ISW Interview with COL Wayne Grigsby, Commander, 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, FOB Hammer, Iraq

As part of a series of interviews with Brigade and Division-level commanders in Iraq,  I spoke today with COL Wayne Grigsby, commander of the 3rd HBCT, 3rd Infantry Division (Sledgehammer Brigade) about the clearing of the Mad’ain Qadaa and the continuing fight against both Sunni and Shi'a extremists. You can access the audio and the transcript below.




Transcript of Interview with COL Wayne Grigsby 7 December 2007


Col. Wayne Grigsby
Kim Kagan


Kimberly Kagan: Hello, Col. Grigsby, this is Kim Kagan from the Institute for the Study of War.


Col. Wayne Grigsby: Yes, ma’am. How are you doing? Good to hear you again.


Kagan: It’s good to talk with you. Thank you so much for joining us today, to tell to us about the developments in Sledgehammer’s area of operation.


Grigsby: Ok, ma’am.


Kagan: I am really pleased to have you today and to talk with you about the changes that you’ve seen in, in the area of 3rd Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division, since you arrived as part of the surge early in the spring. Can you begin by telling us what the mission was when you arrived in the spring?


Grigsby: Yes ma’am. Our mission was to interdict accelerants, from moving freely in the area of Operation Hammer, and from entering Baghdad from the east. And what we figured out, what we figured out the determination of accelerants. Accelerants by the Webster’s Dictionary is a good definition; but the way we determine it now, it’s really Sunni extremists, Shi’a extremists, and Persian influence, and all the weapons systems and everything, and bombs, and explosives that they use, that brings harm to the good people of Iraq and Coalition Forces.


Kagan: And can you tell me a bit more about the enemy situation in 3-3’s area when you arrived. In fact, can you begin by describing the area of operation that you work in?


Grigsby: Yes, ma’am. Right now, and back in 7 April, we came out here and General Odierno put us in the exact right location, being the third brigade of the surge. They put us on the eastern portion, eastern side of Baghdad, across the Diyala and Tigris Rivers, in a place called the Mad’ain Qadaa. Mad’ain Qadaa is about the size of the Washington D.C. Beltway; and it has about 1.2 million people in there. About 70 percent of them are Shi’a, and 30 percent of them are Sunni, that live within the Mad’ain Qadaa. And the population centers that you have in the Mad’ain Qadaa is Nahrawan in the north, which the majority of it is Shi’a and it makes up the Nahrawan nahia. Then, as you go down to Jisr Diyala, which a majority of that is Shi’a, the town of Jisr Diyala; then as you go down to Salman Pak, down on Route Wild, with a majority of that town is Sunni, and then across on Route Detroit and al-Wehda, a majority of that town is Shi’a. So you
can see we have a mix of Sunni and Shi’a, the great people of Iraq, live in the Mad’ain Qadaa; like I said, 1.2 million. And the majority of the Qadaa, as you know, is agrarian, so its farm. So water is probably the most important resource for these people, and it continues to be. Now, as far as the enemy is concerned, before we went out here, we only had maybe one or two companies, that every other day would come out the Mad’ain Qadaa and they lived in Rustamiyah, which is west of the Tigris River and they came across the Rusty Bridge. And they would come across and then all the extremists would get on their cell phones and say here come the good guys, drop your stuff and wave, and be nice. That no longer happens here in the Mad’ain Qadaa. As of April 7th, when we came out and planted our colors at FOB Hammer, and now we live out in six different patrol bases; about 1,000 soldiers live out with the people in six different patrol bases. And that’s done a lot of things. The first thing it’s done is that it proved to the good
citizens of the Mad’ain Qadaa that we are going to stay, and that we are here to help. And it also scared the crap out of the extremists because we are living right there with them as well. And we can jump out any time and kill or capture them. And we don’t drive to work in AO Hammer; we don’t commute; we walk to work, because we’re out there with the six patrol bases. Now, as the threat goes, again, before we came out here the Sunni extremists, which a majority of their areas, ma’am, is down the Tigris River, on the east and west side of the Tigris River, down to Salman Pak, you know you’ve got Arab Jabour on the west side of the river where 2-3 is; then you have 3-3, and the majority of the Sunnis are on the eastern side of the Tigris River, around Salman Pak. And then as you go down Salman Pak, you go down to places called Durai’ya, Qanas, and al-Laj, down there in what we call the fish bowl, a majority of that is Sunni, Sunni extremists, excuse me. And then the rest, all the way up to my northern border, and there you have your Shi’a extremists, which you have some Shi’a extremists in Wehda, some Shi’a
extremists within Jisr Diyala, and Shi’a extremists within Nahrawan. So those two are still there.

And then, we still see signs of Persian influence, as you know, with the EFPs, the rockets, and the RPG-7s. We just found an RPG-7 about two or three days ago. Now, because of all the operations that we’ve conducted, and we’ve just finished with an operation called Marne Anvil. And most recently, we just got our 1-10 Field Artillery back from conducting security operations in Bucca, we established within, about 40 days ago, we started Marne Anvil, and it’s ended up with a patrol base sitting in Nahrawan, Patrol Base Salie, sitting right in the middle of Nahrawan, collocated with the IP station and a JSS. And prior to that, we killed or captured six to seven of the Shi’a extremists that were basically the bullies of the town, and now we’re starting to control Nahrawan in the north as well. So that’s kind of where we stand right now, on both what our area of operation looks like, what it started out and what it looks like now, and then what the threat looks
like as well.


Kagan: Can you describe a little bit how the enemy was moving through your area when you arrived? Were the problems the population centers themselves, or was the problem an enemy transiting through from one place to another, throughout your area of operations.


Grigsby: Yes, it was both. I would tell you that it was both, that out in our area of operations, and what I truly believe, is that it was a fight of who was going to provide the essential services to the people. And so, because perhaps some of the Sunni extremists and Shi’a extremists were performing a bit better than the local government was within the Mad’ain Qadaa, the people, the extremists were able to hide within the population, because they were showing or providing the essential services. And then, because of the al-Kut highway, al-Kut highway which we call ASR Detroit, that goes all the way to Iran, that was a real big artery that could feed right in across the Jisr Diyala, Rustamiyah Bridge, and allow for the Persian influence—EFPs, rockets, RPG-7s—to be smuggled into Baghdad. And I think that’s the real reason why General Odierno put us here, being the third brigade of the surge. He saw that the eastern portion, across the river of Baghdad, there was nobody over there checking ID cards, no one’s fault, he just didn’t have the forces. Well, when he got the great Hammer Brigade, and he even took a battalion from us, initially two battalions from us, we got one back, we’re still short one battalion. He put us at the front door of Baghdad, to check ID cards. And we have disrupted that capability and we’re starting to control certain population centers even more because of the increase of the concerned citizens groups, and everything that is coming together to allow us to continue to get at the enemy. And also, just one other piece, ma’am, along the Tigris River, with the Sunni piece, and I think I mentioned to you this one time before. I have a pretty good relationship with the Mad’ain Qadaa emir. He has lived in the Mad’ain his entire life. And I asked him, “Hey, on the Tigris and Diyala
Rivers, is there much fishing going an around there, because we see a lot of boats.” And he goes, “Hey, since I’ve been here, no one fishes in that river. If they’re in boats, its Sunni extremists smuggling stuff in.” So we’ve destroyed up to 160 boats, up to this point and we’ve really paralyzed their capability, the Sunni extremists’ capability to continue to resupply and move accelerants or explosives back and forth across the river.
Kagan: When you talk about these enemy groups—Sunni extremists, Shi’a extremists, and Persianinfluenced groups—moving into Baghdad from the eastern portion of your area, what kinds of activities were they undertaking when you arrived in theater?
Grigsby: Well, the only thing we can say, all I can talk about was in my battle space. And when I leave here this time, it will be 37 months that I’ve been; so I may know a little bit about what I am talking about. So, within AO Hammer, because there was no one out here and then we immediately came out here and then spread out, the extremists they won’t vote, they took maybe three to four weeks to realize a. are we staying, and b. are we going to interrupt their capability to do what they wanted to do. And during that point of time, we didn’t see much activity. But it did start to increase about a month of getting here, and they started taking us on. And they started taking us on in areas where we were disrupting their capability to move stuff. (I.e. ASR Detroit, i.e. Route Wild, i.e. crossing points on the Tigris River). And the way they would try to do that, is they would use rockets against us; they would use EFPs, which is the Shi’a extremist threat; and
they would use deep-buried IEDs, which is the Sunni extremist threat. And those are things that they would use against us. And back then, as you remember, attacks in Baghdad were very, very high. Now, after eight months, this morning, I think, the number of attacks in Baghdad were eight. The number of attacks in our area of operation, for all of MND-Center, was like six. So we’ve had an impact, and I think what, the way they tried to get at us, was were we were interrupting or interdicting their capability to resupply stuff into Baghdad is where they took us on. And of course, when they take us on, we get the best of them anyways. And now that we have been here eight or nine months, and you understand counterinsurgency, it’s all about human beings and relationships, we have now built strong relationships with sheikhs, tribal leaders, and the government. And now they are trusting us more, and with this outstanding concerned citizens group, we are now getting local, national tips; caches getting turned in. It’s really moving in a very, very good direction. Still, tough times ahead, you know there are still people out there who
want to kill Coalition Forces. And we always have got to be ready for that, but it’s moving in a positive direction.


Kagan: Before we talk about concerned local citizens’ groups, I would really like to hear a little bit more about the summer offensives. And how they changed the nature of your area, as 3-2 came in and took a piece of the Tigris River across the way, can you tell us how the Corps offensive, Phantom Thunder, changed the nature of your area of operations.

Grigsby: Yeah, no problem, ma’am. And, I tell you, I had General Odierno up in Salie the other day, and me and him were talking and he said, “Grigs, probably the best decision I ever made was the recommendation to bring in 3rd ID and make them Multi-National Division-Center.” It was able to take a Division command and control headquarters and put on another problem. And the other problem being the belts, the belts outside of Baghdad. And he says, “Strategically and operationally, that was probably the best decision that I’ve made since I’ve been in command of Multi-National Corps-Iraq.” And I couldn’t agree with him more, because it allowed the Division to build the summer offensive operations that allowed us to get to areas of sanctuary, where the enemy was doing what it wanted to do. Let me give you some examples. 2-3 got in here in about
the early beginning of June. And 2-3’s area of operations just happens to be on my western shoulder, and they’re across the river in Arab Jabour to the west. Well the boss started this operation called operation Marne Torch, on June 15, which was basically 2-3 and 3-3 and the aviation brigade, all attacking from south and north along the Tigris River, to kill or capture insurgents that were having sanctuary there before. And because we were applying pressure on both sides, ma’am, the Sunni extremists could not go back and forth across the river. They were stuck. They could either stay there and be killed or captured, or they could move out. And a majority of them moved south and to the west, as two brigades of their combat power with air force, air aviation brigade, indirect fires, mortars, a very kinetic-type operation, went from north to south to kill or capture them. And that really just took away that sanctuary, Arab Jabour and the sanctuary I had along the river going down towards Salman Pak. That took a lot of that away from them, and then Terry Ferrell on the other side, put a couple patrol bases on the northern
portion of his area to stay there. I already had Patrol Bases Cache and Cahill on the eastern side, and we were already there. So now we’ve been able to control that area, even more now with concerned citizens. But that was that operation that I worked with Terry with, Operation Marne Torch, and that worked out well.


Kagan: After Marne Torch, after the Tigris crossings, I suppose, in your area were stabilized, what did you do? How did you exploit that opportunity and that success?


Grigsby: From Marne Torch?


Kagan: From Marne Torch.


Grigsby: What did we do? Ok. Ma’am, what we did was, then I focused a lot of my disrupting operations in Salman Pak and in the fish bowl, because that’s were we think we pushed down the Sunni extremists, down to that area. So we did almost like, almost 15 air assaults down into these areas, where we kill or captured, it turned out, up to this day, we’ve killed or captured 125 insurgents, and we’ve detained about 472. And the majority of that was done after Marne Torch I and then I started to expand farther down into the fish bowl and down to Salman Pak. I wasn’t able to stay there and control, but I was able to get down in there and disrupt the safe havens that they had down in Salman Pak and down in the fish bowl. Simultaneously, we were conducting operations in Jisr Diyala, as well, because I reshaped the battle space, and I put a battalion squadron in Jisr Diyala. And at that same time, were simultaneously killing or capturing the Shi’a extremists that were threatening the good people of Iraq as well. Because the difference in my battle space, is I have Sunni and Shi’a extremists. So when I attack, I have to attack and balance, I just can’t go after one, you know, I’ve got to do it and balance and really go after whoever’s a bad person, whoever’s the enemy against the good people of the Mad’ain Qadaa, not worrying about whether its Sunni or Shi’a extremists. And then we also did something called Operation New Jersey Turnpike, which was getting at the Persian influence. And that’s where we have built eleven different battle positions along Route Wild, and along Route Detroit. And what that is, we built these eleven battle positions, and we’ve trained the National Police to secure these battle positions, and to properly search personnel and vehicles. So that get’s at the interdiction of the Persian influence along ASR Detroit and along Route Wild. And all that was encompassed in
what we called Operation New Jersey Turnpike. And that really allowed us to expand farther south to disrupt, but also to secure our interior lines a heck of a lot more, because I think after my combat patrol was hit with an EFP, and we had a couple soldiers killed. I lost two soldiers on that one, and then we had a couple soldiers killed in a deep-buried IED in the north. What we did is we relooked our routes, and we blackened (what black means is no one can use those routes, no Coalition Forces can use those routes, only if we have a deliberate route clearance team on them), we blackened a bunch of routes. So now, in the Hammer Brigade, we follow a minimal same amount of routes that we use on a daily basis. And that has allowed the efficiency of the EFPs and deep-buried IEDs to go down tremendously. They still try to hit us with them, but they go down tremendously. All that part of New Jersey Turnpike has allowed us to have a little bit more security in the interior of our lines. Because, as I said, we’re missing one battalion yet we have the battle space of the Washington D.C. beltway, so it’s pretty big.


