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thedrifter
05-01-06, 09:10 AM
May 01, 2006, 6:25 a.m.
Frontline Breakthroughs
More good news from Iraq.

By Bill Crawford

Iraqis continue to show their mettle in engagements with anti-Iraqi forces, and continue to take over battlespace from Coalition forces. Prime Minister-designate al-Maliki said this week that he hopes to have a unity government in place within a week. This news has led to reports that the U.S. will be able to significantly decrease our troops in Iraq by the end of this year. In addition, the improved security conditions in Iraq have allowed Iraqis to carry on with their lives.
The continuing handover of battlespace to Iraqis is a promising trend. In the Maysan province, British troops expect to handover security responsibilities to Iraqis in a matter of weeks:
British troops in Iraq could hand over the Maysan province to local security forces within a matter of weeks, a senior Army officer said.

Wither the D Word
In recent remarks about Iraq, Australian Prime Minister John Howard denied claims that Iraq is a disaster:
"I think we impose unreasonable standards," Mr Howard told ABC radio.
"I don't believe the verdict on Iraq is by any means in, and I don't accept that it's been a disaster."

He also pointed out that historical perspective is important in regards to Iraq. For instance, it took Australia years to embrace democracy.
General George Casey commented that the recent political breakthrough could lead to a drawdown of U.S. troops:
Casey said the breakthrough last weekend to name al-Maliki as prime minister and to fill six other top government posts ''certainly is a major step in the process'' of reducing troop levels this year. He said more must be done on the political side, particularly filling crucial government ministry jobs.

Casey is hoping to reduce troops by 30,000 at the end of the year.
Iraq’s national-security Adviser, Mowaffak al Rubaie, is more optomistic about troop reductions. In an interview on Friday, he said U.S. troops could leave the country by 2008. He also said that the number of coalition troops in Iraq would drop below 100,000 by the end of this year:
In an interview, Rubaie said he expected current U.S. troops of roughly 133,000 to be cut to less than 100,000 by the end of this year and an "overwhelming majority" of U.S. forces should go home by the end of 2007 under a U.S.-Iraqi "roadmap" that calls for progressively handing over security to Iraqi forces.

In the Kurdish north, a Sufi festival is larger this year because safety has increased:
The gathering has grown since last year, when several hundred showed up—a sign that adherents are less afraid of Islamic militants who have harassed Sufis in the past because they consider their practices heretical.
"The growth has been continual since the acts of violence have eased," Sheik Qader Kakhama al-Kasnazani, the spiritual leader of the Kasnazaniyah Sufi order, said at Friday's "hadra," a gathering to honor a revered religious figure.

Polish leaders said this week that their troops might not leave Iraq at the end of the year as planned. The country’s defense minister noted that the Polish Army has already handed over responsibility for its area of operations to the Iraqis:
We have extended our commitment there this year. We see our role there as a success—we handed over security for our area of responsibility to the 8th Iraqi Division.
The IAEA has begun a cleanup of the Tuwaitha nuclear site. You might recall that the site was in the news in 2003 when 3,000 barrels of yellow cake were looted from the site. In Mosul, airmen of the 332nd AEF are preparing a U.S. base for transfer to the Iraqis. Work completed so far includes:
4,400-square-foot joint operations command building 5,700-square-foot tactical operations command building 7,200-square-foot State Department building 2,800-square-foot 101st forward-staff headquarters A 169- and 204-unit containerized housing living area Four helicopter pads 1.5 miles of barriers for force protection 6,000 feet of fiber-optic cable to upgrade communications 60-foot communications antennae

The Germans are coming!
In Baghdad, Gunter Voelker has opened a German restaurant. He seems to have an optimistic view of the place:
He even says the German foreign ministry's warnings for German citizens to stay out of Iraq were "grossly exaggerated."
Voelker, who served in the Balkans and Afghanistan, calls parts of Berlin more dangerous than Iraq.

USAID is working with the Iraqi ministry of education to implement software that will allow nation-wide monitoring of Iraq’s education system:
When complete, EMIS will serve as an invaluable management tool for the MOE, enabling nationwide monitoring and planning related to facilities, human resources, enrollment, student performance and other information.

Iraq’s parliament is expected to pass a new foreign investment law in the next two months that will allow the country to boost oil exports two million barrels a day.
Amid fears of growing Iranian influence, the Arab League will be reopening an office in Iraq for the first time since the invasion.
When Iraq’s parliament met Saturday to choose a new prime minister, Iraqi security forces were in the lead:
"The Iraqis are in the lead on security," Smith said. "In their plan, we are augmenting them at the ECPs. Eventually, the Iraqis will secure this thing in its entirety. They have already started taking over the responsibility in certain areas."

