WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Aug. 3, 2007) - Ongoing, tangible progress is being made in Iraq across security, economic and political fronts, U.S. officials said in Baghdad Aug. 1.

Ongoing anti-insurgent operations conducted by U.S. and Iraqi security forces and Iraqi citizens' growing rejection of insurgent-instigated violence are producing gains against al-Qaeda and other extremists, Army Brig. Gen. Kevin Bergner, a spokesman for Multinational Force Iraq, told reporters at a Baghdad news conference.

"We are now in the sixth week of the surge in operations, and we're seeing some tactical momentum," Brig. Gen. Bergner said.

Operations by Iraqi and U.S. forces "have made progress against the extremists on a number of fronts," Brig. Gen. Bergner reported.

"We continue to target the networks and leaders of al-Qaeda in Iraq and the special groups and are steadily chipping away at both sets of extremists," the general said.

Progress in security is evident through increased numbers of terrorist leaders being captured or killed, he said.

Tips from Iraqi citizens that produce insurgent-leader seizures and the discovery of enemy weapons caches reached some 23,000 in July, about four times the amount experienced a year ago at this time, Brig. Gen. Bergner said. The tips are now coming in countrywide, he added, noting the situation is similar to that in Anbar province, where local tribal leaders have turned against al-Qaeda.

In the past three weeks, four different Iraqi communities north and west of Baghdad have joined other municipalities in declaring their opposition to al Qaeda and pledged to help end insurgent-generated violence, Brig. Gen. Bergner said.

In addition, record numbers of weapons caches are being found, he added.

"In the first six months of this year, we have already captured more stockpiles of weapons than we did in all of last year," the general said.

The current anti-insurgent progress is being achieved "through the breadth of our operations because of our focus on extremist sanctuaries and operating bases and, most importantly, because of the precise information from Iraqi citizens," Brig. Gen. Bergner explained.

He saluted the courage and commitment displayed by U.S. and Iraqi security forces, noting that Iraqi forces recently seized large weapons stockpiles in Nasiriyah and Kirkuk.

Along with security gains, economic and political advances also are being made in Iraq, said Brig. Gen. Bergner, who was accompanied at the news conference by Paul A. Brinkley, deputy undersecretary of defense for business transformation, and Philip T. Reeker, a U.S. State Department spokesman assigned in Baghdad.

A special U.S. economic-revitalization team has been working in Iraq since fall, Mr. Brinkley said. Its mission, he said, is to restore basic economic activity across Iraq. Some of the team's efforts are geared toward renewing production operations at large and formerly state-managed industries, he said.

Industrial, clothing, ceramics and leather factories have reopened across Iraq since the team took up its work, Mr. Brinkley reported. "Over the next two weeks we'll be announcing several additional reopened factories across areas of Iraq," he added.

Congress earmarked $50 million in funding to be used to accelerate economic development across Iraq. "We have defined a detailed plan as to how those funds will be allocated," Mr. Brinkley reported, noting that some of the money will be employed to restart two formerly state-run factories as well as other smaller, firms

U.S. economic-assistance efforts in Iraq are designed "to enable the most skilled workforce in the Middle East to return to a normalcy and a life of economic opportunity that they've all been waiting for," Mr. Brinkley explained. In fact, a U.S. firm has just made the first order for clothing manufactured in Iraq, he announced.

"This is the beginning of what I anticipate to be significant international interest in acquiring goods made in Iraq," he said.

Much political progress also is being made across Iraq, Mr. Reeker pointed out, noting that there are now 25 provincial reconstruction teams operating across the country.

PRTs are small civilian-military units that assist provincial and local governments in Iraq to govern effectively and deliver essential services, Mr. Reeker explained. The teams are designed to bolster moderate politics, promote reconciliation, support counterinsurgency operations, foster development and build the capacity of Iraqi government officials to perform their duties.

"The emphasis we've had is on shaping the political environment, rather than on building infrastructure," Mr. Reeker explained. The PRTs, he said, operate as a unified team under the guidance of U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan C. Crocker and Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, commanding general of Multinational Force Iraq.

Brigade combat teams provide security and transportation, so that PRT leaders can attend to political, reconstruction and economic issues, Mr. Reeker said. Italy, the United Kingdom and South Korea also operate PRTs in Iraq, he added.

"By helping to provide provincial governments' abilities to deliver these essential services to Iraqi citizens, the provincial reconstruction teams help extend the reach of the Iraqi government in key provinces and help build the stability necessary to complete the transition to full Iraqi control," Mr. Reeker said.

(Gerry J. Gilmore writes for American Forces Press Service.)