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'Operation National Unity' making difference in Baghdad

By Sgt. 1st Class David Abrams

BAGHDAD (Army News Service, Nov. 14, 2005) — Operation National Unity, an ongoing mission which began Sept. 29, continues to produce results in rooting out terrorist activity in and around Baghdad, said military officials.

The statistics from Task Force Baghdad include: 25,401 patrols, 14,895 traffic control points, and 1,082 raids and cordon-and-searches by Iraqi and U.S. forces.

Add to those figures the rates of success: 36 percent fewer detonated car bombs, a 50 percent increase in improvised explosive devices found before they could explode, and a 67 percent increase in weapons caches discovered and, in most cases, destroyed.

Amid the blur of numbers, officials said one thing stands out: U.S. and Iraqi forces are effective in their missions to secure Baghdad, provide a safe environment for democracy to take root, and stymie terrorist operations at the street level.

Operation provides unified front

“Operation National Unity does exactly what it implies—it presents a united front against terrorism,” said Col. Charles Honoré, chief of operations for Task Force Baghdad.

“Iraqi Security Forces and Coalition Forces, working together and independently, have stopped anti-Iraqi forces from carrying out their objectives,” Honoré said. “We have attacked their safe havens, prevented them from reconstituting those havens, and remain successful in keeping them from expanding their base of operations in the Baghdad area.”

Since Operation National Unity began, Iraq has faced several watershed events: the Oct. 15 Constitutional Referendum vote, the start of Saddam Hussein’s trial, turning over key battlespace to ISF, and the annual Ramadan observance.

Looking toward next month’s elections

In the near future, the Dec. 15 national elections will be one more opportunity for Iraqi citizens to participate in the democratic process.

Task Force Baghdad officials said it’s the day-to-day aggressive operations of Iraqi and Coalition fForces in the city which make events like the Dec. 15 vote such a safe prospect for Iraqi citizens.

“The Iraqi people have shown they are committed to the political process,” said Lt. Col. Mark Sullivan, elections chief for Task Force Baghdad. “The statistics bear witness to this fact — 8 million voted in January, 10 million voted in October, and we expect an even higher turnout in December.”

U.S. and Iraqi officials are already planning to implement tight security on voting day, just as they did during the Oct. 15 Constitutional Referendum. While they anticipate incidents of violence, officials said they will not allow violence to disrupt the democratic process.

“As I often tell people, the enemy always has a vote in what happens over here — but he votes with violence,” said Maj. Gen. William Webster, Task Force Baghdad commander. “On Dec. 15, we will do everything within our power to prevent him from casting that vote.”

Patrols send message to terrorists

By maintaining a steady, visible presence on Baghdad streets with their combat patrols, Webster said Iraqi and U.S. forces send a message both to terrorists (“we’re vigilant and will not tolerate insurgent activity”) and to local residents (“we’re here to protect you and clean up the neighborhood”).

Of the more than 25,000 patrols between Sept. 29 and Nov. 12, 16,632 were conducted by Coalition forces; 1,445 were joint U.S.-Iraqi patrols; and 7,324 were patrols conducted independently by Iraqi Security Forces.

ISF took the lead in setting up and conducting traffic control points throughout the city during that same period. Coalition forces were responsible for 4,827 TCPs, but Iraqi forces independently manned 9,576 TCPs.

In one incident on Nov. 9, Soldiers from 1st Battalion, 184th Infantry Regiment discovered $16,000 in one vehicle passing through a traffic control point. Upon further investigation, the Soldiers learned the individual had previously been questioned about a suspected kidnapping. Soldiers at the TCP quickly detained the terror suspect.

Operation decreases IED incidents

Though there have been isolated incidents of suicide bombers carrying out attacks against ISF and Coalition Forces, military officials said the number of vehicle-borne IEDs detonated by terrorists has decreased during Operation National Unity. Compared to the previous month, there were 36 percent fewer detonated VBIEDs—down from an average of about nine per week to about six per week.

In addition, Iraqi and U.S. Soldiers on patrol have discovered 50 percent more unexploded IEDs than the previous month’s average—from about 33 per week to nearly 50 per week.

“That is a weekly average of 17 more bombs we’re preventing terrorists from using against Iraqi civilians, ISF and Coalition forces,” Honoré said. “By disrupting these potential attacks and seizing weapons caches, we are literally taking ammunition out of the hands of the enemy.”

Ten weapons caches found per week

Patrols reported finding an average of nearly 10 weapons caches per week, up from about six per week during the previous month. This equates to a 67 percent increase in the stockpiles of weapons and ammunition seized by Iraqi and U.S. Soldiers on patrol in and around Baghdad.

Some caches, like one found Nov. 10, were the result of tips from local residents. In this particular instance, Task Force Baghdad Soldiers were told of suspicious activity at a house, which led to the discovery of a large number of weapons and munitions, including 28 57mm rockets, 26 cases of 14.5mm ammunition, 12 80mm rockets, 10 rocket-propelled grenades and a 55-gallon barrel of fertilizer to be used in making bombs. The Soldiers detained one individual for further questioning about the cache.

Through all of this activity, Task Force Baghdad officials said they are setting the conditions for successful elections in December and a secure Iraq where Iraqi forces take the lead on anti-terrorism operations.

(Editor’s note: Sgt. 1st Class David Abrams serves with Task Force Baghdad Public Affairs.)



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