From 'New Way Forward' to New Commander
On February 10, 2007, when General David Petraeus replaced General George Casey as overall U.S. commander in Iraq, it signified a change in focus from training Iraqi forces and transferring responsibility to more traditional counterinsurgency operations. Operations in Iraq prior to this shift in leadership and did however, establish preconditions for the Baghdad Security Plan’s potential success. Reviewing engagements that occurred between November 2006 and February 2007 highlight the enemy’s methods of operation and sophistication. Understanding these interactions between coalition and enemy forces places the Baghdad Security Plan in context and provides insights that may be helpful in directing future operations.
Topic 1: Before the Baghdad Security Plan: MNF-I Operations and Intent
- Prior to 10 February 2007, General George Casey, the commander of Multi-National Force-Iraq (MNF-I) focused primarily on building, training, and supporting the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF). (p. 3)
- Operations in and around Baghdad aimed to clear out insurgent strongholds and turn them over to the ISF in addition to disrupting insurgent networks used to move weapons and fighters through the battle space. (p.3)
- Many MNF-I operations in January 2007 followed a cordon and search pattern in which forces spent several days controlling a particular location to destroy enemy sites as well as seize people and information. (p. 4)
- The purpose of most missions during January 2007was to establish successful preconditions for the Baghdad Security Plan. (p. 4)
- The goal of each individual raid was to disrupt insurgent operations. The collective purpose of operations during this period was to leave the ISF able to secure Iraq’s streets, borders, and citizenry without Coalition assistance. (p. 3&4)
Topic 2: Balad Ruz: Islamic Radical Terrorists Spark Sectarian Violence
- Shi'a and Sunni lived peacefully together in Balad Ruz until Fall 2006.
- Al-Qaeda-linked terrorism sparked sectarian violence in Balad Ruz. (p. 5)
- Terrorists kidnapped and executed the males from many Shi'a families. (p. 5)
- Balad Ruz is a town between Baqubah, an al-Qaeda stronghold, and the Iranian border.(p. 5)
- The Wahabist terrorists in Balad Ruz frequently attacked the town’s citizens, Iraqi forces, and coalition forces. (p. 5)
- Terrorists coerced Shiites to flee Balad Ruz and its rural environs, thus shifting the population from a Shiite majority to a Sunni majority. (p.5)
- Terrorists operating near Balad Ruz were, well-equipped, well-trained, and well-organized since November 2006. (p. 5)
- The enemy did not behave like most insurgent groups. Rather than detonating weapons remotely and fleeing, the terrorists held their ground and fought for four days. (p. 5)
Topic 3: U.S. Operations Clear al-Qaeda Training Camp and Safe Haven
- 3BCT, 1st Cavalry Division conducted a ten-day operation, Operation Turki Bowl, to clear al-Qaeda-linked extremists from their training base in Turki Village, south of Balad Ruz and northeast of Baghdad, on 4 January 2007.
- U.S. Forces killed or captured 100 enemy fighters.
- Following Operation Turki Bowl, coalition forces discovered 25 weapons caches and discovered that the terrorists in Balad Ruz were part of a network that reached as far west as Baqubah (p. 6)
- Missions like Operation Turki Bowl eliminated weapons caches thus diminishing the number of resources available for enemy attempts to defeat the Baghdad Security Plan. (p. 7)
Topic 4: Al-Qaeda on Baghdad’s Haifa Street
- The battles of Haifa Street illustrate the problems of intermittent patrolling from Forward Operating Bases characteristic of the U.S. strategy in 2006.
- Al-Qaeda-linked terrorists, including foreign fighters, occupied Baghdad’s highrises along Haifa Street. Haifa Street is important terrain that runs along the Tigris River near the Green Zone.
- Iraqi Forces had responsibility for maintaining security in this difficult area before the Baghdad Security Plan began. U.S. forces patrolled only occasionally.
- U.S. forces conducted Operation Arrowhead Strike III on 3 January 2007 to eliminate the enemy from Haifa Street. (p. 8)
- By 23 January 2007, shortly after Operation Arrowhead Strike III, insurgents managed to re-infiltrate the area despite ISF presence and patrols conducted by the 1st Cavalry Division. (p. 9).
- U.S. forces fought another battle to expel them. (p. 9&10).
Topic 5: Baghdad Security Plan: Strategic Importance
- Continuous violence in Iraq undermines the confidence its citizens have in the security situation and the political process. Baghdad and its environs serve as a conduit through which terrorists insurgents move forces and interact to perpetuate this violence. (p. 6,12,&13)
- An insurgent network links weapons and fighters in Baghdad and Falluja. (p. 11)
- Sunni insurgents use the areas surrounding Baghdad as safe-havens for manufacturing and stockpiling the car bombs and explosives that al-Qaeda terrorists use in central Baghdad. (p.11)
- Al-Qaeda terrorists and other insurgent groups established a safe-haven in Mahmudiyah, a town less than 15 miles south of Baghdad. A U.S. Forwarding Operating Base restored relative security to the area and reduce the influence of these groups. (p. 12)
- There are numerous enemies present in Iraq: al-Qaeda, Ansar-al-Islam, Sunni extremists, the Badr Corps, the Jaysh al-Mahdi, and Shi'a militias. Insecurity in Baghdad facilitates interactions between these entities and must be addressed in order to meet stated goals of stabilizing the country, building capacity within the ISF, and furthering the political process. (p. 13&15)
- Targeted raids and strikes coupled with an area security plan may defeat the insurgency by eliminating insurgent strongholds and preventing the enemy from continuously reclaiming territory, as on Haifa Street. (p. 15)
- Eliminating organized resistance in an assigned area (clearing) and preventing the enemy’s use of an area through occupation (controlling) will take time and physical presence.
- Because enemy groups in Iraq are so intertwined, fighting sectarian violence and al-Qaeda operations in tandem is a necessity.
- Securing Baghdad requires military forces to engage outside of Baghdad.
U.S. and ISF forces currently face a heterogeneous mixture of sophisticated enemy groups. Interactions among these groups continue a cycle of violence detrimental to capacity building and political progress in Iraq. Past attempts to defeat these enemies using targeted raids and intermittent patrols have not resulted in increased security and stability. The Baghdad Security Plan, Operation Enforcing the Law will provide the area security element necessary to anchor future missions and, possibly, defeat the insurgency. Ultimate success will, however, depend on time, physical presence, and a simultaneous effort to fight al-Qaeda and the sectarian violence it causes.