The Struggle for Samarra
It hasn't been easy.
12:00 AM, Sep 25, 2007 • By JEFF EMANUEL
Like those positioned at BP 4 on that fateful day in May, many of the ISF units assigned to Samarra have seen their service here--and, all too often, their lives--end in ignominious defeat, whether as a result of VBIED attacks and assaults on their positions, or of their decision to flee the city before such attacks could take them.
This problem is being addressed in one way with the construction of a massive new National Police barracks and training center just north of the western end of the city, which will also serve as an operating base for 1,500 new ISF personnel when they begin arriving in Samarra later this month. Adding to that increase in numbers will be 800 more NPs, who in November will move to Patrol Base Uvanni when that compound is refurbished and expanded. Both jobs are being carried out by Iraqi workers, who are overseen by an extremely competent Baghdadi contractor.
This new wave of ISF is the latest of those that have repeatedly been sent to the city in the wake of some defeat. However, each time that police on whom so much time and effort has been spent are killed or driven out of the city and replaced with largely raw recruits, the cycle of slowly nursing along a fledgling force is restarted. As one Special Forces officer put it to me, "the best metaphor is probably trying to build an airplane while in flight. We have to train these guys by day while fighting alongside them by night"--and losing the men in whom so much has been invested serves to make that job all the more difficult.
Due to the death of Colonel Jaleel, both NPs and IPs in Samarra currently fall under the command of the large, gregarious, charismatic, and lethally effective General Rasheed, the National Police commander for the area. Under the watch of Rasheed and his officers (and with the guidance of Major Travis Southwick, the Coalition's Civilian Police Assistance and Training Team advisor to the general), the current crop of ISF in Samarra--aided by the four National Police Transition Teams, one Military Transition Team, and one Police Transition Team in the area--is once again progressing, growing more effective, and learning how to carry out its duties. Within the last week alone, the police have not only accompanied Coalition forces on an average of two patrols per day, but have also carried out three large-scale clearing missions on their own, with Coalition forces only there to provide a gentle, reassuring hand when needed.
"These guys are getting too efficient," said Charlie Co. commander Captain Buddy Ferris, with only the slightest hint of irony, as we walked out of Uvanni one night earlier this week after observing the latest NP operation. "If they keep this up, it'll be about time for another VBIED to hit them."
The ISF--and the Coalition--can only hope that they are improving quickly enough to stop such an attack before it happens.
Jeff Emanuel, a special operations veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom, is currently embedded with the U.S. military in Iraq. His reports are funded by reader donations and can be seen at JeffEmanuel.com.