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Iraq: Baghdad Copes With Security Surge

An Iraqi Army patrol in Baghdad on March 2 (epa) March 3, 2007 -- The U.S.-announced security surge for Baghdad has been under way for several weeks, with more Iraqi and U.S. troops now on the capital's streets and more checkpoints.  RFE/RL correspondent Valentinas Mite spoke with Laith Ahmad, a freelance correspondent for Radio Free Iraq in Baghdad, about the situtation.

RFE/RL: What does the security surge in Baghdad look like?

Laith Ahmad: There are more and more checkpoints in Baghdad. So you can see the Iraqi forces, especially, manning the checkpoints. Sometimes you can see the American soldiers supporting Iraqis at the checkpoints but there are always more Iraqi forces at the checkpoints.

RFE/RL: Are Iraqi troops patrolling such politically sensitive areas of the capital as the Shi'ite neighborhood of Sadr City?

Ahmad: Yes, sure. There are many checkpoints in Sadr City. There are troopsfrom the Interior Ministry and Iraqi Army troops there. Before, we saw militias manning those checkpoints, but now we see onlyIraqi forces at the checkpoints in Sadr City.

RFE/RL: How do ordinary people react to more checkpoints in the streets?

Ahmad: The general attitude is that people like it. They like having morecheckpoints because they think it will bring security, a better security situation, although it may make them an hour late going to their work.

RFE/RL: Amid the security surge, is Baghdad's notorious traffic situation becoming any better organized? For example, are traffic lights functioning?

Ahmad: The traffic lights are not working until now in Baghdad because there are power shortages, you know, sometimes one or two hours per day. So the traffic lights do not work.

RFE/RL: There are several strong rival armed militias in Baghdad. Is the fighting between them escalating or subsiding with the security operation under way?

Ahmad: When we watch the situation in Baghdad, we can see less fighting between militias -- Sunni and Shi'ite -- because there are a lot of Iraqi government forces in Baghdad. But in some places some attacks happen between them.

RFE/RL: What you are saying seems to be that the situation is changing for the better. What do Iraqi politicians think and are they happy with the results of the security surge?

Ahmad: They say they are waiting for more forces to come to Baghdad. So, the Iraqi security plan will take a long time. They are expecting it to be successful when they will bring more forces to Baghdad and maybe then the fighting between militias will stop.

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THE COMPLETE PICTURE: Click on the image to view RFE/RL's complete coverage of events in Iraq and that country's ongoing transition.