Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Concerned Local Citizens

Death toll in Iraq continues to fall

The Associated Press

BAGHDAD -- October is on course to record the second consecutive monthly decline in U.S. military and Iraqi civilian deaths, and U.S. commanders say they know why: the U.S. troop increase and an Iraqi groundswell against al Qaeda and Shiite militia extremists.
Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch points to what the military calls "concerned citizens" -- Shiites and Sunnis who have joined the American fight.

He says he's signed up 20,000 of them in the past four months.

"I've never been more optimistic than I am right now with the progress we've made in Iraq. The only people who are going to win this counterinsurgency project are the people of Iraq. We've said that all along. And now they're coming forward in masses," Lynch said in a recent interview at a U.S. base deep in hostile territory south of Baghdad. Lynch commands the 3rd Infantry Division and once served as the military spokesman in Baghdad. Outgoing artillery thundered as he spoke.

As of Tuesday, the Pentagon reported 28 U.S. military deaths in October. The toll on U.S. troops hasn't been this low since March 2006, when 31 soldiers died. In September, 65 U.S. soldiers died in Iraq.

Part of the trend can be seen in a volatile and violent band of lush agricultural land on Baghdad's southern border.

The commander of the battle zone, Lt. Col. Val Keaveny, 3rd Battalion, 509th Infantry (Airborne), said his unit has lost only one soldier in the past four months despite intensified operations against Shiite and Sunni extremists, including powerful al Qaeda in Iraq cells.

Keaveny attributes the startling decline to a drop in attacks by militants who are being rounded up in big numbers on information provided by citizens.

The efforts to recruit local partners began taking shape this year in the western province of Anbar, which had become the virtual heartland for Sunni insurgents and al Qaeda bands. The early successes in Anbar, coming alongside a boost of 30,000 U.S. troops in the Baghdad area, led to similar alliances in other parts of Iraq.

"People are fed up with fear, intimidation and being brutalized. Once they hit that tipping point, they're fed up, they come to realize we truly do provide them better hope for the future. What we're seeing now is the beginning of a snowball," Keaveny said.

(Entire article here.)

No comments: