Baghdad crackdown alters violence
BAGHDAD — The security crackdown in Iraq’s capital has spurred insurgents to carry out more high-profile car and suicide-belt bombings of “soft” targets of civilians and has pushed the insurgents to the outskirts of the city, officials said at a Wednesday news conference.
Operation Fardh al-Qanoon, or Enforcing the Law, and the overall Baghdad security plan now move into a second phase, an Iraqi official said, with ramped-up security missions in the outskirts of Baghdad.
Military firepower alone will not win this war in Iraq — the effort needs the aid of the Iraqi populace, said Ali al-Dabbagh, a spokesman for the Iraqi government.
“We need representation of the Iraqi people to improve the security situation, not just the Americans,” he said Wednesday during a joint press briefing with Maj. Gen. William Caldwell, spokesman for Multi-National Force-Iraq, and Brig. Gen. Michael Walsh, commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Gulf Region Division.
Three of five additional U.S. military brigades are in place in and around Baghdad, and two more are expected in country by the end of May. Additional Marine Corps units are coming in and will be put in Anbar province, Caldwell said.
Exact locations of the troops will remain flexible, as U.S. and Iraqi security forces hit areas needing additional firepower, Caldwell said.
The crackdown in Baghdad, he said, has contributed to a 26 percent decrease in sectarian violence marked by execution-style murders and beheadings. The decrease shows “fewer are taking the law into their own hands,” Caldwell said.
However, the operation yielded a less-than-hoped for decrease in overall attacks, especially suicide car bombings and attackers wearing suicide vests targeting Iraqi civilians, Caldwell said.
Still, security has improved enough to lead to a decrease in the curfew hours and removal of some security barriers in Baghdad, letting people move more freely, al-Dabbagh said. Curfew now runs from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. instead of 8 p.m. to 6 a.m.
Walsh highlighted progress on 2,500 identified reconstruction projects — of which 2,000 have been completed — and upgrades in electricity, water supply and sewage systems.
Seventy-five percent of the nation receives more power today than it did before the invasion in 2003, Walsh said. What is complicating matters is demand for electricity, which has increased by 70 percent in that same time period — indicative of more people using appliances such as washing machines, air conditioning, televisions and satellite dishes, he said.
Also on Wednesday, an indirect fire attack hit the Green Zone. A rocket or mortar round struck a parking lot around 2 p.m., damaging vehicles, though no injuries were reported.