By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
Jan. 30, 2008 - As the security situation has improved in the southern belts of Baghdad, coalition officials find themselves more involved with building local governance capacity and creating jobs. Army Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, commander of Multinational Division Center, said that when his unit arrived in March, there were 25 attacks a day on coalition and Iraqi troops. Now that number has dropped to an average of three a day. This has allowed him to spend more time working with local tribal and city leaders in building their governance capabilities.
"As a division commander, I spend roughly 30 percent of my day on combat operations – the kinetic side – and 70 percent on capacity building," Lynch said during a phone interview with military analysts today.
This does not mean that combat operations are ignored. The southern belts were particularly deadly areas for American troops before the division arrived. And while Multinational Division Center has made progress, there are still areas of concern.
The division recently launched Operation Marne Thunderbolt in the southern portion of Arab Jabour. The enemy has had roughly three years to plant improvised explosive devices and to rig houses with explosives in that area, and the division took those forces on.
On Jan. 10, the division called on the U.S. Air Force to help with shaping operations – Air Force jets dropped about 40,000 pounds of munitions in about 10 minutes on 37 targets, Lynch said. "Of those, about half had significant secondary explosions that led us to believe there was an IED or cache there," he said.
On Jan. 22, the division launched major operations with ground forces. As the forces attacked, 40 Iraqi concerned local citizens came out and led the combat forces into the area to show them where the IEDs were, Lynch said.
The general attributed the division's success to the presence of surge forces, which gave him the combat power needed to clear and hold areas. He also pointed to the change in tactics, techniques and procedures. There are 20,000 U.S. forces in the division, and 75 percent of them live with the Iraqi population on 53 patrol bases.
The bases give local citizens a sense of security, and that presence gives them the courage needed to turn against the enemy. About 32,000 concerned local citizens are in the division's area. They man about 1,500 checkpoints in the area and have turned in 600 IEDs and 500 arms caches, Lynch said. "They have also turned over a number of high-value targets," he said.