By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
Nov. 30, 2007 - A major reason for the mounting success of anti-insurgent operations in Iraq is that rank-and-file soldiers and their leaders trust and believe in one another, a senior U.S. military officer said today. Trust flowing down "from our higher headquarters through the general officer leadership all the way down to the squad leader (is) making the difference," Army Col. Dominic J. Caraccilo, commander of the 101st Airborne Division's 3rd Brigade Combat Team, said during a conference call with online reporters and "bloggers."
The emergence of successful neighborhood watch programs manned by concerned Iraqi citizens is a product of that trust, Caraccilo said, noting that such initiatives entail an element of risk.
Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top U.S. military leader in Iraq, personifies trust and encourages the taking of prudent risks, such as support of concerned citizens' groups, as part of his counterinsurgency strategy, Caraccilo explained.
As Iraqis take on responsibility for security in their neighborhoods, U.S. forces can then push forward into areas previously under the sway of insurgents, Caraccilo said.
For example, Caraccilo's soldiers and Iraqi army troops have made much progress in a previously contested area west of Baghdad during Operation Marne Courageous, which was launched Nov. 16.
Marne Courageous is a "clear-and-hold" operation that pushed out al Qaeda operatives who once frequented an area west of the Euphrates River, the colonel said. Meanwhile, Caraccilo's soldiers have established a command post in the area, and they and Iraqi troops are fanning out to consolidate their gains against the insurgents.
Caraccilo and his soldiers assumed responsibility for their sector of operations Nov. 2. Surge-related operations conducted in his area over the past few months have contributed to a great reduction in insurgent-committed violence, he said.
"And, we're talking about a place that just six months ago was 'the Triangle of Death,'" Caraccilo said.
Things in Iraq aren't completely calm, the colonel acknowledged. Yet, recent gains made against insurgents and resultant decreased levels of violence are encouraging trends, he said.
"There is a great trust in our Army right now, and I think that is really the superimposing reason why we're successful thus far," Caraccilo said. "And, I think because of that, we can win."