Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Coalition Efforts in Northern Iraq Reduce Number of Roadside Bombs

By Lisa Daniel
American Forces Press Service

June 9, 2008 - U.S. and Iraqi
military operations in northern Iraq have cut the number of roadside bombs there nearly in half since February, the commander of Multinational Division North told reporters at a Pentagon briefing today. The number of roadside bombs -- known in military parlance as improvised explosive devices, or IEDs -- discovered in May was 550, compared to 900 in February, Army Maj. Gen. Mark P. Hertling told reporters in a teleconference from Camp Striker in Iraq. Coalition troops clear about half the IEDs each month, he said.

Hertling, who also commands the U.S.
Army's 1st Armored Division, attributed the improved security to increased capability of Iraqi security forces, the contributions of the "Sons of Iraq" citizen security group, and changing attitudes among enemy fighters who are "just tired, quite frankly, of fighting."

Security in areas under MND North's purview -- a region about the size of Pennsylvania -- has improved significantly from six months ago, when northern Iraqi cities such as Hawijah were overrun with insurgents driven out of points south, such as Baghdad, Hertling said. In two offensives launched this spring, significant numbers of top- and mid-level insurgent
leaders were killed and captured, allowing coalition gains in Ninevah, Diyala and Kirkuk provinces, he said.

Hertling said he agrees with assessments that the northern city of Mosul is "the last urban stronghold" of al-Qaida in Iraq. But, improvements are being made there, as well, he said. Some 30 outposts have been built there by U.S. engineers since February, and Iraqi forces increasingly are able to secure the area, he said.

"I'll never say anything is last with al-Qaida because you never know what's going to happen to them next," Hertling said.

Coalition forces are focusing more on the desert areas surrounding Mosul, where they believe enemy fighters are fleeing, he said.

Asked about the presence of foreign fighters in Iraq, Hertling said they are from Saudi Arabia, Algeria and Kuwait and enter through the Syrian border in northwestern Iraq. Foreign-fighter facilitators have been found throughout Ninevah, he said. Last week, a Sons of Iraq citizen
security unit rejected bribes by smugglers and killed nine foreign fighters at a checkpoint in Salahuddin province, Hertling said.

U.S. and Iraqi officials hope that improved
security and a better economy are fostering construction projects and other job opportunities that will give options to people at the lower levels of enemy fighting who aren't so loyal to the cause. In fact, Hertling said, one intelligence estimate predicted that half of lower-level, or third-tier, enemy fighters would quit if they had a job. The unemployment rate in northern Iraq is as high as 80 percent in some areas, he said.

"Many of these guys are doing some of these
criminal or terrorist actions just to get paid and to survive," Hertling said. "Some of these guys are just gangs that set out to commit crimes."

The low-level enemy fighters "are the ones that, while we still sometimes have to kill or capture them, the increase in the infrastructure and the ability to provide jobs may cause some additional tipping of this organization in the north, and everywhere else in Iraq," Hertling said.

Many insurgents are tired of fighting and are beginning to realize "that the way you move forward now in Iraq society is thought the representative process and getting your vote ready," Hertling said.

Still, the general acknowledged, an insurgent's suicide attack against
police in Kirkuk yesterday was a reminder that enemy fighters will continue to try to intimidate security forces. "The terrorists have gone after those individuals to see if they can break their backbone, and they haven't been able to do it yet," he said.

The biggest challenge coalition forces face in the north is in improving Iraqi
police units through recruiting and training, the general said. A recently completed police training center in Diyala province is expected to produce as many as 500 new officers per month, he said.

1 comment:

John Maszka said...

"Many of these guys are doing some of these criminal or terrorist actions just to get paid and to survive, Hertling said."

Oh...so now the solution is to hire these guys to enforce our athority in Iraq...That's ingenious! Here's an idea. How about we stop listening to idiots and start respecting the opinions of seasoned professionals?
General David Petraeus is known to be “an unusually smart and strategic general.” But even he does not believe that the military can solve the problems in Iraq. Petraeus was quoted as saying: “Any student of history recognizes there is no military solution to a problem like that in Iraq” (Zakaria, 2007b:60).

What then, does this reveal about the Bush administration’s blind insistence on depending primarily on sheer military strength to address problems such as those in Iraq? How can the Bush administration justify spending billions every month on a war, when even the nation’s commanding general in the region blatantly states that it will not bring victory?
This is a nation that is now devastated, where 2 million people have fled, another 2 million are internal refugees, militias run large parts of the country and the government sanctions religious repression, ethnic cleansing and vigilante violence. What does “victory” mean in such circumstances? (Zakaria, 2007b:60).

The only victory America can hope to win at this point, is the one we should have been after all along, the victory of the ideals of liberal democracy: government of the people, for the people, and by the people. President Bush is not currently doing what the majority of Americans want him to do, so how can we reasonably expect him to respect what the majority of Iraqis want. “The solution to Iraq is, after all, primarily up to the Iraqis” (Holmes, 2007:22). And while there are great indicators that the Iraqi people do want to actively participate in their political environment, the country remains dreadfully unstable. Many blame this instability on the Bush administration. For example, Jessica Stern (2004:1118) argues that by invading Iraq without first sufficiently preparing for a “functioning state,” America created the very threat the Bush administration claimed to be thwarting: “a weak state unable to police its borders or to maintain a monopoly on violence.” Failed states create opportunities for terrorist organizations, and as Dr. Hani al-Sibai explains “the continuation of anti-occupation resistance will produce several groups that might later merge into one large group” (reprinted in Stern, 2004:1120). Dr. Al-Sibai has also pointed out that the U.S. attacked Iraq without first securing the border. This allowed for countless jihadi, extremists and insurgents to enter the country.