ARLINGTON, Va. — Attacks against coalition forces in Iraq are down by 80 percent compared with last June, a top commander of U.S. military forces said Monday.

In a remote briefing with Pentagon reporters from Baghdad, Army Lt. Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, commander of the Multi-National Corps-Iraq, said the average weekly number of attacks "has been holding at roughly 200 for the last several weeks."

In June of 2007, Austin said, the average number of attacks in Iraq was averaging 1,200 per week.

Austin said that "events" including improvised explosive devices have decreased by 70 percent since last year.

According to a Monday article in USA Today, fatalities caused by IEDs dropped even more significantly in May.

There were 11 U.S. troops killed by blasts from roadside bombs last month, compared with 92 in May 2007, which is an 88 percent decrease, the paper noted.

Austin said he attributes "hard-fought gains" in security to three significant factors: U.S. troops’ and coalition members’ efforts to pursue, capture, and kill insurgents, particularly al-Qaida; the improving capabilities of the Iraqi security forces; and Iraqi people participating in the rebuilding process of Iraq.

One example of the coalition’s success in settling down the country, Austin said, is Iraq’s detainee release program. Over the past seven months, Austin said, "we’ve been able to reduce the total detainee population by roughly 4,000."

The USA Today story, meanwhile, cited three factors for the drop in IED attacks and deaths:

New vehicles. Almost 7,000 heavily armored Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles have been rushed to Iraq in the last year. Defense Secretary Robert Gates made obtaining at least 15,000 MRAPs his top priority last year.

Iraqi assistance. Ad hoc local security forces, known as the Sons of Iraq, have provided on-the-ground intelligence to U.S. forces looking for IEDs, Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, who commanded a division in Baghdad from February 2007 until May, told the paper. Each member of the security forces earns about $8 per day. Lynch told USA Today that he has hired about 36,000 of them to man checkpoints and provide intelligence on the insurgency. He said about 60 percent had been insurgents.

Improved surveillance. Troops have been using security cameras that could see bomb builders up to 5 miles away, the paper noted.

Also, Lynch told USA Today, the 14-ton MRAPs have forced insurgents to build bigger bombs to knock out the vehicles. Those bombs take more time to build and hide, which gives U.S. forces a better chance of catching the insurgents in the act and then attacking them.

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign up to receive a daily email of today's top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign Up Now