A road in a Western Baqubah neighborhood that had been closed to local travelers for more than a year reopened Sept. 1.
“This was in the works since early May,” said Capt. Kevin P. Ryan, the officer who coordinated the opening. “My idea was to transition this area of operations back to the Iraqi people and to open the roads up, to give something back to the people.”
To do that, though, he had to work with Iraqi Security Forces to set up a series of three checkpoints and meet conditions required to reopen the road to local traffic. The checkpoints will allow the ISF and their Sons of Iraq partners to search vehicles headed to the western part of the area, long off limits to civilian traffic for security reasons.
“This was the foothold of Al Qaida in Iraq,” Ryan said. “So, they banned all traffic due to clearing operations and never allowed it to come back in because the situation didn’t allow it.”
Ryan also said the road opening was a step forward for ISF members who are increasingly taking on responsibilities in the area.
“For the most part, right now, ISF is in the lead and U.S. Forces have been over-watching,” Ryan said. “The Iraqi dependency on the U.S. is decreasing. That’s the way we need to keep going. Today was one of the steps in the right direction. A big step.”
Posts Tagged ‘al qaida in iraq’
Albu Hawa, a small sub-tribe south of Fallujah resides in a farmland district that lines the Euphrates River. Only a year ago, it was a rural battlespace with daily violence that harbored al-Qaida terrorists.
Known as one of the last strongholds for al-Qaida, 3rd Battalion, 6th Marines performed operations during last yearâ€™s deployment to rid Albu Hawa of terrorist activity. This year, the battalion has returned to the area and witnessed the progress of this farmland community from when it was plagued with everyday violence. Now with terrorism on the brink of defeat, Iraqi Police have developed a strong presence in Albu Hawa and the area is dramatically safer for the citizens.
Now that there is security in the area, Coalition forces are working with the local leaders of the administrative council to improve living conditions and attend to the needs of the local people.
Civil Affairs Team 3 in direct support of 3rd Battalion, 6th Marines, supervised the construction of a new medical clinic, which opened, July 3.
1st Lt. Michael Robison, team leader of CAG 3, said his team provided overwatch for the project completion and more importantly, helped build a relationship between Albu Hawa and the local Iraqi government.
â€œThe people of Albu Hawa have noticed that things are improving,â€ Robison said. â€œWeâ€™re giving this community something to be excited about. This clinic gets them excited about their future and the government of Iraq.â€
The medical clinic serves the people of Albu Hawa five days a week and it is staffed by nurses from the local community. With the help of CAG 3, the Albu Hawa administrative council has the support of the local Iraqi government and Iraqâ€™s Ministry of Health.
â€œ(Albu Hawa administrative council) is currently working with the Ministry of Health to increase the staff,â€ after the clinic opened with three nurses, Robison said. â€œThe ministry currently supports the clinic with salaries for the staff and medical supplies. The clinic has what it needs to provide people with basic medical care.â€
The Albu Hawa administrative council celebrated the clinic opening with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and has been open to the public since then.
â€œRather than having the Marines coordinate (projects), weâ€™re helping the Iraqis work with their own government,â€ Robison said. â€œAt some point (the Marines) are going to be gone and the local sheiks are going to have to fix their own problems. They have to learn the system and learn how to go to the right people to make things happen.â€
Robison said that the Albu Hawa administrative council is progressively getting the recognition they need to during the reconstruction phase. While security is stabilizing, the tribal leaders can shift their focus on the development of the community.
â€œWeâ€™re moving in the right direction,â€ Robison said. â€œWe have a community that was afflicted with violence and now theyâ€™re seeing security and things are starting to pick up. Theyâ€™re able to focus on other basic things such as medical facilities, schools and water – and lately, the administrative council has been able to accomplish many things.â€
By Cpl. Chris Lyttle
Regimental Combat Team 1
These are the men and women that General Cardon talked about with me, and this story demonstrates the results of their hard work. Now they’re coming home. Well done!
The numbers only begin to tell the story: 5,943 houses cleared, 1,433 suspects detained, 1,241 small-arms fire engagements, 577 weapons caches found and 532 improvised explosive devices safely destroyed.
The 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, is already busy with the task of preparing for the journey home. As the last of the â€œsurge brigades,â€ arriving in the south Baghdad area last June, 2nd BCT Soldiers had a difficult but important mission to fulfill. Now, as they prepare to hand the torch to those who will continue the mission, they can look back and see a place not only made safer, but ready to reap the benefits of security.
