Enforcing the Law: The Baghdad Security Plan Begins

Executive Summary

  • This Iraq Report describes the first few weeks of the new Baghdad Security Plan (BSP), Operation Enforcing the Law, from February 10 to March 5.
  • The primary mission of Operation Enforcing the Law is to protect the Iraqi population. In addition, the Operation aims to build the capacity of and demonstrate the legitimacy of the Iraqi government.
  • U.S. and Iraqi forces began to flow into the Iraqi capital beginning in early February with the goal of securing the Iraqi population, particularly from sectarian violence.
  • The new counterinsurgency strategy involves troops living in the neighborhoods, interacting with residents, and gaining intelligence about the enemy.
  • Elements of the Jaysh al-Mahdi (JAM) conducted kidnappings and executions within Sadr City and elsewhere in Baghdad throughout 2006.
  • U.S. and Iraqi forces removed extremist elements of JAM during the first few weeks of operations, and drove its leader, Moqtada al Sadr, to leave Iraq for Iran. In contrast, the Government of Iraq prevented U.S. actions inside Sadr City in 2006.
  • Early U.S. and Iraqi efforts decreased the number of extra-judicial killings and recovering large weapons caches.

Topic 1: Enforcing the Law: Mission, Organization, and Operational Concept


  • Under the BSP, “securing the population of Iraq, particularly Baghdad, is now paramount in American strategy.” (2)
  • The U.S. leadership in Baghdad is new. General Petraeus has replaced General Casey as commander of MNF-I; Admiral Fallon has replaced General Abizaid as CENTCOM commander; and Ambassador Crocker has replaced Ambassador Khalilzad (2-3).
  • The new Iraqi command structure includes a “designated …official responsible for operations in Baghdad and for all assets in the capital,” (2) namely, Lieutenant General Aboud Qanbar.
  • The BSP has three objectives: clear, control, and retain neighborhoods in Baghdad (3).
  • Troops have moved from Forward Operating Bases (FOBs) to Joint Security Stations (JSSs) and smaller Combat Outposts (COPs) set up in each district of Baghdad (9-10).
  • The Iraqi Security Forces received greater training, enhanced pay, and fixed deployment periods; proper housing in Baghdad; deployment rotations with U.S. units that ensure combat and peacekeeping experience; partnership with U.S. units (3); and support from the heads of the three primary Shiite political parties (5, 9).

Topic 2: U.S. and Iraqi Force Movement into Baghdad


  • To secure Baghdad, the President authorized five additional brigade combat teams (BCTs) to move into Iraq (4). By June, all additional BCTs will be operational.
  • The tours of some units already on deployment in Iraq have been extended to augment this figure.
  • By the time Operation Enforcing the Law began, only one Army BCT, the 2nd BCT of the 82nd Airborne Division had arrived in Baghdad, bringing an additional 2,700 to 3,000 troops (4).
  • A second BCT, the 4th Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, arrived in Iraq on March 1, 2007.
  • Iraqi Army units also arrived in Baghdad from various parts of the country with 70 percent of their soldiers, most of their deployable strength (5).

Topic 3: Sectarian Violence in Baghdad—the Jaysh al-Mahdi (JAM), Al Qaeda, and Other Extremists


  • Sunni and Shiite armed groups in Baghdad foment sectarian violence. (5).
  • Shiite militias, particularly elements of JAM, perpetrate extra-judicial killings (6).
  • JAM’s Baghdad stronghold is in Sadr City. By January, militias displaced Sunni from neighborhoods east of the Tigris (7).
  • JAM attempted to expand its territorial control westward across the Tigris to the Hurriyah neighborhood (7). JAM death squads have been operating in the southwestern Rashid district of Baghdad (7).
  • As JAM expands, it uses the areas around Sadr City to carry out violent acts, such as executions of civilians (7).

Topic 4: Applying the BSP in Sadr City


  • A week before the start of Operation Enforcing the Law, raids aimed at removing illegal weapons caches and detaining insurgents (10).
  • U.S. and Iraqi troops began clearing operations in Sadr City in early February, following targeted raids in which rogue JAM leaders were systematically removed, killed, or captured. (10).
  • As “Iraqi Police began to man checkpoints in and out of Sadr City without militiamen in uniform,” the Iraqi Army and U.S. troops also arrived on the perimeter of the City and began operations (10).
  • U.S. and Iraqi forces commenced neighborhood patrols of Sadr City and expanded efforts to develop intelligence about insurgents in those areas. Throughout the month, U.S. and Iraqi troops pushed further into Sadr City and planned to construct a JSS there (11-12).
  • Along with “house-to-house operations,” U.S. and Iraqi forces also sought to stem the flow of insurgents and arms into Sadr City via checkpoints (11).

Topic 5: Applying the BSP in Areas West of the Tigris


  • U.S. and Iraqi forces conducted operations west of Sadr City, such as the Karadah district, in order to prevent further violence in other areas of the capital. (11).
  • U.S. and Iraqi troops used “door-to-door visits, patrols, cordon-and-search operations, and targeted raids against suspects” in areas where extremists operated (12).
    • U.S. forces found a large weapons cache in Hurriyah.
    • Commanders met with community leaders in the Hurriyah Neighborhood Advisory Council to discuss local security issues (12).
    • Troops raided the home of a Shiite man who was involved in a kidnapping and torture ring in the Tunis neighborhood (12).
    • Troops found large weapons caches and reduced “high-crime” in the Ghaziliyah neighborhood of western Baghdad by building a Joint Security Station and acting upon information provided by residents. (12).

Possible Implications


  • While the number of extra-judicial killings by the JAM has fallen in the first three weeks of the operation, this may be because many rogue militiamen have “presumably returned to daily life, and are waiting to see the outcome of events” (12-13).
  • Those militiamen who have not hidden their arms may have fled Baghdad to fight in other parts of Iraq, particularly areas south of Baghdad and in Diyala province.
  • Al Qaeda and other Sunni extremist groups have increased the number of vehicle and suicide bombings to derail the BSP, to ignite further sectarian violence, and to undermine the Iraqi and U.S. governments. (13, 15)



  • The Baghdad Security Plan has a new mission, command team, organization, and operational concept, and differs greatly from previous operations in Baghdad.
  • New U.S. and Iraqi forces moved into Baghdad in February and followed the new counterinsurgency strategy.
  • The Iraqi Forces arrived and fought alongside American forces.
  • U.S. and Iraqi Forces curtailed the Jaysh al-Mahdi’s expansion into western Baghdad.
  • U.S. and Iraqi Forces removed high-value militia targets.
  • Extra-judicial killings dropped, perhaps because U.S. activity increased, and perhaps because some militia members left Baghdad.
  • Spectacular attacks by Al Qaeda or Sunni extremist groups have increased attacks to derail U.S. operations in Baghdad.