Task Force Baghdad Readies for Dec. 15 Iraqi Elections
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
BAGHDAD, Dec. 9, 2005 As their second tour in Iraq begins to wind down, soldiers of the 3rd Infantry Division continue to feel good about what they are doing, senior American military officials said today.
Officials speaking on background said the 30,000-soldier Task Force Baghdad - built around the 3rd Infantry Division - is working closely with Iraqi allies to ensure the Dec. 15 national elections go smoothly.
The increasing strength and prowess of Iraqi security forces has given U.S. and coalition officials great confidence that election day will be safe and Iraqis can vote for their permanent democratic government, the officials said.
Task Force Baghdad covers a population of roughly 7 million people. The city is densely populated and diverse. Some 62 percent of the population are Shiia Arabs, 25 percent are Sunni Arabs and 9 percent are Christian. Other religions round out the remaining 4 percent.
While the task force is defending "strategic points" throughout the city, its main tools are offensive operations designed to kill or capture terrorists and foreign fighters and keep "Saddamists," and "Iraqi rejectionists" off balance, officials said.
The 6th Iraqi Army Division is part of Task Force Baghdad. Roughly 17,000 Iraqi soldiers "own" about 40 percent of the Baghdad city battlespace, officials said. The Iraqi division - the first to exercise command and control of a battlespace - has two brigades. The division's 1st Brigade has calmed Haifa Street - once one of the most dangerous streets in Baghdad. Officials said the number of attacks on the street has dropped and the people of Baghdad seem pleased that their own soldiers are taking responsibility for their security.
Coalition troops continue to work with the Iraqi division. Officials said the American troops are available if the Iraqis run into something they cannot handle. "It's an overwatch situation," officials said.
The Iraqi division units are labeled at Level 2 readiness - meaning they are in the lead and are conducting counterinsurgency operations in their battlespace, officials said. The coalition continues to provide mainly logistics support to the units, officials said.
Joining the Iraqi army units are 15,000 members of special police battalions in the city. These units - most resembling Italy's famous Carabinieri - are heavily armed and trained. They operate under military discipline, but are police forces reporting to the Interior Ministry.
About 20,000 regular police also help to provide security in the city.
Officials said the same "ring system" of defense used in past elections will be employed to secure the more than 1,000 polling places in Baghdad. Iraqi police will man the inner ring and actually be in the polling sites. Further out, another ring of Iraqi police will be standing watch. Coalition forces will be still farther out, ready to provide a quick-reaction force if needed. The Iraqis did not need that help in January or during the constitutional referendum in October, officials said.
The coalition presence in Baghdad is the same as it was during the Jan. 30 National Assembly elections, officials said. The "growth factor" is the Iraqi forces, and coalition officials expect the added forces will help ensure safety in the city.
Operations far outside Baghdad and its environs are having a positive effect on the atmosphere in the city, officials said. Marines and soldiers operating in Anbar province have disrupted the route through the Euphrates River valley that terrorists used to transport money, explosives and suicide bombers. Officials said they cannot know for sure, but the actions in the western part of the country seem to have cut the number of attacks in the city.