Army General Casey says security is tightened at religious sites
March 04, 2006
When innocent civilians are killed by violence it is always stunning, shocking and heartbreaking, but the secretary said the reality is that Iraq has been "a violent part of the world for a good long time, and what we're seeing there now is a conscious effort by the terrorists and the insurgents to incite civil war and sectarian violence."
In a March 2 radio interview in Missouri, Rumsfeld said that previous attempts by instigators to derail security, political and economic progress in Iraq have failed, and he predicted additional efforts would end up the same.
Rumsfeld said the commander of multinational forces in Iraq told him March 2 that Iraqi Ministry of Defense forces had "conducted themselves exceedingly well" in the wake of the February 22 attack on the Golden Mosque in Samarra.
Army General George Casey told reporters in Baghdad March 3 that Iraqi security forces performed generally -- although not uniformly -- well across the country since the attack on that mosque and more than two dozen attacks on other mosques since then. Several of the mosques were damaged severely, he said, while fewer than 10 others experienced only moderate damage.
Casey returned to Iraq's capital following an inspection of coalition operations along the Syrian border March 2 and said a layered security approach there has reduced the influx of foreign fighters as well as suicide bombers.
After the Samarra mosque attack, Casey said it took a few days for Iraqi security forces -- with coalition support -- to settle the volatile situation in cities such as Basra and Baghdad, but elsewhere Iraqi Army and police forces were faster to cope with demonstrations and activity by private militias.
Casey said the leaders of Iraqi security forces "took the initiative early on in moving to full alert and securing key sites." This, he said, "demonstrates a maturing capability to cooperate and operate effectively in providing domestic order."
What happened in Samarra and elsewhere, the commander said, was a deliberate effort "to foment sectarian strife at a very sensitive time in Iraq's political development." Asking rhetorically if the violence is out of control, Casey answered his own question by saying, "clearly not."
While he suggested that the immediate crisis in Iraq has passed, Casey also said there is still a threat of additional attacks "by those who will stop at nothing to undermine the formation" of a constitutionally elected, national unity government representing all Iraqis. "Iraqis have again risen to the occasion against the terror that is designed to deny them their future," he said.
But Casey said sectarian tensions continue, requiring Iraqi and coalition forces to enhance security at key religious sites.
Asked about reported problems posed by private Iraqi militias, the U.S. general said there have been reports in Baghdad of Iraqi security forces assisting militias, and he indicated that this was an issue that the Iraqi government must address quickly. In the near term, he said the government would have to disarm the militias and integrate members into some of its ministries.
Casey also said that in most cases where militias encountered direct challenges from Iraqi security forces, militia members yielded to authority without much further violence.
He said the role of U.S. forces is to degrade the insurgency sufficiently so that the increasingly capable security forces can contain it by themselves. "I think we'll continue that role here over the course of the next year," he added.
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