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ARLINGTON, Va. — Attacks against coalition troops in Anbar continue to drop, the U.S. general who oversees the westernmost province in Iraq said Monday.

“November marked the 10th straight month of decreasing enemy incidents” in Anbar, Marine Corps Maj. Gen. W.E. Gaskin, commanding general of Multi-National Force – West, told Pentagon reporters via satellite from Iraq.

Enemy incidents include anything from troops taking small-arms fire to roadside bombs that are discovered before they explode, Gaskin said.

In the first week of December 2006, coalition forces deployed to Anbar counted 460 enemy incidents, Gaskin said.

One year later, in the first week of December 2007, there were just 40, Gaskin said.

Anbar province, a Sunni-dominated region the size of North Carolina and populated by about 1.3 million Iraqis, was once considered the most dangerous areas in Iraq.

Despite a series of U.S. military operations to drive insurgents from Fallujah, Ramadi, and elsewhere in the region, by 2005 al-Qaida had a virtual stranglehold on much of the population.

But Anbar began to experience a turnaround after October 2006, when Sunni tribal sheiks decided to join forces with U.S. military leaders to eject al-Qaida from the province.

The Anbar police force now numbers almost 24,000, and there are also 24,000 members of Iraqi Army’s 1st and 7th Divisions deployed to the province.

Gaskin, who also commands the II Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward), said he believes it will take “about 19 months” for Iraqi security forces in Anbar “to rise to the level where they can operate independently” of U.S. forces.

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