By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May 7, 2007 – Eighty percent of the U.S. military units involved with the surge of troops into Baghdad and western Iraq are now in place, a senior U.S. military officer said in Baghdad yesterday.“Four of the five American reinforcement brigades are now in Iraq,” Army Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell IV, spokesman for Multinational Force Iraq, told journalists during a media roundtable.
An additional U.S. brigade is slated to arrive by June 1, Caldwell said. Operation Enforcing the Law was launched in mid-February to secure in Baghdad and western Iraq and tamp down violence in those areas.
The operation is to provide the fledgling Iraqi government with breathing room to resolve pressing political issues such as Sunni-Shiite reconciliation, de-Baathification, constitutional reforms, and an oil-revenue-sharing program that includes all Iraqis.
“Once security is improved, the Iraqi people will be able to move forward,” Caldwell said.
The surge also buys time for further development of Iraq’s armed forces and police, “so that they can assume responsibility for protecting themselves,” Caldwell said.
Iraqi-on-Iraqi sectarian violence has decreased since the operation began, U.S. officials have noted. Yet, continued terrorist attacks staged by al Qaeda and other insurgents make the security situation in Iraq “complex and challenging,” Caldwell acknowledged.
“Our efforts may get harder before life gets easier for the Iraqis,” he said. Further progress in Iraq will depend on commitment, perseverance and sacrifice, he said.
“Military action is necessary (in Iraq) to provide the opportunity to reach long-term political solutions, but it alone is not enough,” Caldwell said. Ultimate success will depend upon the Iraqi people, he added.
Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, Multinational Force Iraq commander since Feb. 10, continues to oversee U.S. contributions to the surge. About 60 joint U.S.-Iraqi security stations have been established in and around Baghdad as part of Petraeus’ strategy to deny insurgents the opportunity to embed themselves among the city’s residents.
Petraeus has pledged to gauge the effectiveness of the surge through a security assessment that he’ll provide to the Iraqi and American people by September, Caldwell said.
Caldwell acknowledged continued al Qaeda-staged barbarity in Iraq, citing the terror group as a vicious enemy that employs bombings and mass murder of innocent people “to discredit the Iraqi government and demoralize its people.”
“We see them use car bombs and suicide vests to try to dash hope and spark a cycle of violence,” Caldwell said of al Qaeda in Iraq terrorists.
As an example of al Qaeda’s evil, Caldwell pointed to last week’s discovery of live artillery shells and propane tanks rigged inside an Iraqi girls’ school. “The planned massacre bears all signs of an al Qaeda operation,” Caldwell said, noting the terror group routinely targets such innocents.
The Iraqi people must reject al Qaeda and its twisted, murderous, philosophy, Caldwell emphasized. The actions of tribal leaders in Anbar province who turned their backs on the terrorist group is a sign of promise and hope, he said.
“This rejection of terrorism is leading to discovery of more and more weapons, stockpiles and ammunition,” Caldwell said.
For example, more terrorist-stockpiled ordnance was found in the past four months in the city of Ramadi than was discovered there in all 2006, he said.