Counterinsurgency Operations in Baghdad: The Actions of 1-4 Cavalry in the East Rashid Security District

By Sills, Thomas J. | Military Review, May/June 2009 | Go to article overview

Counterinsurgency Operations in Baghdad: The Actions of 1-4 Cavalry in the East Rashid Security District


Sills, Thomas J., Military Review


COUNTERINSURGENCY (COIN) is defined as those military, paramilitary, political, economic, psychological, and civic actions taken by a government to defeat insurgency. It includes strategic and operational planning; intelligence development and analysis; training; materiel, technical, and organizational assistance; advice; infrastructure development; tactical-level operations; and many elements of psychological operations. Generally, the preferred methods of support are through assistance and development programs. Leaders must consider the roles of military, intelligence, diplomatic, law enforcement, information, finance, and economic elements in counterinsurgency.

Arriving in November 2006, Headquarters, 1st Cavalry Division, serving as the headquarters for Multi-National Division-Baghdad (MND-B), assessed the situation in the area of East Rashid as one that was primarily sectarian strife between Sunni and Shi 'a extremists. To achieve the primary goal of restoring security, MND-B developed a strategy that focused on the protection of the Iraqi populace.1 The Division's focus shifted from transitioning operations to Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) to protecting Iraqis. However, it took more than a new division strategy to bring security to this particular Baghdad neighborhood. It took a partnership that empowered the residents to work together for their families and neighbors.

One of the key elements of the MND-B plan was to use Soldiers from "surge brigades," including those yet to arrive in theater. Other key components of the strategy included placing large numbers of barrier walls throughout the city, hiring local citizens to protect their own communities, and increasing the Soldier presence in Baghdad neighborhoods.2 By June of 2007, attacks against the city's population decreased by 58 percent. However, attacks against coalition forces within Baghdad increased by 59 percent during the same timeframe. The new strategy required a more aggressive posture to minimize attacks on Iraqi and coalition forces as well as bring stability to the community.3

Arriving in January 2007 as part of the "surge," the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, assumed the responsibility for West and East Rashid Security Districts of Baghdad. In mid May, the 1st Light Reconnaissance Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment (1-4 Cavalry) "Raiders," assumed responsibility for the northeast part of the East Rashid Security District. This article chronicles how 1-4 Cavalry successfully implemented the concepts found in Field Manual (FM) 3-24, Counterinsurgency, in order to protect residents of East Rashid and defeat AI-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI).

In February 2006, AQI terrorists destroyed the golden dome of the Al-Askari Mosque in Samarra, one of the holiest Shi'a mosques in Iraq.4 This single act of violence led to a wave of sectarian strife and widespread destruction that pitted Sunni against Shi'a. The demographics of Baghdad shifted. Armed groups began to "cleanse" their communities of anyone with differing religious beliefs. AQI and other extremist groups arose from this instability to establish a strong foothold inside many Baghdad neighborhoods. In time, the security situation in the capital grew unstable, and fear spread in the neighborhoods.

The conflict in Iraq has been referred to as a counterinsurgency. However, the classic COIN model does not completely fit. In actuality, the situation was - and still is - more dramatic and complex. The major and obvious difference was the sectarian nature of the conflict. AQI terrorized the Shi'a population with vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices, suicide bombers, and other forms of violence and intimidation. In retaliation, Shi'a death squads kidnapped, tortured, and expelled Sunni residents. Shi'a extremists kidnapped and killed many of the former Sunni military officers living in the Saydiyah neighborhood of West Rashid.5 In the Doura community in East Rashid, AQI and other Sunni extremists groups killed or expelled Shi'a residents. …

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