â€œWhen we entered [the area], our task was to go in and stay,â€ said 2nd BCT commander Col. Terry Ferrell. â€œWe were to go in and block accelerants from entering Baghdad, protect the population and defeat the sectarian violence that was going on in the area.â€
Setting the Scene
In the summer of 2007, the area south of Baghdad on the west bank of the Tigris River was considered one of the most dangerous places in all of Iraq. The majority-Sunni population had largely boycotted the 2005 elections, and soon began to feel the effects brought by lack of government representation. In addition to essential services such as clean water and electricity, citizens clearly needed security.
Al-Qaida in Iraq strictly and violently ruled the area and its citizens. To combat the militants, 2nd BCT used the combat power of the 1st Battalion, 30th Infantry Regiment; 1st Squadron, 40th Cavalry Regiment; 5th Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment; 6th Squadron, 8th Cavalry Regiment and the 1st Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment. There was also a fledgling Iraqi Army battalion supporting the area.
â€œWhen 2nd BCT first assumed control of the Spartan (2nd BCT) operating environment in June 2007, the brigade was faced with a unique and challenging situation,â€ said Capt. Lauren Glaze, 2nd BCT provost marshall. â€œThe only Iraqi security force present in the brigade OE was an undermanned and underequipped Iraqi army battalion, stretched thinly across a quarter of the area,â€
Al Qaeda in Iraq
Sectarian strife and rumors of ISF targeting and killing Sunnis led many to distrust the largely-Shia army and police, Glaze said.
â€œWhat developed was really a petri dish for al-Qaida to grow,â€ said Lt. Col. Kenneth Adgie, commander of 1-30th Inf. Regt., a mechanized infantry battalion.
AQI infiltrated the area, using homes and farms in the region as bases of operations and bomb-making factories. Attacks on coalition forces and ISF were on the rise. Citizens themselves felt the effects of terrorist activity.
â€œThey used ultra-violent means to inflict incredible pain on the Iraqi people here. They deprived people of resources to control their behavior,â€ Adgie said.
Coalition forces were attacked 95 times in the first two weeks, as they pushed into areas they had not been since 2003. After establishing Patrol Base Murray just 16 kilometers south of Baghdad, Soldiers of the 1-30th Inf. Regt. began moving south and east to secure the area along the banks of the Tigris River called Arab Jabour; because AQI had firmly established a presence there, it was not easy.
AQI Defense in Depth
â€œWhat we discovered was a well-built, elaborate, defensive belt,â€ said Ferrell, a native of Huntington W.Va.
Improvised explosive devices, many of them buried deep, made travel in the area difficult. A combination of air assaults and ground strikes enabled the Soldiers to capture and hold territory from al-Buaytha down the banks of the Tigris to Sayafiyah.
â€œFrom June 16 until the first of February of this year, we were in full-scale kinetic operations,â€ Ferrell said. â€œSimultaneously, we were doing humanitarian assistance and working to build local governance.â€
As coalition forces secured the area, citizens came to realize the benefits of working with them.
Sons of Iraq
One of the key elements to success in holding the newly-gained areas was the formation of the Sons of Iraq, a volunteer security force of Iraqi citizens initially formed to guard important infrastructure such as roads and power stations. Coalition forces trained and worked with the SoI to secure their neighborhoods and help oust AQI, Glaze said.
â€œThe training included classes on the SoI role in securing the community, basic first aid, basic self-defense tactics, the use of force and an overview of basic security principles,â€ Glaze said. â€œAs a result, the SoI received the information they needed to successfully assist in removing hundreds of al-Qaeda, caches and IEDs from the battlefield.â€
An important turning point came in November, Ferrell said.
â€œWe had a battle in Hawr Rajab in November, on Thanksgiving Day, when al-Qaida attacked to try and take back the city. We stood arm-in-arm; you had coalition, ISF, SoI. You had Sunnis and Shia banding together and you could not tell anyone apart,â€ he said. â€œFrom that day forward, Iâ€™ve always highlighted that one battle, when they were standing there as brothers to take care of one another.â€
Another key event was Operation Marne Thunderbolt, intended to deny al-Qaida safe havens in the area.
â€œJust as recently as January, we dropped over 40,000 pounds of ordnance as we fought down the southeast in our area of operations, finalizing one of the last major kinetic operations,â€ Ferrell said.
Sons of Iraq helped coalition forces identify safe houses, weapons caches and IEDs, which in some cases were eliminated with air strikes. Between January 10 and 20, more than 100,000 pounds of bombs were dropped in the Arab Jabour area by coalition aircraft.
Adgie, a native of National Park, N.J., marked Jan. 22 as the date when AQI left Arab Jabour. In the past four months, SoI membership in the Spartan AO has grown to 5,400, greater than the number of coalition forces and IA in the area combined. Their involvement, Adgie said, has kept AQI from returning.
The next step toward making security sustainable in the area was to increase the amount of ISF in the area, particularly the Iraqi police.
