Saturday, August 25, 2007

Commander Says Iraqi Citizens Turning Against Insurgents

Courtesy of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Multi-National Force Iraq

Saturday, 25 August 2007

Multi-National Division-Baghdad and 1st Cavalry Division commander, U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Joseph F. Fil Jr. (front), accompanied by U.S. Army Lt. Col. James W. Phillips (right), commander of the 3rd Squadron, 61st Cavalry Regiment, tours the Palestine Market in the Rusafa District of eastern Baghdad. Over 1,800 barriers have been emplaced in the market since May 1, making the area more secure. U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. W. Wayne Marlow, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division Public Affairs.

Multi-National Division-Baghdad and 1st Cavalry Division commander, U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Joseph F. Fil Jr. (front), accompanied by U.S. Army Lt. Col. James W. Phillips (right), commander of the 3rd Squadron, 61st Cavalry Regiment, tours the Palestine Market in the Rusafa District of eastern Baghdad. Over 1,800 barriers have been emplaced in the market since May 1, making the area more secure. U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. W. Wayne Marlow, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division Public Affairs.

BAGHDAD — Iraqis who once aligned themselves with militants are now taking up arms against al-Qaeda, a top commander in the Iraqi capital said during a conference call Friday.

Likening members of terrorist organizations to “street gangsters,” U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Joseph Fil, commander of Multi-National Division-Baghdad and 1st Cavalry Division, said Iraqis are becoming tired of price gouging on staples such as gasoline and ice when militant groups move in and take over neighborhoods.

“We have found that throughout the city there is increasing distrust, fatigue and disillusionment by the population with al-Qaeda and Jaysh al-Mahdi (militia group),” he said. “There is a strong desire in the neighborhoods to turn away from them.”

Fil said Coalition troops are continuing to take away the enemy’s ability to control neighborhoods and to brutalize the population.

“Every day we’re working with Iraqi Security Forces and the Iraqi government to place power back in the legitimate hands of the average Iraqi civilian,” the general said.

Local citizens are more openly embracing Iraqi Security Forces and are beginning to respect and trust their fellow citizens in uniform, he added.

Now 10 months into their deployment, Fil said troops of the 1st Cavalry Division are fully integrated and “up to speed” with surge operations. “The division continues to excel in this campaign as we try to bring security and stability to the Iraqi capital,” he said, as he described that more than 50 percent of Baghdad is in the “control” or “retain” phase of the overall Baghdad security plan.

In a February briefing, Fil described the mission in Baghdad as “clear, control and retain.” In the “clear” phase of a mission, Iraqi and U.S. forces move into neighborhoods and clear out extremist elements. In the “control” phase, the combined forces maintain a full-time presence on the streets, Fil explained. The forces will man combined security stations, which are being built all over the city, and will work to establish conditions that allow Iraqi forces to take over operations completely.

The “retain” phase comes when Iraqi forces are responsible for day-to-day security operations and Coalition forces can move out of the neighborhoods and into areas where they can respond if assistance is needed.

Fil also said fewer innocent Iraqis are being murdered as a result of sectarian violence, and statistics show murders are at their lowest level since the beginning of surge operations.

“Markets that were once targets by indiscriminant killers are now safer and thriving,” the general said. “And more and more Iraqis are turning from the ‘rule of gun’ to the ‘rule of law.’”

The last several months have been challenging, Fil said. “And I don’t expect things to get any easier in the months ahead, but I do fully expect to see the same steady progress that we and the Iraqi Security Forces have made in bringing stability to neighborhood by neighborhood throughout Baghdad.”

(Story by Carmen L. Gleason, American Forces Press Service)

In other developments throughout Iraq:

•           Iraqi citizens and police fought back against an al-Qaeda attack on two villages near Kana’an early Thursday morning, brought on because the villagers had begun assisting Iraqi Security Forces in pushing the terrorist group out of the area.

•           Multi-National Division-Baghdad troops were engaged with small arms and machine gun fire by illegal militiamen while searching for a cache in a northwestern neighborhood of the Iraqi capital Thursday.

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