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War Blog By: FrontPage Magazine
FrontPageMagazine.com | Wednesday, November 05, 2008


IRAQI FORCES STAND UP, SLOWLY

By Wesley Morgan 

BAGHDAD, IRAQ: As violence erupted across Shia areas of Baghdad last March, Lieutenant Colonel Joseph McLamb told the company commanders in his battalion that they had just one priority: “Do not let the Iraqi Army fail.” Faced with attacks in every area, from the Shula slums to upscale Kadhimiya, McLamb’s soldiers could have pushed the less competent Iraqi forces aside and taken on the fighters of the Mahdi Army themselves. In the colonel’s view, though, ensuring that the Iraqi Army did not appear weak before the local population was the goal of most pressing importance.

The Iraqi Army had a history of failure in Kadhimiya, the heart of the battalion’s zone. In April 2007, Mahdi Army fighters attacked a patrol of American paratroopers near the Kadhimayn mosque. Elements of the Iraqi Army battalion stationed in the area responded, but when the soldiers entered the fight, they did so on the side of the militia.

During the firefight, American paratroopers from the 1st Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment killed both Mahdi fighters and Iraqi soldiers. The incident left American troops distrustful not only of Iraqi National Police and local police units, as is more often the case, but of the Iraqi Army units in the area as well.

In March, though, the Iraqi Army did not fail. Although a nearby National Police unit called the “Justice Battalion” all but collapsed, refusing to fight the Mahdi Army, the army unit in Kadhimiya stood its ground. With American help, the Iraqi troops blocked Mahdi fighters from escaping across the Tigris to safety.

The Iraqi unit, the 3rd Battalion of the 22nd Brigade, was the same battalion that had fired on American troops the previous year. As the situation in northwest Baghdad stabilized, Iraqi Army units took on a more difficult and complex task. The 3-22 shifted to an offensive role in the Hurriya and Shula neighborhoods, bases for the Mahdi Army offshoots that the US military calls “Special Groups.” Their success there was less clear-cut, but in the view of the American officers here, it was success nonetheless.

The 3-22 Iraqi Army battalion’s transformation from a force willing to fight for the Mahdi Army to a force willing to cut off its retreat was slow and difficult, American soldiers in Kadhimiya say. The transformation was due largely to the attention lavished on all three battalions of the 22nd Brigade by both American advisors and American combat troops.

The 1-325 Airborne Infantry was responsible for northwest Baghdad for most of 2007 when the area was at its worst. The 1-325 put much of its resources toward hunting Special Groups leaders in Shula and Hurriya, trying to dismantle the militia network faster than it could kill Americans and Shia Iraqis. The unit had little time and almost no manpower left over for training or “mentoring” the Iraqi battalions in the area. This was a task that was left to a handful of small, under-resourced advisory teams.

The sharp downturn in violence across Baghdad during the fall of 2007 coincided with 1-325’s relief by McLamb’s unit, the 1st Battalion of the 502nd Infantry Regiment. As a result, McLamb says, his battalion was able to focus its manpower less on raids against special groups leaders, and more on working directly with the line companies of the Iraqi Army and National Police. Captain Jeffrey Mackinnon, the lead advisor to 3-22, says that this has allowed the advisor teams to focus on improving the Iraqi battalions at the staff level, a more realistic task for detachments of their size and makeup.

Throughout the winter of 2008, 1-502’s rifle companies paired off with Iraqi battalions and its platoons with Iraqi companies. The US troops patrolled with their counterparts and pushed them to improve their tactics and posture at checkpoints.

The battalion commander of 3-22, known as Colonel Abbas, emphasized the importance of the basic combat training that the advisory teams continued to provide to his troops on a regular basis “It was after these things that I told Colonel McLamb we were ready to fight,” said Abbas. Captain Muhammad Qasim, the assistant operations officer of the battalion, agreed.

Equally important, in the view of Mackinnon, was the reorganization of less reliable units. To him, many of 3-22’s woes stemmed from its recruiting roots. When first raised, Mackinnon said, the battalion was formed largely from the personal security detachments, or PSDs, of two local leaders, both with ties to the Mahdi Army.