Iraqi Government Steps Up
â€œIn September 2007, the governor of Baghdad visited Arab Jabour and promised the local leadership and coalition forces that Arab Jabour would have an IP station by mid-2008,â€ said Glaze, from Woodbridge, Va.
â€œAfter his visit we noticed an obvious change in the localsâ€™ opinion of the ISF, specifically towards the IP. Over 300 SoI came forward and said they wanted to go through the IP recruiting process,â€ Glaze said.
The police station is currently under construction.
â€œThe ground has been broken and they are in the process of building the structure,â€ Ferrell said.
Ferrell credits the established security for the construction of the new IP station, as well as GoI and Iraqi leadership coming down to witness the security for themselves.
Even before IP forces could be established in the area, IA forces began to work alongside their coalition counterparts, living and conducting operations alongside them. Two IA battalions now conduct patrols with coalition forces and work with the SoI to maintain security.
â€œThere are more hard days along the way,â€ Ferrell said. â€œWe have to work to build the ISF, we have to continue to build confidence in the ISF, in the progress they are making.â€
Another key to continued peace, Ferrell said, is programs that encourage agriculture and industry, provide job training and bring local governments closer to the government in Baghdad.
â€œItâ€™s all about momentum,â€ Ferrell said. â€œThe security thatâ€™s been established is fragile. If you want to maintain it, youâ€™ve got to keep these other programs running. Thatâ€™s how weâ€™re going to maintain the success weâ€™ve established with the surge.â€
By Sgt. David Turner
2nd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division
Step after step, combat boots hit the pavement. Itâ€™s been a few hours for the Marine squad walking the Ramadi streets. Fatigued yet steady, the young men push forward on their routine foot patrol despite the mid-day desert heat; each squad member maintaining a constant alertness with eyes scanning the environment in every direction.
The squad leader passes by a familiar face; a local vender who he sees almost every day. Instantly, the look of exhaustion washes away, and a smile is brought to his face. Lifting his hand, he warmly greets the vender with, â€œAl salaam aâ€™alaykum.â€
Every day, Marine infantrymen like those with Company A, 1st Battalion, 9th marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 1, patrol neighborhoods and actively engage the community of al-Anbar province. But the Marines are not alone on these patrols; they are walking side-by-side with Iraqi policemen, mentoring and providing guidance as they take responsibility for the safety of their own community.
According to Lance Cpl. Jonathan R. Chapman, rifleman with Company A, the Iraqi police are doing a remarkable job in the lead role.
â€œThe Iraqi police are doing very well,â€ Chapman said. â€œThey are excellent policemen. Theyâ€™re all very tactically sound.â€
The Iraqi police have taken giant steps over the past year in becoming more independent. This can mostly be attributed to the â€œal-Anbar Awakeningâ€ where tribal leaders supported the coalition forcesâ€™ efforts, and took a stand against al-Qaida in Iraq last year. Sheiks throughout the province encouraged tribal members to join the Iraqi police ranks and protect their streets, resulting in Ramadiâ€™s Iraqi police recruitment to sky-rocket. Today, they are more than 9,000 Iraqi police serving in the province capital.
â€œThe Iraqi policemen lead the patrols since weâ€™re in an advisory, we just guide and assist them,â€ said 2nd Lt. Derek J. Herrera, a platoon commander with Company A. â€œEither their sergeant or lieutenant lead the patrols.â€
Units throughout the city routinely conduct daily joint patrols, focusing on the communityâ€™s safety and the citizens concerns; a stark contrast from the kinetic activity and violence a year ago.
â€œWe try to do joint patrols as often as we can, usually every day,â€ Herrera said; a different circumstance compared to past units in the city. â€œIâ€™ve heard from friends and other cohorts, you couldnâ€™t go on patrol in Taâ€™meem for more than five to 10 minutes without receiving fire. The way the Iraqi policemen describe it, Taâ€™meem used to be at the forefront of the insurgency. It was once referred to as â€œambush alley.â€
Today shows a more peaceful environment, where Iraqis and Marines patrol the neighborhoods, and receive positive response from the citizens.
â€œThe locals are very friendly towards coalition forces and the (policemen) as well,â€ Herrera said. â€œThey really appreciate what we do. Weâ€™ve never really had a negative reaction from anyone in Taâ€™meem. The kids run to us and beg for chocolate and the adults really appreciate our help.â€
With the positive changes in the Taâ€™meem area and the progressive steps made by the Iraqi police officers, the station, like many others, is looking towards taking community safety to the next level and bring the city of Ramadi closer to a state of normalcy.
