U.S.-Iraqi Partnership Proves Potent For Combating Insurgents
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, April 6, 2007 The partnership between Iraqi and U.S. soldiers is helping to tamp down insurgent violence northwest of Baghdad, a senior U.S. military officer assigned in Iraq said today.
“The key to this counterpart relationship is our partnering of one U.S. company to each Iraqi army battalion,” Army Col. Paul E. Funk, commander of the 1st “Iron Horse” Brigade of the 1st Cavalry Division, told Pentagon reporters during a satellite-carried news conference from his headquarters in Iraq.
Assigned to Multinational Division Baghdad, Funk and his 3,800 soldiers have teamed with Iraqi Army troops and police forces since December to conduct security and reconstruction missions within a 900-square-mile area with 2 million, mostly Sunni, inhabitants.
Funk said he increased the U.S.-to-Iraqi troop-advisor ratio from one U.S. advisor to 70 Iraqi soldiers when he arrived, to one U.S. advisor to 14 Iraqis troops. This change is significant, he said, because top-notch U.S. soldiers are helping the Iraqi Army to “develop lasting capabilities in terms of training, leadership and accountability.”
Violence in his area has decreased, Funk said, noting that gangland-type, sectarian killings have dropped from as many as eight a month to one or two. The colonel attributes this reduction to the five U.S.-Iraqi manned joint security stations established across his area that enable U.S. and Iraqi security forces to interface with local residents.
“We can project combat power in just about any place that allows us to really focus our efforts to getting to the local populace,” he said.
This tactic, introduced by Multinational Force Iraq commander Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, is helping “to drive a wedge” between Iraqi citizens and the insurgents, Funk explained. The average Iraqi, he said, is fed up with the insurgents and wants peace and stability.
There’s also “increasing success with eliminating the number of IEDs along the roadways,” Funk said. The increased presence of joint U.S.-Iraqi patrols, he noted, is making it difficult for insurgents to plant improvised explosive devices, also known as roadside bombs.
“A good piece of news is that IEDs are down in my sector about 40 percent,” Funk said. The enemy, he noted, “doesn’t have time to do as thorough a reconnaissance as they used to when they put them in (before).”
But, there’s concern about insurgents movement of personnel, weapons and equipment across his area of operations, Funk acknowledged.
“To eliminate these threats, we are targeting critical leadership nodes and having success destroying the insurgent networks,” the colonel pointed out.
Funk cited Iraqi troops for “doing a fantastic job,” while partnering with his soldiers on a daily basis. The Iraqi soldiers “are a huge part in my fight up here,” he added.
The Iraqi troops put an Iraqi “face” on anti-insurgent operations, the colonel noted, which has proved to be a great asset during security operations and for gaining local residents’ trust and cooperation.
“In many cases it’s their neighborhoods, and they recognize foreigners,” Funk said of the Iraqi soldiers. “And, they understand different dialects of Arabic. So, they are a tremendous resource in terms of intelligence and reconnaissance.”
The Iraqi Army is rapidly coming into its own, Funk said, pointing to the successful Iraqi-led “Operation Decapitated Serpent” completed about two weeks ago, that nabbed more than 18 insurgents and produced three or four enemy weapons caches. U.S. soldiers with 1st Squadron of the 7th Cavalry Regiment, Funk said, provided aviation support for the Iraqi ground troops.
“It was a tremendously well-executed brigade-level operation done by the Iraqis with the assistance of my great troopers,” Funk said.