“You had one group who were the Baha al-Araji PSD guys, and another who were the Hussein al Sadr PSD guys, so that they didn’t have their loyalties lined up isn’t surprising,” Mackinnon said. Gradually, these contingents were split up and sent to different units, to be replaced by new recruits from other parts of Baghdad and Iraq.

The spring fighting that has since been nicknamed “March Madness” put Iraqi units throughout Kadhimiya, Shula, and Hurriya to the test. In Kadhimiya, an American infantry platoon from Captain Brad Henry’s Delta Company, was ambushed by a large force of Mahdi militiamen.

“It was the exact same plan they used to attack 1-325,” said Captain Elijah Ward, of 1-502’s headquarters, referring to the April 2007 firefight between Mahdi fighters and U.S. paratroopers. As before, 3-22 arrived on the scene quickly – but this time, instead of joining in with the militia, the Iraqi soldiers held them off. Harassed by American attack helicopters, and with their hopes for an easy, symbolic victory over Iraqi government troops dashed, the Mahdi Army’s leaders in Kadhimiya headed north, hoping to escape into the rural areas across the Tigris.

At the bridge they planned to cross, though, the militia leaders were confronted by a detachment of soldiers from 3-22, who held them off until American reinforcements arrived. “It was the first time I’ve seen an Iraqi unit take serious casualties and still hold their ground,” said McLamb, who went with his troops to the bridge. “It was an awesome thing to see. People say the Iraqi soldiers don’t want to fight, but I’ll tell you, these guys fought hard.”

In the days that followed, 3-22’s sister battalion, 2-22, also performed well in the clearance of the Shula neighborhood, an area that the Mahdi Army and special groups had used as a base during their March offensive, said a platoon leader in Bravo Company, the American unit that operated in the neighborhood.

While the Iraqi Army units passed the test, the National Police unit responsible for part of Kadhimiya, the Justice Battalion, did not. Drawn mostly from the Kadhimiya area, the battalion dissolved rather than fight the Mahdi Army.

The unit that deployed early in April to replace it, though, called the “Unity Battalion,” was more in the mold of the Iraqi Army units. “Before, people’s assumption would be that the National Police were complicit,” Ward explained. “But when the Unity Battalion came in from Mahmudiya, they kicked ass. They’ve shown no hesitation in going out and bringing it to JAM (Mahdi Army), and the locals take notice of that.”

Both American and Iraqi officers suggest that for the units here, the spring fighting was a double-edged sword. On the one hand, the fighting interrupted the training schedule that Abbas called so important to the 3-22’s growth. Faced with continuous operations in Hurriya, Shula, and Kadhimiya, none of the Iraqi Army battalions in the area have yet resumed that schedule.

On the other hand, the battalions’ stand against the militia has substantially boosted respect for the Iraqi Army uniform among the local population. In the view of Capt. Muhammad Qasim, a staff officer in the 3-22, this has paid off in tips and intelligence, the key weapons of counterinsurgency.

“Before the fight, no one talked to the Iraqi soldiers,” Qasim said. “Now, seventy-five, eighty percent do, and that is very good.”  Tuesday, November 03, 2008

IMG_1531.jpg

An Iraqi soldier from the 22nd Brigade stands guard in northwestern Baghdad. Photo by Wes Morgan.

www.longwarjournal.org

*

THINGS TO COME

By John Hinderaker

Chuck Schumer defends the "Fairness Doctrine;" he explains that if you can keep pornography off the airwaves, you can dictate the content of political speech:

Schumer appears to make the astonishing claim that if the government can regulate anything, it logically follows that it can regulate everything. Schumer is a dope, but he and his fellow Democrats are probably serious about their threat to drive talk radio off the air. If they follow through, it could trigger one of the great donnybrooks of all time. Tuesday, November 04, 2008

www.powerlineblog.com

MOST REMARKABLE POLITICAL AD EVER?

