By John D. Banusiewicz
American Forces Press Service
May 4, 2007 – A newly formed military division in Iraq is focusing on stopping the flow into Baghdad of what the unit's commander called "accelerants of violence" from the south. Speaking to Pentagon reporters via satellite from the Iraqi capital, Army Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch discussed the mission of Multinational Division Center, which officially stood up April 1 to support Multinational Division Baghdad. The division's area runs from just south of Baghdad to Iraq's border with Saudi Arabia.
"Our mission is inextricably tied to the security of Baghdad," Lynch said. "Our goal is to stop the flow of accelerants of violence into Baghdad from the south. Accelerants are, simply stated, the physical components that facilitate violence and perpetuate further instability."
Lynch noted that since April 1, 13 Multinational Division Center soldiers have been killed and 39 more have been wounded, primarily by improvised explosive devices. The latest and most deadly type of IEDs is known as an explosively formed penetrator.
These weapons come to Iraq from neighboring Iran. "What we're finding is that the technology and the financing and the training of the explosively formed penetrators are coming from Iran," Lynch said. "The EFPs are killing our soldiers, and we can trace that back to Iran."
In an April 22 raid, he said, U.S. and Iraqi forces found three weapons caches containing mortar systems, rockets and ammunition. "Recent date stamps and Iranian markings appeared on the ammunition. There is plenty of evidence of Iranian influence in our area, and candidly, this is just simply counterproductive.
"The discovery of these caches, the interdiction of their trafficking, and the capture of the men responsible for their distribution is our main focus," the general said.
The division now has three brigade combat teams and soon will have a fourth, Lynch said. The plan is for each team to have a provincial reconstruction team to help local citizens with capacity-building, governance and economic development. Two of the PRTs now embedded with division brigades are funded by the State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development. The other brigade's PRT is an all-military team.
"My first blush with these embedded PRTs is they are indeed going to be value-added," Lynch said. "I've meet all the team leaders; I've talked to the members of the team, and they came here with a mission, and that is to improve capacity of the government of Iraq at the local and provincial level. And I have great optimism that those things are going to continue to mature and improve."
Lynch said the PRTs working to help the provincial government and local citizens will aid the military effort. "It is indeed folks like me in uniform working with folks in coats and ties for the betterment of the people of Iraq," he said. "And that is exactly the direction this needs to go."
In working to create a security climate conducive to local governance and economic progress, Lynch said, the division's soldiers must contend with what he called "Iraq's public enemy No. 1" -- al Qaeda and al Qaeda-affiliated Sunni extremists.
"Al Qaeda continues its campaign of hatred, never distinguishing between targets," he said. "They wreak havoc and destruction. They desire to achieve what they achieved with the bombing of the golden mosque: to create sectarian violence and plunge this nation into a continuous downward ungovernable spiral."
But the efforts of coalition troops and Iraqi security forces, along with the resilience of the Iraqi people, have created "glimmers of hope" for a better future than the one the enemy has in mind, Lynch said.
"Iraqi security forces are indeed becoming more capable, both its army and its police forces, every day," he said. "We see farming and the return of manufacturing industry in our sector. We see children playing -- all the elements of a nation gaining in capacity."
However, he warned, the enemy has a lot at stake, and continued progress won't be easy. "The enemy can't afford for us to create a situation in Iraq where there's stability," he said. "We've always got to remind ourselves of the end state."
The desired result in Iraq always has been a representative government that respects the human rights of all Iraqis, and domestic security forces that can maintain order and deny terrorists a safe haven, he explained.
"The enemy doesn't want that to happen, so he's going to continue to mount offensive operations," Lynch said. "But we're going to take the fight back to him. And what I'm seeing in my battlespace is we have the ability -- and we'll have more ability over time -- to continue to thwart his efforts."
Lynch pointed out that many of the division's soldiers are serving in their second or third tours in Iraq and, he said, they know why they're there.
"You know, I don't get complaints," the general said. "Even (from) the soldiers here on their third deployment, I don't get complaints, because they know it's duty first. What I get is, 'Man, I miss my family,' just like I miss my family. That's why we've got to work very hard to take care of the families and ensure that they communicate with their soldier -- husbands or wives -- who are deployed."
As important as the work is and as willing as the division's soldiers are to do the work, Lynch said, they know it's going to be tough.
"The work here is important work, but it's going to take some time, and it's going to take some patience," he said. "We're going to have good days, and we're going to have some not-so-good days, but it's just so important, the accomplishment of this mission, because I don't want my kids or my grandkids to be afraid to go to school, go to work, or worship at their place of worship. And that's why we're fighting this fight here."
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