Friday, October 17, 2008

Security Progress in Basra Paves Way for Economic, Social Improvements

After three months commanding Multinational Division Southeast in Iraq, British Royal Marine Maj. Gen. Andy Salmon said he’s struck by progress since the Iraqi Army’s “Charge of the Knights” operation this spring and the way Iraqi security forces have stepped up since securing Basra.

Speaking to Pentagon reporters via teleconference, Salmon cited low levels of violence, on par with crime and murder rates in Manchester, England, and lower on a per-capita basis than in Washington.

“Overall, there seems to be a spirit of reconciliation and peace in the air here in Basra,” he said. “That’s really constant.”

People express confidence in the Iraqi security forces, who have reciprocated in their approach to the local population, Salmon said. He noted that during the recent Ramadan observance, the security forces sponsored feasts in some of the most socially deprived parts of town.

Meanwhile, other parts of the city hosted a huge Eid celebration to mark the end of Ramadan.

“It was the first time in three years that people were downtown in restaurants, dancing, singing into the early hours with the music and really celebrating with fireworks the festival of Eid,” Salmon said.

The celebrations represent a broader sense of calm in Basra, thanks to “a truly joint coalition effort there” and increasingly capable Iraqi security forces, he said.

Read the full article by Donna Miles on the American Forces Press Service

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