Getting ready for the big day

Task Force Baghdad Readies for Dec. 15 Iraqi Elections

Earlier I noted preparations in Ramadi for the national elections in Iraq. Here’s a story on the preparations in Baghdad.

Task Force Baghdad covers a population of roughly 7 million people. The city is densely populated and diverse. Some 62 percent of the population are Shiia Arabs, 25 percent are Sunni Arabs and 9 percent are Christian. Other religions round out the remaining 4 percent.

While the task force is defending “strategic points” throughout the city, its main tools are offensive operations designed to kill or capture terrorists and foreign fighters and keep “Saddamists,” and “Iraqi rejectionists” off balance, officials said.

And here’s something you don’t hear on the evening news:

The 6th Iraqi Army Division is part of Task Force Baghdad. Roughly 17,000 Iraqi soldiers “own” about 40 percent of the Baghdad city battlespace, officials said. The Iraqi division – the first to exercise command and control of a battlespace – has two brigades. The division’s 1st Brigade has calmed Haifa Street – once one of the most dangerous streets in Baghdad. Officials said the number of attacks on the street has dropped and the people of Baghdad seem pleased that their own soldiers are taking responsibility for their security. [emphasis mine]

MO noted the activation of the Iraqi 6th Division in early October while all the hubub about ‘Level 1 readiness’ was going on. And, as important as military forces are in Iraq these days, it’s the civil infrastructure that will determine whether the new Iraq succeeds or fails:

Joining the Iraqi army units are 15,000 members of special police battalions in the city. These units – most resembling Italy’s famous Carabinieri – are heavily armed and trained. They operate under military discipline, but are police forces reporting to the Interior Ministry.

About 20,000 regular police also help to provide security in the city.

The Coalition military presence in Baghdad is going to be the same as it was during the January elections.

A recent poll says that 90% of Iraqis, including an astounding 87% of Sunnis, want to vote in the next election. No word on how many were polled in Ramadi, though. Where the Sunnis depart in a big way from the Shiites and Kurds, unsurprisingly, is in their outlook for the future of the government:

Eighty-four percent of Shiite Arabs and 86 percent of Kurds are confident the government will improve in the future. But only 34 percent of Sunni Arabs surveyed believe the government will improve conditions.

While that’s a bit discouraging, let’s not lose sight of the fact that in January barely any Sunnis were willing to vote at all. While there’s a very long way to go, a lot of headway has been made in less than eleven months.