Commander: Violence in Iraq Stems From Varied Sources
By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Aug. 4, 2006 Violence in Iraq stems from several difference sources, and U.S., coalition and Iraqi forces there often find attacks difficult to classify, a combat commander in Diyala province said today.
“The types of violence we see range everything from improvised explosive devices to assassination to plain out murders, but also some level of kidnapping,” Army Col. Brian D. Jones, commander of 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, said.
Jones explained to Pentagon reporters via a satellite link that colliding interests in Diyala province make it “difficult to classify what's being conducted by insurgents as opposed to what's sectarian.”
Often, on closer investigation, what first appeared to be sectarian violence is criminal activity for financial gain, he said.
The intended targets of attacks have changed since Jones’ unit took control of the area in January. At the beginning of this year, roughly 60 percent of attacks in Diyala province were aimed at coalition forces, Jones said. Now 20 to 25 percent of attacks target military forces, while the rest are aimed at civilian targets.
Numbers of attacks on civilians vary widely from day to day. For example officials reported three civilian deaths in Diyala province last night, but 13 the night before. “We have seen, more or less, a roller coaster in terms of attacks on the civilians over the last month and a half,” he said. “Some of it is certainly tribal, some of it is political, and some, of course, is sectarian. But it's very difficult to separate those, even days after the fact.”
In turn, Jones described a pyramid of intended targets for his forces’ traditional military operations. “At the very top of that pyramid, you've got the foreign fighters and the terrorists,” he said. “In the middle of that pyramid, you have some former regime elements, some (of) what I would term the resistance, some rogue militia. And at the very bottom you have a criminal element.”
Jones said Iraqi forces are continuing to improve at a steady clip, with the country’s army leading the way. The 5th Iraqi Army Division assumed responsibility for operations in the area in a July 3 ceremony. The Iraqi unit’s leaders “understand that a credible Iraqi security force must be nonpartisan and impartial,” Jones said. “And they are striving hard to make it that way.”
Police and border forces are somewhat less prepared to assume security responsibilities throughout the country, Jones said. Officials are working to instill a professional ethic in Iraqi national police forces, and border forces are less well equipped than their army counterparts. But, the colonel added, improvements are continuing, and he’s optimistic that all Iraqi security forces are “continuing to move down the right path.”
Jones’ unit also oversees nontraditional military missions in its assigned area. One recent economic initiative included working with national and local agriculture officials to spray Diyala’s date crop with pesticides to combat the destructive dubas bug. “Iraq dates are the country's second-largest export next to oil, and therefore an important economic stabilizer and job provider,” Jones said. “This is the first time spraying was conducted in three years.”
Jones said U.S. officials have invested more than $21 million in infrastructure programs in Diyala province in a variety of projects the colonel used the acronym WE SHARE ICMO to describe. Those letters stand for: water, electricity, sewage, health, agriculture, roads and bridges, education, irrigation, communications, municipalities, oils and fuel.
The commander lauded U.S. American servicemembers in Iraq as true heroes and patriots. “These young Americans are truly remarkable. They voluntarily left the wealthiest and most advanced nation in the history of the world to serve their country in a dangerous, confusing and extremely demanding area of the world,” he said. “Their dedication to our nation and its values in the face of the challenges that occur routinely in such a combat environment are simply inspirational.”
He said the U.S. military’s role in Iraq today is not one of aggression. “Our role is one of trying to help them sort out their government (and to) provide the blessings and opportunities of democracy.”