Fil: Iraqis needed to secure gains
ARLINGTON, Va. — U.S. and Iraqi forces control more than half of Baghdad’s 474 neighborhoods, but more Iraqi security forces are needed to hold on to them, the commander of Multi-National Division-Baghdad said Friday.
Army Maj. Gen. Joseph F. Fil Jr. told reporters that 46 percent of Baghdad’s neighborhoods are classified as under control, and another 8 percent are in the “retain” phase, meaning Iraqi security forces are in the lead. Another 30 percent of Baghdad’s neighborhoods are in the clearance phase.
That leaves 16 percent of the neighborhoods — including much of north Baghdad — still classified as in “disruption,” Fil said. By comparison, 70 percent of the city’s neighborhoods were classified that way in February.
Fil said he expects Iraqi security forces to take the lead in more of Baghdad over time, but he also thinks additional Iraqi security forces are needed to clear insurgents from all the neighborhoods.
“Are the Iraqi security forces sufficient to truly protect the city? I do not think they are, and that is why the government of Iraq has determined that we need to increase those forces, and the police forces alone will increase by more than 12,000 over time,” he said
Fil said he is confident that Iraqi security forces will be strong enough to take the lead in neighborhoods now under U.S. control after the “surge” winds down next year.
However, he said that, in the past, U.S. troops have had to retake certain Baghdad neighborhoods because not enough Iraqi troops and police officers were left to hold them.
“If sufficient security forces don’t remain there, there’s always a chance that militias and al-Qaida can come back in again,” he said.
U.S. troops are still facing a “very tough fight” against al-Qaida in the East Rashid district in southern Baghdad, and U.S. troops have yet to move into Sadr City in the city’s northeast, Fil said.
“We have a number of initiatives we’re working, but we do not plan to actually move into Sadr City for several months, and that will be done as we work with the local government there and the government of Iraq,” he said.