The battle for Ramadi has "tipped" in
favor of the government of Iraq and the coalition, the commander of 1st
Brigade, 1st Armored Division, said today.
Army Col. Sean MacFarland told the Pentagon press corps in a video
teleconference call that attacks are down 25 percent over the past couple
of months, and coalition forces, together with the Iraqi security
forces, have steadily increased their presence inside of the city.
Ramadi, the capital and largest city in Anbar province, has been an al
Qaeda in Iraq and Sunni insurgent hotbed. But now the tide seems to
have turned, MacFarland said. "The Iraqi police recruiting has soared
tenfold, and the Iraqi army readiness has improved to the point where Iraqi
army battalions are now assuming the lead in portions of the city and
its suburbs," he said.
Coalition-sponsored public works projects are bringing improvements in
Iraqi quality of life. "Water and power projects are moving forward,"
he said. "And by February, we will have more than doubled both basic
MacFarland said he is encouraged by the attitude of the people of the
city. The people who were fence-sitters in the battle between the Iraqi
government and al Qaeda in Iraq are stepping forward and cooperating
with Iraqi security forces against al Qaeda, he said.
"I think al Qaeda has been pushed up against the ropes by this, and now
they're finding themselves trapped between the coalition and (Iraqi
security forces) on the one side and the people on the other," the colonel
said. "Now it's the al Qaeda forces that need to be worried about
living in those neighborhoods. They stick out like a sore thumb. Everybody
knows who the terrorists are."
Local sheikhs are cooperating with the Iraqi government. Tribal leaders
are steering new recruits to the police, and they are becoming more
effective. MacFarland said that Iraqi police in Ramadi today intercepted
insurgents driving a car loaded with rocket-propelled grenades. "The
insurgents tried to run away," he said. "(The police) chased them, and
they killed or captured the entire group."