â€œOur push now, is to make it more police oriented,â€ Herrera said. â€œInstead of having ten policemen walk down the street, now weâ€™re trying to make it about only two. That way they can just sit on the corner, talk to the people, and walk the beat around the same block all day. Weâ€™re not quite there yet, but thatâ€™s the next push.â€
By Lance Cpl. Casey Jones
Regimental Combat Team 1
A mix of force, good governance and economic stimuli has resulted in a turnaround for an area in Iraq that once was a hotbed of Sunni and Shiite insurgents.
The 3rd Infantry Divisionâ€™s 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team is completing a 15-month tour as part of Multinational Division Center, and the unit commander, Army Col. Wayne W. Grigsby Jr., spoke to Pentagon reporters yesterday about the deployment.
The â€œSledgehammerâ€ brigade arrived in February 2007 as part of the surge of additional forces into Iraq. Violent crime was out of control, Grigsby said, and al-Qaida in Iraq intimidated Sunni portions of the area, allowing the terrorist group to use them as safe havens.
â€œIn our time here, murders have declined by greater than 50 percent, from 631 in ’06 to 253 in ’07,â€ Grigsby said in a video hook-up from Baghdad. â€œShop owners are selling their goods in revitalized markets, and we are now down to maybe one attack every other day.â€
The heavy brigade accomplished this by conducting counterinsurgency operations. â€œWe wanted to bloody the nose of the enemy and make them fear us,â€ he said. â€œWe did bloody the nose of the enemy, and the enemy does fear us, both coalition forces and Iraqi security forces. We never forgot what a U.S. Army heavy brigade combat team is built to do: to close with and destroy the enemy.â€
Brigade soldiers killed 160 enemy combatants and detained more than 500 suspected criminals. â€œWe cleared every enemy sanctuary that existed prior to our arrival,â€ the colonel said.
This has not been without cost. Twenty-nine brigade soldiers have been killed, and 162 were wounded. But the level of violence went from four to five attacks per day to an average of an attack every two days.
In and around Salman Pak — a majority Sunni area — al-Qaida and other Sunni extremist groups have been decimated.
â€œWe estimate there are three Sunni extremist groups of no more than 10 personnel per group in our battle space, disrupted and not able to synchronize operations,â€ Grigsby said. â€œWe killed or captured their leaders, denied them use of safe houses and support zones, and with our â€˜Sons of Iraqâ€™ allies we are sitting in the former supply lines, holding the terrain, not letting the extremists come back in.â€
The Sons of Iraq are local citizens who assist with security efforts in their neighborhoods.
Though their operations brought security to the region, the soldiers of the brigade werenâ€™t solely about force. They worked to build relationships with the various ethnic groups, tribes and sheikhs.
â€œSince we worked out of eight patrol bases and four joint security sites in the middle of population centers, we never commuted to work,â€ Grigsby said. â€œWhen a combat patrol began each day, Sledgehammer soldiers were already among their neighbors, living with them.â€
They also lived with Iraqi security forces. Grigsby said the unit worked with an outstanding Iraqi national police brigade and very capable Iraqi army units. U.S. soldiers will continue to work with local police to improve their community policing, the colonel said.
Security was the bedrock of the progress. The Americans and Iraqis gave the residents their communities back, Grigsby told reporters.
â€œBy taking extremists and criminals off the streets in Jisr Diyala, Wahida, Salman Pak and Nahrawan, we emboldened the good people to step back into the traditional roles of leadership — leadership by the tribal leaders, leadership by local governmental officials — rather than leadership by fear, where individuals use murder [and] intimidation to control the masses,â€ he said.
Markets, water distribution systems, sewage treatment plants, schools and health clinics all followed. The unit even helped Iraqis build a soccer stadium. Employment also has followed. The Narwan brick factory in the region now employs 15,000 Iraqis, up from 3,000 a year ago.
Money, too, has followed. In 2007, the Iraqi government spent about $1 million in the region. In 2008, the government already has spent $86.1 million for projects and improvements.
The unitâ€™s soldiers head back to Fort Benning, Ga., knowing they have made a difference, Grigsby said.
â€œWe have seen a significant reduction in violence,â€ he said. â€œWe have seen the economy spring back to life. We have seen the local governance structure continue to mature and progress. We most definitely have momentum, and we have made gains.â€
The brigade is one of the most deployed units in the Army. It was part of the original thrust to Baghdad in 2003, was back again in 2005, and is completing its current mission now. Some 60 percent of the soldiers in the brigade are combat veterans from previous deployments. They are passing along their hard lessons to the 1st Armored Divisionâ€™s 2nd Brigade Combat Team, home-based in Germany.
Grigsby said 2nd Brigade will continue the momentum his brigade began, because the gains in the region remain tenuous. To ensure stability, coalition and Iraqi forces must continue â€œto hunt the enemy where he sleeps, and we will continue to assist our Iraqi partners where they look to make improvements.â€
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service