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Iraqi Forces Take Lead in Operation Cobra Strike

American Forces Press Service

FORWARD OPERATING BASE ISKANDARIYAH, Iraq, April 14, 2006 – Iraqi army soldiers are gradually taking the lead in all operations in Haswah and Iskandariyah, stabilizing the northern Babil province, military officials in Iraq reported.

Soldiers from 4th Company, 2nd Battalion, 4th Brigade, 8th Iraqi Army Division, recently conducted Operation Cobra Strike with soldiers from Company B, 2nd Battalion, 8th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division.

"We are increasingly pushing the Iraqi army to the foreground while we stay in the background," said Capt. Colin Brooks, Company B commander.

Cobra Strike was a mission intended to locate the suspected leader and financier of a terrorist cell working in the area. The suspected terrorists were implicated in murders, kidnappings and the emplacement of roadside bombs throughout Haswah and Iskandariyah.

Iraqi leadership planned the scheme of maneuver for the operation. Coalition forces were on hand to advise and to block positions on the outer cordon of the objectives.

"It was good to actually plan an entire mission without the help of others," said Capt. Hazem, the Iraqi company's commander. "Although the Cobras are our brothers, my men needed to do something like this to prove to everyone that we are capable of defending our region."

The Cobra soldiers and their Iraqi counterparts, the Sabers, have conducted combined missions since 2nd Battalion, 8th Infantry Regiment, arrived in theater in early December. This was the first mission in the area solely orchestrated by the Iraqi army.

"It is critical that they are seen as a credible fighting force in the region," said Brooks. "We are approaching the day very soon that they take control of the area's battlespace and have minimal help from coalition forces."

Hazem maintained efficient communications during the operation with his soldiers, who were working at two separate objectives, and with Brooks. The successful planning resulted in the capture of the cell leader. The financier was not at home during the operation.

"Every time we catch an intended target, the confidence increases in my men," Hazem said.

The successes the Iraqi army continues to achieve has resulted in a shift of enemy attacks, now aimed more toward Iraqi security forces rather than coalition forces, Brooks said. It is a testament, he added, that the Iraqi forces pose a viable threat to terrorists.

"Our goal is to work ourselves out of a job in the Haswah and Iskandariyah area," Brooks said. "We are almost there. (The Iraqi soldiers) can see a brighter future, and they are proud to play a role."

"I couldn't be any more proud of the way my men have performed," added Hazem. "Terrorists are not welcome in Iraq. If they want to test us, they will end up in jail like the man we captured this night." (From a Multinational Force Iraq news release.)

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