Marines To Cut Forces In Stable Anbar Province

Team Infidel

Forum Spin Doctor
Mideast Stars and Stripes
April 15, 2008 By Lisa Burgess, Stars and Stripes
ARLINGTON, Va. — The security situation in Iraq’s Western Anbar province is now so stable that the U.S. Marines regiment in charge of the area is reducing from five battalions to three, its leader said Monday.
“We’re pulling back,” said Col. Patrick Malay, commanding officer of Regimental Combat Team 5, in a video briefing from Al Asad Air Base.
Malay said he currently has about 4,300 Marines working to supervise Multi-National Forces – West, a 30,000-square-mile area west of Ramadi that borders Syria, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.
But by this summer, he said, “We’re taking a 40 percent cut in combat power and a 30 percent cut in personnel.”
The two battalions who are leaving are not being transferred to another part of Iraq. Instead, they are finishing their normal rotations and “going home,” without being replaced, Malay said.
Losing the Marines is no problem, because Iraqi security forces are taking the lead in much of the province and local government is nearly ready to take control of civilian operations, Malay said.
Multi-National Forces – West is now working toward the goal of “operational overwatch,” in which Marines act only when the Iraqi police or Army can’t do it on their own, Malay said.
Like other U.S. troops in Iraq, RCT 5 is following a “clear-hold-build” approach to its counterinsurgency effort, Malay said.
“We’re past ‘clear,’ we’re past ‘hold,’ and we’re so far into ‘build,’ it’s [now] a civil society,” he said.
Previously, Malay said, the area was so dangerous the U.S. military had to provide city council members with helicopter transport to get to meetings.
“Now, they get in their cars and they drive all over the place,” Malay said.
The stability is allowing U.S. military leaders to focus not on combat missions, but on mentoring Iraqis, Malay said.
This is the second deployment to Anbar for the Marine officer, who spent 2004 in Fallujah, the site of a devastating Marine-led offensive that November.
He said the difference between the city then and now is “mind-boggling.”