Iraqi Military Extends Control In Northern City

Iraqi Military Extends Control In Northern City
June 1st, 2008  
Team Infidel

Topic: Iraqi Military Extends Control In Northern City

Iraqi Military Extends Control In Northern City
New York Times
June 1, 2008
Pg. 6
By Andrew E. Kramer
MOSUL, Iraq — The recent successes in quieting violence in Basra and Sadr City appear to be stretching to the long-rebellious Sunni Arab district here in Mosul, raising hopes that the Iraqi Army may soon have tenuous control over all three of Iraq’s major cities.
In this city, never subdued by the increase of American troops in Iraq last year, weekly figures on attacks are down by half since May 10, when the Iraqi military began intensified operations here with the backing of the American military. Iraqi soldiers searching house to house, within American tank cordons, have arrested more than 1,000 people suspected of insurgent activity.
The Iraqi soldiers “are heady from the Basra experience,” Brig. Gen. Raymond A. Thomas III, the commander of American forces in Mosul, said in an interview. “They have learned the right lessons.”
The crucial lesson, in fact, over the past month appears to be that all sides — the Iraqi military as well as various insurgent groups — prefer, at the moment, not to fight. Rather, as in Basra and Sadr City, the huge Shiite enclave in Baghdad, the Iraqi military appears to have allowed many insurgents to slip out of Mosul, after scores of negotiations with militias and their leaders.
This approach could make any gains temporary: The insurgents, here as elsewhere, are alive to fight another day. And little progress has been made on political reconciliation among rival sects and ethnic groups that could help reduce violence in the long term.
But the negotiations have allowed the military to expand both its area of control and the government’s zone of sovereignty, burnishing the once-poor reputations of the Iraqi military and Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki. While the American military was never far away — it offered air support and additional firepower — the operation here was largely led by Iraqis.
And that paid dividends here in Mosul. More than two dozen insurgent leaders who might not have surrendered to the Americans turned themselves in to the Iraqi generals.
Out in the dusty streets, for example, Gen. Nooraldeen Hussein, the commander of the Iraqi Eighth Brigade, hunted one insurgent leader until the day he sat down and had tea with the man. The insurgent, whom General Hussein identified as Muhammad Saffo, living in the Rashadia neighborhood, was suspected of killing five Iraqi soldiers with a roadside bomb.
At a meeting with his American advisers two weeks ago, the general said he arrested 14 members of Mr. Saffo’s tribe and killed three others before Mr. Saffo came forward to negotiate along with six other tribal members.
“I have all his numbers right here,” General Hussein said, tapping his cellphone. He would call, he said, and negotiate the amnesty in the presence of a tribal sheik.
The American advisers glanced at one another, not quite sure what to make of this new twist to the American effort to tamp down the Sunni insurgents in the city.
“If the Iraqis are comfortable, we are comfortable, too,” General Thomas said of the negotiated surrenders of insurgent leaders sometimes described as members of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, the homegrown Sunni insurgent group that American officials say is led by foreigners.
As the decline in attacks in Mosul became clear in late May, Ryan C. Crocker, the American ambassador in Iraq, said, “You are not going to hear me say that Al Qaeda is defeated, but they’ve never been closer to defeat than they are now.”
American and Iraqi officials have called Mosul the last urban bastion of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia and other Sunni jihadist groups. The trash-strewn streets on Mosul’s predominantly Sunni Arab western half, separated from the Kurdish and Christian neighborhoods by the Tigris River, had been in a state of more or less continuous uprising since 2004.
The recent operation was necessary after northern Iraq, an area about the size of Georgia, with seven provinces and bordering three countries, became what the American military called an “economy of force” region as troops were diverted to Baghdad during the surge. Conditions were dismal. By last fall, only 700 or so American soldiers were stationed in Mosul, the multiethnic fulcrum of the region. American commanders conceded that that was not enough.
The government in nearby Iraqi Kurdistan has sought to annex parts of Nineveh Province around Mosul. That tension has also driven some local Sunni Arabs to allow the insurgents to operate in the province. Insurgents in western Mosul, the Arab city across the Tigris River from the biblical town of Nineveh, took to hanging the bodies of their victims from a bridge to intimidate residents.
For the past several months, American and Iraqi forces have been slowly applying pressure on the city. The operation, named Lion’s Roar, began officially on May 10. In it, the Iraqis have relied on significant American military assistance, after similar and tentatively successful assaults in Basra and Sadr City.
American tanks have formed cordons while Iraqi soldiers have searched house to house. Forts built and operated by Americans in western Mosul also greatly helped to stem the car bombings that had plagued this city. The Iraqis, though, drew up the arrest lists and conducted the parleys. To soothe ethnic tensions, a Sunni Arab general oversaw the operation.
In all, 83 percent of the military action had a majority of Iraqi troops participating.
American military statistics show that significant acts of violence, including roadside bombings, sniper shootings, and mortar and rocket grenade attacks, fell from 195 in the week before the operation to 93 in the week after it, according to Lt. Col. Eric R. Price, the chief American adviser to General Hussein.
While Iraqi and American politicians lump the Sunni insurgency under the banner of Al Qaeda, the military operation here relied instead on accurately identifying the many fractured groups of Sunni insurgents, and in some cases opening talks with those considered reconcilable.
Owing to the splintered nature of the Sunni insurgency, rather than a single truce as in Basra and Sadr City, amnesties were negotiated with neighborhood insurgent bosses. By Monday, 27 insurgents had surrendered, according to the American military. Organizers of suicide bombings were not eligible for amnesty.
Maj. Adam Boyd, the intelligence officer for the Third Armored Cavalry Regiment, described the Sunni insurgency here as a dozen groups, including the Islamic State of Iraq, a radical Islamic group that insurgents have put forward as an umbrella group for jihadist fighters in northern Iraq, and Sunni nationalist organizations like the 1920 Revolution Brigades and a Baath Party revival group called Al Awda.
Mosul, and the area around it, is also believed to be a hide-out for some top fugitive Baath Party officials, including Izat Ibrahim al-Duri, one of the kings in the original most-wanted deck of playing cards distributed to American troops.
Other Sunni insurgent groups active in the city are the Army of Islam, the Army of Muhammad and Ansar al-Islam, the group formerly based in Iraqi Kurdistan.
Still, it is unclear how many remain active in the city.
In the Abi Tamam neighborhood on a blistering midmorning in May, Lt. Rusty Morris parked his convoy of armored Humvees beside a reeking field of garbage to begin a mission to show the American presence and speak with residents. Some cows picked around the piles of refuse, while children ran up to the trucks. Two helicopters buzzed overhead.
Lieutenant Morris sidled up to one resident, who introduced himself as Muhammad Ahmed. The man was standing in an alley. Looking bewildered and nodding obsequiously to the American lieutenant, Mr. Ahmed said nervously that he knew of no insurgents still operating in the neighborhood. He explained that he had three wives and six children, and no time to watch for insurgents.
Lieutenant Morris thanked him and moved on, walking past a wall with blue graffiti praising a leader of the Islamic State of Iraq.

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