Kagan: While those operations were going on that gave you freedom of movement, you talked about others to secure Jisr Diyala. Can you tell us more about why it was so important to establish a position in Jisr Diyala and how you went about establishing yourselves in that population center?


Grigsby: Yeah, great. Well, I would just tell you, I mean it’s Counterinsurgency 101. And we’re doing a case study right now, and I’ll gladly send that to you, I’m gonna look at it tomorrow night or the next night. We are doing a case study on Nahrawan, how we, you know, clear, control and build, how we’re doing that. And that’s kind of what we’re still working in Jisr Diyala. First of all, Jisr Diyala is a Shi’a town, and it was infiltrated with Shi’a extremists. It’s the closest town to Baghdad and when we got here, the Mad’ain government was working in Jisr Diyala. And also, it kind of controls the Jisr Diyala Bridge and the Rustamiyah Bridge, two crossing points to go in there. And very quickly, I saw that I needed to get a squadron, a battalion commander, in Jisr Diyala, to play man-to-man with the Shi’a extremists in there, because I saw that as a key piece of
terrain. He who owns it has a marked advantage. So, we went in there and did several battalion level operations, after our Intel build, to kill or capture the bullies and the bad people in there that were coercing the people within Jisr Diyala. And as we were doing that, we also built another patrol base, called COP Cache North and South, which is about two minutes from Jisr Diyala. And then, most recently, to get to the control piece, as we now had built and are working a Joint Security Site, inside of Jisr Diyala, working with the National Police, and the Jisr Diyala IPs, and the Coalition Forces. Also, because you understand counterinsurgency is just not about security, John Kolasheski has built strong relationships with the Jisr Diyala nahia. He’s helped them develop themselves governmentally, by training the nahia council, by working with them with their budget, by getting the governor of Baghdad to come down and visit them, by getting Lt. General Abud, the Iraq commander, to come down and visit them. So they are getting looked at
more that way. Economics, in our entire operation, we’ve already spent over 26 million dollars, 53 percent of that on water, but that also puts pressure on the insurgents, because we’re also helping the government provide essential services to the people of Jisr Diyala. Under the transition piece, John Kolasheski, the squadron commander, has done several IP recruiting. Right now, he has 109 recruits that are getting ready to go to school to be IPs. And out of his concerned citizens, he would transition 250 of the concerned citizens to IPs. And so they will also start building security within Jisr Diyala as well. And then under information operations, we’re building a radio station in Jisr Diyala, so the government can speak to the people of Jisr Diyala and we’ll just continue to work that piece. So really, it’s a counterinsurgency, it’s a counterinsurgency by the numbers. You read the manual, and that’s kind of the way we’ve gone into different towns, and that’s the way we’ve gone into Jisr Diyala as well.


Kagan: When you say that Shi’a extremists were present in Jisr Diyala and they were intimidating the population, can you clarify what you mean by that? What were they doing and why was it that you been able to get the government to function without the, without the extremists?


Grigsby: Well, first of all, it’s going back to providing the essential services to the people. And if people don’t have jobs, they will go to an extremist who will pay them 100 dollars or 200 dollars to fire an RPG, to set up an IED, et cetera. And that’s what was going on, and the people were scared, and they didn’t know what to do, and so when we came in and started giving a presence, started standing up and working with the nahia council, started providing a little bit more water, cleaning up some streets, doing some quick wins, some basic stuff that gave some credibility to Jisr Diyala nahia council. The people saw that no kidding, the nahia council cares about me, the nahia council will do things to help me with my essential services; they will help me get jobs. That combined with the concerned citizens groups going in place as well, and then us doing very
deliberate intel-driven operations against HVIs, or high-value targets. And oh, by the way, we’ve captured 24 top ten HVIs since we’ve been here, a lot of them coming out of Jisr Diyala. The combination of all that working together, has given faith back to the people. That the nahia council and the government at least is trying and will help them get better. And that has basically applied pressure on the extremists, and the extremist is having a difficult time building any momentum in there. There are still some extremists in there; there are still bad people in there, we haven’t gotten everybody. But we think we are at a tipping point right now in Jisr Diyala, and we have momentum. Especially with this concerned citizens’ group, the momentum it’s building is huge. This concerned citizens group, you know see concerned citizens, National Police working together. We have a combined concerned citizens and National Police checkpoint just west of Jisr Diyala; just north, I have a concerned citizens’ group that’s made up of both Sunni and Shi’a, one Sunni sheikh and two Shi’a sheikhs working together with concerned citizens. So all that is just applying pressure on the insurgent in many different ways, and he just can’t get his feet underneath of them.


Kagan: Was the situation in Nahrawan similar to the one that you found in Jisr Diyala, or is the problem set in Nahrawan different?


Grigsby: The problems were similar, but there wasn’t much violence in Nahrawan. What Nahrawan was in my words, was a vacation spot for Shi’a extremists to go in there, and conceal themselves, and rest and plan for future operations, because we never had a violent act inside of Nahrawan. The violent acts happened outside of Nahrawan. So, from an amateur’s standpoint, Nahrawan looked good to go, no issues, no violence, huwah, get it done. But what happened is, is we started seeing some intel, and they made a couple of mistakes, especially with the rockets, leaving a videotape in the guy’s house that we grabbed for the rockets, and it started pulling us into Nahrawan, because intel drives everything over here. So then in the intel-build from Marne Anvil, we went in and killed or captured five or six thugs, and this, let me give you a vignette. They call it a Shi’a extremist battalion in Nahrawan, that’s what the bad guys call it. We took down two or three in a row, battalion commanders out of Nahrawan, and then no one wanted to be the battalion commander of Nahrawan anymore, because once they put there name on the slate, two or three days later they were sitting in my DHA. That’s the kind of intel we were getting, and so we went in there; took out five or six guys; got 1-10 back. 1-10 went in working with a National Police company, did a bunch of operations for about 30 days, but also went in and helped with governance and economics and transition. And at the end state, after 38 days, we had a patrol base in Nahrawan collocated with the IP station and the Joint Security Site and no longer were the bullies of Nahrawan still in there bullying the people. So, and you know we brought in water projects, we improved roads, we’re cleaning up the street, the markets are getting better. I just walked downtown all day yesterday with Lt. General Abud, and tomorrow I am going to be walking downtown with General McCaffrey in Nahrawan. So, if you go back to counterinsurgency, it was a perfect…we’re in the hold, hold getting ready to slip to build, as far as Nahrawan is concerned. And you know the location of Nahrawan, that’s pretty important; so the Shi’a extremists can’t go in there anymore, and hide and plan. I mean, I’ve read some intel
traffic where quote-unquote the JAM headquarters wants to move out of Nahrawan because a. the Coalition Forces have put a patrol base in here, and b. they cannot get any more traction in Nahrawan. So things are going pretty good in Nahrawan.


Kagan: How do the improvements in Nahrawan and Jisr Diyala relate to one another? Has having the second patrol base in Nahrawan improved the situation in Jisr Diyala or are those areas fairly separate in the benefits they have received from these ongoing operations?


Grigsby: Well, that is a great question. I think the Shi’a extremists in the Mad’ain Qadaa are tied, so I think Nahrawan and Jisr Diyala, they could be tied just [because] they know each other. We know the previous commander up in Nahrawan, Haidar Younis, and the previous commander in Jisr Diyala, Injar Haidar (ph), were both Shi’a extremists. They didn’t like each, they kind of worked independently, but they would talk. If I am a Shi’a extremist and now I see Jisr Diyala and Nahrawan, being occupied, not occupied, but being liberated by coalition forces, IPs, and National Police working together, I’d be worried. I’d be worried from a Shi’a extremist perspective. That combined with the concerned citizens, I’d be really worried. Just to highlight, first time ever, last Saturday, we had up here at Hammer, we had twenty-four sheikhs, Sunni and Shi’a, the leaders of…the support council of Mad’ain Qadaa, we had the two national police brigade commanders, we had the Mad’ain Qadaa civil leader, and we had coalition forces, all
together, talking about concerned citizens and talking about securing the Mad’ain Qadaa. If I am an insurgent sitting out there, ma’am, if I am a Shi’a extremist sitting out there, game’s over. Not only do you have leaders that want you out, the concerned citizens, you have people that now want you out. You know as well as I do that the insurgents count on people not getting their stuff together; they count on the individual not getting their stuff together with everybody, and that is how they break in, and that is how they can hide within the populace. Now that people have their stuff together with the concerned citizens in each neighborhood, they are saying, “We don’t want you guys around here anymore.” So you asked me, “Are [Patrol Base] Salie and Nahrawan tied?”
Sure [they are]. From that perspective, they are tied…I mean it is building a lot of momentumhere.


Kagan: Can you tell me where then, or how in addition, the Shi’a extremists were…let me back up…were the Shi’a extremists in those areas themselves relying on the supply of weapons along the Al-Kut highway, Route Detroit, or were they actually operating separately from the Persian influence?


Grigsby: I think both…I think some of them were using the Persian influence. […] We had reports that they would send several to Iran to do training, we call them Iranian surrogates, I guess. They would go over to Iran, they would get training on the EFP [Explosively-Formed Penetrator], get re-training on the rockets, get[…] training on the RPG-7s [Rocket-Propelled Grenade], and then come back and train other people within the Mad’ain Qadaa to conduct operations. […]Some of the Shi’a extremists that maybe didn’t have enough money or maybe didn’t have the contacts were just doing things against the good people of Iraq and coalition forces that threatened their way of getting money, or threatened their way of getting the essential services to people. Some probably had contacts over in Iran, [and they] were using the supply train that was coming up, through the Al-Kut highway, getting training over there, and some of them were just trying to survive.


Kagan: Did you see support emanating from eastern Baghdad as well, or were Shi’a extremist activities in Baghdad largely confined to that battle space?


Grigsby: No, we’ve seen, for example, and I know you heard about this, the forty-six, or the thirty-six rockets, that we caught pointed at [FOB] Hammer. We know that somebody, some guy, I think we caught him, Yasir Salam, used to be called the rocket man, he came out of Baghdad to train, and then to implant these rockets and set them up to fire on [FOB] Hammer. So there was coordination across the river with the Shi’a extremists in Baghdad; we saw coordination going back and forth.


Kagan: Do you see that now in your area?


Grigsby: Not as much. Not as much, ma’am. I’m telling you the attacks in Baghdad and the attacks in our area have gone down drastically. They were never that high in our area. A better word for me to say is “efficiency.” The efficiency of the attacks has gone down. We were hit by an EFP yesterday, it looked like it was put in quickly, not the right aim point, it missed the vehicle completely. And also ma’am, like I said, our reach into Baghdad is…I think we have [had] like 7 HVIs [High-Value Individuals] that other brigades have caught in Baghdad, four of seven, I don’t know the exact number, so I will be humble, four HVIs that other brigades have caught because they go over there to get sanctuary, because they know if they are hanging out over her in AO [Area of Operations] Hammer, it is just a matter of time.


Kagan: Can you discuss, a little bit more, the challenges along the northern portion of your AO?


Grigsby: Yeah. That is good. That is great. That is very good. That is a great question and I definitely can. Just north of our area, just south of now Jon Lehr and the Stryker Brigade out of Diyala…my buddy Jon Lehr is now commanding the Stryker Brigade up there…we think, in talking to the locals in Nahrawan, we think there is a little bit of a sanctuary up there for the Sunni extremists. We think there are two Sunni tribes closing in on a Shi’a tribe up in there, and some times they will come down and actually attack the Shi’a, the good Shi’a, that live in Nahrawan. We think there [are] some bad things going [on] in there. I’ve conducted some disrupting operations up in there. I’ve gone north to the boundary a couple times on air assaults, killed and captured some bad guys. I’ve put some attack aviation up there and artillery when I have some detailed intel that allows me to do that, but I do not have the forces, Iraqi security forces or coalition forces, to actually stick them and stay on the terrain. So we do know that there is some sanctuary up there, and we think some Sunni extremists are controlling some land up in there. I’ve talked to Jon Lehr, we…both went and talked to Secretary Gates and he sees it the same way, but he [Jon Lehr] has the same issue. He can’t get a lot of his force down south to take care of that problem.


Kagan: […]Did the operations in Diyala province earlier this summer and in the fall push Sunni into that sanctuary or were they operating from there before those operations?
Grigsby: Ma’am, I couldn’t answer that, not my area of operations. John Kolasheski [Lt. Col. – 3/1 Cavalry], who had Nahrawan during that time frame, he didn’t see an increased threat from the north in Nahrawan, but he did state, [based on] talking to the people in Nahrawan, [that the] summer offensive up there in the north, was getting at some of those bad guys, and that is all hearsay from talking to the locals.


Kagan: How was the Mad’ain Qadaa government functioning when you arrived? Was it able to provide governance and services at all to [the] people?


Grigsby: Yes, ma’am. I think it was functioning very well. As a matter of fact, I was up here with Gen. Batiste in OIF II [Operation Iraqi Freedom II], and we tried to get a provincial government going. We had to show them what a meeting is [and] what an agenda is. We are talking fundamentals. We didn’t have to do [that] with this group. They had a great mayor; they have a chairman of the Mad’ain Council, that was functioning. The Nahrawan nahia [has] a nahia council [and it is] functioning. […]The Jisr Diyala council is functioning. The problem they had was Salman Pak, and they still have [this] problem. Salman Pak is the government seat. In the old days, [it was a] very famous [city]. It is the government seat for the Mad’ain Qadaa. What happened is [that] after
Saddam Hussein was taken out of power, they moved it to Jisr Diyala where the Shi’a now hold the government, but they didn’t legally give slots to [the] Salman Pak nahia, and pay those slots so that Salman Pak could have a say within the government of Mad’ain. Most recently, we discussed that with the governor. He is going to allow for eleven slots, and he is going to start paying the nahia council in Salman Pak so they can start…doing their own thing and having a say for the Sunnis that live in Salman Pak. We [also] have a government center that is getting ready to get built, and the government will eventually, we hope, go back down there and hold their seat where it is supposed to be at. These guys had a budget; these guys had folks to increase the water, so they could meet the farming season [demand]. They were very well [organized], very good,
and now we’ve recently received our EPRT [Embedded Provincial Reconstruction Team], so we are going to help them even more. But we were impressed.


