Ground Truth in Iraq

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We at DefenseTech recognize that the conflict in Iraq is, to say the least, a controversial subject for our readers and we're not endorsing the following view other than to say that it comes from a very reliable source and is at least a small window into the current situation from someone other than a Pentagon appointed spokesman.

No matter how skeptical you are on Americas struggle in Iraq, its at least worth a read to see an under-reported aspect of the ongoing surge and its effect on the insurgency (no matter whos doing the shooting)...

I must apologize for the tardiness of my update. As you may know I have been kept pretty busy since my return from R&R. I was one of the early birds so now most of the team is on R&R along with some who are away on TDY; so the few of us back here have to cover down on multiple areas.

Over the past month we have seen and experienced a lot. As military professionals we are seeing the benefits of the President's surge, our tactical and operational progress over the month has been really impressive. Between U.S. ground forces and the Iraqi Security Forces (Army and National Police) we have been uncovering hundreds of insurgent (Al Qaeda and Jaish al Mahdi -- aka JAM) caches and detecting far more IEDs before they explode. Caches so far this year are over 3,800. I think that is triple last year's.

Al Qaeda has totally lost the support of Iraq's Sunni Arabs. The fanatics over-played their hand when they started murdering popular sheiks, kidnapping tribal women for forced marriages, and even tried outlawing smoking. The locals in Al Anbar Province are taking their communities back and going after the terrorists themselves. Attacks on Coalition Forces out in what once used to be the Wild Wild West are down dramatically; we used to see 50 to 60 attacks a day but now they're down to less than one a day. To the point that the Marine commander out west has asked for permission to lighten his soldiers' and Marines' load by having them only wear the flack jacket/vest without the side plates and upper arm Kevlar.

Up in Diyala the provincial capital is completely different than it was over a month ago. The soldiers of the two Brigade Combat Teams (1st CAV and 2nd ID) have secured the city. The insurgents are now wandering around the countryside -- easier to pick up with infrared/heat sensors on our UAVs and air weapons teams (attack helos). They try to plant IEDs at night thinking they are safe and sound, then out of nowhere they are taken out by a Hellfire missile and it's all caught on tape too. It's our own reality TV show call "IED Planters;" its a great show when one has night duty; dial in the UAV lead, cook some popcorn, grab a soda, sit back, relax and watch the fun -- all live!

The insurgents are still out there, but they are finding it harder and harder to find support. We are no longer playing "whack-a-mole." Since we have a larger number of troops over here we are now able to clear out the insurgents and then hold on to our gains; then turn it over to the Iraqi Security Forces, Army, National Police and local Police.

That is what we did in Baqubah (an Al Qaeda and JAM infested town). Once it was cleared we put a tank, Bradley or Striker on just about every corner and told the people to stay inside after dark. If they were out and about at night -- where they shouldn't be -- they were 'lit up.' The people appreciated it because the insurgent rats' nest was cleared out.

As if that is not enough to demonstrate that we are making serious inroads and a turn for the better, winning the counterinsurgency (COIN) war, we are taking out the insurgents' leaders faster than they can replace them. All over Iraq our Special Forces and Iraqi Special Operation Forces are taking out insurgent cell leaders in surgical strikes and raids (most effective), as are the conventional American and Iraqi units - killing or capturing ringleaders. How are we doing it? We're doing it the old fashion way, through human intelligence (HUMINT). The Iraqi people are turning them in to us and not allowing them any sanctuary -- they are denying them the ability to "swim through the sea of the people." (Mao's old Communist saying). And because our soldiers are out there interacting with the local populace. The people are not afraid to come up to our troops and tell them what is going on in their neighborhood. It's still bad out there, but it is definitely improving.

The first few weeks of July we saw a heavy increase in rocket and mortar attacks. They were up to their same old tricks of firing off a few rounds then scooting -- running off. They also fire from built up housing areas, next to schools and mosques too, because they know that we will not shoot counter battery fire against them for the sake of injuring innocent civilians and causing undue collateral damage. All the while they could care less.

