Making Strides in Baqubah
June 25, 2007
It sounds like Operation Arrowhead Ripper in Diyala province, which began early Tuesday, June 19th is so far seeing success. The US casualty count in this operation has remained low, while a large number of terrorists have been killed and/or detained. Hopefully, as this Operation continues, Diyala province will once again become a safe place for it’s citizens.
Photo taken June 19th Baquba, Iraq, by Army SSG Antonieta Rico
When they first entered the western part of Baqubah for the first time on Thursday, troops with the Iraqi Ary had considerable doubt. They had heard that the western part of the city was the worse and that everyone there, including the women and children were allied with the terrorists. They were surprised at the reception they got.
“Honestly, I thought this operation would never be successful because I had information that al-Qaeda had big guns and RPG’s (rocket propelled grenades)” said Iraqi Army commander Lt. Qusai. “We thoughts that all the people here are terrorists and everyone is bad, even the women and children.”
The reception they got surprised them, as many of the Sunni Arabs in that part of the city, welcomed them and their US counterparts. One man graciously offered them glasses of water that he brought out on a tray, a woman happily wept at the sight of them. The patrols were a step towards ridding Baqubah of al-Qaeda operatives, who have been terrorizing the citizens. The insurgents had declared Baqubah as the capital of their shadow government, which they called the Islamic State of Iraq.
“It was the worse part of the city,” said Lt. Qusai. “But I found … that not all the people here are bad.”
It’s imperative that the Iraqi forces are able to control the streets of Baqubah. Baqubah lies between Baghdad and the border with Iraq, in Diyala province. Last summer, Iraqi forces had been given the responsibility for security in Diyala province, only to see security break down. That began to slowly change in October, when 1st Cavalry Division’s 3rd Brigade Combat Team arrived in Iraq, whose commander Col. David Sutherland, declared that al-Qaeda forces would be routed from the province. It’s imperative that once Baqubah is cleared of al-Qaeda operatives, that Iraqi security forces are able to maintain security in the city.
“They will be the forcese that retain, hold and secure the neighborhoods, after US troops have swept through,” said Army Brigadere General Mick Bednarek, deputy commanding officer for operations in northern Iraq.
As a means to that end, training was stepped up for Iraqi fordces, last year. Once US reinforcements arrivevd in mid-March from Baghdad, they began to systematically pursue the insurgents, starting one neighborhood at a time and setting up permanent security outposts in those neighborhoods. According to US Commanders, 2 of the neighborhoods in eastern Baqubah have been largely pacified.
According to US Commanders, the Iraqi army Soldiers who deployed to western Baqubah are much more professional than those in the past. They are dressed in full uniform and body armor. They’re more disciplined and focused, than in the past. The Iraqi forces have been sent into areas that were previously cleared by US troops, in an attempt to gain further information.
“We are shoulder to shoulder with Iraqi Security Forces in this fight,” said Brig. General Mick Bednarek. “Specifically the 5th Iraqi Army Division led by Major Gen. Saleen Ali alotbel, along with the provincial director of police.”
The weeks ahead are crucial, not only to show the citizens of Baqubah that the Iraqi Security Forces can be trusted and are there to help them, but also to maintain control over the city, making it a safer place for the citizens of Diyala. So far, as Operation Arrowhead Ripper continues into it’s 7th day, Iraqi and American forces are beginning to root out al0Qaeda and to safely neutralize their traps, such as explosive rigged schools, abandoned buildings, and cars. The citizens are cooperating more and more and are learning that the Iraqi forces can be trusted to help them.
“They weren’t a ragtag bunch,” said Captain Matthew James. “We just want to introduce them to the neighborhood and maybe pick up some human intel.”
James shared that he was impressed with the Iraqi troops and their ability to pick up on details. They’ve been able to gather information which has led to the discovery of several weapons caches. On the first day, they also made three arrests. The Iraqi Army is stepping up in other areas as well, taking responsibility for supplying food and water to their troops, instead of relying on US transportation. James said that the troops showed much enthusiasm for patrolling alongside American troops. US forces allowed the Iraqi’s to take the lead. One instance James cited, was when residents had pointed out vehicles that had been used by insurgents. The Iraqi forces wanted to burn the vehicles. US forces allowed them to do so, sending a message to the citizens of the area that the Iraqi Security forces are in charge.
So far, since the beginning of Operation Arrowhead Ripper, coalition forces have taken few casualties, while killing at least 51 al-Qaeda operatives and more than 20 detained. 7 weapon caches have been discovered, 21 IED’s destroyed and 9 booby-trapped buildings have been destroyed. I’ll try to update as more news comes in about the progress of Operation Arrowhead Ripper.