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US General Sees Improving Attitude in Iraq


A top U.S. military commander says he has seen a positive attitude change among Iraqi security forces and civilians after last month's elections for a transitional National Assembly.

Lieutenant General Lance Smith, who is the deputy commander of the U.S. Central Command, says the high turnout and generally successful elections on January 30 in Iraq are creating a more optimistic atmosphere.

He says average citizens are providing better intelligence about insurgents to coalition and Iraqi security forces and that has led to the capture of militants and their weapons.

"We think that the attitude change that we have seen is two-fold in Iraq, and of course it is not totally across the board, but the Iraqi security forces acquitted themselves very well during the election,” said General Smith. “I think they feel good about it so there is a level of self-confidence out there that maybe they didn't have before. At the same time I think we see some pride on the part of the Iraqi people for the performance of Iraqi security forces. So there is some beginning levels of mutual trust between the security forces themselves and the people. That is critical to our ability to get in and make sure there is a viable Iraqi security force so that we can at some point in time draw down our forces and come home."

General Smith says coalition forces are arresting about 100 suspected insurgents every night, and while some are released quickly, others are held for questioning.

He says although attacks, especially on Iraqi security forces are continuing, the frequency and intensity of the violence have dropped since the period immediately before the election.

"Now we are hoping that the attitude of the people is such that the recruiting base for the insurgents is diminishing and if we can continue with that momentum, which is no small task, we think they are going to have some problems continuing the operations tempo that they had and that they would like to continue," he added.

Once the results of the election are announced, General Smith says Iraqi forces will have the responsibility of providing security for the 275 members of the National Assembly.

The general says coalition forces will help protect the new Iraqi president, two vice presidents and the new prime minister.

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