U.S. com­mand in Iraq sees ‘some nor­malcy’ of life in Bagh­dad

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By Rowan Scar­bor­ough

The U.S. com­mand in Iraq on Aug. 22 spoke of “life com­ing back to some nor­malcy” in vi­o­lencer­acked Bagh­dad, where for weeks, Amer­i­can and Iraqi forces have con­ducted raids to sub­due var­i­ous in­sur­gent groups and mili­tias that seem bent on in­sti­gat­ing a civil war.

“We are cau­tiously op­ti­mistic and en­cour­aged by all the indicators that we are see­ing,” Army Maj. Gen. William Cald­well told re­porters in the Iraqi cap­i­tal in an as­sess­ment of Op­er­a­tion To­gether For­ward. “What we’re see­ing in th­ese ar­eas is life com­ing back to some nor­malcy. We see women and chil­dren walk­ing freely in Amiriyah [neigh­bor­hood], some­thing that was not seen prior to Op­er­a­tion To­gether For­ward.”

He dis­played a map of the mul­ti­eth­nic city, with neigh­bor­hoods shaded in dif­fer­ent col­ors to show how far they had pro­gressed in re­duc­ing vi­o­lence and restart­ing city ser­vices.

Gen. Cald­well’s re­port came a month af­ter Army Gen. John Abizaid, chief of U.S. Cen­tral Com­mand, told the Se­nate Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee that he had not seen such a high level of vi­o­lence in Bagh­dad since the city was lib­er­ated from dic­ta­tor Sad­dam Hus­sein in April 2003. The gen­eral said he feared a Sunni-Shi’ite civil war, but added that he thought the new gov­ern­ment of Prime Min­is­ter Nouri al-Ma­liki would pre­vent it.

Gen. Cald­well said that to­day, the Iraqi gov­ern­ment is pre­vent­ing such a war and pointed to sta­tis­tics that at­tacks in some city sec­tions have gone from 30 a day to zero.

“There in fact has been a down­turn in the level of vi­o­lence within Bagh­dad over the last three weeks,” he said. “The prime min­is­ter and his gov­ern­ment has for­mu­lated a plan that is in fact proven at this point to have been very ef­fec­tive. And time will tell — months will tell how ef­fec­tive it re­ally is, but the ini­tial indicators are very pos­i­tive.”

U.S. and Iraqi forces are fac­ing mul­ti­ple en­e­mies in Bagh­dad: al Qaeda in Iraq ter­ror­ists, Iraqi Sunni in­sur­gents and Shi’ite death squads con­nected to the Mahdi’s Army of cleric Muq­tada al-Sadr, who the United States says is fi­nanced by Iran’s rad­i­cal Is­lamic regime.

Amer­i­can com­man­ders have given op­ti­mistic as­sess­ments be­fore for Iraq, only to see parts of the coun­try fall into chaos and vi­o­lence. It re­mains to be seen whether the fa­vor­able trend con­tin­ues in Bagh­dad.

“There is still much to be done, and we, to­gether with the gov­ern­ment of Iraq, have a long way to go,” Gen. Cald­well said. “But with Iraqis in the lead mak­ing things hap­pen, there’s hope for the fu­ture.”

The com­mand’s chief spokesman ticked off a list of raids and ar­rests in var­i­ous Bagh­dad neigh­bor­hoods in re­cent days that re­sulted in de­creased vi­o­lence and a re­turn of res­i­dents to shops and out­door mar­kets.

He said the coali­tion has mounted up to four ma­jor op­er­a­tions a night for sev­eral weeks to clean out one neigh­bor­hood at a time. An Iraqi re­porter asked whether the United States will pro­duce “mir­a­cles” in the small town of Dura, such as paving the streets and bring­ing elec­tric­ity.

“If there’s a mir­a­cle that’s go­ing to oc­cur in Iraq, it’s go­ing to be the Iraqis that will pro­duce that mir­a­cle,” Gen. Cald­well said.

Lt. Gen. Robert Fry, the se­nior Bri­tish com­man­der in Iraq, joined the de­bate on whether Iraq is in a civil war. Gen. Fry said that the sec­tar­ian vi­o­lence is largely con­fined to greater Bagh­dad and that the cen­tral gov­ern­ment is func­tion­ing.

“I do not see a con­di­tion of civil war,” he said from Bagh­dad in a con­fer­ence call at the Pen­tagon. “The num­bers of sec­tar­ian killings which have taken place in Bagh­dad over the last few weeks are dra­mat­i­cally re­duced.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.