BAGHDAD - The Iraqi capital is a safer place than when the 1st Cavalry Division took over responsibility of the Multi-National Division - Baghdad area of operation nearly a year ago, according to its commanding general.

Maj. Gen. Joseph F. Fil Jr., commanding general of MND-B and 1st Cav. Div., met with members of the press to talk about the progress in Baghdad over lunch at Freedom Rest, a rest and recuperative resort area, in Baghdad's International Zone, Nov. 7.

Fil, who has overseen the troop surge in Baghdad, answered questions regarding the sustainability of the reduction in violence, the city's progress toward returning displaced Iraqis to their original homes and the decreased effectiveness of al-Qaeda.

While violence spiked over the summer, Fil said it has steadily declined since then. This drop in violence is largely due to the increase in Iraqi participation. Iraqi Security Forces and the Iraqi populace are both playing a large role in this, Fil said, and there is a grass-roots effort in Baghdad communities to stop extremist violence.

"The Iraqi Security Forces, themselves, have grown, and they've become much, much more effective, not only the Iraqi Army, but the Iraqi National Police and the Iraqi Police," said Fil, a Portola Valley, Calif., native. "Perhaps even (more) significantly, the Iraqi people have just decided that they've had it up to here with violence.

"They're turning away from al-Qaeda," he added. "They're turning away from militias, and, they're turning toward legitimate security forces patrolling their streets."

The general said people in Baghdad are beginning to return to homes they left behind. The government is also working to make sure those moving back in are the original homeowners.

"We are excited about people moving back into their homes," said Fil. "We are also, being cautious to make sure that the rightful owners do, in fact, return to their homes."

The Iraqi government, Fil said, is also working to make sure that vacant homes are identified and their owners found.

Fil also addressed the diminished presence of al-Qaeda in Baghdad.

"There is no area where, I would say, al-Qaeda has a foothold anymore," he said. The Iraqi people are largely to thank for the diminished effectiveness of the terrorist organization.

"What happened is classic counterinsurgency warfare," he said. "That is, the people turned against them. When that happens, when the base from which they're hiding and from which they are being supported turns against them, then the movement is really hindered."

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16