Kagan: Why do you think that the Mad’ain Qadaa was so well-organized and functioning when you arrived?


Grigsby: Because there was no one out here to help them. They had to figure it out. It is a forcing mechanism. Really…they had it figured out. They were making things happen. When we got out here, we recognized that and we didn’t want to screw things up for them. So we helped them, because the true reason we are here is to support and assist, not to lead. So we were able to get into support and assist mode immediately with them with these projects, fifty-two percent of them being water, and help them take it to the next level, and show the people that the Mad’ain government can provide essential services to the people, which you know puts pressure on the insurgents.


Kagan: Does the government in Mad’ain Qadaa have a good relationship with the government in Baghdad? Do they find that they get the resources that they need from the center in order to make their projects happen?


Grigsby: You just outlined what we thought our mission was. [It] was to help them with the connections back to the provincial government. It is getting better. Just a couple weeks ago we had the governor come out to the asphalt factory in Nahrawan. He went to a concerned citizens’ location in Qarguliyah north of Jisr Diyala. It is getting better. We had the deputy governor out here yesterday in Nahrawan with Lt. Gen. Abud. We have had several ministers that are now starting to come [out] and help the people out. I don’t think it was very good prior to us getting here but that is what we focused on, because the government was already functioning in the Mad’ain Qadaa. We were able to help them go to the next level, which is building a strong relationship [with] and getting resources from the Baghdad government. And it is working.


Kagan: When did you begin engaging with tribal leaders in your area of operations?


Grigsby: Great. Great. This is good. We always saw when we came here - there is a lot of experience of the soldiers and leaders in the Hammer Brigade - we know in the country it is all about tribal [relationships]. It is not the mukhtars and the religious leaders. It is the tribal leaders and the sheikhs. [That really started] from west to east, as the concerned citizens start[ed] moving from Anbar, started moving east, and made it to the Mad’ain Qadaa. The sheikhs started coming out of the woodwork, and then they wanted to talk. They saw that we were here to stay, and they saw that we weren’t occupiers but that we were liberat[ors], and they saw that, and they believed it, and they started trusting us. Last week, for the first time, Hammer Six was able to address the
twenty-four leader sheikhs of the Mad’ain Qadaa. We have been trying to do this forever, since I first got here, so it has taken us seven or eight months to get there. […]Now we are there, and we are talking to the sheikhs, and we all know they are the informal power, especially out in the


Kagan: Why did it take so long for the twenty-four sheikhs to decide to sit down with you together and talk about the issues of the Qadaa and of their populations?


Grigsby: It always takes longer in Iraq, ma’am. Really. I don’t know. It just takes longer. I mean, one reason is [that] before, there [were] no coalition forces out here in Mad’ain Qadaa. Whenever someone would come out, they would come out and train at Besmaya for a couple weeks, and then leave. They may have thought [that] we weren’t here to stay, that we were just another transient unit.


Kagan: Was [any] inter-tribal competition present in the Qadaa when you arrived or were the tribes cooperating or were they simply not necessarily competing with one another but not in violent conflict?


Grigsby: See I don’t think they are competing. They aren’t in violent conflict. You put three people in the same room, natural human being instinct, they are going to work against each other to get the most. You know how that works. I think that will always go on. There isn’t violent conflict. As a matter of fact, those two Shi’a sheiks and the one Sunni sheikh that are working together up in the north; they are working together. These twenty-four sheikhs, they have arguments. That is the Iraqi way. They are argumentative people. I mean they do argue. But for me to sit in there, this past week, and listen to them yell and scream at each other…I am smiling, because you know what, it is dialogue. They are working together. I took pictures of that, and I’m getting it out, in the IO [Information Operations] campaign, just to inform the insurgents that, “Hey buddy, game
is over for you guys. They are all working together pal, it is just a matter of time, you just get your butts out of the Mad’ain Qadaa because it is just a matter of time, because now we have got everyone working together.”


Kagan: Was there a degree of distrust between sectarian groups or between tribes when you began this process, or was there more distrust of coalition forces?


Grigsby: Good question. I don’t know if I, I mean, I can give you my opinion. I think early on, when the coalition forces came out here, they didn’t know if we were staying. It might have been distrust against us initially. After we showed them that we are not going to just stay back in one FOB [Forward Operating Base], we are going to live with the people, we are going to help you provide services, you know the old COIN doctrine, have a bunch of quick wins in your pocket as soon as you get here, we had that, we played that correct, to show the people that we cared. We went out and talked to people. We did human terrain mapping. We got out and talked to individuals and shook their hands and started building that trust, but that took two or three months.


Kagan: How did the CLC movements, the concerned local citizens movements, really get going? Did the tribal leaders have to induce the population to participate? Was there an area where the CLC movement really got going and became a model for other areas in the Qadaa?


Grigsby: I just went down there today, as a matter of fact. We are very lucky. I went back down to the place where the birth of the concerned citizens in Mad’ain Qadaa started, a place called Tuwaytha. It was a Sheikh Qais that started this force. He is a Sunni, [a] former Iraqi Army colonel. He is a sheikh, [and] he built a strong relationship with one of our great company commanders, a kid named Brian Gilbert. He heard about what…happened over in Anbar Province. It came over from west to east, he started it. Once that started and it started getting around, through sheikhs talking, it started getting around through our SOI [unknown] engagements at my level, the battalion commanders and company commanders. We started having more sheikhs coming to the table, saying, “I want to take care of the security of this neighborhood and the security of this infrastructure.” It just spread. If you know our area of operations, from our northern boundary along the Diyala and the Tigris, from our northern boundary down to just south of Cahill and now Bali, along a route along the Tigris River, we have concerned citizens’ checkpoints all the way down that far. We have 3,904 concerned citizens with over 78 checkpoints established within the Mad’ain Qadaa. They are working with the National Police and working with the IPs, which is incredible. It all started with Sheikh Qais. It started with the human relationship, getting to know one another. He asked about it, and once he asked about it, I came down, had a meeting with Sheikh Qais, we talked about it, and from that point on it has just blossomed.


Kagan: The concerned local citizens are both Sunni and Shi’a?


Grigsby: Yes ma’am. Yes ma’am. About half and half. We have a couple [groups] where they are in the same concerned citizens group.


Kagan: Of those 3,900 some-odd concerned local citizens, roughly what percentage actually want to join the Iraqi Security Forces?


Grigsby: Oh, a lot. What we are seeing right now, what we are seeing right now, it is about thirty to forty percent that would join the Iraqi Security Forces. [That is] what our feeling is. But we continue to encourage [this]. The one idea we have is there is a concerned citizens group in Saba’a Nisaan, which is off of Butler Range Road which feeds into AO Hammer. [There are] about 220 concerned citizens, all Shi’a. That very easily one day could be a concerned local citizens group headquarters [and] the next day we could turn it into an IP [Iraqi Police] substation, and they could become IPs. That is kind of the way we are working. That is what I briefed to Lt. Gen. Abud yesterday. That is what we are working towards. Corps [Multi-National Corps – Iraq] and the Lt. Gen. and the Iraqi government has put out certain control measures for the concerned citizens, which include getting them to enroll into the Iraqi Security Forces, Iraqi Police or Iraqi
Army. We are working towards that. We are also working towards developing more jobs, the old civil works battalions, jobs for those that may not go into the concerned citizens [groups], but have jobs with trades that they can go into so that they can continue to provide for their families.


Kagan: In your interactions with Gen. Abud and also with the Iraqi central government, have you found those institutions responsive to the idea of adding more Iraqi Police and more Iraqi Security Forces in Mad’ain Qadaa?


Grigsby: I can’t talk about the higher-ups. All I can talk about is the Mad’ain Qadaa and my work with the Iraqi Security Forces here, and all of them want to increase the capability of the Iraqi Police and the National Police, but it does take time. We have had two recruiting drives, and have some concerned citizens that, a total of 459, that want to go to [become] IPs, get the IP training. We only have 900 IPs in the area now, so a 50% increase would definitely help us out, but it does take time to get that through… the paper work and the approval, but we are working it. Lt. Gen. Abud and Brig. Gen. Adnan, the Mad’ain Qadaa IP chief, [are] very aggressive, [they] do recruiting drives, and [they] want to increase their capability.


Kagan: As you look at the Mad’ain Qadaa, what are the greatest challenges that you think that you face over the next several months?


Grigsby: Great. Yes. We need more Iraqi Security Forces in the Mad’ain Qadaa. Period. That is what we need. And I have made that known to everybody. As you well know, you understand the military, the Hammer Brigade is a shaping effort of the shaping effort. The main effort is in Baghdad. I work for 3rd ID [Infantry Division]; I am the shaping effort of the shaping effort. Well, the same attitude with the Iraqi Security Forces. We have two National Police brigades, 900 policemen; we need in [AO] Hammer more Iraqi Security Forces to allow me to get down to control Salman Pak and then move down to the fishbowl and control Durai’ya, Kanas, al-Laj, where we know, right now, Sunni extremists are still able to move. If I had more Iraqi Security Forces, I could get down
in there, and get her done. What I am using right now, I am continuing to work with the sheikhs to increase the amount of concerned citizens. They sign the pledge. They want to be part of the team. They will identify where the caches are and where everything is. We will continue to move south with them to support and assist the National Police and the concerned citizens, and then the concerned citizens will stay behind, build checkpoints, and control that area. That is what we are working. The increased amount of Iraqi Security Forces is what we need. Number Two, because the security level is down to a low level right now, we need to really hit hard the capacity build[ing] [and] governance and economics…We just recently got Mr. Pat White, State Department EPRT rep, we have a USAID [United States Agency for International Development][
representative], we have a BVA [unknown], and we are getting a [Department of] Agriculture [representative]. Timing is everything, and it is right. These guys really need to kick in, since security is down to its lowest level. We can really kick in and make some great gains on the governance and economic lines of operation as well.


Kagan: Do you continue to see a threat from Iran in your area of operations?


Grigsby: When we captured the rockets, when we captured the RPG-7, when we get hit by EFPs, we are making the assumption that that stuff is coming from Iran. Those things are continuing, but we are not making the assumption, we look it up, we research the rockets and RPG-7s. [They] did come from Iran. The copper plates, I am assuming, came from Iran. We just had an EFP the other day. It is still happening, but they are not as efficient. That is the big thing that I see happening right now. We never had many attacks in our area, but the attacks previously were a lot more efficient than they are now. They are not as efficient. It is continuing to happen.


Kagan: When you talk about the Sunni extremists in your area, drifting south towards Salman Pak and into the fishbowl, who are they? What is it that they want and how is it that they function?


Grigsby: I think I am not supposed to say this. We say Sunni extremists or Shi’a extremists. I think some of them are Al-Qaeda. [They are] foreign fighters. They come in, they don’t care about Iraq, they just want to come in and spread whatever they want to spread. Some of them may be JAI [al-Jaysh al-Islami – The Islamic Army], the Iraqi form of the Sunni extremists. The JAI, what they want, the JAI, they just want essential services, they want to be able to have water, they want to be able to have power, they want to be able to have jobs, so that they can bring their families up better. Right now, they don’t see the Mad’ain Qadaa government providing these services for them down in this area. The reason the Mad’ain government can’t get down in that area is because the security level isn’t down to a level where we can bring in things to help them out. It
is really a chicken and the egg [problem][…]. That is why the increased amount of concerned citizens and increased amount of Iraqi security forces will allow us to get down in this area and then secure [it] a little bit better. We bring in the essential services and I think JAI will say, “I don’t want any part of JAI, okay, the Mad’ain government is helping us out, I want to be part of the Mad’ain government now. I’m not going to fight these guys. I am getting power. I am getting water. I am getting chow. I’ve got a job no. It is all good.” The AQI [al-Qaeda in Iraq] portion of the Sunni extremists, they only understand one thing. And you know what that is.


Kagan: As you look at the area of operations, what are the most sweeping changes that you have seen over the past eight months in the area?


Grigsby: Okay. Number one is concerned citizens. Number one is concerned citizens. It is the people standing up and saying, “I don’t want this violence anymore.” We didn’t have that when we first got here. We were nowhere near it.


Kagan: Do you see a continued role for U.S. forces as you increase the number of concerned local citizens and increase the number of Iraqi Police or National Police in the Mad’ain Qadaa?


Grigsby: […]Because of my lack of Iraqi Security Forces right now, and what I think it is going to be in the near future, I feel, Grigsby’s opinion, […]that we need to put another brigade in here, the same way mine is, to continue to partner and work with these guys, to get these Iraqi Security Forces to a level where they can handle the security, and to bring in the increased amount of Iraqi Security Forces to allow them to control the security. If I had enough Iraqi Security Forces in here right now, […]I could go all the way down to the fishbowl and Salman Pak and et cetera and clear that out and start controlling that area. It may be a different area, but right now, we definitely need another coalition force brigade to come in here and continue to work. As they are able to bring in and build and rebuild more IPs and more Iraqi Security Forces, [they need to] help them come in place and get their feet on the ground. And the EPRT.


Kagan: And is the idea that you think that another brigade should follow your deployment, or that you need another brigade working within the area of operations?


Grigsby: No, another brigade should follow my deployment.


Kagan: COL Grigsby, thank you so much for talking with the Institute for the Study of War today. We are really impressed by all that you have accomplished in your area of operations over the past eight months, and we really appreciate the insight that you have provided into the activities of 3/3. We do wish you the best of luck for the remainder of your deployment. We hope that we can talk to you again.