With the help of the World Bank and USAID, Iraq is creating a new Social Safety Net:
At the latest meeting of the Iraqi Strategic Review Board (ISRB), approval was given to proceed with a World Bank Social Protection Project to allocate funds for further improvements to the country's Social Safety Net and pension reform programs.
As part of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)-Funded Economic Governance II Project to help in the economic reconstruction and policy reform in Iraq, technical assistance is being provided to assist capacity building and institutional strengthening at the Ministry of Finance (MOF) and Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs (MOLSA).

Near Kirkuk, a sewing shop opened its doors with the help of USAID:
Salah, an employee of the sewing shop, has had a disability since birth and has had to depend entirely upon his family for support. "I applied for hundreds of jobs," he explained, "but no one would hire me until now." With his new income, Salah’s family now depends upon him.
For years, Ban could not find employment and had been forced to remove her children from school so they could work. "It was painful," she said. Now she works for the shop during the day and does more sewing in her house in the evening. Her income pays her children’s school fees and her husband’s health treatment.
Within one year, the shop had trained 120 people with few prior job prospects. Although the shop could only hire some of the trainees, most others have established their own cottage sewing businesses.

The shop employs 35 widows and disabled people, and provides training programs in tailoring and dress making.
Turkey’s Minister of State said that his country will reopen trade with Iraq for the first time since the invasion.
The Army Corp of Engineers helped with renovations to an all-girl school near Camp Taji. Local leaders expressed their thanks for the help they received:
The school is especially crucial to the community because it offers more than an initial start in the educational careers of the students.
“The school is very important, because it is the only school that serves the people in the area,” said Rushed, “and it is a primary and intermediate school. We teach first grade to ninth grade. I’m very happy for the project, because it helps the students. The public is thankful for the help of the Coalition Forces, who were a part of this project.”

The economy in the Kurdish north is growing as expatriates return from abroad to work in Iraq:
"Twenty years ago, people went to Europe, to the United States, overseas," [Sher Mohammed] said at his "Freedom Castle" mansion overlooking a small hill where he once lived for months at a time in a cramped, dirty cave, fighting Saddam Hussein's army and its chemical weapons. "Now, in the three years since Saddam Hussein fell, they are coming back and bringing their money."
Weatherman David Price of The Early Show was in Iraq this week and found that troop morale remains high:
"The people now serving in Iraq face death on a daily basis," Price says, "but if you think morale is low, guess again.
"My job was to try to cheer the soldiers up. But in most cases, they didn't need it. … It was an amazing experience. I went to Iraq looking to raise morale. But in the end, it was the soldiers who had done that for me."

Vietnam veteran Michael Payne made the same observation about troop morale after returning from Iraq. In addition, Payne said the Iraqis he met were glad the U.S. was there:
"I found out what I already knew. I observed children and people over there because the media is saying the Iraqi people do not want us there," Payne said. "But the overwhelming majority was more than friendly from their hearts for the United States' soldiers being there.

The level of sectarian violence in Iraq has returned to levels similar to those prior to the bombing of the Golden Mosque:
In fact, sectarian violence in April appears to have returned to levels seen prior to the mosque attack. This can be most notably seen in the violence directed towards civilians; fewer and fewer body dumps are being found around Baghdad and those that are discovered contain fewer bodies. These attacks could be the settling of personnel vendettas, criminal attacks, or sectarian killings.

And on Thursday, the military said that Iraq was moving away from the threat of a civil war:
"We are not seeing widespread militia operations across Iraq. We are not seeing widespread movement of displaced personnel," he said. "So we do not see us moving toward a civil war in Iraq. In fact we see us moving away from it."

Iraqi troops have taken over Forward Operating Base Hotel in An Najaf province. Troops of the Iraqi 1st Brigade, 8th Division assumed control of more than 11,500 square miles:
"We have seen the 1st Brigade show their mettle and courage by their actions in securing the Arba'een commemoration," said Col. John Tully, commander of 4th Infantry Division's 2nd Brigade Combat Team. "The Soldiers of this Brigade willingly risk their lives on a daily basis to support the newly elected Government of Iraq."
Iraqi security forces continue to take the lead as they demonstrate their capabilities through operations and training. Seven Iraqi Army brigades have already taken the lead in their areas and four additional battalions are preparing to assume the lead in their areas of operation in the next two months.

