Multinational Division Baghdad Plans to Extend Reach
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Feb. 13, 2008 Coalition forces in the Iraqi capital are going to extend their reach into neighborhoods, the commander of Multinational Division Baghdad said.
Army Maj. Gen. Jeffery W. Hammond told reporters traveling with Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates on Feb. 11 that coalition forces are going to intensify the tactics that have reduced violence in the city between 70 and 75 percent over the past year.
“We are going to extend our reach,” Hammond said during a briefing at Forward Operating Base Falcon. “I want the conditions to be that there is nowhere in Baghdad that the enemy can hide. We’re not going to give back any terrain.”
The general said the enemy is a thinking enemy, and coalition forces must stay a step ahead tactically.
“We’re going to increase our patrols, we’re going to increase out presence, we’re going to take the joint security stations and the combat outposts bases, and we’re going to put more of them out there,” he said. “I’m going to find the nerves, and we’re going to put ourselves on the nerves.”
Everyone in the division is going to move farther out into the community, including part of the division staff itself, he said. “I’m moving a brigade off a forward operating base, and I’m pushing battalions and companies further than where they are at,” he said. “I’m telling everyone to get out there. The bases will start as patrol bases, then move into a combat outpost, then a (joint security station).”
Hammonds said he wants to add at least 16 joint security stations to the 39 now in existence.
“It’s an adapting enemy. He’s already shown that,” the general said. “And I’ve got to adapt as well. That’s why I talk about readjusting the way I look here -- extending my reach, placing him off balance and being unpredictable. So, just as he adapts, I must adapt as well.”
The general said he wants to remove the predictability that comes with being in one place too long. “And I’m going to do that without giving back anything,” he said.
Part of the strategy is to do more to develop the Iraqi police. “There’s been a lot of success in that, but it’s my intention to expand that and accelerate it even further,” he said.
The division is working with the Iraqi Interior Ministry to take the Sons of Iraq -- the new name of concerned local citizens groups that help with security efforts -- and train them to become beat policemen.
The general said he plans to expand tactical overwatch of the neighborhoods to provide support for the Sons of Iraq. The group is constantly under attack from al Qaeda in Iraq and other extremist groups. He also wants to expand control into districts north of Baghdad city that are part of the province, he added.
Hammond said incidents of violence in Baghdad are down significantly over the past year. The coalition and Iraqi tactics, a cease-fire order from Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr to the militia he controls, and the growing influence of the Sons of Iraq are the reasons for the drop, he said.
Even with the decrease in attacks, al Qaeda in Iraq remains the most significant threat to stability in the city, the general said.
“We cannot allow for an al Qaeda resurgence here in Baghdad,” he said. “They continue to try to attack our Sons of Iraq, and we just can’t allow any resumption of the cycle of violence by al Qaeda.”
The primary threat to the coalition is the Iranian-trained and funded Shiite “special groups.” The armor-piercing explosively formed projectile is their signature attack, he said.
Hammond said his assessment is that 70 percent of Baghdad is under control, with another 11 percent coming under control. Sadr City -- a predominantly Shiite section on the eastern side of Baghdad -- is the largest area not under effective control and continues to be an area of concern, he said.