Sunday, March 04, 2007

Why the Surge might work

Mudville Gazette gathers together the early reporting on the next phase of 'the surge'; US forces are moving into Sadr City:

MNF-I has deeper background:

New plan for greater securityBy Sgt. Mike Pryor2nd BCT, 82nd Abn. Div. Public AffairsMulti-National Division – Baghdad PAO

BAGHDAD – Coalition and Iraqi security forces are bringing new ideas into the ongoing operation to secure Baghdad.

Sadr City is being included in negotiations through efforts on all sides. Commanders from the Iraqi Army, Iraqi Police, and 2nd Brigade Combat, 82nd Airborne Division met with a civic leader of Sadr City, Raheem Al Darraji, on March 1 in order to discuss upcoming security plans for Sadr City and the infusion of national level Iraqi security forces. The meeting took place at a police station in Sadr City that will soon become the area’s first Joint Security Station, manned 24 hours-a-day by all elements of the security forces including U.S. forces.

“It was a very positive meeting,” said Col. Don Farris of Lone Star, Texas, commander of the 82nd Airborne Division’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team based out of Fort Bragg, N.C., “They’ve shown they are willing to reach out to the government of Iraq and coalition forces.”

The 2nd Brigade Combat Team of the 82nd Airborne Division is the first of several BCTs that will flow into Baghdad in the coming months as part of the troop surge to combat sectarian violence. They are already having an impact in the key area of Sadr City.

Farris’ unit has been establishing small bases called combat outposts on the edges of Sadr City since early last month, positioning themselves for a significantly increased presence in the densely populated six square mile area. That move, which at one time would have been politically unthinkable for the Iraqi government, is now becoming a reality.

This time rather than barricade them off, it appears that leaders in Sadr City are ready to work with coalition forces when they come.

Weary of a cycle of violence and militia activities, as well as al-Qaeda attacks in the area, Mr. Raheem Al Darraji stressed again and again during the meeting that he welcomed the presence of Iraqi and U.S. forces, and the help they could provide his people.

“We want you here sooner, rather than later,” Al Darraji said. Initial reports indicate the overall Baghdad Security Plan – which has placed thousands of additional troops on the streets of the Iraqi capital – has achieved reduced levels of violence thus far.

Maj. Gen. Abdul Kareem, commander of the 8th Brigade, 2nd Iraqi National Police Division, a joint partner said there is no reason why the successes of the security plan in other parts of Baghdad can’t be replicated in Sadr City. “We will do the same as we did in Adhamiyah. It is one nation and no one is above the law,” Kareem said.

Farris also stressed that point. The Iraqi Government and its coalition partners have the authority to go after criminals, extremists, and insurgents wherever they are located.

“There are no sanctuaries, anywhere,” Farris said.

Mookie doesn't seem thrilled by it all, but that is hardly a surprise: Sadr himself has allegedly responded through "associates" from his unknown hiding place (perhaps deep in Iran):
Sadr, in a statement issued by associates, did not threaten force against the troops, but he rejected U.S. and Iraqi officials' statements in the last week that negotiations had cleared the way for the establishment of the joint security station in Sadr City.

Sadr's words carry huge weight in Sadr City, a teeming poverty-stricken area in northeast Baghdad, and his opposition to the presence of American soldiers could throw a wrench into plans to set up the station.

Will it work? Can't know 'til it's tried. But as for why it might work, it's pretty straight-forward; the combination of security and political involvement has been the missing ingredient in Iraq now for too long. This approach isn't a silver bullet but it gives the US and Iraqi's a chance at stabilizing the capital and thereby the country.

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