Grigsby: Anytime you want to talk to me. I have figured out my role as brigade commander. I have great battalion commanders and company commanders and platoon leaders. They don’t need me down there. My role is to get the resources for those boys and then get the story out so that everyone knows how great [these] soldiers are performing. When we finish this case study, if you send me your e-mail, or I think I have your e-mail, I’ll send you a copy of this case study for Nahrawan. I think that will help you tremendously, because Nahrawan is just a typical operation that we have
done in numerous places in Area of Operations Hammer.


Kagan: I would be very grateful for that, and would really like to take a look at the case study. Thank you very much for joining us today.


Grigsby: Ok, ma’am. You guys have a great Christmas.


Kagan: You too.


Grigsby: Tell your husband I say hi.


Kagan: I will. Take care.


ISW Interview with COL J.B. Burton, Commander of Dagger Brigade, Baghdad, Iraq




As part of a series of interviews with Brigade and Division-level commanders in Iraq,  I spoke today with COL J.B. Burton, commander of the 2nd BCT, 1st Infantry Division (Dagger Brigade) about the clearing of Mansour and the continuing fight against both Sunni and Shi'a extremists as part of Operation Fardh al-Qanoon. You can access the video, Col. Burton's briefing slides, and the transcript below.

Video: Part One, Part Two, Part Three.


Transcript of Interview with COL J.B. Burton 14 November 2007

Col. J.B. Burton
Kimberly Kagan


Kimberly Kagan: Col. Burton, thank you so much for joining the Institute for the Study of War today to talk about the course of operations that the Dagger Brigade has undertaken in northwest Baghdad over the past year. I’m Kimberly Kagan, President of the Institute for the Study of War, and Col. J.B. Burton, you are the commander of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, and of course you’ve been in Baghdad since November of 2006, in command of northwestern Baghdad. I’d really like to talk with you today about Dagger Brigade’s activity and if you could just begin by briefly describing the mission of the Dagger Brigade over the past year.


Col. J.B. Burton: I’ll be happy to, Kimberly. If you’ve got the slide in front of you, I’ve titled it the “Dagger Mission.” And that really sums up everything. When we came into southwest Asia, we were initially titled as the CENTCOM reserve; we had a theater-wide mission. Very shortly, though, after arriving in Kuwait and began dispatching our home-stations, Task Forces forward, the Dagger Brigade headquarters was called forward to assume control of Coalition Force activities in northwest Baghdad. And we looked at the problem set from multiple different angles, and we came up with a mission statement that ((pause)) laid out, we had to look at the problem from a combined perspective, through partnership. So, the mission statement is pretty simple and straightforward; we are to conduct combined, full-spectrum operations focused on protecting the population, by defeating extremist and criminal actors within the Dagger area of responsibility. The key to that whole bit was understanding the population base that we were dealing with in northwest Baghdad. Northwest Baghdad is largely secular, highly moderate, highly educated, throughout the majority of northwest Baghdad, and the people that live in northwest Baghdad, then and now, the majority of them did not embrace violence as a solution for anything. So what we started to understand very quickly was that the problem set, in terms of security in northwest Baghdad, was not that every Sunni is an al Qaeda member and not that every Shia is a Jaysh al- Mahdi extremists, or one of their surrogates, but there were extremist actors within both camps that were creating this sectarian violence across the line. And so what we had to do, we had to focus on defeating them because by defeating them, we would begin protecting the population, and then gain a partnership with the local Iraqis in pursuit of our mission success here. We had to focus on reducing sectarian-focused cleansing, and that was really the manifestation of the sectarian problem in northwest Baghdad. We understood that in a large metropolitan area we would probably have murders and gangland activities, and retribution-style killings, and probably a handful of psychopaths running around just wanting to kill people. Although, what we really focused on is figuring out what is sectarian-motivated cleansing operations, which were designed to remove large portions of the population, through intimidation and fear, by conducting murders against fellow members of their local population or local communities. So we sought to eliminate that as part of our primary mission statement.


We had to increase the professional capabilities of the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) that were going to be operating across the same area of responsibility that we were operating in. And when we looked at the problem set from Taji, while we were at the counterinsurgency academy, what I realized is that we were operating across northwest Baghdad from a large Forward Operating Base (FOB), called Liberty. And the ISF were living and breathing out on the battlefield, you know the city of northwest Baghdad, 24 hours a day. And we weren’t with them; we were going back to the base every night. So, in order to professionalize the ISF, we had to get out there and live with them. We had transition teams in the battle space as well; but they weren’t living out with the ISF members either. They were going back to the FOBs at night. And so, part of the foundation of increasing the ISF professionalism was to get out into the city, partner up with them, and then formally integrate the transition teams into the brigade combat team’s mission and into the Task Forces’ mission, by providing Task Force commanders additionally capability to help train the staffs of these ISF battalions. And meanwhile, platoon sergeants and squad leaders, and platoon leaders out there in the city could focus on training alongside the Iraqi company commanders, platoon leaders, and squad leaders to increase professionalism through partnership at echelon. And so that’s how we sought to get that part of the mission statement.


And then bolstering local governance efforts to deliver essential services. At one point, my mission statement read that we probably ought to be focusing on an end-state that has the Government of Iraq recognized as legitimate by all members of the Iraqi population. And when I looked at this thing from the moon, and said “I’ve got about 12 to 15 months to deliver this thing,” I knew that we probably wouldn’t get at that. But what I could focus on, is focus on local government capacity to deliver equitable access to essential services. But there was a limit that I could get to, before I had to go an affect the national level of government. And so, focused on local level leaders, municipal level leaders inside of Baghdad, we were able to increase the delivery and somewhat equitable access to essential services. That’s a long explanation of the mission statement, but I hope it gives you a little bit of perspective before we go forward into this dialogue a little bit more.


Kagan: Absolutely, it does. Let’s take a look at the enemy situation in northwest Baghdad, prior to Fardh al Qanoon in February. Can you tell me more about what enemy groups were operating in the area and how they were in fact deterring the population from cooperating with the government?


Burton: Yeah, Kimberly, if you would turn to the next slide, it’s got a bumper sticker on it, up at the top, that says “A Campaign of Exhaustion …by Kinetic and Non-Kinetic Means.” I think you have seen this slide before when you visited with me in Baghdad previously, but this slide is what I have used for the last year, plus, to describe the environment of northwest Baghdad. And if you’ll bear with me, and follow along with the colors and arrows, I will try to explain it to you a little bit.


Kagan: Terrific.


Burton: When we came into northwest Baghdad, we came in on the tails of Operation Together Forward (OTF) II. And OTF II was a focused program inside of Baghdad that selected specific areas for clearing and the establishment of safe neighborhoods, with the design that essential services would then fall in line behind these clearing operations; and within these safe and gated communities. Also, when we came into northwest Baghdad, a large portion of our future battle space had already been transitioned over to the ISF, so about 50% of our current area of responsibility had already been handed over to the ISF. And we took transfer of authority in early November of 2006, and by that time, we had done a pretty robust analysis of the area of responsibility. But we really didn’t understand all of the move-in parts and pieces that were affecting or that would affect the security environment inside northwest Baghdad. If you look up in the northeastern portion of our area, from Kadhamiya, you’ll see a large blue area that extends across to the northwest, to Shula, and then southeast across Hurriya; and then it runs south along what we call Alternate Supply Route (ASR) Crew, down into Aamel and West Rashid. That dark blue area indicates what is now, under primarily a Shia support zone. That doesn’t mean it's all Shia extremists, but it is a Shia support zone. And that area expanded through the town of, through the hayy of Hurriya or the neighborhood of Hurriya, beginning in November. Hurriya wasn’t really under Coalition Force control, but there was a large displacement of Sunni families from Hurriya that pushed that blue area further south, to about where you see it today, along in Adl. The light blue lines that run throughout the dark blue areas are the expansion lines for Shia extremists. And we’ll talk about that a little bit more, about who all is involved and that, when we initially came in, we read the expansion being propagated by the Jaysh al-Mahdi, because that was the only Shia extremist group that we knew of. But what we didn’t understand was that there were multiple flavors of Jaysh al-Mahdi, and that there were also multiple actors moving across our area of responsibility that were operating under the banner of Jaysh al-Mahdi, that may not have been responsive to the directives of Moqtada al-Sadr or to the Office of the Martyr Sadr. So, you look at those light blue lines, you can see that we were faced with a Shia expansion program from Shula through Hurriya and then down into the eastern portions of our zones. And I truly believe in my heart of hearts that there was a desire on the Shia side, to secure a pure Shia constituency ahead of any provincial elections that might take place in northwest Baghdad. Concurrently, to the south, we had Shia expansion going on as well. It started in the hayy of Shurta, and then began to expand outward from there, and to the point that they had pushed the Sunnis out of West Rashid, into two pockets, one in Saydiyah and then along that red zone that you see, just along Route Irish.


The green areas demonstrate the Sunni support zones. That runs all the way to the Anbar province, through Ramadi, Fallujah, into Abu Ghraib, and then you see what I refer to as the two primary rat lines that came into western Baghdad—one along ASR Sword, and that’s the northern one that goes into the southern portion of Ghazaliya, and then one to the south along ASR Michigan that feeds into southern Khadra and into Ameriya. The al Qaeda and their surrogates, were, you know you’ve got to ask the question, “Ok Burton, you’ve got a very large moderate population, highly educated, why would a population basis like this allow such radical fundamentalists into their neighborhoods?” And so, we got to thinking about that, and they were allowing them, the al Qaeda and their surrogates, to come into their neighborhoods because al-Qaeda was promising the Sunnis protection against the expansion of Jaysh al-Mahdi. And the story line was this—you know that the Government of Iraq is sectarian; you know that the ISF are sectarian-motivated and they’re all members of the Jaysh al-Mahdi; and you know that the Coalition Forces are leaving. So, the only hope that you have for survival as a Sunni in northwest Baghdad, is to allow al Qaeda to come in and fight the fight against Jaysh al-Mahdi for you. And so that’s what we were faced with; and so you had this, these opposing efforts—Shia expansion on the backs of extremists to secure a pure Shia constituency, by removing a very large, moderate Sunni population from northwest Baghdad; and that was being confronted by those same moderate Sunnis that were allowing these extreme al Qaeda guys to come in to fight the Jaysh al-Mahdi and their surrogates to stop the expansion in northwest Baghdad. Coupled to that, you had honorable resistance members moving throughout the area. You had the 1920s Revolutionary Guard; you had the Omar Brigade; and a host of other entities that were members of the former Iraqi Army, that were now disenfranchised because they had been removed from power, had been removed from jobs and employment and were looking to oust the occupying forces from their nations. And the way to get weapons and support was through support of al Qaeda. So there was a, there was a confederation built, I believe, on the part of this honorable resistance group, to take on the fight against Coalition Forces, deny them free access to the neighborhoods, while al Qaeda went in more extreme efforts to deny any hope of progress, of growth in northwest Baghdad, while concurrently defeating the Shia expansion. Ultimately, though, al Qaeda promised nothing, nothing but despair and terror, to the people of northwest Baghdad.


Now let me talk to you a little bit more about the environment, the threat environment that we see. If you see where the red areas are between the blue and the green areas, those are the battle zones that were, that are in place now. And in some places, like in north Ghazaliya, we call it a battle zone, but it’s really just where the Shia and the Sunni populations come together. There are some interesting things happening up in there that I’ll talk about in a few minutes, but those red areas are where we saw sectarian conflict taking place. And many of those were much farther south than they are today, that’s a graphic depiction of what we see in northwest Baghdad now. The large orange area that runs through Ghazaliya, Khadra, Jamiya, and Ameriya demonstrates where there are no standing Iraqi police forces, funded and supported by the Government of Iraq. So you’ve got a security problem that’s circular in nature; you’ve got extremists coming from both sides and you’ve got no enduring local police force of the local citizens to help protect any of the population in these areas, so that the rubix cube starts to get mixed up a little bit more.


Compounded on top of that, I truly believe that there was a sectarian-motivated denial of essential services to large portions of the Sunni population in northwest Baghdad. And all those little dots that you see, some of them have an H in them, some of them have an X in them, those are, there’s a legend out there to the side to show that those represent the food centers, financial institutions, fuel distribution sites, and medical sites, both hospitals and clinics. And if you look at that real closely, you’ll see that up in the Shia areas, things are functioning, marginally to fully functioning and prospering. In the Sunni areas, they’re marginally operating to failing because the government had yet to push forward any formal effort that I can see to deliver essential services equitably across northwest Baghdad. So now what you have is, you have a storyline that says if the Shia extremists can’t kill you and remove you from Baghdad through threats of violence, then they’ll exhaust you and cause you to quit the field and evacuate yourself to the Anbar province. So that was the enemy situation that we confronted when we came into northwest Baghdad. I hope that makes sense.


Kagan: It certainly does. How did you begin to reduce these problems? What was your first priority and why?


Burton: OK. When we came in, you’re going to have to bear with me because I am going to have to give you snips and bits of history. When we came in, the mission statement that we were handed focused on the defeat of al Qaeda and associated movements, but when I was looking at the problem set with my staff, it became very apparent to me that what we had to do was that we had to stop the cycle of violence that was going on inside of northwest Baghdad. In order to do that, we had to stop the expansion of Shia extremism into the largely Sunni areas of the Mansour Beladiyah and that includes Ghazaliya, Khadra, Jamiya, Adl, all those green areas that you are looking at right now. We had to stop Jaysh al-Mahdi and their surrogates and the extremists that were operating on the banner of Jaysh al-Mahdi and deny them access to the communities. Meanwhile, we had to defeat al Qaeda wholesale, across the board, we had to deny them freedom of action throughout the zone, to deny them access to the International Zone, the seat of government for the Government of Iraq, and we had to get them out of our town.


