Iraqi, U.S. Leaders Assess Security Situation in Mosul
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
MOSUL, Iraq, Jan. 21, 2005 It's the rainy season in Ninewa province, and the mud sticks to your boots the way old ideas stick in your mind.
Iraqi and American trainers work with Iraqi soldiers on
marksmanship skills at the Iraqi 2nd Division's Al Kidni headquarters in Mosul.
Photo by Jim Garamone
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
But rain also washes away the mud, and officials hope the elections Jan. 30 will wash away the old ideas governing this country.
Army Lt. Gen. David Petraeus, commander of the Multinational Security Transition Command Iraq; Iraqi armed forces chief Gen. Babakir; and Iraqi ground forces commander Army Maj. Gen. Abdul Qadr led a trip to Ninewa to get the latest on the security situation for the elections.
More than 20,000 Iraqi and coalition troops are now in Ninewa province, the largest number since the 101st Airborne Division left last year. Most are concentrated in Mosul, Iraq's third-largest city with a population of around 2 million.
As Election Day approaches, military and police officials anticipate an increase in attacks in the region. The trend in the region is up, with an average of more than 100 attacks each week.
Two battalions of American troops have augmented Task Force Olympia in the area, and several battalions of Iraqi army and Iraqi police have moved into and within the region to help provide security for the high-stakes election next week.
And Mosul needs the help, officials said. In November, insurgents leaving Fallujah infiltrated the province. They began a campaign of bombings, killings, kidnappings and intimidation. Religious fundamentalists and former regime die- hards found, at least temporarily, common ground as the campaign continued.
Iraqi police were among the first victims of the insurgents. Coordinated attacks against police stations and an irresolute response from the police resulted in a security meltdown. Some police fought the insurgents, but most deserted their posts. The result: insurgents had almost free rein to intimidate Mosul residents. Almost all election officials in the city quit their posts, and the city was in turmoil.
The Iraqi interim government brought in units, and with units of the 1st Brigade, 25th Infantry Division, imposed some order on the city. But the rebuilding and the electoral process stalled, officials said.
Since December, Iraqi and coalition officials have been working to improve the security situation and regain electoral momentum. They have largely succeeded. While the trend of attacks is up, coalition and Iraqi forces have tamped down the violence. Iraqi officials said the election will happen in Ninewa province. "It won't be what you would get in the United States, but it will happen," said Babakir through an interpreter.
U.S. officials agreed that the process will "not be pretty." Mosul has roughly 1 million eligible voters. As plans stand, they will walk to polling places, where they will go through increasing levels of security checks. At the polling places, which will be under Iraqi control, they will cast their ballots for the members of the 275-member national assembly that will write Iraq's new constitution.
U.S. forces will stand by and act as a quick-reaction force ready to respond if asked. Iraqi officials in the regional Joint Coordination Center in Mosul will monitor the situation. A recent rehearsal allowed officials to identify and correct deficiencies in the plans. "Insh'allah (God willing), we will be ready," said Iraqi Facilities Protection Service Brigadier Moataz, the commander at the JCC.
Babakir also was encouraging. "We have enough troops in the city," he said through an interpreter. In addition to providing site security around polling places, the troops will be stationed at combat outposts ready to move at a moment's notice.
Petraeus said Iraqi units in the city should be up to strength in time for the elections. He said that the Iraqi army units many of which were Iraqi National Guard units until they were absorbed into the army Jan. 6 have been conducting independent operations against the insurgents. "The Iraqis are the ones who are best able to spot the insurgents," he said. "They can spot the different accent. They can make an on-the-spot translation of documents and move quickly, and they are gaining capability every day."
And the increase in Iraqi numbers and capabilities is important to Iraq and the coalition, Petraeus said. "The way to defeat the insurgents is to apply pressure across the board," he said. Applying pressure in only one place allows the insurgents to leave the area and regroup somewhere else, he said. The increased numbers of Iraqi units will allow that constant pressure across the country, he said.
While Iraqi and coalition forces are geared to Jan. 30, they are quick to say they are not ignoring the on-going threat. Insurgents will continue to try and intimidate the populace, they will attempt to assassinate those who win the election, and they will continue to plant improvised explosive devices and vehicle-borne IEDs, officials said. The increased number of Iraqi forces will remain in the city for the foreseeable future, Qadr said. "Until the police service is rebuilt in Mosul, we must stay," he said. "We will remain faithful soldiers of this country."