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Iraqi 'Desert Protectors' Prove Their Worth

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 7, 2005 – Specially recruited and trained Iraqi forces are making their mark in operations against insurgents in Iraq's Anbar province, a senior U.S. military officer said Nov. 6 in Baghdad.

These "Desert Protector" troops operate in western Anbar province alongside more than 2,000 regular Iraqi security forces, U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Don Alston, a Multinational Force Iraq spokesman, told reporters. The protectors are Anbar residents, recruited by the Iraqi government and given weapons and other training that they employ to fight insurgents operating in their backyard, Alston said.

Currently, 29 Desert Protectors are trained, Alston said. "They have already taken part in three operations which have resulted in the detention of individuals who are of significant intelligence value," he said.

Alston cited a recent incident in Anbar in which a Desert Protector assisted U.S. Marines in finding a dwelling that had been used by a suicide bomber before he launched his attack.

"The Desert Protector was quickly mobilized to the area of the attack and began to gather intelligence," Alston said. "In a short amount of time, the house where the suicide bomber had been was identified."

Employing Iraqi forces trained to operate in their home environs is a winning formula, Alston said.

"The Iraqi army has an additional powerful weapon in its arsenal to help defend Iraq from terrorists, foreign fighters and insurgents," the general said.

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