Coalition Forces Rebuild Iraq on Many Fronts
By Melinda L. Larson
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Sept. 7, 2007 Rebuilding infrastructure, empowering local business leaders, and training Iraqi army forces are pieces of the full-spectrum approach being taken by coalition forces on the ground in Iraq, a U.S. military commander said this week.
“Like most military units in our mission statement, it categorizes our approach as full spectrum, which means that we’re simultaneously developing capabilities of the Iraqi security forces, the local government, the basic services, building relationships with the local populace and tribal leaders,” said Army Col. Michael X. Garrett, commander of 4th Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, Multinational Division Center.
While the rebuilding, empowering and training is going on, Garrett’s unit also fights the enemy on many fronts, he explained in a Sept. 5 conference call with online journalists and “bloggers.”.
“We conduct kinetic operations such as raid, air assaults. We’ve conducted water-borne operations to capture and kill both Sunni and Shiia insurgents and extremists,” Garrett added.
Multinational Division Center forces just completed the 30-day offensive Operation Marne Avalanche to improve security conditions and reduce the influence of insurgents.
“The effect that we had is what was most important. What happened in some of the most dangerous areas that we operate in is that the citizens were emboldened by our actions and began to come forward,” Garrett said.
Citizens and local leaders began to cooperate with coalition forces, and more importantly, they began to contest extremists in their neighborhoods, Garrett said. “They were simply sick of the oppression of not only our operations, but of the operations against them by members of their own communities. We reacted to this by meeting with them,” he added.
The meetings led to handshake agreements which led to groups of "concerned citizens" being formed under contractual agreements. “Now we drive through areas and wave to the local citizens as they are secure in their own neighborhoods and allowing us to make more progress,” Garrett said.
More progress in the neighborhoods means embedded provincial reconstruction teams are making strides at the local level. “They have executed several business training classes in the town halls of many of our communities. They’re working with people to teach them how to manage or to prepare, execute, manage budgets at the provincial level,” Garrett said.
Cradled between the Euphrates River Valley and the Tigris River, Garrett’s battle space is a fertile region. “In this very arid country, the portion that we operate in … looks like it could be somewhere in the Midwest of the United States,” he said.
While the agricultural region enjoys two to three growing seasons a year, distributing harvests has proven difficult. “I think our challenges now are the distribution of those products, because based on security, wherever you are, it may be easier to import some things than it is to move them from one province to another,” he said.
Finally, training the Iraqi army and police to take security into their own hands, to be confident and to succeed are the ultimate goals, Garrett said.
“One of the things that we’re dealing with … is how to allow the Iraqis to do for themselves, and where is that line of failure? Because we don’t want them to fail. But they have to do in order to get better, in order to gain confidence in their own abilities,” Garrett concluded.