Operation Together Forward II

Operation Together Forward II (OTF II) was the second phase of the Iraqi-led operation aimed at increasing security and reducing sectarian violence in Baghdad. Like Operation Together Forward I, OTF II involved the Iraqi National Police, the Iraqi Army, and the Iraqi Police. U.S. Soldiers from Multi-National Division-Baghdad (MND-B) again worked alongside the Iraqi forces. Approximately 6,000 Iraqi Security Forces and 5,500 U.S. troops were also sent to Baghdad to provide further support during OTF II.

Under OTF II, Iraqi and Coalition forces planned to move neighborhood by neighborhood, using the “clear, hold, and build” strategy. Under this approach, U.S. and Iraqi forces were to move into neighborhoods, clearing the area of extremist elements, holding cleared areas securely, and building up essential services and infrastructure. Yet, OTF II placed a far greater emphasis on the pace of clearing operations, rather than holding and rebuilding cleared neighborhoods.

Consequently, OTF II failed to curb the growing violence in the capital. Many units of the Iraqi Security Forces involved in the operation were unable to adequately address the security dilemma in Baghdad; others elements even facilitated or perpetrated sectarian violence in the city. Even with the increase in the number of U.S. and Iraqi forces participating in OTF II, MND-B still lacked the force size necessary for operational success. Ultimately, neither the Iraqis nor the Coalition had the numbers or capabilities to hold neighborhoods that had been cleared. As a result, enemy elements were able to reinfiltrate these neighborhoods.

According to the Iraq Study Group Report, “The results of Operation Together Forward II are disheartening. Violence in Baghdad already at high levels jumped more than 43 percent between the summer and October 2006. U.S. forces continue to suffer high casualties. Perpetrators of violence leave neighborhoods in advance of security sweeps, only to filter back later. Iraqi police have been unable or unwilling to stop such infiltration and continuing violence. The Iraqi Army has provided only two out of the six battalions that it promised in August would join American forces in Baghdad. The Iraqi government has rejected sustained security operations in Sadr City” (15).

By the beginning of November 2006, OTF II was considered a failure and had been abandoned.