An old hotel in southwestern Samarra, just west of the Golden Mosque,
in an area that is now heavily defended by Iraqi National Police.
(Photo: Jeff Emanuel).
LAST WEEK, for the first time in four attempts this year, Iraqi National Police in Samarra were able to avoid being hit with a devastating suicide car bomb (or SVBIED, for Suicide Vehicle-Borne Improvised Explosive Device). Al Qaeda terrorists, attempting to drive a SVBIED up to a National Police outpost in the southwestern part of the city and detonate it, encountered a surprising amount of resistance from the National Police there, who were able to destroy the rolling bomb before it reached their position.
Samarra's Iraqi and National Police, which have been trained by conventional American soldiers as well as by Special Forces, and have been used on countless patrols and missions in the city, have a history of fast learning, rapid improvement, and surprising effectiveness. However, the growth and development of the city's security force has been hampered by several massive and deadly attacks by al Qaeda terrorists in the area.
As was recently recounted in the THE DAILY STANDARD ("The Struggle for Samarra," September 25, 2007), the most spectacular and devastating of these attacks took place on May 6 of this year. The coordinated attack on "BP 4," the Iraqi Police battle position directly in front of the Coalition patrol base in the northwestern corner of the city, culminated in an SVBIED attack that killed an extremely effective local IP commander, along with scores of his men. The vehicle used in that attack was a minivan filled with at least six keg-sized barrels of homemade explosive (along with three 155mm artillery shells).
Like those killed in that spectacular and deadly attack, many of the ISF units assigned to Samarra have seen their tenures here (and often their lives) end in ignominious defeat, whether as a result of VBIED attacks and assaults on their positions, or their decision to flee the city before such attacks could take them.
Under the watch of the new Iraqi Security Force leadership, and Coalition representatives from the 82nd Airborne Division and from the Civilian Police Assistance and Training Team, 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 month alone, the Police have not only accompanied Coalition forces on an average of two patrols per day, but have also carried out several large-scale clearing missions on their own, with Coalition forces only there to provide a gentle, reassuring hand if and when it was needed.
"These guys are getting too efficient," Captain Buddy Ferris, commander of Charlie Co. 2-505 (82nd Airborne), told me barely three weeks ago, with only the slightest hint of irony, as we walked out of a National Police patrol base in central Samarra after observing the latest Iraqi-led police operation. "If they keep this up, it'll be about time for another VBIED to hit them."
With this week's attempted attack, that statement became a reality. However, rather than succeeding in killing or driving out the Iraqi Security Forces at the outpost (an old hotel in the southwestern quadrant of the city), the AQI fighters were engaged and destroyed by National Police.
The ISI death toll in the attempted attack is thought to be significant, but, due to the size of the detonation, the specific number of fatalities is not known. The National Police suffered no deaths, and only three men received minor injuries. All were back at work by the next day. The hotel outpost is still being manned by the same National Police personnel, none of whom allowed themselves to be intimidated into abandoning their posts.
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.