So here is what we did. In November, when we took command of this area, we were a brigade combat team in transition. We were looking at the Task Forces that were currently assigned to the Dagger Brigade. [They] were going to be relieved over the course of about the next four to six weeks, so we started an analysis of the terrain across the zone and I came to a decision that I was going to move the Task Forces and the companies from FOB Liberty and any of the other main, enduring FOBs out into the neighborhoods, and we were going to focus planting our combat outposts, as we called them at that time, on the sectarian fault lines to stop the cycle of violence. Meanwhile, we went into dialogue with the citizens of northern Ghazaliya and asked them what would you do to stop the spread of violence in north Ghazaliya and their answer was put up a wall. These guys come down in the middle of the night in their black Kia Sophias, and they kidnap our brothers and our sons and they take them away and ransom them off for money, or they murder them; so you got to keep them out of the neighborhoods. So if you look to the north of Ghazaliya, right at the red zone, at the combat zone, you will see a black and yellow honeybee stripe. That was the first set of barriers that we put up in northern Ghazaliya in cooperation with the local leaders in that area to stop the Shia extremists and criminals from coming south, and by the emplacement of that wall we cut murders in Ghazaliya by 50% the very next week.


Meanwhile, we put in Joint Security Station (JSS) Casino, and that is the northern most security station in Ghazaliyah, right next to the green and white star that you see there. That was really the first JSS that we pushed out into the neighborhoods. We did it with Charlie 2-12th Cav. We put it in the middle of a driving rain storm, the sewer systems in Ghazaliya were backed up, one of the cranes broke as we tried to put the concrete in, the crane fell over on its side, the soldier came up smiling, but the JSS got in. What was supposed to be a 48 hour operation took us between four to six days, but the JSS got in. Immediately, we saw an increased partnership on the part of the local nationals, but more importantly, what happened was almost the next day, the commanding officer of the 4th Battalion, 1st Brigade, 6th Iraqi Army came forward to JSS Casino and linked up with the company commander out there and asked if he could base his ISF there as well. We welcomed them in. That set a tone for one of the other objectives that I had to achieve inside of Baghdad, and that was partnership at echelon across the entire zone. Since [JSS] Casino went in, we have put in an additional thirteen security stations across northwest Baghdad. Each of those are co-occupied with Coalition Forces and ISF who live and work and plan out of those JSSs, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The key to that is that it [the JSS] provides the local nationals a constant touch point of security and information inside their neighborhoods. It also provides us [with] the ability to partner up with the ISF, with their transition teams, and with our company command teams out in these joint security sites to develop the staff and command planning capabilities, and the resources capabilities necessary to sustain the security operations in northwest Baghdad.


Now some other activities took place as we went to building these fourteen Joint Security Stations (JSS); there was a lot of concurrent activity that happened. We began also the establishment of what we called Operation Virginia Creeper. Virginia Creeper was the establishment of a line of concrete barriers out to the west of Ghazaliya along Main Supply Route (MSR) Sword, which leads in from Abu Ghraib. Those double barriers were designed to prevent al Qaeda and their surrogates from getting off the highway and driving back into the neighborhoods and rearming and refitting their associates so they could continue their campaign of violence against Coalition [Forces], ISF, and local nationals. What those barriers did is that [they] funneled every vehicle through a series of formal checkpoints manned by legitimate security force personnel. So what you have is a series of gates that fed the traffic into northwest Baghdad. As the traffic moves off to the north or to the south, they go into other gated communities. In those gated communities, where you see the green triangles inside the black and yellow stripes, you have a JSS with Coalition Forces and ISF living together, operating together, and patrolling together every day inside a walled neighborhood so that the local nationals are [now] protected from the extremists because their freedom of maneuver has been denied or significantly disrupted, to the point where they cannot threaten those neighborhoods. Those green and white stars are kind of the last bit of addition to the ISF problem, and what we saw in Ghazaliya and in Ameriya was the stepping forward of local nationals who wanted to now become part of the solution in securing northwest Baghdad from al Qaeda and from Shia extremists. I make that point clear because it is important to understand that the Iraqis themselves, in northwest Baghdad, once we put in the safe neighborhoods and put in the JSSs, became more active and participatory with both the security and the economic aspects of an enduring security solution in northwest Baghdad. And those green stars represent local security force volunteers that came forward in partnership with the Coalition Forces, and ultimately ISF, to create organizations of local men and women, women by the way, local men and women from the local areas who live in local areas to provide security to the local population, which is no different than a local police force, that is what they wanted. And look where those green stars are [located]. They are in that orange area that I talked about earlier that has been absent of a robust and effective police force since we arrived in theater. These security volunteers have provided us an increased capacity in northwest Baghdad to defeat the extremists and the criminals and to protect the population inside these safe neighborhoods. What we see as a result of all that, Kimberly, is a dramatic increase in economic growth, economic and business enterprise, through some areas that were absolutely war-torn and impoverished as a result of extremist combat across northwest Baghdad. So, things are on the upswing with the participation of the local nationals in both the security and the reconstruction of northwest Baghdad.


Kagan: The group of insurgents in Ameriya was, I think, the first concerned citizens group in Baghdad to support the coalition against al Qaeda. How did you ensure that the local leaders in Ameriya adhered to their agreements to support the coalition?


Burton: Wow, you know what, that is a great question. What we have right now, Kimberly, I think is fragile, but I will go back to what happened in Ameriya. Ameriya, as you may recall, had been identified as the headquarters of the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI), and if you go, well we won’t go there right now. I’ve got a slide that shows you when the Battle of Ameriya actually took place. The ISI claimed that Ameriya would be their headquarters for the future, and it got pretty ugly in there. We were having 750 pound bombs that were attacking our soldiers, deep buried into the streets, very violent activity, a very hard-won fight, and the local nationals were passively supporting al Qaeda and their surrogates inside that neighborhood. The neighborhood was not closed off, the neighborhood had some gates and barriers around it, but you could still walk in and out whenever you wanted to. We went into an effort to isolate the entire community. A kidnapping took place against one of the leaders of Ameriya’s families, and that leader of Ameriya said, “That is enough. We have gone too far.” The leader contacted Lt. Col. Kuehl [phonetic], commander of the 1-5 Cav and said, “I have my men and we are going to go and fight al Qaeda.” Col. Kuehl asked if there was anything we could do to help. He said, “No, we don’t want your help. We just want you to stay out of our way.” Over the course of the next day or so, they came back to us and asked us for assistance in terms of medical support and in terms of ammunition and supplies. Well, we weren’t about to start handing over ammunition and supplies without some authority, so we grabbed a hold of the ISF leadership in the area, Brig. Gen. Ghassan, a great patriot and son of Iraq, and he provided, under the authority of the Ministry of Defense, some additional ammunition for these guys, who at that time were known as the Baghdad Patriots. The Baghdad Patriots then established a joint command and control center in southeast Ameriya, where Coalition Forces, ISF, and the volunteers came together inside the walls of a mosque to coordinate actions against al Qaeda [across] all of Ameriya. No-kidding partnership at echelon to get out to the fight. They established this command post and they maintained that command post for about two weeks. Meanwhile, we were working feverishly with other agencies across Baghdad on how we could integrate these folks into the security effort, because at that time they had demonstrated true commitment to securing Ameriya against al Qaeda and against any other operatives. But what we knew we could not have, we could not have any relationship built with the volunteers that would be disruptive to our relationship with the ISF. What we ultimately had to do was get the volunteers legitimized as members of the ISF.


So, we came down with some pretty simple rules. We said every operation with the security volunteers would be transparent and coordinated fully with the Coalition Forces and the ISF, and that would require that liaison elements be placed inside our command and control structures inside of Ameriya. At that time we had one JSS established in northwest Ameriya, and we had that command post I talked about inside the walls of a mosque down in southeast Ameriya. We agreed that there would be a handover of any detainees captured by the volunteers over immediately to the ISF, but if there was going to be any questioning done of the detainees by the volunteers, that it would be done under the supervision of trained American interrogators, so that we did not have any slips in our treatment of detainees once they were pulled from the battlefield. From that point, we began the development of a formal contract that specified the rules for the employment of the volunteers, with a volunteer signer and a contract-oversight/responsible party, [who] would then be responsible for employing these forces. What we wound up with was an organization in Ameriya that was originally very cellular in its structure - something that we have all been very familiar with these last five years as we have tried to tear apart these terrorist networks - very cellular in structure, but extremely effective in getting in and amongst the local population and finding out who was not supposed to be there and getting tips that were worthwhile to defeat al Qaeda and their supply lines. I don’t have all the numbers here in front of me, but almost immediately we began the discovery of very large caches of homemade explosives and military-grade munitions. We began the capture of al Qaeda emirs and their command elements that had bedded down and [were] seeking sanctuary in Ameriya. And so through this partnership and this trust, along with this contract that we had, we have been able to maintain a professional relationship with these volunteers. So how do you keep them inside Ameriya? How do you make sure they abide by the contract? You got to develop a relationship, and you got to trust people. If people don’t do what they are supposed to do, or they violate the rules, you investigate them and you hold them accountable, which is the same thing we do with our partnered ISF units throughout the area of responsibility.


Kagan: After the volunteers in Ameriya came forward and you started to see the spread of the concerned citizens groups through your area, did that alone reduce sectarian violence within your area or did it provide an opportunity for extremist militia groups to expand further?


Burton: I want to make sure I got the question right. I don’t think it did either. It did not allow for the expansion of extremist militia groups. I’ll tell you what, that is a bumper sticker that a lot of people like to use; they say that these volunteers are just another organized militia. They are not. Did it allow for the expansion and propagation of continued sectarian violence? I think that it allowed for the defeat of it in a lot of cases. Let me tell you an interesting thing that happened two weeks ago. We have a Shia policeman and a Sunni volunteer leader who work together every day to provide security for the population of Ghazaliya. They were sitting down together planning operations with the Coalition Force leader in the middle of Ghazaliya, [talking] about patrol schedules and [about checking in] on this fuel station, and [about] what they are going to look [for] and where the targets might be for that night. They got into talking, just like people do when they sit down and talk with each other, about families, and lo and behold, after about an hour, they discover that they were both relatives, they were members of the same tribe. Immediately, that Shia police officer made the formal commitment to this volunteer leader that his policemen that are now operating inside of Ghazaliya would be more professional and more committed to the mission. What an amazing thing! So did that allow for the expansion of sectarian violence? No. What I think it does is it creates more and more of a commitment to each other as concerned members of the Iraqi society to defeat extremism, because the majority of people in northwest Baghdad, Kimberly, just want to get on with the reconstruction of their city. They are tired of the violence, and they are tired of the nonsense that these extremists bring, that offers no solution to anything. Whether they operate under the banner of Jaysh al-Mahdi and propagate violence under the banner of Jaysh al-Mahdi, the citizens know that they [extremists] are not delivering anything. The citizens know that al Qaeda offers nothing but terror and hardships on their children and for their futures and they don’t want that any more than we want that. The joining of volunteers inside these neighborhoods with the legitimate ISF and with the Coalition Forces has created an incredible capability to see the area better, to understand the local nationals better, and to get after those disruptive agents that used to operate freely across northwest Baghdad, that now are significantly disrupted, to the point where we are seeing more and more leaders of extremist groups seeking audiences with us at tables to reconcile differences.


Kagan: There was an extraordinary drop off in overall incidents in your area of operations in August. How do you account for that sharp drop off at that time?


Burton: While if you go to the slide that says the “Battle for NW Baghdad,” it’s a little graph. Can you see that?


Kagan: Yes.


Burton: It says “Incidents Over Time” at the bottom of it. That kind of tells the whole story. There is a series of conditions belong set over time, from November when we put the, when we established JSS Justice part of the Brigade Combat Team [unclear] out at Camp Justice along with my Deputy commanding officer. To the interest of Task Force 1-325 in January, the Great Red Falcons from the 2nd Brigade of the 82nd Airborne. And there you see up on top those yellow triangles are JSSs that were established. So you can see the continued increase of JSSs coupled with Safe Neighborhoods till Task Force 2-32 came in. And then in April and May what we have done is we have increased our presence in the neighborhoods. While we were putting the JSSs in, I truly believe that our adversaries were in a reconnaissance mode. They’re trying to figure out
what we were doing. What is going on in northwest Baghdad? They didn’t want to approach is you know in a frontal fight because they couldn’t win that fight. But they needed to understand what we were doing, what our patterns were, and how they would get after us. And so in April and May after we completed the combined operations called Arrowhead Strike IX, I believe that al Qaeda and extremists Jaysh al-Mahdi felt that that was the time that they could then take the fight to the coalition. And they did. And they came after us hard in the principally Sunni areas of Ameriya, south Ghazaliya, Khadra, and Jamiya we saw a heavy increase in violence indicators with improvised explosive devises, indirect fire, and you can see the graph over there on the side of what was going on. But you also see that murders were down by the way, if you pay attention to that. So the sectarian violence had reduced itself because we had stopped pretty much the expansion of sectarian motivated violence. So the target then was the Coalition Forces and the ISF that were out in the neighborhoods now working in partnership with each other.


And then what you see in June is you see the first contract of security force volunteers. And that is when we bought in the Ameriya volunteers with the JSS formally established down in Ameriya. And that is why you see that little call out there that says “The Battle for Ameriya.” May and June was the pitch fighting inside of Ameriya to wrest the capital of the ISI from the hands of al Qaeda, meanwhile getting our soldiers out in the neighborhoods, patrolling inside those neighborhoods, working daily with the sheikhs of those neighborhoods, to create a commitment form the people of Ameriya to secure that neighborhood using Ameriya’s sons to fight the al Qaeda and remove them from the fight. That then spread to Ghazaliya; well, it didn’t really spread because in Ghazaliya we had a similar activity happening concurrently with the volunteer leadership coming forward and linking up with Task Force 2-12 and saying “we want to be part of the security situation too.” The Ghazaliya folks for more of a neighborhood watch program: stationary checkpoints, limited patrolling, whereas in Ameriya it was an all out fight to kill al Qaeda. In Ghazaliya we had a safe neighborhood established and so we had the ability to operate checkpoints to keep al Qaeda out and work off of tips to eliminate caches. So the traction game, Kimberly, inside the safe neighborhoods, inside the controlled mechanisms to deny extremist access to the population while partnering with the ISF and local security force volunteers inside these neighborhoods all but defeated the extremists. It put them to grounds. It denied them free access and ready access to arms and munitions and equipment to the point where they have been marginalized. And now that they are marginalized we have an increasing number of Iraqi citizens, both Shia and Sunni, that want to come forward and be active participants in the reconstruction and security of their country. You know I meet once a week with former Iraqi Army officer leaders in, in one of our Joint Security sites. And these are men we are very comfortable with. They are military men, prideful members of their nation’s former military that now have comer forward and want to be part of the security situation. They are not asking for pay. They are not asking for any special benefits. All they want to do is partner up and provide us information to assist us in the reconstruction of Baghdad and the formal reintegration of the Sunni population into the Government of Iraq’s processes.


