U.S. Ambassador, General Discuss Effect of Troop Surge on Iraq

By Melody Merin
USINFO Special Correspondent

Washington - Violence in Iraq's capital city, Baghdad, and Anbar province has dropped since the recent U.S. troop surge, according to U.S. officials.

There has been "a stunning reversal" in Anbar province, General David Petraeus, the commander of coalition forces in Iraq, said on Fox News Sunday June 17.  Tribes in the area have requested and received coalition help against al-Qaida and are now forming links with the Iraqi government, he continued.

U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker echoed Petraeus' comments.

"The success in Anbar has been quite striking as the Iraqi tribes out there have basically turned against al-Qaida, and the level of violence in Anbar is dramatically down," he said on NBC’s Meet the Press the same day.

Petraeus said there are "signs of normalcy" throughout Baghdad, such as the "tens of thousands of kids … playing soccer” and the markets that have reopened.

At the same time, roughly 30 percent of Baghdad - mostly Sunni-Shi’a “fault lines" - continues to face significant threats from both al-Qaida and extremist militias, he said.

According to Petraeus, the increase in troops will enable coalition forces in Iraq to “launch operations into sanctuaries” where al-Qaida and other terrorists have established car bomb factories and bases for their attacks. The additional troops also will enable the coalition in Iraq to focus on areas of particular concern in Baghdad.

Securing Baghdad is critical, Crocker said. "It is really very difficult to imagine any meaningful political progress being made if security is not imposed in Baghdad," he said.

Both men acknowledged that the increased attention on Baghdad and Anbar province appears to have caused a shift in violence to other areas of the country, such as Diyala province and areas north and south of Baghdad.

"It is not good that we're seeing violence in other areas, and there are some major challenges in the provinces," Crocker said.

Crocker said the ultimate purpose of the surge is to buy time to build up Iraq's security forces and political process.

"[T]he process of reconciliation is key," he said.  "I think there's frustration on some levels, absence of progress, rather clearly in the legislative arena. On the other hand, we are seeing the leadership able to come together at a time of really grave crisis after the Samara bombing and agree who the enemy is, agree what the strategy is, and agree on a way forward."  (See related article.)

Petraeus and Crocker are expected to deliver a formal assessment to Congress in September on how the surge in U.S. troops has affected conditions in Iraq.