By Jim Garamone, American Forces Press ServiceJune 1, 2007
WASHINGTON (American Forces Press Service, June 1, 2007) - The U.S. troop plus-up in Iraq will pay off with time and patience, a top U.S. commander in Iraq said yesterday.
Speaking to the Pentagon press corps via teleconference from Camp Liberty, Iraq, Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno, commander of Multinational Corps Iraq, said that over the next few weeks, the final combat troop commitment will be in place in and around Baghdad. Those troops will still need time in order to be effective, he said.
Troop plus-ups in conventional wars are felt immediately, Lt. Gen. Odierno said. But an increase in troops in a counterinsurgency campaign needs more time to be effective.
"They must be immersed into the local populace," he said. "It will take new units anywhere from 30 to 60 days to really get a feel for their sectors so they can have an impact on security and stability in the area."
A counterinsurgency campaign is predicated in knowing the area, knowing the people, knowing the enemy and knowing the local dynamics. "Only then can you understand what must be done to accomplish your mission," he said.
In the next two weeks, roughly 8,000 U.S. troops will begin to move into their assigned areas of responsibility. The 2nd Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division; the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit; and the 3rd Combat Aviation Brigade will fill out the combat portion of the plus-up.
Multinational Corps Iraq's top priority is to create stability and security to protect the Iraqi people, first and foremost in Baghdad. The capital city is the center of gravity for the country, and creating security gives the Iraqi government the time it needs to mature and grow, Lt. Gen. Odierno said.
Outside the city proper are the "Baghdad belts." The outlying areas are often the launching point for attacks in the city. "Sectarian lines begin to blur in these belts, creating a flashpoint for extremists looking to assert their control over Baghdad," the general said. "Al Qaeda in Iraq and Shia extremists want to control these areas."
Al Qaeda in Iraq is the most significant and volatile enemy in Iraq. The brutality of the terror group - launching attacks on civilians and Iraqi security forces - shows it will go to any lengths to undermine the efforts of the coalition and the government of Iraq, Lt. Gen. Odierno said. "We must defeat these extremists and deny them a safe haven within Iraq," Lt. Gen. Odierno said.
The general cited progress in al Anbar province as proof that Iraqis do not want to be associated with al Qaeda. In the Sunni-dominated province attacks are down and there are signs of normalcy.
"Citizens are rejecting al Qaeda's barbaric reign in the region," he said. In May 2006, there were 811 attacks in the province. This year, the number dropped to a little more than 400. In Ramadi, the province capital, there were 254 attacks in May 2006. This year, there were 30.
This is happening because, "the citizens are volunteering for the Iraqi security forces in record numbers, aiding coalition efforts and driving out al Qaeda intimidation," Lt. Gen. Odierno said. Since January, more than 12,000 people volunteered to serve in the Iraqi security forces in Anbar. In all of 2006, only 1,000 volunteered.