Troops See Progress, Grow Weary of Negative Reports on War
By Fred W. Baker III
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, July 16, 2007 Troops on the ground in Iraq are not as much tired of the war as they are of those who are not in the fight saying that no progress has been made, a top commander in the region said today. (Video)
The troops there see progress every day, said British Army Lt. Gen. Graeme Lamb, deputy commander of Multinational Force Iraq and senior British representative in Iraq, speaking to Pentagon reporters via satellite.
“They see the water going to people who didn't have it before. They see electricity coming on line. They see stability to the networks. They see all the stuff that no one really portrays,” Lamb said. “While it's so clear to them that we're making progress, it's not reflected by those who are not in the fight, but [who] are sitting back and making judgment.”
Overall, Lamb called the day-to-day work there by coalition forces “hard pounding,” and said that extraordinary things are being accomplished by ordinary people.
“You should be enormously proud of what I see your Marines, your Air Force, your Navy, your Army and the civilians who are in the fight out here, as to what they do, and gladly,” Lamb said.
The British general has served in Iraq since August 2006. This is his second tour to the region. He said, that in the first month of the surge there has been “good progress, steady momentum, hard fighting, [and coalition forces] going places where they haven't been before. I see -- unequivocally -- that this surge is making a difference.”
Lamb compared the complexities of the mission there to playing three-dimensional chess in a dark room – while being shot at.
But, he said, Iraqi forces are making ground in their training and several units own their own battlespace. This is key as coalition forces begin clearing and holding new sections of the capital city.
Only a few years ago, after coalition soldiers would leave cleared areas, insurgents would return and again take control. Under the new strategy, coalition forces now hold sections of the city allowing for local governments to be formed, construction of key infrastructure, training of security forces and the rebuilding of the economy and workforce.
Now, when coalition forces leave, Lamb said, the “vacuum” is not filled with insurgents, but a trained security force and a growing economy.
He said it is a concerted effort on the parts of coalition forces, the local community, Iraqi security forces and the Iraqi government. “The sum of the parts is so much greater than where we were before, and the difference should not be underestimated,” Lamb said.
Already, several Iraqi units are holding their own north in Diyala and Salahuddin and south in Babil and Basra.
Still, most units require U.S. help with logistics, command and control and intelligence, he said.
Iraqi security forces and the Iraqi government are busy weeding out those who are aligned with the insurgency and sectarian violence, especially within the police force, he said. U.S. forces are arresting, and turning over to the Iraqis, any of their security force who are guilty of using their positions to promote sectarian violence, Lamb said.
“We'll take the individuals, arrest them and put them through the Iraqi criminal justice system,” he said.
Already, 11,000 members of the police force have been removed and 4,000 are in the criminal justice system under review.
“I've seen over my time here people … looking to improve and deliver a force that is Iraqi rather than sectarian,” he said.