By Fred W. Baker III
American Forces Press Service
Aug. 22, 2007 - Local governance is making progress in Iraq's Anbar province, and Iraqis are joining the security forces in record numbers, a top Marine operating in the province said today. As a result, improvised explosive device attacks and casualties are down in his region, said Marine Col. Richard Simcock, commander of Regimental Combat Team 6, operating in eastern Anbar province.
Simcock answered questions today from Internet reporters and "bloggers" during a conference call from Iraq. His troops recently launched Operation Alljah, which sectioned off Fallujah into small, manageable areas and established security outposts in the communities.
"To say that I feel good would be an understatement. I am continually amazed at ... how much the local Iraqi government is actually doing to better their situation," Simcock said. "They are working hand in hand, not only with my Marines and soldiers on ground, but also with the provisional reconstruction teams that are out here. I am very, very pleased with the efforts that local governance is putting forth."
Limited support is trickling to the region from the central Iraqi government for Iraqi police salaries and equipment, he said.
"We need more. We need a lot more to come a lot faster. It is working, but it's not working fast enough, and it's not working in sufficient amounts," he added.
Recruiting for the Iraqi police is on the rise in the region, and the security forces continue to grow in the form of the army, the Iraqi police, the provincial security forces and neighborhood watches, Simcock said.
"That has been the key element to allow me to do my mission and work with them so that we're both trying to accomplish the same thing," he said.
He also said that the local citizens are setting aside their sectarian differences to work together as Iraqis to rebuild the region. This has been a critical turning point, as more Sunnis join the Iraqi army.
"We don't see a lot of problems in the army between the Sunni and the Shiia; they work as one," Simcock said. "They downplay the religious aspect of it. They don't identify themselves as Sunni or Shiia. They'll identify themselves as Iraqis and are working for the betterment of Iraq, and I think that's a huge step forward for them."
When questioned whether the Iraq security forces were capable of independent operation, Simcock said he doesn't want his forces operating independent of the Iraqis.
"I can't overstate the importance of having the Iraqis working with us," the commander said. "We get more and more benefit out of their participation in what we're doing over here. We want to stay engaged with them for what they give to us as a combat multiplier here in our (area of operations)."
Simcock said the two forces benefit from a partnership that provides invaluable intelligence to U.S. forces and training to become a more capable force to the Iraqi forces.
He also had high praise for the mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles. Simcock's unit recently had 25 more of the vehicles, which feature V-shaped hulls to deflect explosions, delivered, and he said he expects hundreds more.
"They are especially good being used out on the road networks. As you know, that is the chosen battle space of our enemy. That's where they emplace the improvised explosive devices," he said. "The MRAPs are truly superior, from a defensive nature, in protecting our Marines and soldiers. I can't get enough of them. I am supposed to get over 400 of them, and I will definitely employ every one of them."