Soldiers from 101st Abn. Div. (AASLT), load onto a UH-60 Black Hawk Helicopter upon completion of Operation New Town, an air assault mission in the Shakriyah area.
CAMP STRIKER, Iraq (July 31, 2008) — U.S. Soldiers are preparing to hand over their area of operations in Southern Baghdad and said they believe conditions are right for making a successful change.
“Our plan is to conduct a transfer of authority of Southern Baghdad, not with another Coalition forces element, but with the 17th Iraqi Army Division,” said Col. Dominic Caraccilo, commander of 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault).“The conditions are set for the 17th IA Division to take charge of its area of operations – which is virtually all of the Mahmudiyah Qada,” said Maj. David Jones, operations officer, 3rd BCT, 101st Abn. Div.
At the helm of the forces, which have taken control of the area, is recently promoted Maj. Gen. Ali Jassim Muhammad Hassen Al Frejee, commander of the 17th IA Div. He was the former commander of the 25th IA Brigade.
With the promotion to two-star general, Ali now has three brigades – an additional 4,000 Soldiers and 80 officers – under his command.
“The mere fact that the brigade operating in this area has been directed and has had the ability to transform itself into a division speaks volumes of the capability of the Iraqi Army leaders and the local support of its own security forces,” Caraccilo said. “Major General Ali is, no doubt, a leader with a nationalistic view on how to secure his area of operations. He is willing to take on all that the Coalition forces have and are doing, to include the (counter insurgency) fight.”
Massive cache turn-ins and tips from Iraqi citizens leading to the capture of criminals indicate the people of the Mahmudiyah Qada are also ready for change, and they support Iraqi Security Forces.
“It is readily apparent, statistically speaking, that the number of attacks has reduced significantly in the past year – a drawdown of (more than) 90 percent per week,” Caraccilo said. “What this means to us is that the population, which has always been the prize in the counterinsurgency fight, has chosen peace over violence.”
Caraccilo is convinced the 17th IA Div., under the well-able leadership of Ali, is ready to take the reigns.
“(General Ali) knows he has defeated the enemy, now he has to replace the Coalition as the lead for security,” Caraccilo said. “He will do this by establishing a permanent presence at each of the 18 patrol bases we transition, thicken his lines with added IA (battle positions), and the maintenance of positive control of all of the 800 plus (Sons of Iraq) checkpoints across the qada.
“He can do all this because he has established himself and his unit as a credible force that the enemy fears, sheikhs respect and the Government of Iraq relies upon,” Caraccilo said.