Kagan: One of the questions that we all have in Washington is how sustainable is this security as we move into the coming year? And there are a couple of questions that leap to mind. One is have you been able to, through your partnership with the ISF, ensure that the ISF in your area will be able to continue the kinds of operations in partnership with the 101st when you leave? And are they facilitating extremist actors or sectarian cleansing at this point or are they facilitating the rebuilding of Baghdad?


Burton: Ok, excuse me, that is a complex multifaceted question, so let me see if I can answer it as simply as I can. First off, the 101st is going to be just fine. Remember that just because the Dagger Brigade HQ is leaving Baghdad not all of my units are leaving Baghdad. I’ve still got… a host of the Task Forces will remain in battle space for some time to come. And so there is one stability and traction on relationships that have been built and that will be enduring. We have also, if you look at slide number four it says “Current Efforts.” Have you got that?


Kagan: I certainly do.


Burton: That will help us pain some pictures for you. Operation Marble Arch is really my campaign plan northwest Baghdad to stop the expansion of Shia extremists that feed al Qaeda, to create the conditions for the emergence of local security groups through the integration of the Safe Neighborhood Joint Security site effort. Operation Seventh Veil kind of gets at what I think you were talking about. You know when we went out to stop the expansion of Shia extremists in northwest Baghdad. There was a lot of, I kept getting reports. That while the ISF did this, the Jaysh Iraqi are facilitating this, the National Police are facilitating this. And I said “stop it!” Let’s start investigating this stuff. We cannot fight a war on rumors and innuendo. We have to fight a war on facts and intuition gathered from those facts. And so we began an operation called Seventh Veil which is focused on identifying complicit ISF and Government of Iraq officials and then holding them accountable for their transgressions against the law. And this doesn’t mean just rolling up an Iraqi Army Colonel and putting him in jail. In some cases you take the targeting packet and the data that you have and you just sit down with the guy and you say, “This is what I understand you to be involved in and I think this is inappropriate and if you continue with this activity I am going to put you in jail.” And 9 times out of 10 that will cause an immediate change in behavior because the gig is up. And there is a great relief in many cases when someone finds out that “hey you know what the Americans know what I am doing and so I can’t do it anymore so I am not going to participate in that thing.” Seventh Veil has gained us great effects and here is why. Go back to what I have told you the al Qaeda were telling the Sunni population about the ISF, remember? The ISF are all sectarian-motivated and they are the front for a sectarian motivated Iraqi government. While as soon as we started pulling Iraqi leaders and Iraqi, correction, ISF soldiers and policemen off the street and putting them in jail, the citizens of northwest Baghdad said, “You know what these Americans are serious. This is the real deal. They're out to protect the population. They're out to get rid of the illegal activities that are being propagated by these legitimate ISF and government of Iraq officials.” So we have put them officially on notice and we have done that in partnership with some our more senior ISF leaders that back us all the way. Both Marble Arch and then Operation Seventh Veil, I believe set the conditions for what you see in their call Operation Switchblade. And that is now that the local nationals gain trust and confidence in our designs and our campaign plan they came forward and they became more participatory. That is the sustaining element. It is the commitment of the local nationals to the enduring idea of a prosperous Iraq, with a government that can take care of its people, and is not an overt threat to its neighbors, and it can participate actively in the global economy. And these Iraqis that live in northwest Baghdad have seen that the Coalition Forces and in large measure the ISF leaders are committed to their protection and are committed to the rebirth and re-growth and reconstruction of Baghdad. And so they come forward under Operation Switchblade and become part of an enduring solution for security.


The problem with Operation Switchblade comes when the contracts run out. We are setting conditions daily in partnership with the ISF for the Government of Iraq to make some choices to formally integrate these volunteers into the legitimate ISF process. There is an entire vetting process that must go on and we have learned through some hard knocks along the way about what you have to do to recruit local security force volunteers. And so we have reengineered everything we have done. We have gone back and reintegrated our of our volunteers through this process so that they can get a nod form the National Reconciliation Committee and then get hiring orders from the Ministry of the Interior to become Iraqi Police forces, legitimately uniformed [unintelligible]. We don’t see a lot of movement on the part of the Government of Iraq, and that is a great risk with these volunteers and with these locals who have seen an opportunity and who want to participate. The Government of Iraq now has to make some hard decisions to integrate the Sunni population and to integrate parts of the Shia population that have also been left without. Integrate them back into society by extending equity access to essential services, and equal opportunity to participate in the security functions and the governance functions of this city.


There are limitations thus far on the capacity the Government of Iraq can deliver services across northwest Baghdad. Operation Our Town attempts to do that. And what Operation Our Town attempts to do, is to take local volunteers, not security volunteers, but the wherewithal that is out there in northwest Baghdad, the electrical engineers, the guys that understand how to run a sewer system. I don’t know how to run a sewer system but somebody in Baghdad understands how to run a sewer system and I want to find out who that is; how to run the electrical program, and the power generation business, and how to get the power grid back online; how to get the streets clean and paved; how to remove the vestiges of war and turn that into economic enterprise; how to re-grow the economy and revitalize the economy so that northwest Baghdad can grow. Operation Our Town is an attempt to take the Beladiyah capabilities, the municipal capabilities of the city of Baghdad, and extend them out into these areas of Baghdad where the Beladiyah is not yet working full swing and use local know-how and want-to to deliver these services to the people of northwest Baghdad. I tell you what, its working. In Yarmouk right now there is a what Colonel Mike Lawson calls his Civil Service Corp. and that is volunteers that are rebuilding Yarmouk. They are out there everyday. They are professional. They are disciplined. And they are beautifying Yarmouk and they are redelivering that city back to the local nationals. And behind there efforts shops are opening up, people are back on the streets, kids are going to school. It’s a powerful commentary. We’re seeing that in Ameriya. We have started the hiring process for assistant zone directors in Ghazaliya, Khadra, and Ameriya who will be extensions of the local government right now under Coalition Force CERP dollars as a jump start mechanism so that we have the equipment and the capability out in the neighborhoods linked to the security apparatus to deliver essential services to the local nationals. So all these processes are in motion. Is it sustainable? Its going to take some hard decisions on the part of the Government of Iraq to recognize that a window of opportunity, as slim as it is, has been opened. And that window of opportunity provides the Government of Iraq to reach out and reintegrate the totality of the Iraqi population who wants to be involved in the reconstruction and revitalization of their nation.


Kagan: Col. Burton I could talk with you all day and indeed all evening, your time, but I see that our allotted time has expired and so I really want to thank you so much for joining the Institute for the Study of War, today, via DVIDS interview and I really do hope that you come visit us sometime in Washington, DC. Thanks for everything that you’ve done and I look forward to seeing you gain soon.


Burton: Kimberly, it’s always my honor and a pleasure to speak with you. And I know that you are committed to gaining a formal understanding of this war, lets call it what it is. I know that you understand it’s not just a counterinsurgency; it is full spectrum in its nature. And I appreciate your total commitment to better understanding this, so we can communicate it to the profession of arms and to our political leaders as they endeavor to resource and win this thing for the American people and for peace-loving people across the world. I look forward to seeing you in Washington, DC and hope that you stay in touch.


Kagan: Thank you very much.


Burton: Bye now.


ISW Interview with MG Benjamin Mixon, Commander of Multi-National Division-North, Iraq





 As part of a series of interviews with Brigade and Division-level commanders in Iraq, I spoke today with MG Benjamin Mixon, commander of Multi-National Division-North and the 25th Infantry Division (Light), about U.S. operations aimed at disrupting and destroying al-Qaeda in northern Iraq during the summer of 2007. You can access the video of the interview below.

Video: Part One, Part Two.


ISW Interview with COL David Sutherland, Commander, Greywolf Brigade, Diyala, Iraq

ISW Interview with COL David Sutherland, Commander, Greywolf Brigade, Diyala, Iraq
October 25, 2007
Kimberly Kagan


As part of a series of interviews with Brigade and Division-level commanders in Iraq,  I spoke today with COL David Sutherland, commander of the 3rd BCT, 1st Cavalry Division, about the impressive U.S. operations in the Diyala River Valley during the summer of 2007. You can access the video, Col. Sutherland's briefing slides, and the transcript below.


Video: Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four.


Briefing Slides contain descriptions of threats in Diyala, graphs depicting trendlines of enemy attacks in Diyala's major cities, information about concerned citizens groups and government activity, and a color-coded map of Diyala's tribes.


Additional Off-site Authors: 


ISW Interview with COL David Sutherland, Commander, Greywolf Brigade, Diyala, Iraq



As part of a series of interviews with Brigade and Division-level commanders in Iraq,  I spoke today with COL David Sutherland, commander of the 3rd BCT, 1st Cavalry Division, about the impressive U.S. operations in the Diyala River Valley during the summer of 2007. You can access the video, Col. Sutherland's briefing slides, and the transcript below. 

Video: Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four.  


Transcript of Interview with COL David Sutherland 25 October 2007
Col. David Sutherland
Kimberly Kagan


Kimberly Kagan: Colonel Sutherland this is Kimberly Kagan, President of the Institute for the Study of War in Washington D.C. I am very pleased to interview you today. You, David Sutherland, are the commander of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, Greywolf, 1st Calvary Division which has been stationed in Diyala province since November 2006 and is scheduled to rotate out of Iraq in December 2007. Col. Sutherland will explain how Greywolf has improved security in Diyala province, during the Iraq-wide offensive undertaken by Coalition and Iraqi forces in the summer and fall of 2007. Welcome. Thank you for joining us.


Col. David Sutherland: Thank you Kim. I appreciate it. I appreciate the opportunity to talk about my soldiers’ achievements and their achievements working with the Iraqi Security Forces to really empower the government of Diyala and the security forces here to improve constantly. The key is, that has been our goal: to enable the government of Diyala to provide services and security for their people.


Kagan: Can you elaborate on Greywolf’s mission? What has the mission of your brigade been since June 2007?


Sutherland: Yeah, our mission has been to conduct counterinsurgency operations, coupled with, and as part of that, stability and reconstruction operations focused on defeating the terrorist and militia organizations that persistently existed in Diyala since our arrival. But, coupled with that was the need to empower and help support the government of Diyala to get their selves up and running. And to also get social order with the Iraqi security forces into Diyala, rule of law, domestic order those elements associated with it and we’ve been doing that, since, as you said, November. Our problem set is extremely different and extremely complex for a province in Iraq. Basically all the issues and conflicts that exist through all of Iraq are a microcosm in Diyala and they exist here. That’s why Diyala is known as the ‘little Iraq.’


Kagan: What sorts of enemies has Greywolf faced in Diyala?
Sutherland: We have been fighting al-Qaeda, predominantly. They are the most vicious elements we have been fighting – they are the elements that don’t care if they kill innocent civilians from both sects, or all sects, I should say. They will just as quickly put a suicide born vehicle-borne IED in front of a hospital or a suicide bomber in front of a mosque and they don’t care who they hurt as long as it helps them achieve their end of inciting sectarian violence. We’ve also been faced with Sunni rejectionists, former Baathists that really lost power when the regime fell and they want it back. We also are facing Iranian influence. Iran wants to establish a hegemony in Iraq and they want to do that in Diyala, for us, because of the lines of communications, the capabilities to influence Baghdad from proximity of the Iranian border. Shia domination through the use(inaudible)… the Shia have the power they don’t want to lose it. So we have been engaged with Shia dominations as well. The last elements that doesn’t fight us but provides resources is an elements called the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq which is a group of former Iranians that are in a compound inside Diyala that had access to munitions, intelligence, and money but are controlled by coalition forces inside that area. They fought for Saddam in the Iran-Iraq war and they have been a presence inside Diyala but they will side with any element that will provide or are counter to Iranian influence, either through the use of munitions, intelligence, or finances. But we have taken away all munitions; we’ve cleared those from the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq. So that’s basically the five elements that we’ve been fighting against. The element that in a non-kinetic sense is Kurdish expansion and this is the Kurds green line that existed from the northern part of Diyala, from Khanaqin to Qarah Tappah now pushed down south towards Mandali. And the reason is is the Kurds want to gain control of their former homeland that in 1973 they were forced out of and the Arabs moved into under Saddam’s instruction. And so a big element that has been creating tension is Kurdish expansion into these areas. And it’s all about resources. The resources in Diyala are abundant: two rivers, one lake, oil fields, electric capability, crops, and agriculture make up the primary economic base of Diyala.


Kagan: The Kurdish expansion you said is aimed at resources. Can the same be said of the al-Qaeda, JAM, or Iranian presence in your area?


Sutherland: Yeah, I would say that the Sunni resurgence, the Baath, really what they are, they are Sunnibased nationalist organizations. They want, they lost political and economic power and they want it back. They rejected the elections, the outcome of the elections, although they didn’t vote, and they want is security, political power, um, they want to be in the lead for the province, and economic power and that’s the Sunni rejectionists. As far as Iranian influence, they want military power; they want political power; economic, as well as religiously-based predominance. The Shia, Iraqi Shia domination, is security and political. Not so much the economic aspect, but it is part of their desire. Al-Qaeda, they want to secure a Wahhabist foot hold. They want to secure a Wahhabist foot hold in Diyala. In May of, or, I’m sorry, in April of 2006 Zarqawi was killed, well in April Zarqawi claimed Diyala as the capital of the caliphate. The Islamic State of Iraq declared Baqubah the provincial capital, the capital of the caliphate, inside what Zarqawi claimed. The capital of the Islamic State of Iraq was in Baqubah. In May of 2006, Zarqawi was killed in Hib Hib. And this is five miles from where I am sitting now. Al-Qaeda planted itself here. This is where they wanted their Caliphate. This is where they wanted the start of the Islamic State of Iraq to take place. And theirs is to secure that foot hold, their intent was to secure the foot hold here. They also had the desire of forcing coalition forces out of Iraq and start an ethnic civil war is what we have found.


