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Iraq Report: the Coalition has Regained the Initiative

4:20 PM, Apr 9, 2007 • By MICHAEL GOLDFARB
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The Baghdad Order Of Battle as of April 9, 2007.
Click map to view.

It's now been nearly eight weeks since the Baghdad Security Operation was first announced, and Baghdad is now relatively calm compared to the security situation just last year. There have been no major mass casualty attacks inside Baghdad since the suicide bombing in the Shia market on March 29. The deaths in Baghdad over the past week have been attributed to low level attacks such as roadside bombs, mortar attacks, and street fighting. Casualties from sectarian violence have remained much below the levels reported prior to the inception of the security plan.

The mass casualty suicide attacks, which have incited the Shia population to support sectarian violence in the past, have been absent from Baghdad since an attack at a Shia market on March 29th. Al Qaeda has conducted several attacks in the provinces, most notably a chlorine gas suicide strike in Ramadi and conventional suicide bombings in Kirkuk and Khalis. The Ramadi attack, the eighth chlorine attack in Anbar province, was another attempt to break the Anbar Salvation Council, a grouping of Sunni tribes and former insurgent groups opposed to al Qaeda's Islamic State of Iraq. The Khalis strike was intended to stir up sectarian violence in the mixed Sunni-Shia province of Diyala, while the Kirkuk strike was an effort to pit Kurds against Arabs in the contested and oil rich northern city.

In Baghdad, the establishment of neighborhood security stations and troop deployments in support of the Baghdad Security Plan continues. The Joint Security Station (JSS) concept, which puts Iraqi Army, police, and U.S. troops directly inside the neighborhoods, has proven so successful that the number of stations has expanded. There are currently 54 JSS and small Combat Outposts (COP) inside Baghdad. Major General William Caldwell stated that 76 JSSs and COPs will ultimately be built and that the Baghdad Commander, General Aboud, has considered raising that number to 104 stations.

The 3rd Brigade, 3rd U.S. Infantry Division (Mechanized) has arrived in Iraq, and "will be deployed in and around the city of Baghdad." This is the third U.S. combat infantry brigades assigned to the Baghdad Security Plan to arrive in theater. The 3rd Battalion, 2nd Brigade of the 4th Iraqi Army Division, a Kurdish battalion, is en route to Baghdad from Kirkuk.

To date, 16 Iraqi Army battalions and five brigade headquarters have deployed into Baghdad from the provinces. The first brigade to deploy into Baghdad, the 4th Brigade of the 1st Iraqi Army division, is soon expected to rotate back to Anbar province as it has reached the end of its 90 day deployment to the capital. Another brigade from the 1st Division is expected to replace the 1/4. The Bayaa district currently does not have an Iraqi Army unit; however, two battalions from the Kurdish provinces are expected to deploy soon. The 7th Brigade of the 2nd Iraqi National Police Division was relieved by the 2nd and 3rd INP brigades. The 7th INP Brigade is expected to attend Quicklook II, the operation designed to vet, retrain, and reequip the Iraqi National Police units.

The Baghdad Security Plan has resulted in the death or capture of three senior al Qaeda operatives over the past week. The Iraqi Army announced that Abu Bara'a Al Libi (the Libyan), who was described as "one of the prominent leaders in Al Qaeda," was killed in a raid. U.S. forces announced the capture of two unnamed al Qaeda leaders. One was described as the "gatekeeper to the al-Qaeda emir of Baghdad." The other ran a car bomb cell which has upwards of fifty members.

While U.S. and Iraqi forces are still in the process of deploying into Baghdad, operations are underway in the provinces. Al Qaeda and the insurgency have increased attacks in the provinces after moving significant numbers of forces from Baghdad in anticipation of the Baghdad Security Plan. Operations in Diyala, Diwaniyah, Anbar, and Mosul were underway last week in an effort to disrupt al Qaeda, the insurgency, and, in Diwaniyah, the Mahdi Army.