Press Service
Aug. 3, 2008 - A combination of factors is responsible for the improved conditions in Iraq, the commander of coalition forces in the northern part of the country said today.
Army Maj. Gen. Mark P. Hertling, commander of Multinational Division North, appeared on CNN's "Late Edition With Wolf Blitzer."
Hertling said the coalition's troop surge, Iraq's security forces, national and provincial officials and the population's rejection of violent extremism all have contributed to a sharp decline in violence and economic progress.
The surge did much to improve security in Baghdad and other regions, he said, and "Sons of Iraq" citizen groups have assisted coalition and Iraqi forces in the security effort. At the same time, he said, Iraq's army and police forces have continued to mature.
"There is an increasing capability of the Iraqi security forces," the general said. "They have grown tremendously, even in the 11 months we've been here. The capability of the Iraqi security force has certainly contributed -- both the army and the police. The Sons of Iraq are part of the security elements in the northern provinces, and they have helped in some areas like Hawijah, Samarra, and some other places like that."
In addition, Hertling said, the Iraqi government and the country's provincial governments "are starting to get their act together and providing jobs for people."
"So there are good things going on across the board," he said. "And you also have to understand that the people of Iraq are just tired of the fighting, and it doesn't matter if you're Sunni, Kurd, Shiia, Christian or Syrians -- you're just sick of this unbelievably bad organization called al-Qaida, which continues to do dastardly things throughout the northern areas and through the rest of the Iraq. So the people have stood up to these organizations, as well."
Though U.S. taxpayers have been footing the bill for the Sons of Iraq citizen security groups, Hertling said, officials have begun to find Iraqi employment for them.
"We're starting to transition those elements into other organizations [such as a] civil service corps to help rebuild roads, pipelines, projects, things like that," he said, likening the effort to the Civilian Conservation Corps in the United States before World War II.
"But we're also seeing microgrants and microloans take charge, and people actually getting normal work," Hertling said. "The government is starting to work a little bit more."
As progress continues, more fighting remains to be done, the general acknowledged. Enemy fighters driven out of Baghdad and Iraq's Anbar province by the troop surge have sought refuge in the north.
"This fight we're having right now is not over yet," he said. "There's still a lot of al-Qaida in our area. They have all come to the northern provinces from Baghdad and the west, and we continue to have to drive them and pursue them so that they quit fighting, give up or we kill or capture them."
Troops in Iraq Kill Enemy Fighters, Detain Suspects, Seize Weapons
Coalition forces in Iraq killed three enemy fighters, detained dozens of terrorism suspects and seized illegal weapons caches in operations over the last few days, military officials reported.
In operations conducted today and yesterday:
-- In Baghdad, coalition forces captured a wanted man reportedly responsible for establishing a foreign terrorist facilitation hub in the city. Two additional suspects were detained.
-- South of Mosul, coalition forces captured a man believed to manage finances and logistics for al-Qaida in Iraq cells in the Hamrin Mountains region. An additional suspected terrorist was detained.
-- Coalition forces searched Bir Qassim, a village near the Syrian border that intelligence reports indicate is the location of al-Qaida foreign terrorist facilitation operations. During the sweep, coalition forces detained 10 suspected terrorists.
–- Soldiers from the 4th Infantry Division's 1st Brigade Combat Team detained two suspected roadside-bomb makers in the Saydiyah community of Rashid.
–- Coalition forces conducted a precision operation in Tikrit and captured the alleged al-Qaida in Iraq leader there, officials said. The wanted man reportedly keeps videos of terrorist attacks and is tied to other networks within al-Qaida in Iraq.
–- In Baghdad, coalition forces captured a man believed to be an al-Qaida in Iraq extremist with connections in Egypt. Officials said the wanted man solicited al-Qaida in Iraq members about starting terrorist training and helping the foreign terrorist network. Three additional suspects were detained in the operations.
–- Two suspected terrorists were detained by coalition forces near Balad in operations targeting al-Qaida in Iraq leaders.
–- In Mosul, coalition forces targeted an associate of al-Qaida in Iraq senior leaders and detained five suspected terrorists.
–- Iraqi National Police turned over a weapons cache to soldiers from the 4th Infantry Division's 1st Brigade Combat Team working at a joint security station in Rashid. The cache consisted of three rocket-propelled grenade launchers, two RPG rounds, a machine gun, 50 7.62 mm rounds, a claymore mine, a 60 mm mortar tube with mount and base plate, and two 80 mm mortar tubes.
In operations Aug. 1:
–- Soldiers from the 4th Infantry Division's 1st Brigade Combat Team detained a suspected criminal in the Jihad community of Rashid and delivered him to a joint security station for questioning.
–- Iraqi National Police seized seven rocket-propelled grenades, six RPG propellants, 200 PKC rounds and 50 7.62 mm rounds in the Aamel community.
–- Soldiers from the 25th Infantry Division's 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team seized a weapons cache north of Baghdad containing a partial improvised explosive device with three tubes of explosive material, a 120 mm rocket, four 120 mm rocket warheads, three 107 mm warheads, four 120 mm mortars, an anti-tank land mine, 25 120 mm projectiles, three 155 mm projectiles and two 105 mm projectiles.
–- Members of a "Sons of Iraq" citizen security group turned in a weapons cache consisting of three 130 mm projectiles, two 155 mm projectiles and a 150 mm mortar to soldiers from the 25th Infantry Division's 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team.
–-Iraqi National Police turned in a recovered cache to a forward operating base in Baghdad's West Rashid district. The cache included seven rocket-propelled grenades, six RPG propellants, 200 PKC machine gun rounds and 50 7.62 mm rounds.
–- In Baghdad's East Rashid district, acting on a tip from a local citizen, Iraqi National Police recovered three RPG launchers, two RPGs, 50 7.62 mm rounds, a claymore mine, a 60 mm mortar tube with plate and mounts and two 80 mm mortar tubes.
–- The Iraqi special weapons and tactics team in Hillah detained a suspected al-Qaida in Iraq member in Diyala province. The suspect allegedly is part of a cell responsible for ethnic violence, kidnapping and improvised explosive device attacks.
–- Iraqi special operations forces detained two suspected Iranian-backed "special groups" members in Qurna, southeast of Baghdad. Officials said the suspects allegedly lead one of the most effective enemy cells in Qurna.
–- Members of the Hillah SWAT team detained a suspected special groups member in Kalsu, south of Baghdad, and two others on an Interior Ministry warrant. The suspects allegedly are members of an IED emplacement cell.
In operations July 31, Iraqi soldiers operating in Salahuddin province during Operation Eagle Pursuit killed three al-Qaida in Iraq fighters as another detonated his suicide vest, killing himself, military officials said. The soldiers also detained nine suspected al-Qaida in Iraq members.
(Compiled from Multinational Force Iraq and Multinational Corps Iraq news releases.)