Saturday, March 3, 2007

Progress in Iraq: Surge Already Working in Sadr City

The troops have not yet even been deployed en mass to Sadr City, one of the poorest and most violent parts of Baghdad, and yet the troop surge is already showing progress there. The people of Sadr City, previously hostile to the presence of US forces, are now urgently anticipating and even inviting the prospect of greater security and the real chance for stability the troop surge represents.

BAGHDAD – Coalition and Iraqi security forces are bringing new ideas into the ongoing operation to secure Baghdad.

Sadr City is being included in negotiations through efforts on all sides. Commanders from the Iraqi Army, Iraqi Police, and 2nd Brigade Combat, 82nd Airborne Division met with a civic leader of Sadr City, Raheem Al Darraji, on March 1 in order to discuss upcoming security plans for Sadr City and the infusion of national level Iraqi security forces. The meeting took place at a police station in Sadr City that will soon become the area’s first Joint Security Station, manned 24 hours-a-day by all elements of the security forces including U.S. forces.

“It was a very positive meeting,” said Col. Don Farris of Lone Star, Texas, commander of the 82nd Airborne Division’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team based out of Fort Bragg, N.C., “They’ve shown they are willing to reach out to the government of Iraq and coalition forces.”

The 2nd Brigade Combat Team of the 82nd Airborne Division is the first of several BCTs that will flow into Baghdad in the coming months as part of the troop surge to combat sectarian violence. They are already having an impact in the key area of Sadr City.

Farris’ unit has been establishing small bases called combat outposts on the edges of Sadr City since early last month, positioning themselves for a significantly increased presence in the densely populated six square mile area. That move, which at one time would have been politically unthinkable for the Iraqi government, is now becoming a reality.

This time rather than barricade them off, it appears that leaders in Sadr City are ready to work with coalition forces when they come.

Weary of a cycle of violence and militia activities, as well as al-Qaeda attacks in the area, Mr. Raheem Al Darraji stressed again and again during the meeting that he welcomed the presence of Iraqi and U.S. forces, and the help they could provide his people.

We want you here sooner, rather than later,” Al Darraji said.

Initial reports indicate the overall Baghdad Security Plan – which has placed thousands of additional troops on the streets of the Iraqi capital – has achieved reduced levels of violence thus far.

Maj. Gen. Abdul Kareem, commander of the 8th Brigade, 2nd Iraqi National Police Division, a joint partner said there is no reason why the successes of the security plan in other parts of Baghdad can’t be replicated in Sadr City.

“We will do the same as we did in Adhamiyah. It is one nation and no one is above the law,” Kareem said.

Farris also stressed that point. The Iraqi Government and its coalition partners have the authority to go after criminals, extremists, and insurgents wherever they are located.

“There are no sanctuaries, anywhere,” Farris said.

Good news from Iraq? Progress in Iraq? Don't expect to hear about this from the Press.

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