Twelve terrorists were killed in a raid on a terrorist safe house in Yussifiyah. The raid also netted suicide vests, grenades, and ammunition.
Also in Yusifiyah, a combined U.S.-Iraqi raid resulted in seven dead terrorists and the detention of another 50. Several raids in the area over the last week have resulted in the death of twenty terrorists, some wearing suicide vests when they were killed.
Iraqi forces killed an IED maker during a raid in Najaf.
There are now 90,000 trained Iraqi police patrolling throughout the country. The goal is to have 135,000 by the end of this year:
"Our goal in theater is to have 135,000 trained and resourced Iraqi police officers working on the streets within the 18 provinces by the end of the year," Army Col. Rod Barham, commander of 49th Military Police Brigade, said from Baghdad in a satellite news conference with reporters in the Pentagon.
The 49th, a California National Guard unit, is responsible for training police at the station level throughout Iraq. Barham said 90,000 Iraqi police are now trained.
The Iraqi government decreed 2006 the "Year of the Police" in Iraq, recognizing the importance of building a competent police force with the confidence of the Iraqi people.
Tips from Iraqis continue to be important in the fight against anti-Iraqi forces, and this shows the resolve of Iraqis to defeat those terrorizing them:
"We believe that the people of Iraq ... have grown tired of the insurgency, have grown tired of these casualties and indeed are going stop this cycle of violence," said Maj. Gen. Lynch.
Recent tips from local Iraqis demonstrated their commitment to end the insurgency and attacks from terrorists.
A tip from a local resident led Soldiers from the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, to another cache in Ad Dujayl. The unit seized 28 rockets, 39 tank rounds, four artillery shells and 125 rounds of 20 mm ammunition. All of the munitions were transported to a nearby military base for disposal.
Tip lines have been set up in local and provincial Joint Coordination Centers throughout northern Iraq to enable citizens to inform authorities when they spot weapons caches or see other terrorist activity. Tips have led to dozens of terrorists detained, weapons caches seized and plots disrupted.

Iraqi and U.S. forces discovered two large weapons caches southeast of Baghdad:
The first cache included five tank mines (two of which were prepared as improvised-explosive devices), two 80 mm mortars, two 60 mm mortars, a suicide vest, a 20 mm rocket prepared as an improvised-explosive device, and an armored vest.
The second cache consisted of 11 250-pound aerial bombs, two 155 mm artillery rounds, eight 120 mm artillery rounds, 10 82 mm mortars, nine 102 mm mortar rounds, 53 rocket-propelled grenades, 22 rocket propelled motors, 31 60 mm mortar charges, four 82 mm mortar charges, a hand grenade, four blasting caps, 40 fuses, three rolls of detonation cord, two rocket-propelled grenade launcher sights, 10 RKG hand grenades, three unidentified rockets, a long range rifle, an improvised-explosive device ready for use, three artillery fuses, a large bag half full of 10-ounce primers, an AK47 rifle, a rocket-propelled grenade launcher and five pounds of TNT explosive.

In Samarra, soldiers of Task Force Band of Brothers killed three terrorists preparing to launch a mortar attack.
Also in Samarra, Iraqi forces killed a district commander for al Qaeda, Hammad al Takhy, as well as two other terrorists, in a raid on a safe house. The raid was the result of a tip from local Iraqis. After his death, al Takhy’s body was dragged through the street by Iraqis angry at his killing of locals.
U.S. soldiers captured an IED trigger man shortly after he detonated a bomb against a U.S. convoy in Tikrit. No soldiers were injured in the attack.
In Diyala Province, 21 terrorist were killed and 43 captured after a series of attacks on checkpoints Thursday. Once again we see that Iraqi soldiers are capable of standing their ground in a fight:
In Dali Abbas, more than 100 terrorists with mortar rounds, RPGs and small arms fire attacked the 3rd Brigade, 5th Iraqi Army headquarters,. The soldiers returned fire, killing four enemy and detaining 15. Six Iraqi soldiers died and eight were wounded.

U.S. and Iraqi forces discovered three large weapons caches in central Iraq Thursday:
Iraqi Soldiers from the 1st Brigade, 5th Iraqi Army Division, teamed up with local police and an Iraqi explosive ordnance disposal team to seize a cache in eastern Diyala province. The cache consisted of 32 tank rounds and eight anti-tank mines. The 1st BDE assumed full control of the eastern portion of the province April 24 and is continuing to demonstrate its capabilities.
A tip from a local resident led Soldiers from the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, to another cache in Ad Dujayl. The unit seized 28 rockets, 39 tank rounds, 125 rounds of 20 mm ammunition and four artillery shells. All of the munitions were transported to a nearby military base for disposal.
Soldiers from the 3rd HBCT also discovered a large cache in eastern Diyala province that contained 46 large artillery shells, 14 recoilless rifle rounds, six mortars and eight anti-personnel mines.