By John Hinderaker

It's a contender. In California, Proposition 8 is on the ballot. It is a response to a decision of the California Supreme Court creating a right to gay marriage. The proposition, as summarized by the California Attorney General's office, "Changes the California Constitution to eliminate the right of same-sex couples to marry in California" and "Provides that only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California."

This ad is being run by opponents of Proposition 8:

In this election season we've seen a number of over-the-top ads, but this one may take the cake. Tuesday, November 04, 2008

www.powerlineblog.com

END OF THE LINE

By Chip Bok


Political Cartoon by Chip Bok

www.townhall.com/funnies

*

ELECTION THOUGHTS 

By Michael Ledeen

What makes me angriest: that there is no outcry against election fraud; that the media have become pure political instruments; that our “educational system” has produced an ignorant electorate.

Years and years ago, during Watergate, Barbara and I were living in Rome, and we had lots of journalist friends (I was then a correspondent for The New Republic, so…we saw lots of Italian journalists). They were all openly jealous of America, because they saw American journalism as clearly superior to theirs. American journalists reported, while they, the Italians, were doing politics. “We could bring down our entire Political Class,” they would say, “we all have information so devastating that no politician could survive,” but they didn’t publish it, because they didn’t see an acceptable alternative. We would tell them that their job was not to make political decisions, but to report the news, and let the people decide. But they couldn’t; they were doing politics. And we felt superior, because American journalism, we thought, just reported the news and let the people decide.

Well, that’s over and done with now. Never before has the ignorance of the electorate been so intensely cultivated as in this election. We all know that major publications and broadcasters have simply refused to report news, and what they did report was spun politically. And among the stories they are not reporting, is the massive electoral fraud, from the “where is all that money coming from?” to the “how dare state officials refuse to verify the identity of voters?” one, to the refusal to report, day by day, on Joe Biden’s scandalously inept, incompetent, and often meretricious campaign. Instead, they obsess on every real and imagined misstatement by Sarah Palin, who for me has been the most attractive of the four candidates.

An ignorant electorate is a real threat to good government, and the whole point of the First Amendment is to create a wide-open national debate from which the truth might emerge. The current behavior of the media–now totally politicized–makes it very hard to get to the truth. They censor themselves, just as our Italian friends confessed they were doing to themselves thirty years ago.

Rush today played some clips from a conversation about Obama between Charlie Rose and Tom Brokaw. Each said repeatedly “we really don’t know much about him.” Well, duh, whose fault is that, y’all? Yours. You haven’t done your job.

For years now, most thoughtful Americans have known they were being misled by the MSM. But they didn’t know exactly where to go to get the real news. Over time, many of them learned to read blogs, to listen to talk radio, and to read the few good journalists who still believe they should report, and let the people decide. It’s only natural that the Dems should want to shut down these outlets and those reporters, and I think that’s going to be a very big battle in the very near future, whoever wins tomorrow.

It follows from all this that there’s another thing that has my dander flying: the snooty treatment of Palin. It’s as if that old New Yorker cover–the one that shows Manhattan occupying most of the map of the United States, then the Mississippi River and fly-over country in a small strip, then San Francisco and Los Angeles in a larger area–has now become the template for all proper thinkers. I’m sure lots of folks in fly-over country are enraged by this, but many others want to have a seat at the table, want to join the celebrities, want to be thought of as serious thinkers. And so they join the swarm.

American exceptionalism rests upon independent thinking, pride in community and heritage, and disdain for ivory tower intellectuals combined with admiration for self-help and achievement. My greatest fear is that these values are going to be trashed over and over again the next few years, and we will have to fight it very fiercely.

The Ledeen family is now a military family. All three of our children are engaged in the war which to my way of thinking is the single greatest issue for America, but which has virtually vanished from our national debate. There is no escape from this war, there is only victory or defeat. But the Democrats can’t win a national election on that question, and so it has been spiked.

Tough times. Tuesday, November 04, 2008

http://pajamasmedia.com/michaelledeen/2008/11/03/election-thoughts/




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