By Carmen L. Gleason
American Forces Press Service
Aug. 22, 2007 - As 3rd Infantry Division soldiers run terrorists from their safe havens south and east of Baghdad during Operation Marne Husky, they also are helping local Iraqi citizens stand up for themselves, a U.S. commander said today. "We are using all forms of military power to project our forces into areas that were previously enemy sanctuaries," Army Lt. Col. Ryan Kuhn, deputy commander for 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, said during a conference call.
Since Aug. 15, soldiers of Kuhn's "Sledgehammer Brigade" have conducted offensive operations in support of Multinational Corps Iraq's overarching Operation Phantom Strike, targeting militant safe havens and weapons smugglers in Iraq.
Troops from 3rd Infantry Division are concentrating on the Madain Qada region along the Diyala and Tigris rivers. The primarily Sunni area, roughly the size of Rhode Island, has been a terrorist safe haven for "quite a while," Kuhn said.
"These operations are putting a toil on the extremist networks that are bringing (weapons) technologies into Iraq, and principally Baghdad," Kuhn said. "We are not giving the enemy any time to relax or to think of their next (attack)."
As U.S. troops help stabilize the area, they also are helping local leaders develop government structure and infrastructure to maintain ground gained against terrorists through provincial reconstruction teams.
"PRTs made up of infantry and civil affairs soldiers are working to create an opportunity for economic growth within the area," he said.
Calling it a "grassroots government," Kuhn said Iraqis in Madain Qada aren't going to wait for a centralized government to get systems into place. "They are acting locally (to make progress)."
The emergence of a "concerned citizens" program also is beginning to grow in popularity in the region, he said. "Local leaders are directing their men in towns and villages to take up positions against insurgents."
As a result, Kuhn said, U.S. military leaders are seeing relative stability in the area that most people would not have thought possible several months ago.
"We are demonstrating to the residents in Madain Qada that we're here to stand by them and help them stand up for themselves," Kuhn said. "We're having a strategic effect, and we're making a difference."