In Baqubah, U.S. and Iraqi forces captured eight terrorists after coming under attack.
U.S. convoys in Iraq are deploying a new weapon for protection: sound:
The LRAD is mounted on the weapons turret of Humvees used to escort convoys through the often-dicey streets of Iraq. It gives vehicle commanders a means of communicating with Iraqi civilians using either native speakers or loud warning tones that can be clearly understood above the din of engines and crowd noise. The effect is warning bystanders to stay well clear before they get too close.
"This LRAD 500 configuration provides the operator with a critical tool to hail, notify, warn, to gain compliance ... before escalating to a non-lethal or lethal response against unauthorized individuals or groups approaching Army convoys on foot or in vehicles," San Diego-based ATC said in a news release.

Just days before his latest video appeared, U.S. forces almost nabbed Zarqawi:
Just nine days before al-Qaida in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi released his latest video, a special operations raid killed five of his men, captured five others and apparently came within a couple of city blocks of nabbing Zarqawi himself.
Then, the day Zarqawi’s video debuted, special ops forces killed 12 more of his troops in a second raid in the same town.

American Heroes
Capt. Thomas “Tad” Douglas of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit’s Force Reconnaissance Marines earned his second Bronze Star for service in Iraq. His first Bronze Star was for valor in combat operations during his first tour, including the rescue of Jessica Lynch. His second Bronze Star was for leading more than seventy combat missions against anti-Iraqi forces.
Major Patrick McGee was awarded the Bronze Star for service in Iraq. During his tour, Major McGee coordinated 2,064 requests for tactical air support. In addition, he coordinated more than 2,500 requests for medical evacuations:
Troops were on the ground fighting the enemy and in some cases there were casualties. Some were in need of an air medical evacuation. McGee oversaw 2,352 of these air evacuations ensuring the Marines were given the proper medical attention in the quickest possible way. He was always doing all of this no matter what time of day these calls came in.
“He was out there at four in the morning and sometimes until five at night,” Huck said. “In this, he was able to give support to everyone who was at Camp Blue Diamond and later at Camp Fallujah.”
U.S. Army Colonel James Coffman Jr. was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his actions during a five-hour gun battle in Iraq. He continued to fight despite being wounded during the engagement:

Coffman, 51, is a senior adviser to Iraqi Special Police Commandos with the Multi-National Security Transition Command—Iraq’s Civilian Police Assistance Training Team. He accompanied a Commando Quick Reaction Force with the 3rd Battalion, 1st Iraqi Special Police Commando Brigade on Nov. 14, 2004 to help a Commando platoon under attack in a Mosul, Iraq police station.


As the QRF approached the station, it was besieged with rocket-propelled grenades, small arms fire and mortar rounds. Coffman and the Commandos fought the terrorists for four hours before help arrived. When the initial firefight killed or seriously wounded all but one of the Commando officers, Coffman rallied the remaining Commandos while trying to radio for assistance, according to his award citation.


“Under heavy fire, he moved from Commando to Commando, looking each in the eye and using hand and arm signals to demonstrate what he wanted done,” the citation said.


When an enemy round shattered his left shooting hand, damaging his M4 rifle in the process, Coffman bandaged it and continued fighting with AK-47 rifles he collected from Commando casualties until each ran out of ammunition. He also passed out ammunition to the uninjured Commandos with the help of the remaining Commando officer; when all that remained were loose rounds, Coffman held magazines between his legs and loaded the rounds with his good hand.


When a second Commando unit arrived four hours after the fight began, Coffman led them to his position and continued to fight, refusing to be evacuated for treatment until the battle was over. Not long after the Commando reinforcements arrived, air support and a Stryker Brigade Quick Reaction Force were on hand to assist to assist in the battle.


Coffman supervised the evacuation of injured Commandos and led another group of Commandos to the police station to make contact with the Iraqi police inside. Once the additional air and ground support elements began attacking buildings the enemy forces were hiding in, Coffman went back to his initial position to check on the injured Commandos and then agreed to be evacuated for treatment. Twenty-five terrorists were killed and dozens injured.

I am often asked why I believe that we will prevail in Iraq, and my answer is always the same. We will win because of the men and women we have over there..

—Bill Crawford lives in San Antonio, Texas. He blogs at All Things Conservative.

Ellie