Iraq finally has a new prime-minister designate, Jawad al-Maliki. Maliki lived in exile during Saddam’s reign, fleeing Iraq after a death sentence was placed on him. He has been active since returning to Iraq, working on de-Baathification and on the country’s new constitution.
As much of the reporting
on his appointment makes clear, it isn’t known what kind of leader Maliki will be, but we should be encouraged by the fact that both Sunni and Kurdish political leaders have said they will support him.
In his first public speech, Maliki said that private militias will not be allowed, and must disband or join with the army.
One U.S. commander expressed hope that progress toward a government will help quell the violence:
A U.S. military commander north of Baghdad has expressed the hope that the apparent progress toward forming a new Iraqi government will have an impact on the fight against the insurgency in his area.
I am happy to announce that the mainstream media is starting to take notice
of the progress being made by Iraqi security forces:
Iraq has it own version of Green Berets–in training … and the Special Forces instructors taking them through their paces are all Iraqis. That’s a long way from where they were nearly three years ago when this elite unit was first formed by American Green Berets.
A small but welcome step. Thanks CBS.
Check Out These Quads
Iraqi security forces are already responsible
for much of the area around Kirkuk:
A commander active in training Iraqi security forces, [Colonel David] Gray says that Iraqi army and police in north Iraq already have assumed control of security in Sulimaniyah and Salahuddin provinces, and are on track to take the lead in much of the area surrounding the city of Kirkuk.
Major General Rick Lynch cited several positive trends in the security situation in Iraq during a press briefing. Suicide bombings are down, as are the number of foreign nationals coming across the border. They two related:
So if you look closely at what’s happened, just before the first of the year, we were averaging about 44 captured foreign nationals per month, and now we’re down to less than half of that.
The effect of that is reduction in the number of suicide attacks in Iraq [per day]: over 70 a year ago, 24 now.
Other statements of interest from Lynch:
We have reached the point where almost 50 percent of the IEDs are found and cleared before they detonate.
I talk every Thursday about the weapons caches and weapons finds. And if you looked over the years 2005, we came across 2,880 weapons caches and since the first of the year almost 900 weapons caches.
But I believe that the most important indicator on these charts, on this quad chart, is this one. And that’s the number of tips, actionable tips, that we are receiving from the people of Iraq. They have indeed reached the point where they’re tired of the insurgency, and they realize that they are indeed the target of attacks by the insurgency.
General Lynch also reported that there are now 250,000 trained members of the Iraqi security forces, and that 25 percent of all security operations are independent Iraqi operations:
And we are at the point now where at least 25 percent of the day-to-day company-level-and-above operations are Iraqi independent operations. They plan them, they execute them, they review them at the conclusion–25 percent.
Sixty-three recruits graduated the police academy in Sulymania. It’s the third class to graduate this year.
More Iraqi Leadership
In the villages around Kirkuk, Iraqis are taking the lead
in security operations and intelligence gathering:
“This is more than just gathering information (for the Iraqi Army), it is gaining the trust and confidence of their people before taking control of the area,” said [U.S. Army Capt. Matthew] Paul.
“They are very good,” said Paul. “They can come into these villages and do 10 times better than we ever could as far as gathering information just because they are Iraqis and they know the people better than we do and the culture better than we do.”
In an area of northern Baghdad, Iraqi and U.S forces repelled a terrorist attack after a seven hour battle. Five terrorists were killed in the fighting.
A tip from a citizen led Coalition troops to a weapons cache consisting of eight 250 to 500 pound aerial bombs.
A tip led multi-national soldiers to a high-value target, who was detained. In the same area, seven terrorists suspected of running a bomb factory were detained earlier.
Seven insurgents were caught digging up munitions in Balad. The site contained more than 250 mortar and artillery rounds, and several mines.
In Ramadi, Marines continue to come under fire from mosques:
In one incident, Marines from 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment were attacked from Fatemat Mosque in central Ramadi with rocket-propelled grenades, heavy machine gun fire and small arms fire. The Marines returned fire but continued to be attacked from the mosque’s minaret. The Marines fired one 120 mm tank round and several 7.62 mm machine gun rounds into the minaret, after which fire from the mosque ceased.
Soldiers of the 4th Infantry Division discovered a weapons cache in a neighborhood of Baghdad:
The cache consisted of 81 75 mm projectiles, 43 grenades, three 82mm illumination rounds, one 85 mm projectile, two 90mm high-explosive rounds and four 100 mm heat projectiles.
Two other weapons caches were found in Baghdad:
In the first house, the cache consisted of two 55-gallon drums of home-made explosives, two pressure plates, one artillery shell, a home-made rocket launcher, two pipes filled with high-explosive material, a seven-foot missile, a 14.5 mm Dishka heavy artillery machine gun and six anti-tank mines.
In the second house, located approximately 150 meters east of the first house, a second cache was found, consisting of eight shape charges, a sniper rifle, five pressure plates, three rocket-propelled grenades, an acetylene tank and two grenades taped to a window. The interior of the rear door appeared to contain an unfinished booby-trap.
“Fighting for their families…
Despite being the target of numerous terrorist attacks, Iraqi police in Baghdad continue to make significant progress
“They’ve got heart. The Iraqi police love their job,” he said. “The majority of them are fighting for their families, their communities, where they live. This is their home.”
In Thi Qar Province, the Iraqi army opened a newly constructed army barracks:
The construction project was completed on March 20, at a cost of $9.9 million. The modern, self-contained complex for 800 Iraqi soldiers features perimeter security protection, sanitation, water, air conditioning and an electric generator system. Special facilities include weapons storage and a two-pump fuel point.
The Russian Federation has opened a consulate in Erbil:
The Russian delegation chose Erbil as their first stop in Iraq and were pleased to see the economic progress that has been achieved in the Kurdistan Region. Among the political issues that were discussed were the establishment of a federal government of national unity in Baghdad, and the bilateral relations that had existed at a much earlier time.
An Iraqi village near the Baghdad airport now has clean drinking water:
“The mayor (of the village) had approached the (Soldiers). They had negative water pressure, which allowed sewage to get into the drinking water,” said Siegert.
“This is the biggest gift from the (Coalition) Forces to this village,” said Esam Al Askar, managing director and chief executive officer, Al Fulq Ltd. Co. Al Askar is also a resident of the village. “People used to be very, very sick in the village. When the water pipes were rotten, sewage was leaking (into the water supply).”
Coalition and Iraqi forces have teamed up to renovate the Joint Communications Center (JCC) in Bayji. The JCC is similar to a 9-1-1 call center here in America:
The reconstruction project has co-located the Bayji Police Headquarters and the JCC together in one facility. This arrangement allows for better communication and coordination between the agencies and puts the control and maintenance of the JCC solely in the hands of the Iraqis. The central location in downtown Bayji also makes the center accessible to its citizens.