U.S. in Iraq expecting a ‘high level of violence’
BAGHDAD — A short-term prognosis of the security situation in Baghdad could provide a grim view, but a realistic one, U.S. Rear Adm. Mark Fox, a spokesman for Multi-National Force — Iraq, said Sunday during a news briefing.
“We expect to see a high level of violence over the next month,” he told a gathering of mostly Iraqi media representatives attending an update of Operation Fardh al-Qanoon, or Operation Enforcing the Law.
The recent spate of bombings and attacks in the capital serve only to further drive the Iraqi-led operation, said Iraqi Brig. Gen. Qassim Atta al-Moussawi, an operation spokesman.
“These will not deter us from carrying out missions,” said al-Moussawi, who sat alongside Fox. “It only made us more determined to carry out peace and stability.
“We need time, patience and sacrifices,” al-Moussawi said through a translator.
Fardh al-Qanoon kicked off as part of the larger Baghdad Security Plan, which started Feb. 14 under Gen. David Petraeus, the U.S. commander in Iraq. The plan is to push into Baghdad five additional U.S. brigades, nine Iraqi battalions, and to keep them there in the neighborhoods they patrol, a switch from former practices in which units descended on a town or neighborhood, swept through and cleared homes, and then left.
Progress of the operation, however, is noticeable, Fox said.
Iraqi and coalition forces have uncovered 300 weapons caches, detained 1,400 suspects, and cleared 300 bombs in various Baghdad neighborhoods, Fox said.
And last month, roughly 5,000 tips came from Iraqis, Fox said. Al-Moussawi urged more. “Iraqi people need to provide us with more tips.”
Saturday, an element of the Iraqi army participating in the operation received both armored vehicles and equipment needed to detect explosives, al-Moussawi said. “This equipment will decrease the level of violence,” he said, declining to provide specifics for security reasons.
In order to keep the sustained presence, troops live and work out of 31 joint security stations and 22 combat outposts throughout Baghdad’s 10 districts, Fox said.
The mission isn’t militaristic alone, he said, adding coalition elements too are working on providing basic services such as power and sewer, and reviving the nation’s limp economy.
When asked for comment on Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr’s statement Friday, in which he blamed the United States for Iraq’s problems and called for a mass demonstration on April 9 to mark the fourth anniversary of Baghdad’s fall, both al-Moussawi and Fox said they welcomed peaceful demonstrations. He called them “the marks of a free and democratic society.”
“We welcome peaceful demonstrations and a call for national security,” al-Moussawi added.