Multi­na­tion­al Divi­sion Bagh­dad Plans to Extend Reach

Multi­na­tion­al Divi­sion Bagh­dad Plans to Extend Reach By Jim Gara­mone
Amer­i­can Forces Press Ser­vice

Coali­tion forces in the Iraqi cap­i­tal are going to extend their reach into neigh­bor­hoods, the com­man­der of Multi­na­tion­al Divi­sion Bagh­dad said.

Army Maj. Gen. Jef­fery W. Ham­mond told reporters trav­el­ing with Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates on Feb. 11 that coali­tion forces are going to inten­si­fy the tac­tics that have reduced vio­lence in the city between 70 and 75 per­cent over the past year.

“We are going to extend our reach,” Ham­mond said dur­ing a brief­ing at For­ward Oper­at­ing Base Fal­con. “I want the con­di­tions to be that there is nowhere in Bagh­dad that the ene­my can hide. We’re not going to give back any ter­rain.”

The gen­er­al said the ene­my is a think­ing ene­my, and coali­tion forces must stay a step ahead tac­ti­cal­ly.

“We’re going to increase our patrols, we’re going to increase out pres­ence, we’re going to take the joint secu­ri­ty sta­tions and the com­bat out­posts bases, and we’re going to put more of them out there,” he said. “I’m going to find the nerves, and we’re going to put our­selves on the nerves.”

Every­one in the divi­sion is going to move far­ther out into the com­mu­ni­ty, includ­ing part of the divi­sion staff itself, he said. “I’m mov­ing a brigade off a for­ward oper­at­ing base, and I’m push­ing bat­tal­ions and com­pa­nies fur­ther than where they are at,” he said. “I’m telling every­one to get out there. The bases will start as patrol bases, then move into a com­bat out­post, then a (joint secu­ri­ty sta­tion).”

Ham­monds said he wants to add at least 16 joint secu­ri­ty sta­tions to the 39 now in exis­tence.

“It’s an adapt­ing ene­my. He’s already shown that,” the gen­er­al said. “And I’ve got to adapt as well. That’s why I talk about read­just­ing the way I look here — extend­ing my reach, plac­ing him off bal­ance and being unpre­dictable. So, just as he adapts, I must adapt as well.”

The gen­er­al said he wants to remove the pre­dictabil­i­ty that comes with being in one place too long. “And I’m going to do that with­out giv­ing back any­thing,” he said.

Part of the strat­e­gy is to do more to devel­op the Iraqi police. “There’s been a lot of suc­cess in that, but it’s my inten­tion to expand that and accel­er­ate it even fur­ther,” he said.

The divi­sion is work­ing with the Iraqi Inte­ri­or Min­istry to take the Sons of Iraq — the new name of con­cerned local cit­i­zens groups that help with secu­ri­ty efforts — and train them to become beat police­men.

The gen­er­al said he plans to expand tac­ti­cal over­watch of the neigh­bor­hoods to pro­vide sup­port for the Sons of Iraq. The group is con­stant­ly under attack from al Qae­da in Iraq and oth­er extrem­ist groups. He also wants to expand con­trol into dis­tricts north of Bagh­dad city that are part of the province, he added.

Ham­mond said inci­dents of vio­lence in Bagh­dad are down sig­nif­i­cant­ly over the past year. The coali­tion and Iraqi tac­tics, a cease-fire order from Shi­ite cler­ic Muq­ta­da al-Sadr to the mili­tia he con­trols, and the grow­ing influ­ence of the Sons of Iraq are the rea­sons for the drop, he said.

Even with the decrease in attacks, al Qae­da in Iraq remains the most sig­nif­i­cant threat to sta­bil­i­ty in the city, the gen­er­al said.

“We can­not allow for an al Qae­da resur­gence here in Bagh­dad,” he said. “They con­tin­ue to try to attack our Sons of Iraq, and we just can’t allow any resump­tion of the cycle of vio­lence by al Qae­da.”

The pri­ma­ry threat to the coali­tion is the Iran­ian-trained and fund­ed Shi­ite “spe­cial groups.” The armor-pierc­ing explo­sive­ly formed pro­jec­tile is their sig­na­ture attack, he said.

Ham­mond said his assess­ment is that 70 per­cent of Bagh­dad is under con­trol, with anoth­er 11 per­cent com­ing under con­trol. Sadr City — a pre­dom­i­nant­ly Shi­ite sec­tion on the east­ern side of Bagh­dad — is the largest area not under effec­tive con­trol and con­tin­ues to be an area of con­cern, he said.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)