The Iraqi government, with support from Coalition Forces, made significant progress in combating al-Qa'ida in Iraq (AQI) and affiliated terrorist organizations. There was a significant reduction in the number of security incidents throughout much of Iraq, including a decrease in civilian casualties, enemy attacks, and improvised explosive devices (IED) attacks in the last five months of the year.
Terrorist organizations and insurgent groups continued their attacks on Coalition and Iraqi security forces using IEDs, including vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (VBIEDs), and suicide bombers. The Iraqi government continued to emphasize national reconciliation and passed key pieces of reconciliation-related legislation. However, there was greater success taking practical steps that helped to advance reconciliation at the provincial and local level.
Coalition and Iraqi forces made their gains against AQI and like-minded extremists with much help from the grass-root engagement of Sunni and Shia tribal leaders and Concerned Local Citizens (CLC)/Sons of Iraq (SOI) groups. The Iraqi government took greater steps on both the bilateral and multilateral fronts to try to harness regional and international support against the common threat from AQI and like-minded extremists.
An improved security environment has resulted from the combined factors of Coalition troop surge and sustained presence, the declared ceasefire by Muqtada al-Sadr's Jaysh al-Mahdi militia in August, improved Iraqi Security Forces proficiency, and increasing popular support for the actions of Iraqi Forces against AQI and other extremist groups. CLC and SOI groups provided Coalition and Iraqi forces with valuable information that helped disrupt terrorist operations and expose large weapons caches. Tribal awakening movements, similar to the Anbar Awakening that emerged in western Iraq in 2006, gained momentum as both Sunni and Shia sheikhs formed alliances with the coalition against AQI and extremist groups. Ethno-sectarian related violence declined but remained a concern as Shia extremists and criminal organizations became an increasing threat to stability.
Iraqi and Coalition Forces forced AQI cells from their strongholds in western Iraq and the Baghdad area. With their bases of operations disrupted and with members detained or killed, AQI and like-minded extremist elements were forced into the eastern and northern parts of Iraq to look for more advantageous and secure operating areas. AQI has shifted its tactics from primarily Shia targets to focusing its attacks against Iraqi security forces, CLC groups, and tribal awakening movement members. Despite the improved security environment, AQI still possessed the means to launch high-profile attacks against Iraqi civilians and infrastructure.
Iraqi government officials continued to strongly condemn terrorists. On September 28, Iraq and Turkey concluded a counterterrorism agreement between its interior ministers to increase cooperation in countering the militant Kurdish separatist group, Kongra Gel/Kurdistan Workers' Party (KGK/PKK). Following an October 7 attack by the KGK/PKK that killed 13 Turkish soldiers in Southern Turkey, Prime Minister Maliki publicly stated that the KGK/PKK was a terrorist organization and would not be tolerated in Iraq. Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) officials in northern Iraq also took concrete actions against the KGK/PKK presence there by closing off re-supply routes via additional checkpoints, increasing airport screening for KGK/PKK members, and directing the closure of KGK/PKK-affiliated offices.
The government's national reconciliation programs made incremental progress. The Iraqi Council of Representatives passed a unified pension law important to reconciliation efforts, and local working level reconciliation initiatives also successfully brought Sunni and Shia groups together to promote a message of unity. In October, Anbar and Karbala provincial government officials and tribal sheikhs met three times in two weeks to foster improved Sunni-Shia reconciliation.
Terrorism committed by illegal armed groups receiving weapons and training from Iran continued to endanger the security and stability of Iraq. Foreign terrorists from Saudi Arabia, North Africa, and other Middle Eastern countries continued to flow into Iraq, predominantly through Syria.
The Iraqi government increased its bilateral and multilateral efforts to garner regional and international support against the common threat from AQI and like-minded extremists. The Expanded Neighbors Process has emerged as a forum in which Iraq and its neighbors can address the political and security challenges facing Iraq. The first Expanded Neighbors of Iraq Ministerial was convened in Sharm el Sheikh on May 4. At the ministerial, participants unanimously endorsed the creation of three working groups, including one on border security, which held its first meeting in Damascus later in the year. At the second Expanded Neighbors of Iraq Ministerial, hosted by Turkey on November 3, participants, including high-level representatives from all of Iraq's neighbors, issued a final communiqué that condemned all acts of terrorism in all its forms in Iraq. In August, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki met with Syrian President Bashar al-Asad and other top Syrian government officials to discuss improving bilateral cooperation on both the counterterrorism and border security fronts. Other senior Iraqi government officials also visited Syria in an effort to foster bilateral counterterrorism and border security cooperation.
Iraq remained a committed partner in counterterrorism efforts. The Iraqi security forces continued to build tactical and operational momentum and assumed responsibility for security in nine of Iraq's 18 provinces. Continued Coalition and other international support will be critical for the Iraqi government to continue building its capacity to fight terrorist organizations. Iraq's intelligence services continued to improve in both competency and confidence but will also require ongoing support before they will be able to adequately identify and respond to internal and external terrorist threats. The international community's support for investment and reconstruction are critically needed to ensure the success of the Government of Iraq's plans to reduce violence, improve services, and increase economic opportunities.