The U.S. soldiers under McCaffrey’s command do not patrol much anymore, he said.
“The basic security that prevents the enemy’s freedom-of-movement through the area is really executed by the Iraqi army and by the Sons of Iraq,” McCaffrey said. “That is no longer a task that we participate in and there’s no need for us to do that.”
And, more and more, all U.S. operations against insurgents are conducted in unison with Iraqi forces, McCaffrey said.
Enemy attacks in his 1,300-square-mile sector are down more than 74 percent since December 2007 and decreased more than 500 percent since September 2007, McCaffrey said. Also, sectarian murders in his area have nearly stopped, he said.
The majority-Sunni residents in McCaffrey’s sector banded together to help U.S. and Iraqi forces expel al-Qaida terrorists, he said.
“Ultimately, this is about local communities that rejected the dogma and the ideology of al-Qaida,” he said.
McCaffrey’s soldiers partner with Embedded Provincial Reconstruction Team No. 5, led by career U.S. State Department diplomat Linda Specht, who accompanied the colonel at the news conference.
The Sons of Iraq have proved to be a critical component in tamping down insurgent- and sectarian-committed violence in his area of operations, McCaffrey said. Most of the 13,000 Sons of Iraq in his area have been transferred from coalition to Iraqi authority for reassignment to other jobs and for pay purposes, he said.
McCaffrey said the improved security in his area has caused more than 6,800 Iraqi families to return to their homes and villages.
With improved security, people are starting to re-open their businesses and employment opportunities are increasing, Specht said.
“Life is returning to something that more equates to normal,” she said.
Iraqis are eager to return to work or reopen or start new businesses, Specht said. Citizens also are looking forward to the restoration of electricity, water and other municipal services, she said.
“I see a lot more hope and a lot more expectation of what they can do for themselves,” Specht said of the Iraqis’ increasingly optimistic mood. “You can see that most by the fact that they’re willing to invest in reconstructing their own homes and putting back together their own businesses,” she said.