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ISF making strides in Al Anbar

2 Nov 2005 | Capt. Jeffrey S. Pool

The 2nd Marine Division is progressively receiving the additional combat power that its commanders have requested to conduct the counter-insurgency operations in the Al Anbar province.

The new battalion-sized units flowing into the Western Euphrates River Valley are from the newly trained Iraqi Army. 

This is a significant change compared to the number of available Iraqi Army units when the 2nd Marine Division took over from 1st Marine Division in March of this year.  At that time, only Fallujah and Ramadi had any Iraqi Army or Public Order Brigade presence.

Out west, on the other hand, near the sizeable Iraqi-Syrian border, only a small platoon-size force was participating in operations. 

According to the Division’s Commanding General, things are a lot different today.

“When we first arrived we talked about Iraqi Security Forces in terms of squads and platoons,” said Maj.Gen. Richard A. Huck.  “Now we talk about them in terms of battalions and brigades.”

When the Iraqi Army units arrive at their designated location and marry up with their partnered unit, they are not nearly capable of performing at the same level as the hardened Marine Corps infantry battalions.  Nor is it expected that they ever will be.

“Our goal is not to make Marines out of the Iraqi soldiers,” said Huck.  “They just need to be good enough to defeat the terrorists.”

The Division’s plan is very straightforward: train, integrate and operate with the all of the Iraqi Security Forces which include the Iraqi Army, Iraqi Police, Highway Patrol, Border Defense and Public Order Brigades.

“The Marines and Soldiers assigned to the 2nd Marine Division understand that we won’t be the ones who win this counter-insurgency, it will be the Iraqi soldiers,” Huck continued.  “We do this by partnering our battalions with Iraqi battalions.  This is the way we’re going to win.”

Over the course of the last several months, Marines and Soldiers have conducted operations throughout Al Anbar.  The goal of these operations has primarily been to disrupt insurgent activity and gain control of key cities.  As a result of these recent operations, the Division and Iraqi Army maintain a presence in Haditha, Haqlaniyah, Barwana, Hit, Rutbah, Sa’dah and Eastern Karabilah in addition to Fallujah and Ramadi.

This physical presence denies local insurgents and foreign fighters the ability to carry out their campaign of murder and intimidation against Iraqi citizens.  The Iraqi soldiers also provide language skills and an in-depth understanding of the local culture that far surpasses that of their U.S. counterparts.

“By partnering with Iraqi Security Forces we are gaining a lot of insights previously denied to us,” said Huck.  “We could walk down the same street ten times and not notice anything out of place, but an Iraqi soldier will notice something his first time on the street.  It is not uncommon for them to stop a patrol and say ‘those men over there have Syrian accents’ or ‘that graffiti is anti-government propaganda’.  Having the ISF out with us is truly a force multiplier.”

The Iraqi Security Forces continued expansion throughout Al Anbar brings an entirely new dynamic to the division’s operational capability.  Their increased presence not only improves the security and stability within the province but also lays the foundation for transitioning the battle space from Coalition Forces to an Iraqi units.  Ultimately, their assumption of security responsibilities within the province and the country for that matter will allow for less Coalition Force involvement.  This is but one step toward Iraqi independence.

“We have a plan, and it is working,” said Huck.  “We just have to continue executing that plan.”