New Plan to Secure Baghdad

ByMike Gudgell

Feb. 5, 2007— -- In opening the Baghdad Security Command Center today, U.S. and Iraqi forces took the first step in implementing the new plan to secure the Iraqi capital. After years of struggling and failing to make Baghdad safe, U.S. officials hope the latest plan will finally do the trick.

"We're losing. It's the fourth quarter, but we've got the ball and we are ready for the long drive to victory," said one senior American officer working with the Iraqi army.

One Iraqi general now commands both the Iraqi police and army in an effort to coordinate what could become a security force of up to 90,000 Iraqi police, army troops and American soldiers. The new plan will "roll out" during the next weeks and months.

Previous efforts to protect Iraqis in Baghdad have failed. Dozens of bodies are found every morning, and car bombs, gunfire and kidnapping have become commonplace.

But according to three U.S. Army colonels who work with Iraqi forces, this time will be different.

Col. Douglass Heckman told reporters there would be a "policeman on every corner" as tens of thousands of Iraqi police, army and coalition troops converge on Baghdad.

"It's on an order of magnitude … more than we have ever seen," Heckman said.

Heckman sees the latest plan as a variation of last summer's security operation called operation together forward.

Col. Chip Lewis, who works with the Iraqi National Police, said the police have received new training and made significant progress.

"Compared to six months ago, they are far more confident and energetic," said Lewis. "Personally, I think this thing will work."

Last summer, Iraqi troops were often directed by politicians and other outside parties. But Col. Stuart Pollock, who works with a division of Iraqi troops on Baghdad's west side, said the Iraqi commander has insisted on loyalty to the chain of command.

U.S. troops had secured several violent areas of Baghdad, but Iraqi forces had not been able to hold them and violence quickly returned.

The new plan was developed by the Iraqis, and police and army officers from both the Shiite and Sunni communities are part of the command system. And it could include an attempt to take Sadr City, a Shiite area of Baghdad currently controlled by the Mahdi army, a militia that is loyal to cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. The Iraqi government has prevented U.S. troops from taking on the militia.

"If we feel we need to clear Sadr City to bring stability, we will do that. Are there restrictions that will not allow us to do that? Right now there are not," said Heckman, who works with an army division that has responsibility for the area.

ABC News has learned that some progress has been made in recent negotiations between the Iraqi government and the Mahdi army.

Under the new plan, Baghdad has been divided into nine areas. There will be joint security stations in each area; they will be open 24 hours a day and manned by U.S. and Iraqi forces. Unlike previous attempts to pacify Baghdad, this plan does not promise to rebuild neighborhoods and businesses.

All three colonels agree that the success of the plan depends on the Iraqis.

"I believe they want it more than they have ever wanted it," said Heckman.

He also asked for patience from the American public and said that by the end of the summer there can be a "realistic discussion about reducing the U.S. commitment" to the war.

ABC News Live

ABC News Live

24/7 coverage of breaking news and live events