Thursday, March 11, 2010

Elections: Turning point for new democracy

Written by Spc. Shantelle Campbell, 1st Infantry Division
Thursday, March 11, 2010 11:28
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TIKRIT – Since assuming responsibility for Salah ad Din province in October, the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division has been advising and assisting the Iraqi Security Forces and the Government of Iraq in securing the population and helping to defeat violent extremists.

An Iraqi man near a Karbala polling site displays his marked finger – a sign of having voted – during the Iraqi national elections, March 7, 2010. Iraqi Security Forces took the lead on Election Day security, as U.S. forces observed from the background, ready if called upon. U.S. Army file photo by Spc. Samuel Soza.
Col. Henry A. Arnold, III, commander, 4th IBCT, 1st ID, discussed the elections from here with Kansas-based media via a video press conference, March 8.

During the press conference, Arnold noted that the success of the elections was due in large part to addressing the conditions that help to create the extremist networks in the first place.

"Since October, we have created environments where the people overwhelmingly support the Iraqi Security Forces and reject violence and the message that violent extremists have to offer," he said.

Seventy-three percent of the Iraqi population voted in the recent elections despite the impending threat of violence.

During the elections, there was very little U.S. involvement. According to Arnold, the only involvement of U.S. forces was during the movement of ballots.

"On the day of [the elections], the Iraqi Police were responsible for each polling site, and the Iraqi Army held an outer cordon that was about 50 to 100 yards out from the actual polling sites," he said. "U.S. forces were positioned at various places but not visible. We were a backup just in case they needed us."

Arnold regards the success of the elections as "the most decisive point" of the brigade's tour in Iraq and as one of the most significant events here since 2003.

He said he also believes the outcome of the elections signifies the beginning of the end of the presence of U.S. forces in Iraq.

"The greatest threat to the survival and destiny of this nation is no longer terrorists and guerillas; it is the failure of the political process," Arnold said. "If by [giving] this nation the ability and the opportunity to exist as a democracy that is secular and wants to be a responsible member of the international community, then yes, we've won. We set those conditions and allowed them to do it. It's up to them now."

PHOTO: An Iraqi man near a Karbala polling site displays his marked finger – a sign of having voted – during the Iraqi national elections, March 7, 2010. Iraqi Security Forces took the lead on Election Day security, as U.S. forces observed from the background, ready if called upon. U.S. Army file photo by Spc. Samuel Soza.

Source: United States Forces-Iraq.

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