After The Surge: Task Force Raider's Experience in Iraq


by Lieutenant Colonel David M. Hodne, U.S. Army


U.S. Army units rotating into Iraq in the fall of 2008 faced new challenges that would test their collective agility, professionalism, competence, and in many respects, their creativity.  This was the case regardless of their requisite level of experience gained through previous deployments. 1 January 2009 marked the implementation of two historic accords between the Governments of Iraq and the United States – the Security Agreement (SA) and the Strategic Framework Agreement.  These accords represented significant strides in partnership at the strategic level as they demonstrated a clear U.S. commitment to the citizens of Iraq as well as to regional stability. 

Where the latter agreement (SFA) broadly addressed relations on economy, culture, science, technology, health and trade, the Security Agreement established a date for U.S. withdrawal from Iraq by  31 December 2011, governed the legal status and protections of U.S. forces and military property in Iraq, and defined their legal authority to conduct operations independent of Iraqi Security Forces (ISF).

Where U.S. units previously operated with relative impunity, future rules for detention operations outlined, “No detention or arrest may be carried out by the United States Forces (except with respect to detention or arrest of members of the United States Forces and of the civilian component) except through an Iraqi decision issued in accordance with Iraqi law and pursuant to Article 4.” At the ground level, many U.S. units demonstrated reluctance and caution with respect to this new framework for tactical operations. Many expressed concern that we would no longer maintain authorities to detain or that we would not be afforded the right to defend ourselves.  Others recognized this as an opportunity representing enhanced freedom of maneuver with respect to counterinsurgency operations.

The 3rd Squadron, 4th U.S. Cavalry Regiment (3-4 CAV) arrived to the Balad and Dujayl districts of Salah Ad Din Province, Iraq, with the clear understanding that we would be the first coalition unit to implement the historic Security Agreement.  At the strategic level, this was a critical step towards reestablishing Iraqi sovereignty.  At the tactical and operational level, some viewed this as a constraint.