Aziz: Anbar Operations Command effective because of strong Iraqi-U.S. partnership
December 28, 2009
RAMADI, Iraq (Army News Service, Dec. 28, 2009) - Of 62 suspected Al Qaeda, insurgents, kidnappers, murderers, and bomb builders targeted by the Ramadi-based Anbar Operations Command, 20 were captured by Anbar Iraqi security forces during autumn 2009.
The high level of success for the command-and-control center of all Anbar Iraqi Security Forces is the result of a high degree of intelligence-sharing and partnership between Iraqis and Americans, according to the senior Iraqi military officer in Anbar.
"At the AOC, we have a very high level of coordination between American and Iraqi forces in all areas, including operations, intelligence, logistics, and even media," said Staff Maj. Gen. Abd Al-Aziz Muhammad Jasim Ahmad Al-Mufriji, commanding general of the AOC. "Our intention is to develop that coordination to achieve a high standard."
Col. Kenneth Royalty, chief of the AOC Stability Transition Team, a group of U.S. Army advisors attached to 1st Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division (Advise and Assist Brigade), and principal U.S. advisor to Aziz, said that the AOC has, over time, developed the analytical skills and coordination required to effectively execute intelligence-driven operations against the insurgency.
A longtime Army planner, Royalty and his staff of advisors have pushed the AOC toward long-term planning while maintaining current battlefield awareness. The AOC S-TT has also encouraged daily intelligence-sharing between Iraqi intelligence agencies and their American counterparts. The S-TT is currently standing up an American intelligence "fusion cell" to work side-by-side with the Iraqi fusion cell.
"Iraqis are excellent at responding to current situations, but have required some mentoring and advising to improve their long-term planning skills," said Royalty. "We're trying to show them that, if you pay a little up front, you don't have to pay as much later."
As a result of the S-TT's influence, the AOC now has daily battlefield update briefs, weekly battlefield assessment briefs, weekly planning reviews, and a weekly targeting meeting with representatives from 1st and 7th Iraqi Army divisions, the national and provincial police forces, Department of Border Enforcement and four intelligence agencies, including the National Information and Investigation Agency, the Iraqi National Intelligence Service, Iraq's National Security Agency and the Directorate General of Intelligence and Security.
As the AOC commander, Aziz and his staff manage all security forces within the province; thus, they will play a primary role in the security for Iraqi national elections in early 2010, he said.
Unlike the provincial elections a year ago, security for the national elections will be conducted jointly between Iraqi Army and Iraqi Police, said Lt. Col. Brian McNaughton, operations adviser for the AOC S-TT.
"They are ready for the elections," said McNaughton. "They have already recertified all 312 polling stations. Security will be much better than it was during the January 2009 provincial elections. Police will form an inner circle of security, and IA will form an outer circle."
As the former commander of the 8th Iraqi Division, Aziz has experience working with police on joint-security missions, as many of the Basra-area checkpoints were manned by IP and IA.
While the overarching missions of military and police are different, the objective of both is to provide security to the entire province, he said.
Intelligence is a critical piece of that security puzzle, said Maj. David Harvie, intelligence advisor of the AOC S-TT.
"Iraqis are very good at human intelligence. We are very good at analysis, imagery, and high-tech solutions," said Harvie. "However, building mutual respect is the most important thing we can do as advisors," he said.
Aziz agreed that communication is of paramount importance with Iraqis being in the lead and Americans in support.
"We have all the basis here for success," said Aziz. "We have a very good country. We have a lot of resources - human resources as well. If all Iraqis work together, especially politicians, that's the only road to success."
"The most important thing [at the AOC] is the dialog that I have with my advisor, Col. Royalty," said Aziz. "We discuss every day what improvements need to be done in all our units."
Since the arrival of Aziz in September, American advisors have noticed major improvements in the functionality of the AOC.
"He gives very good guidance to his staff and expects results," said McNaughton. While the AOC is a temporary command, it is likely to develop into a corps command in the near future, said Royalty.
(Spc. Michael J. MacLeod serves with 1st Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division (Advise and Assist Brigade) Public Affairs.)