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Iraqi Report: Gen. Petraeus on Iraq, Anbar Rising

General David Petraeus, the commander of Multinational Force Iraq, completed his closed-door Congressional testimony yesterday, and has since conducted a quick press briefing and a Pentagon briefing. In this morning's Pentagon briefing, Gen. Petraeus highlighted Iran's involvement in Iraq, al Qaeda in Iraq's dominance of the Sunni insurgency and the importance of disrupting the Shia militias. He also stressed that the Baghdad Security plan is still in its early stages, and a full evaluation of the operation cannot be made until September at its earliest. He noted that sectarian violence has decrease by about two-thirds since the inception of the Baghdad Security Plan, and ongoing operations against al Qaeda cells are yielding good intelligence on al Qaeda's network.

After yesterday's testimony to Congress, Gen. Petraeus highlighted the very real progress in Anbar, which used to lead all Iraqi provinces in attacks per capita. An American intelligence official informs us that attacks in Ramadi, which used to be the most violence city in Iraq, have dropped from a peak of 50 a day last September to 2 - 4 a day currently. Here is what Gen. Petraeus had to say about Anbar province:

I also pointed out the progress in Anbar Province, which has been very substantial, as you know. Literally over the last two months, Anbar has gone -- or certainly over the last six months -- from being assessed as being lost, to a situation that now is quite heartening because of the decision by a number of Sunni Arab tribes to join the fight against al Qaeda, saying no more -- they've had it -- and linking arms with the coalition to take on al Qaeda and one city after another really cleaning them out all the way down the Euphrates River Valley from al Qaim and Husaybah through Haditha, Hit, Ramadi and so forth, although as I pointed out to each of the respective bodies -- the House and the Senate -- there still is considerable work to be done in Anbar Province although all the trends are in the right direction. And in fact the two additional Marine battalions that are part of the surge are now operating just for the first couple of weeks in Anbar Province, and they'll be joined by some additional forces later on as with the two additional Army brigades as they move in to their respective areas in and around Baghdad.

The Anbar Salvation Council, which is led by Sheik Abdul Sattar al-Rishawi, has been waging a war against al Qaeda in Iraq for almost a year, and are now showing real progress against the terror group. The Anbar Salvation Council has requested permission from the government to chase al Qaeda across provincial boundaries into Karbala, Baghdad and Babil, as well as Coalition air power to back them up. In past engagements in Amiriya, Coalition air support has backed the Council.

Coalition forces continue the hunt for al Qaeda facilitators and operatives. Raids in Eastern Anbar province, Fallujah, Baghdad and Taji led to 4 terrorists killed, 2 wounded and 9 captured today. Also, 4 more al Qaeda members of a car bomb cell were killed in a Coalition airstrike on their hideout west of Taji. Two women and two children were also killed in the air strike. Iraqi security forces stated it captured 217 suspected insurgents and killed one terrorist during operations inside Baghdad and Mahmadiyah.

Operations against Muqtada al Sadr's fractured Mahdi Army are continuing inside the Sadr City district of Baghdad. Coalition forces killed three Mahdi militiamen during a running gun battle inside Sadr City. The operation targeted "a network that trains terrorists for operations in Iraq."

Al Qaeda in Iraq is continuing its offensive in Diyala province, where it has consolidated its power since U.S. forces drew down in the region last fall and al Qaeda fighters fled to the province at the inception of the Baghdad Security Plan. Al Qaeda has conducted its third major attack on a security outpost in four days. Today's attack targeted an Iraqi Army checkpoint. A suicide bomber killed 10 Iraqi soldiers and wounded another 15 in Balad Ruz. Al Qaeda in Iraq is attempting to destroy the will of the Iraqi security forces in Diyala while simultaneously conducting its propaganda campaign to destroy the will of the American public.

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