Iraqi Units Taking Lead in Election Security
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
BAGHDAD, Dec. 13, 2005 Iraqi security units are taking the lead in preparing for the Dec. 15 national elections.
Army Capt. David Underwood (left) speaks with members of the Iraqi security forces outside a school in East Baghdad. The school will be a polling station for the Dec. 15 election and Underwood and his unit -- 1st Battalion, 9th Field Artillery -- are providing assistance. Photo by Jim Garamone
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
This is the third election this year, and each time the amount of support coalition forces provide has been less, military officials said.
The plan builds on experiences gained in the Jan. 30 National Assembly election and the Oct. 15 constitutional referendum. Iraqi police will provide close-in protection at the polling stations.
Iraqi public order battalions and Iraqi army soldiers will provide the next level of protection. This second ring of police and soldiers will search for suicide bombers and those who want to disrupt the election.
More Iraqi soldiers and coalition forces will be in a third ring of troops. These will provide a quick-reaction force if needed.
But coalition forces are aiding the effort in other ways as well. Soldiers of the 3rd Infantry Division's 1st Battalion, 9th Field Artillery, are a microcosm of the effort. Today, soldiers escorted a wrecker to place Jersey barriers at polling stations.
"The barriers channel the people into and out of the centers," said Army Capt. David Underwood, commander of B Battery, 1st Battalion, 9th Field Artillery.
While at the stations, Underwood also eyed other preparations for the voting. He received short briefings from police commanders on the number of police at the stations, vehicles they have, weapons they have and methods of contacting them. "Each time we have done this, the police have gotten better," Underwood said.
Preparations are ahead of previous elections, he said. For example, in many places concertina wire had already been delivered and emplaced. "We had to deliver it in October, and then it was the last minute," he said.
One polling station commander had even placed the Jersey barriers without calling on the American wrecker. "I have no idea how he did this, but the major in charge got it done," Underwood said. "He also has a full complement (of police) in place."
More supplies remain to be delivered. Wands for searching for explosives and more concertina wire are at the top of the list. The police will conduct sweeps of the polling stations and the areas around them.
In other election security preparations, Iraqi officials have imposed a 10 p.m. curfew beginning tonight until after the election. All vehicular traffic will stop beginning at 6 a.m. Dec. 14, and Iraqi officials have cut off movement between provinces and from neighboring countries.