News: Iraqi elections turning point for developing democracy
Story by Spc. Shantelle Campbell
TIKRIT, Iraq — Col. Henry A. Arnold, III, the commander of the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, discussed the Iraqi national elections with Kansas-based media during a video press conference, March 8.
Since assuming responsibility for Salah ad Din province, Oct. 8, 2009, the "Dragon" Brigade has remained focused on advising and assisting the Iraqi Security Forces and the government of Iraq with securing the local Iraqi population and helping to defeat violent extremist networks.
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.
"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 was one of the most significant events since the troop invasion in 2003.
He said that he also believes that 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," he concluded. "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."