Kagan: How did al-Qaeda establish itself among the population of Diyala and in particular in the city of Baqubah?


Sutherland: Yeah, al-Qaeda took advantage of sectarian difficulties I would say. It was created over a period of time, really from Zarqawi’s death until about the November 2006 timeframe. What happened was services began to be shut off in Diyala from the Central Government and this was because of al-Qaeda’s offensive operations. So the people did not see support from the central government. The other thing is that in August/September timeframe of 2006 Iraqi Security Forces, specifically the Iraqi Army, conducted an operation in Baqubah and detained about 500 individuals. They did wide-cast wide-sweep operations inside the city of Baqubah detaining every military-age male that was in the province, or in the city I should say, and what this did was created a perception of the Iraqi Security Forces as being sectarian. It was further compounded in Baqubah when during Holy Ramadan of 2006 the Iraqi Army and Iraqi Police conducted another operation and detained about 400 other military aged men. There was no intelligence driving these operations. There was no evidence. They did wide-sweep wide-cast operations and detained close to in total 900 individuals. Of those 900 individuals, all but 2 were Sunni. So it gave the perception of the Iraqi Security Forces as a sectarian organization. In reality the Iraqi Security Forces were conducting operations based on the training that they had received under Saddam. Saddam’s method was to go in, conduct these wide-sweep wide-cast operations, detain as many people as possible, and then investigate them. In a democracy or in an environment like this, it created a perception of sectarian bias. So you had Sunnis turning to other organization for security against the Iraqi Security Forces. You had a perception of an ineffective government and an ineffective ((pause)) inclusion into the province of the sects. And the reason for that is because Diyala is a, the population is about 60% Sunni, about 34 %-35% Shia, and the remained are Kurds. Yet the Provincial Governor is Shia, the Provincial Director of Police at that time when we first got here was Shia, and the chief, or the Commander of the 5th Iraqi Army Division were Shia, or was Shia. Additionally, the basis of this perception of sectarian government was also in the provincial council. Again the Sunnis didn’t vote in a provincial council. 21 of the provincial council members are Shia; 14 are Sunni; and 7 are Kurds. So you have a government that is not representative, so much, of the population. Additionally, the Iraqi Police at that time during our arrival were recruited, not from the neighborhoods, but from outside the neighborhoods. In fact the police chief at the time, Gassan al-Bawi, the provincial director of police, was recruiting from Baghdad. He had recruited about 300 individuals from the Wolf Brigade, which was a national police organization, very Shia organization, and he recruited them to assume rolls as policemen inside Baqubah. Again further fueling that perception of sectarianism. So the public perception of inequity, corruption of the ISF, the people were disgusted and disillusioned by the ISF based on the treatment of the people and the disrespect they showed to the people. And fear of where the Sunnis were being left out of the security and the political process, partly of their choosing, were the driving forces behind support for terrorists and specifically al-Qaeda. They turned to those terrorists networks for security, what they thought could provide them services, and representation.


Sutherland: Al-Qaeda was able to take control of this situation and drive a wedge between the people and the government, and drive a wedge between the people and the Iraqi Security Forces. And quite honestly, it was textbook insurgency. The tribal leaders, a large part of the social order of things in Diyala, were left out. And they were left out starting in about 2003, when it was announced that the tribal leaders have no place in the future of Diyala, or in the future of Iraq, I should say, the tribal leaders recognized that and they began losing power. So, a, a large portion of the social aspect in the province, the social leaders, were removed from the equation, again being able to prove opportunities for al-Qaeda, both in recruiting as well as taking advantage of the disgust, as I discussed earlier, the disgust that the people had towards the Iraqi Security Forces. So, that was our conditions at the time we arrived here and what we had to do was determine how, how to best fight this. And it came down to many different things; but one of the problems was, the other problems, were that there was no local media. And the fact that there was no local media fueled unwarranted hysteria. So every time a rumor would be circulated that there were 500 insurgents amassing at one place, it would create just absolute pandemonium and the people would not come out of their houses. They would stay in. No one was on the streets, after say twelve noon every day in Baqubah. And in those isolated areas, say, the Diyala River Valley, people were afraid to take their produce to market, or to go to the market. When we had a suicide VBIED go into a market, in a town called Abu Saydah, which is predominantly a Shia town, the people instantly believed that VBIED came from the areas known as, villages known as Mukeisha abu Garmah and Qubbah, which are predominantly Sunni. And so that fueled more sectarian violence, and more, ((pause)) really suspicions. And they cut themselves off; Abu Saydah cut itself off from Mukeisha abu Garmah. And so there, they turned to al-Qaeda as well, but that was because we could not get the word out through the lack of local media, what the real situation was. Does all that make sense?


Kagan: It does make sense. And it sounds as though Diyala had faced a very difficult problem set. Can you talk about the ((pause)) what areas did al-Qaeda control in addition to Baqubah by the spring of 2007? Did al-Qaeda control Muqdadiyah? Did it control other villages in the Diyala River Valley?


Sutherland: Yeah, and understand that in this fight, how do you define control—they could control through fear, they could control through perception of fear, they could control through psychological means, as well as physical means. In April of 2006, again I’ll go back to that to start from, specifically on Saddam Hussein’s birthday, al-Qaeda conducted seven coordinated attacks inside the province. They attacked Udaim, on the northwestern side of the province; they attacked into Muqdadiyah; they attacked Balad Ruz, Kana’an, Khalis, Khan Bani Sa’ad, and Baqubah, those areas. And they didn’t have to say, they had to create a perception. And, again, Zarqawi set up his headquarters in Hib Hib. They had control of a large part of the province. They would not live, per se, inside Baqubah, but rather would come into Baqubah from an area known as the Diyala River Valley, the DRV, and they would occupy safe houses inside Baqubah. Uh, and use that, the provincial capital, to discredit the Iraqi Security Forces and the government of Diyala, for outposts, if you will, inside Baqubah, because what they wanted to do was get the people to lose confidence in the government. They also used what, what would be, I would define as night letters, and they would deliver letters at night to government employees, telling them not to show up for work or they would be killed. And they basically, in the November 2006 timeframe, until February, shut down the government almost completely. In Balad Ruz, uh, the village of Balad Ruz, which is about 100,000 people, they did not control the inner city of Balad Ruz, what they did though was control the outer area, specifically south of Balad Ruz, an area known as Turki Village, Turki Tuluz, and Tuwillah. And a group known as the Council, hardcore, well-trained Wahhabists that were loyal to Saddam, Uday and Qusay, used to go to this area south of Balad Ruz and go hunting, and would basically spend their vacations there, so the people were really loyal to them. But what they also had there was supplies, lots of supplies. And when we went in, in January of 2007, into this area south of Balad Ruz, ah, we found, between December and January, over 40 caches to include 1500 Katyusha rockets, 52mm Katyusha rockets, ah, 1000 RPGs, and I can go on and on. Ah, they also had control of an area north of Mandali, that is part of the al-Nida tribe, and the al-Nida tribe actually were relocated to this area by Saddam, to protect the border between Iraq and Iran. Saddam paid them very well; he gave them lots of political favors and lots of contracts. So when Saddam fell, their livelihood went away, plus with the Kurdish expansion they see encroachment by the Kurds on what they perceive is their area, when in fact it’s an area that Saddam moved them into when he displaced the Kurds. Uh, in Muqdadiyah, they would fight in Muqdadiyah, they had control of large portions of Muqdadiyah, but also the areas to the west of Muqdadiyah, south of Hamrin Lake, where they could control the lines of communications, the road networks running from Kirkuk to the northwest, to Khanaqin in the east, and then down to Baqubah and then Baghdad. The road networks were very important to them to support their fight inside Baghdad. They also had control of Udaim and to a certain extent, the areas south of Baqubah, uh, which is the Bani Sa’ad tribal area running along major road networks that run down south from the south corner of Baqubah to, ah, Salman Pak on the east side of Baghdad. All this to control road networks as well as control the people; but really their biggest thing was to discredit Iraqi Security Forces, Coalition Forces, and the government of Iraq.


Kagan: How did Greywolf begin to, uh, address these problems? Can you briefly describe the preliminary operations that you undertook, after clearing Turki Village in January 2007, to control the expansion of, uh, al-Qaeda, the Kurdish expansion, the Jaysh al-Mahdi, and Iranian influence?


Sutherland: Yeah. Ah, what we had to do, quite honestly was, the first thing we had to do was figure out the capabilities of the Iraqi Security Forces, we had to determine how, what we could rely on the Iraqi Army to do. The Iraqi Army is a year, uh, was at that time three years old. You develop a force through training; you develop a discipline, you develop leadership, you develop values through training. What we quickly realized was you also developed systems, logistics systems, Command and Control systems. What we quickly realized was this new Iraqi Army was not trained, uh, so it is the first force, really in the world that is training in contact. We’ve trained forces in combat before, out of contact, we will pull them off the line and delay your fight, and train them, or refit, reorganize, but what we found was we had to get the Iraqi Army trained to a level where they could conduct continuous and sustained operations with our Coalition forces in the fight. We did this by partnering with them in every operation, started on the west side of Baqubah, um, two weeks after we got there in November. Once we got them to a level that we perceived that they could sustain themselves, conduct continuous operations, then that is when we really started beginning our offensive, persistent, aggressive operations. The other thing that we realized very quickly was al-Qaeda thought we owned the roads, therefore they believed they owned everything else. And, quite honestly, that was foreign to us and the Coalition Forces. They don’t own anything. I am not gonna give them a thing. And so we began very quickly attacking into areas they perceived was their safe havens. We had to stop their efforts to inflict sectarian violence and increase sectarian violence. We had to stop their efforts to move supplies into Baghdad and into Baqubah. And so we began very persistent and aggressive operations to control the ((pause)) to stop their freedom of movement and to take away their perceived safe havens. So I directed the staff where we would do that first, how we would do it; and the first thing we had to take away was the supply base that was south of Balad Ruz in the Turki area, as you discussed. And then once they did that, um, we had a permanent presence established in Turki though a Joint Combat Outpost between the Iraqi Army and my Coalition Forces. And then we began attacking simultaneously in Baqubah, the Diyala River Valley, and the Muqdadiyah area, uh, completely attempting to take away any safe havens that they believed they had. Once we had the Iraqi security conditions set—just throwing more forces at the problem doesn’t get us a solution—once we got the conditions set where the government was beginning to come back to work, they passed the first budget in three years, uh, and in February of this year, February-March timeframe, the Iraqi Army was participating in continuous, sustained operations, logistics were working. And we had the Iraqi, some changes made in the Iraqi Police. I went to my chain of command and we asked for another battalion. And we got in the March timeframe, the 5-20, the 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry, which is a Stryker Battalion, added to us. Uh, they were predominantly focused inside Baqubah and they were able to make a difference in securing the east side of the city.


But there were some missing…two things missing in this equation. First one was the people; we had still not driven a wedge between the terrorists and the insurgents. Therefore, with the insurgents, there was still support going to the people, uh, of al-Qaeda and other rogue militia. Uh, so there was auxiliary support as well as base support going to al-Qaeda. The other thing we still didn’t have media working very well, immature media, really taking place. In February, I met with a group of individuals that are now leading the concerned local citizens in Baqubah, but this was facilitated by, and in Diyala, facilitated by Sheik Ahmed al-Tamimi, who was the head of the Shia Endowment Foundation inside Diyala and everyone I met with, he facilitated this get-together with was Sunni and Sunni leaders. We also started reconciliation efforts in earnest, specifically with four, four of the paramount sheiks. And we got started, we stood up the independent radio, assisted in the stand-up of radio television network, which is the first independent radio television network in the Middle East. This provided us television, radio that reaches as far north as Tikrit into Iran and south into Fallujah; we have nothing to do with programming, it’s all done by Iraqis and they tell the truth. They also talk about their common ground between the sects. And the effort with the tribal leaders being brought back into the security situation, the individuals that are now concerned local citizens began fighting back, the result was, in April timeframe, we were able to clear Burhiz, the southeast portion of Diyala, uh, Baqubah, and Tahrir. The concerned local citizens pointed out to us, in one operation, seventy caches, seven-zero caches inside Tahrir. They also pointed out to us over seven-zero, seventy, IEDs inside the city of Tahrir. So, we were able to drive a wedge now between the terrorists and the insurgents by getting the people to participate. We brought in, back in the social order of things, we were reenergizing media, we got projects started in the cities, the government was participating by passing the budget for reconstruction and for um, services. The Iraqi Security Forces were now participating and concerned local citizens were guarding their neighborhoods. Uh so, and then we continued our offensive operations because what that did, the people were turning against al-Qaeda, they started giving us more and more information. And May timeframe Colonel, the great Colonel, Steve Townshend, who commands 3rd Brigade, 2nd ID, and I, began talking, went to our chain-of command and we were able to bring in, in the June timeframe, Steve’s brigade into Baqubah. He focused on Baqubah; I focused outside Baqubah and we conducted Operation Arrowhead Ripper to clear Baqubah, once the conditions were set.


Kagan: How did the combat operations that Greywolf undertook in June and July, change the enemy situation, disposition, and goals, uh, that is to say, the enemy in Baqubah and the enemy in the Diyala River Valley?


