June 9, 2008 —
Steven Biddle prepares to enter Combat Outpost Murray on June 4. Biddle, a military analyst at the Council on Foreign Relations, was in Iraq assessing progress made in the country. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Kevin Stabinsky)
COMBAT OUTPOST MURRAY, Iraq (June 8, 2008) — The battlefield in Iraq has become a classroom for military analyst Steven Biddle and several associates, who visited 3rd Infantry Division Soldiers on June 4 to get a sense of progress in the area.
Biddle, a four-time visitor to Iraq and the author of two military-themed books entitled “Military Power: Explaining Victory and Defeat in Modern Battle” and “Afghanistan and the Future of Warfare: Implications for Army and Defense Policy,” said his visit was multi-purposed.
“Information in the (U.S.) is limited,” said Biddle, a senior fellow for defense policy at the Council on Foreign Relations. “Here, I get to see things with my own eyes. Nothing is filtered.”
To assess conditions in Arab Jabour, Biddle spoke with senior leaders in the U.S. and Iraqi Army, and prominent members of the Arab Jabour community.
Biddle spoke with key leaders, reviewed charts and maps documenting the decrease in attacks in the area.
He also spoke with key leaders such as Capt. Nassim, operations officer for the 6th battalion, 25th brigade, 6th IA division. The IA battalion will soon assume responsibility of the area it currently patrols alongside Soldiers of the 1st Battalion, 30th Infantry Regiment.
Before the 1-30th Inf. Regt. arrived, Nassim said, the area was an al-Qaida stronghold, with an estimated 1,500 fighters, 200 of whom were foreigners. Now, he said, thanks to the cooperation of coalition forces, Iraqi security forces and Sons of Iraq, the community is becoming secure, with most of the insurgents killed, captured or driven away.
Biddle’s observations were in line with Nassim’s assessment.
“It is definitely a lot safer,” Biddle said of the change he’s seen in Iraq since the implementation of the counterinsurgency policy. He said many places were once too dangerous to visit. Now, through the work of surge brigades like the 2nd BCT, Iraqis are able to live without fear.
The 2nd BCT was the last of the five surge brigades to arrive in country and elements of the brigade are scheduled to redeploy to Fort Stewart, Ga., beginning in late June, after completing a 14-month tour of duty.
Having spent more than a year in Iraq, the 2nd BCT’s mission has laid down the groundwork for ISF to build up and take control of the area. An Iraqi police company is scheduled to join the IA forces in securing the area; an IP station is currently being constructed.
“I’m impressed by what has been accomplished,” said Biddle, on his third trip to Iraq since the U.S. troop surge began 15 months ago.