Thursday, June 19, 2008

Good News from Iraq: 19 Jun 2008

From MNF-I, Iraqi Army, Police Conduct First All-ISF Search Mission.

FORWARD OPERATING BASE LOYALTY — For Iraqi national police officers and Iraqi army soldiers, conducting cordon and search missions is nothing new. When it comes to planning, coordinating and conducting such an operation without U.S. Soldiers leading the way however, it is history in the making.

And so it was June 10, when 10 companies of national policemen and Iraqi army soldiers conducted a combined search for militants and their weapons in the Beladiyat area of eastern Baghdad. Policemen from 1st and 2nd National Police Divisions and soldiers from 9th Iraqi army division confiscated scores of weapons and detained several suspects. Additionally, Iraqi police officers performed vehicle inspections and tag verifications to support the operation in Muhalla 740.

“This was the first Iraqi security forces-led joint operation in 9 Nissan that was fully planned and executed by the national police,” explained Maj. Chris Desasso, a Springfield, Mass. Native, who serves as team chief of 8th Brigade, 2nd Division National Police Transition Team. “Brig. Gen. Ali requested the task organization (units and troop strengths) and Maj. Gen. Abud approved it. (For us), this is tactical over watch in action.”

The operation netted 62 AK-47 rifles, six Simonov rifles, four pistols and two artillery rounds rigged to become improvised explosive devices. National Policemen detained 23 suspects, one of whom is a militant the Government of Iraq wanted for “crimes against the Iraqi people,” to include emplacing roadside bombs, murdering innocent Iraqis and conducting rocket and mortar attacks, explained Sgt. 1st Class John Kell, a Montgomery, Texas, native.

“This was (conducted) all on their own. No coalition forces found these items or did any searches,” emphasized Kell, the operations non-commissioned officer for 8th Bde., 2nd Div., NPTT, who claims Lima, Ohio, as home. “It was all Iraqi security forces, (and) it was very impressive.”

Kell explained the operation was “from beginning to end, absolutely” an all Iraqi security forces mission with no directions or directives from the Soldiers of 2nd Battalion, 30th Infantry Regiment or 4th Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light), Multi-National Division – Baghdad. Individual national police battalions have entered muhallas to conduct limited searches before the history making operation but never for a joint operation without U.S. forces leading the way, he said.

The cordon and search mission was based solely on intelligence Iraqi security forces officials collected, said Capt. Bryce Halverson, an intelligence trainer from Hartselle, Ala. assigned to the 8th Bde., 2nd Div. NPTT. The national police developed a list of targets they wanted to detain, and they successfully completed that mission. Two of the targeted and captured militants were responsible for attacks on an Iraqi Army checkpoint resulting in five IA soldier deaths during a recent uprising.

“When they are able to put together their own target packets and their own target lists and go out and successfully capture these individuals, which in turn leads to more individuals, I think success breeds success,” commented Halverson. “They will continue to work together.

“I think it went very well. It’s the first time (Iraqi national police) have gone on their own and put together a joint mission with the Iraqi army.”

Iraqi security forces are definitely on the right path for continued success, said Kell. He cited recent successful missions in Basra, Sadr City and numerous on going missions in 9 Nissan.

“For this one to be a totally independent mission, without any help from us whatsoever, is pretty impressive. I think if they keep going on this patch, there will be less need for coalition forces to back them up,” commented Kell. “It’s going to boost the confidence in the people and the Iraqi government.

“This is the endstate (end result), which we are here (to accomplish) as transition teams (and) trainers: … to train them to be able to do what they have to do so they can do it all on their own.”

Halverson said he also feels Iraqi citizens have increased confidence in Iraqi security forces when they see the forces taking the lead or conducting operations on their own.

“When we go out with the national police and they conduct business like this, the people see Iraqi security forces out conducting these missions, in the lead, protecting them, taking the criminal elements off the streets, getting the weapons and improvised explosive devices off the street,” said Halverson. It does nothing but boost the confidence of the local people in their own security forces.

“Sure, there are small elements of American transition teams out there, but they are there to advise their counterparts. They are not conducting searches or detentions. They are almost in a tactical over watch advising.”

Both Halverson and Kell were deployed in Iraq during 2003 and 2004. The Iraqi national policemen and Iraqi army soldiers have a greater sense of pride now than they did then, said Kell. Seeing INPs continue to do their jobs even though their families have been threatened, or even killed in some cases, greatly impresses him.

“These guys, with very little pay, very little benefits, are still out there doing their job – and I’m pretty proud of that,” said Kell. “To see it now, it gives me hope that some day, we can possibly all go home, and Iraq can defend itself and take care of its own people."