Baghdad Security Plan Can Work, Commander Says
By Sgt. Sara Wood, USA
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Feb. 16, 2007 The new security plan being implemented in Baghdad will be successful if the United States remains dedicated to the mission and Iraqis commit to resolving their differences, the U.S. commander in charge of forces in the city said today.
The Iraqi government has started sending additional forces to Baghdad to partner with U.S. forces in the mission to secure the population and enable the government to function more effectively, Army Maj. Gen. Joseph Fil, commander of Multinational Division Baghdad, told Pentagon reporters in a news conference via satellite.
About 13,000 Iraqi soldiers and 20,000 Iraqi national police are in Baghdad, along with more than 35,000 U.S. troops, Fil said. He noted that as the numbers of Iraqi forces go up, their quality also is increasing.
“They’re much more capable; they’re much more committed; and they are much better led,” he said. “I’ve been very impressed with their operations so far, and they’ve actually been leading several of the operations we’ve conducted recently.”
Fil described the mission in Baghdad as “clear, control and retain.” These new terms appear in the revised doctrine to replace “clear, hold and build.” The major difference in the two strategies is that the pace of operations is no longer determined by how quickly U.S. and Iraqi forces can clear neighborhoods of terrorists, but by how quickly they can generate forces to control the areas after they have been cleared, he said.
The “clear” phase of the mission is essentially the same as under the old doctrine: Iraqi and U.S. forces move into neighborhoods and clear out extremist elements. In the “control” phase, the combined forces maintain a full-time presence on the streets, Fil explained. The forces will man combined security stations, which are being built all over the city, and will work to establish conditions that allow Iraqi forces to take over operations completely.
The “retain” phase comes when Iraqi forces are responsible for day-to-day security operations and coalition forces can move out of the neighborhoods and into areas where they can respond if assistance is needed.
During these three phases, efforts will continue to stimulate local economies by creating employment opportunities, initiating reconstruction projects and improving infrastructure, Fil said. These efforts will be spearheaded by neighborhood and district advisory councils and the Iraqi national government.
“We’ll know when we’re succeeding when the levels of violence are reduced,” Fil said. “Some areas of the city will see rapid improvement, while others will take some time to make the same levels of progress.”
Levels of violence have gone down in Baghdad since this new plan was implemented, Fil said. He attributed this partly to the increase size and capability of security forces and ongoing operations, but acknowledged that many insurgents are lying low to observe the new tactics.
“We believe they’ll wait as long as they think it’s going to take for them to be effective when they come back,” he said. “We’re fully expecting that they will come back, that there will be some very difficult days ahead.”
U.S. forces in Baghdad are committed to preparing Iraqi forces for that resurgence and setting conditions for their success and the success of the Iraqi government, Fil said. “We are here for the duration,” he said. “The Iraqi people have not given up their hope for a prosperous and peaceful Iraq, and we should not give up on them. … This is an extremely complex and difficult mission, but together we are up to the task.”
Four more Iraqi battalions are on the way to Baghdad, Fil said. These new battalions, which are fully trained and equipped, partnered with another U.S. brigade, will greatly contribute to the mission, he said.
“I’m absolutely convinced that although the mission is tough, make no mistake, and there are some very rough days ahead -- by the way, those rough days are going to be for the bad guys -- that we’ll have the strength that we need to be successful in this and to provide the security that’s required across the city,” he said.
Fil also stressed the importance of perseverance in the mission in Iraq. The extremists, who he described as having “a thirst for blood like I have never seen anywhere before,” do want to spread their violence beyond Iraq, he said. He pledged that his command will redouble its efforts and do everything it can to make the security plan succeed and end the influence of the terrorists.
“While there are certainly challenges here, this plan can work,” he said. “Iraq can have peace. It will work if our country remains dedicated to this mission and the Iraqis place their nation above the personal interests that have so divided them.