They have been lucky at times and we have suffered some casualties.Fortunately the Iraqi people are getting tired of them and turning on them. We had an Iraqi man show up at one of our local neighborhood security outposts saying that he knew where some 'terrorists' were planning to launch some rockets at the 'CF and IZ' (Coalition Forces and the International Zone). He volunteered to show our troops where they were located. He took a platoon of infantry over to a school yard where six Katyusha rockets were rigged and ready for firing. By the way, the insurgents were still there guarding the site resulting in a pretty good snatch. We tried to give the man reward money for turning the insurgents in, but he refused to take anything. He told our troops "it is my responsibility, you come here to free us and protect us; it is the least thing I can do." Incidentally, most of the rockets and mortar rounds that are being shot at us, or that we are capturing, are made in the good ole Peoples Republic of China. Dji vu, remind you of another foreign insurgent war in Southeast Asia a few years back? This begs the Question -- Are the Chinese really our friends? They claim they don't sell arms and equipment to any country that passes them on.Unfortunately we know they are coming in from Iran and Iran is also training insurgents in their country to use the rockets and mortars. One more reason Joe Lieberman is right on Iran. By the way, old 'Mookie' (Muqtada al-Sadr) has fled back to Iran with his tail between his legs (again) trailed by his senior cronies. Things are just getting too hot for them over here.

The Iraqi forces are increasingly carrying the fight to the insurgent militias. A National Police unit down in An Nasiriyah came under attack by Jaish al Mahdi (JAM) Army elements who are accustomed to moving about freely and intimidating the police. However, the NP unit there supported by a small U.S. advisory team fought off the insurgents. Instead of a cakewalk, the goons hit a wall and were in turn hammered with some heavy air strikes -- Specter (C130 Gunship) laid them to waste. The Iraqi police counter-attacked along with a couple of Iraqi Army battalions and cleared the town of insurgents.

Up north in Mosul, Iraqi Army and National Police units have been sticking it to the enemy through a series of tough combat engagements, and netting som e massive arms caches seized from the insurgents. In Kirkuk a gruesome car bomb went off in town and the Iraqi police reacted quickly and stopped several other car bombs on the outskirts of town from reaching their intended targets.

These recent successes are beginning to show gains on the military aspect of this war. Unfortunately all the military successes are offset by the inaction of the Iraqi Parliament. This is what the press and members of congress who want us out (now) focus on. Creating a stable, functioning and democratic government takes time. Less we forget, it took us eleven years before we had agreed upon and signed the Constitution of the United States. And we had a head start on freedom.

July was a great month for the Iraqi National Soccer team. They played a spectacular game against South Korea in the Semi-finals and defeated them in a penalty kick shoot out. That evening many Iraqis went out and celebrated. Many of the restaurants and shops were open in the market areas. Unfortunately, Al Qaeda terrorists set off two big car bombs near an area where the people were celebrating their team's victory. Everyone knew that it had to be a non-Iraqi insurgent. No Iraqi would conduct such a heinous act in a time of National pride. Fortunately the players were determined to give there best in the final game against none other than Saudi Arabia -- where some of the foreign fighters come from. I watched the final Asian Cup game with the Iraqi officers in their Operations Center and with the interpreters. The Iraqis played their hearts out and dominated the second half, running circles around the Saudis. It was not only clear that they were the better team; they wanted it more than the Saudis. I think winning the Asian Cup gave all Iraqis hope that one day they will all be united and live in peace.

Earlier in the month we lost two more IGFC soldiers to assassinations. One was an intelligence officer, Staff Colonel Jawad, who was one of the original group of officers when the IGFC was established back in 2005. He was killed on his way to work. COL Jawad was very well liked by both the officers and the enlisted. Our nickname for him was Mr. Happy. He spoke pretty good English and always greeted you with a genuine friendly smile and was always in a good mood. The other soldier was a medic with the support battalion, whom I did not know. The reality of their passing was a reminder of the brutality of insurgent warfare and that we all are targets of the insurgents.

(Gouge: NC)

-- Christian

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