Sutherland: Yeah, we were able to dominate because of the surge in forces, the increase in forces into Iraq. We were able to get 3rd Brigade, 2nd ID inside Baqubah to conduct Arrowhead Ripper. We dominated the city of Baqubah. With the forces that we had, we moved, um, 5,000 Iraqi Army, into, give or take, into the city of Baqubah, Iraqi Security Forces, I should say, into the city of Baqubah. We had a brigade of Strykers in the city of Baqubah, so we were able to dominate that terrain. That took away their safe haven. The people saw what Buhriz, Tahrir, neighborhoods inside Baqubah on the east side of Baqubah; we were able to get food into them, humanitarian assistance projects, jobs, so the people in the rest of the city, as we dominated it, said, decided that they wanted what Tahrir and Buhriz had. They saw that al-Qaeda was starving them, was preventing them from having electricity, was preventing them from having fresh drinking water—all these things that they had shut off, stopped their jobs, uh, we don’t, Western world do not understand the power of humiliation. And that’s what al-Qaeda was able to do to control the population. That stopped. Al-Qaeda no longer could control the population, they no longer could prevent from services from getting to the people. The people saw that there actually was a better way. The Iraqi Security Forces, because they were acting with respect and showing the people dignity, were now accepted by the population. Al-Qaeda lost all support inside the city of Baqubah, and therefore were forced out. Simultaneous, as we conducted our operations in the Diyala River Valley, much different terrain, uh, much, significantly different terrain, it’s almost all palm groves, very dense palm groves. We were able to go in to the major cities in the Diyala River Valley that had been providing some level of support to al-Qaeda; and dominate those villages and the terrain associated with that, and kill or capture the members of al-Qaeda that had been using that as safe haven as well as an area for logistics support. We took away all of their logistics, and therefore, uh, and so we didn’t necessarily have to defeat al-Qaeda in the Diyala River Valley; what we did was we took away any support and so their perceived safe havens went away. Uh, those that we didn’t kill or capture had moved to, into, further north, into the Muqdadiyah area; and we began conducting operations inside Muqdadiyah. Simultaneous with this, we were able to then establish the services, uh, food, shipments, as well as the public distribution system of food. We were able to get electricity, drinking water, again all the things al-Qaeda cut out, into these areas. And the people saw that now they could have the same things that the city of Baqubah was getting, and again they turned off support. But what they really lost was any support either financially or intelligence from, ah, the people and vis-à-vis through that it was really the sheiks, the tribal leaders took control of their men, took control of their areas. We empowered them to do that, and the people followed the courage of their tribal leaders.


Kagan: Once Greywolf had cleared the Diyala River Valley, in the first set of offensive operations in June and July, um, it seems as though there were still enemy groups remaining. You mentioned that al-Qaeda elements moved northward through the Diyala River Valley. How did you make sure that these elements could not then establish themselves in the new safe havens that they were trying to occupy or, worse yet, re-infiltrate Baqubah and the cities you had cleared?


Sutherland: Yeah, well, again our resources, ah, the capabilities, what we did was establish a strategy based on the area. Um, and each area inside Diyala is different; each major city is different; each qadaa, each nahia is different. And what we determined was four elements, in some cases five, but it was kinetic operations, reconciliation between the tribes, the villages, the sects, um, establishment of concerned local citizens that would guard their neighborhoods and provide information, building ISF, Iraqi Security Force Capacity in those areas that did not have policemen or Iraqi army, and really the last one was reestablishment of services. In the Diyala River Valley, we determined it was first kinetic operations—go in, clear those areas. As you clear them, simultaneously, the hold factor became the reconciliation effort and depending what it, where it was, for instance it may be village on village reconciliation, it may be tribe on tribe, it may be sect on sect, but reconciliation specific to that area. The next one was the establishment of essential services, synchronization, food and water; and once we did that we needed to figure out who would guard those essential services. So we either established concerned local citizens networks, uh, the individuals we had checked backgrounds on, or we established a police force.

In the Diyala River Valley, it was predominantly reestablishment of the police force that had been killed or run out by al-Qaeda in those areas.


Kagan: Can you describe the, Greywolf’s participation in Operation Lightning Hammer I?
Sutherland: Yeah, Lightning Hammer I was an operation, we were the division main effort. It was an MND-N operation all across the four provinces of Multi-National Division-North. We were the main effort and we conducted an operation, what was called operation Pericles in the Diyala River Valley, were we cleared about thirteen different villages from the northern part of Baqubah up to and including little Abu Saydah, Sunni, Shia areas dotted them. I mean it is literally one area is Shia, next area is Sunni, next area Shia, next area Sunni. And we cleared those. Final operation was focused on an area known as, three villages, Mukeisha, Abu Garmah, and Qubbah. As one squadron was conducting those operations through air assaults, another squadron, 6-9 CAV, was clearing the Wojihiyah to Kana’an corridor, where they fought about a company-size element of al-Qaeda in that area, that had taken over the corridor between these two major cities. During that operation, we reduced, uh, 18 IEDs, killed or captured over 40 al-Qaeda members, uh, reduced three house-borne IEDs and six VBIEDs that were targeting, targeted as suicide VBIEDS for the city of Baqubah, we believe. We destroyed one al-Qaeda company-size element, about 60 individuals, 66 individuals, to include a command post, medical outpost for treatment, and discovered and destroyed ten caches that were also being used to resupply insurgents in and around the area; and then detained another 39 al-Qaeda suspects.


Kagan: In order to pursue al-Qaeda beyond these areas, uh, Multi-National Division-North undertook Operation Lightning Hammer II. Can you describe Greywolf’s contribution to that operation?


Sutherland: Absolutely, and specifically Greywolf Hammer II, was focused on clearing Muqdadiyah, a large city, very important to the province, but important to al-Qaeda for its lines of communications. Also, establish security operations, security outposts in the Diyala River Valley, and then holding and conducting essential service synchronization inside Muqda, or Baqubah, rather. And then the final part of it was to clear al-Qaeda elements south of Balad Ruz that had attempted to reinfiltrate back into the Turki area. During this operation, which for me continues in Muqdadiyah, but really lasted about a week and a half, ten days, we were able to defeat al-Qaeda cells in Mudadiyah, reestablish the public distribution system of food inside the Muqdadiyah qadaa, not just the city itself. So that now, all five qadaas in Diyala are receiving their public distribution of food, which they hadn’t received in almost two years. We were able to reestablish fuel distribution into the province, which had not been coming, in either benzene, kerosene, liquid propane, gas, or diesel in any quantity, in over sixteen months. It is now coming into the province; in fact, supply is keeping up pretty much with demand. We detained or killed, detained about a two company al-Qaeda force that was in Diyala. And then we were able to reduce over 109 IEDs, uh, six house-borne IEDs, and three VBIEDs, and one suicide vest we found actually weighed 75 pounds and had quarter-inch ball-bearings in it. And we suspect that it was being targeted for a reconciliation meeting.


Kagan: During these operations, did al-Qaeda or the Jaysh al-Madhi attempt to re-infiltrate Baqubah or reestablish their supply lines?


Sutherland: Yeah, and they’ll continue to try to do that. They will continue to make every effort to reestablish themselves. They’re determined, ((unintelligible)) they’re determined, and we continue to attack them. We also continue to support the people. But where they have lost their support is with the average person inside Diyala. The people now are seeing the benefits of security and so what we have found as we’ve transitioned from security to development and reform—development of systems, development of jobs, works programs. The Diyala Electric Instit, uh, Industries, which in March of this year was only hiring two people, is now hiring over 800; and we anticipate in the next six months as many as 2,500 people will have jobs at the Diyala Electric Institute. This is a place that makes fiber optic cable, transformers for electric, electricity, and in fact, they have 120km of fiber optics that are waiting for Ministry of Communications to come and inspect. Those sorts of things are taking away the capabilities of al-Qaeda. Those sorts of things are providing to the people, and they are seeing the benefit. So there is no support for al-Qaeda. There is very little support for ((pause)) Sunni rejectionists; and Jaysh al-Mahdi, or rogue militia, is being turned on by their own people. They see, you know Jaysh al-Mahdi is a title, it’s the rogue militia, those elements that will go in and clear or fill the vacuum after we’ve cleared an area; that we’re concerned about. So we continue to attack them as well. But, again, they’ve lost support because they take away those services and the capabilities that, that quite honestly, the things that the people want.


Kagan: Are these services that the government is providing come from Diyala itself, or do these services come from Baghdad and elsewhere in Iraq?


Sutherland: Yeah, it is a split. Electricity is controlled by the Ministry of Electric, fuel is controlled by the ministry of oil, PDS is controlled by the Ministry of Trade. Yet inside the province, there are director generals that control this. The DG of Health is extremely good, and he is making sure every hospital is supplied with medical supplies. Now, in fact, 90% of the hospitals and clinics we assess as fully capable in the province, the gas stations, fuel is being provided by the DG of oil, and of the 55 gas stations, government owned gas stations in Diyala. We now have 85% of them fully capable, in fact I think it is 90% as of yesterday that are fully capable. Inside, the government, with the passing of the budget, we have seen a ninety-nine billion Iraqi dinar provincial reconstruction plan that they have passed. Now the Reconstruction Operations Control Center under the government is a committee that is passing contracts and providing basically claims to the people whose houses were destroyed and paying people that were displaced, providing compensation for the displaced families to come back. As I said, the provincial council passed a budget for the first time in three years, of that, in March, they had only allocated 2% of that budget, they have now allocated 61% and the remainder is in bids and contracts. The 2007 budget has been passed and it is in advertising and bidding, and this could not have happened without the work of the Provincial Reconstruction Team which is part of the Department of State that I work with very closely. So they are achieving weekly quorums in the provincial council which didn’t happen, as I said, because of the night letter campaign and other things, so it is being provided by the provincial, the province itself. There are still areas that need help. The Ministry of Oil has got to provide a plan for liquid propane gas. They also have to provide a better distribution plan for the province; for instance, the canals in the province. I’m convinced the Iraqis could figure out how to get water to run up hill. They need to provide fuel to run the pumps at the canals, and with the canals, and they need to allocate for that, they also need to allocate fuel for the generators, at the hospitals. There are a few others things that need to take place from the ministries, but the biggest one right now is Ministry of Interior, and the appropriate hiring instructions for policemen into the province.


Kagan: Why is that important to the reconciliation efforts that are underway and to the attempts to hold the areas that you’ve cleared?


Sutherland: How is…the efforts by the province?


Kagan: The concerns that you have about the Ministry of the Interior and the police force – how do they relate to the reconciliation effort?


Sutherland: Yeah, the provincial director of police wants to hire policemen from the Concerned Local Citizens, he wants to hire policemen from the neighborhoods, the tribal leaders want their men to have jobs they want to participate in the security process. The Concerned Local Citizens are not paid to guard their neighborhoods. They want to be policemen. The province has an authorization of 6,000 additional policemen. They have been waiting for several weeks for the Ministry of the Interior to provide hiring instructions so the director of police for the province can hire these men to be policemen. Give them jobs. Help them secure, pay them to secure their neighborhood and enforce rule of law and domestic order. It is not happening. There is some friction, or some ((pause)) difficulty on getting hiring instructions for these CLCs, but what it does is, when it is passed, and when we do get those hiring instructions is that it generates jobs, it generates a perception as well as actual ((pause)) power by the tribal leaders to participate and a reason for them to participate.


Kagan: What is your assessment now of the degree to which Diyala province is a functioning province? What are the major problems that you see coming up on the horizon for Diyala and what are the major trends or solutions you see?


Sutherland: Yeah, that is, an ((unintelligle)) question. Right now, there is security. It is basically a wave of security that has taken place. There are still al-Qaeda elements within the province, there are still Jaysh al-Mahdi rogue militia elements within the province, there is still ongoing tribal conflict within the province, but the solution comes down to, in my opinion, right now, jobs – number one, canals with water flowing, agriculture, appropriate allocation of fuel, and capacity within the province, being assisted by the central government, continued emphasis on the Diyala electric industries. The last two are, getting the CLCs hired into the police force and part of the security process, and then continuing to work with the tribal leaders, within the province to control their men, to get them jobs, and to dispel rumors, and I would say, the last one that I neglected is the fact that IRTN – Independent Radio Television Network – is now going satellite capable, and will start transmitting here in the next couple and it will start with a state of the province address by the governor, umm, and that is huge because one of the problems we have had here is the government’s ability to communicate with the people and tell them what’s happening and how they are making a difference for the people. Satellite capability inside Diyala is now the primary means of communications from the government to the people, and so we will have satellite capability within the province for media and the government to use to get the word out.


Kagan: Sounds as though Greywolf has done an amazing job with improving the security situation and the provincial government within Diyala during the past year and I congratulate you on the extraordinary work that you and your soldiers have done. Do you think that this kind of progress that you have seen can continue, and do you think that some US forces need to be present in Diyala in order to continue the movement toward reconciliation and the provision of government services and the provision of security?


Sutherland: The level of violence, the increase in services, the efforts to get employment and jobs working will be determined by the people of Diyala. What I do is enable them. Right now as I said, there are still al-Qaeda elements out there that want to reinfiltrate back in. I will destroy them, working with the Iraqi security forces. There are still rogue militia organizations that want to control areas, for advancement of either secular or economic interests. I will destroy them, working with Iraqi security forces. There is corruption that is still existing in elements of the government that has to be attacked and we will attack that. The people will determine the outcome of this, I will be their enabler. I am absolutely in awe of my soldiers and airmen and Marines and seamen that are working with me. I am absolutely amazed at the places they will go and the things they will do. The kindness that they show to the people of Diyala enabled the courage of the people of Diyala. The courage of my soldiers and the values that they show improve the capabilities of the Iraqi security forces because they want to emulate it. The provincial reconstruction team that I work with from Department of State allows the government to be serious and honest, and what is important about that is the will of the government provides the hope of the people and what we do in Diyala with our coalition force presence and the Department of State presence and the efforts of the PRT is assist them in maintaining that will. In the long-run, the people will still be the ones that determine the outcome of this.


Kagan: Colonel Sutherland, thank you so much for joining me today and the Institute for the Study of War, and for talking with us about the achievements of Greywolf in Diyala. I really appreciate your time.


Sutherland: Thanks Kim.


Kagan: Thank you.
((End of Interview))

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