June 8th, 2007 05:49 EST
Surge Strategy Nneeds More Time Mr. Bush
CAMP VICTORY — Well into the third month of the coalition’s effort to secure Baghdad, clear progress has been made, but much work remains to be done, said the ground commander of coalition troops in Iraq May 31.
In a satellite interview from Camp Victory with Washington-based reporters, Army Lt. Gen. Ray Odierno, Multi-National Corps–Iraq, commanding general, said nearly 8,000 surge-related troops – the final combat elements of the American troops buildup – will move into position during the next two weeks. The units are the 3rd Combat Aviation Brigade, 2nd Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division and the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit.
Once the units are in place, it will still take months for the full impact of the surge, which involves close to 30,000 combat and support troops, to be felt. New units coming into theater need anywhere from 30 to 60 days to get a feel for their sectors before they can start making an impact on security conditions, Odierno said.
“When fighting a counterinsurgency, you have to first understand the environment you’re operating in - its people, the enemy, the physical and human terrain and the local dynamics - and only then can you begin to understand what must be done to accomplish your mission,” he said.
Still, the surge and related strategy of placing forces at 28 combat outposts and 28 joint security stations in the greater Baghdad area is starting to produce results, Odierno said. Since the first unit of the surge arrived, coalition forces across Iraq have detained more than 18,000 extremists and captured or killed more than 1,700 high-value targets. Coalition forces have also found more than 2,400 weapons caches so far in 2007, compared with around 2,600 in all of 2006, he said.
The extra manpower has also helped coalition efforts to protect and develop several of Baghdad’s markets. One such market in the city’s Dora neighborhood started the surge with no retail outlets and now has 250, Odierno said.
The main goal of the surge, which is formally titled Operation Fardh al- Qanoon, is to create a secure, stable environment for the Iraqi people in Baghdad. Doing so should give the Iraqi government the time and space it needs to build its capacity and make the political reforms necessary for its success, Odierno said.
The strategy has coalition forces employing diplomatic and economic measures in addition to military tactics. To that end, forces at all levels of command have become more proactive in reaching out to Iraq’s various sects, including mainstream Sunni insurgents as well as elements of Moqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army, Odierno said.
About 80 percent of Mahdi Army members and non-al-Qaida Sunni insurgents are reconcilable. The goal is to get these groups to reach out to the government of Iraq and participate in the country’s formal reconciliation efforts, he said.
Odierno said that he would need until at least August – the point at which the full surge will have been in place for around 60 days – to make and present his initial assessment of the strategy’s effectiveness to Gen. David Petraeus, the senior commander in Iraq. Even then, the assessment might be that the surge needs more time to work.
By Army Staff Sgt. Curt Cashour
Multi-National Corps-Iraq Public Affairs