One Tour Extended, Another to Start Early in Iraq

Article excerpt

The 1st Brigade Combat Team (BCT) of the 1st Armored Division, based in Friedberg, Germany, will stay in Iraq until late February, extending its tour of duty for about 46 days. Also, the 4th Brigade of the 1st Cavalry Division is expected to deploy 30 days earlier then originally scheduled. These adjustments coincide with the recent spike in violence throughout Iraq as the United States tries to fend off civil war. Through the second week of October, more than 20,000 U.S. troops have been wounded and more than 2,700 killed since the conflict began. The adjustments will maintain 15 combat brigades in Iraq, which the Army has determined is needed probably until spring 2007.

The extended tour of the 1st BCT, 1st Armored Division will allow the 1st BCT of the 3rd Infantry Division (Mechanized), based in Fort Stewart, Ga., to complete its year at home before deploying again in January 2007.

U.S. and Coalition forces continue to fight resistant insurgent forces. On September 4, two Longbow Apache helicopters provided air-to-ground support to American soldiers of the 2nd BCT, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) by blasting enemy vehicles during action in western Baghdad. The effort resulted in one insurgent killed, four captured and two enemy vehicles destroyed. On August 23, Iraqi police and Task Force Band of Brothers soldiers thwarted an attack against a Mosul police station. After a terrorist dressed as a police officer detonated his suicide vest outside the station wounding six police officers, U.S. soldiers killed two masked insurgents attempting to attack the station with small-arms fire. Coalition and Iraqi forces continue to raid suspected enemy areas, capture insurgents and discover weapons caches throughout the country.

Coalition forces are proceeding in turning over control of Iraqi territories and command of Iraqi forces. On October 2, the 1st Iraqi Army Division took operational control of Iraqi soldiers assigned to the 4th Brigade from marines and soldiers of Regimental Combat Team 5, based in Fallujah. Iraqi soldiers in the brigade operate in joint and independent battle spaces in Fallujah and regions north of the city.

An even bigger change of command occurred on September 7 when Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki officially became commander in chief of Iraqi troops. Coalition forces handed over operational control of Iraq's navy, air force and the 8th Iraqi Army Division at the Ministry of Defense in Baghdad's International Zone. Before the handover ceremony, Iraqi forces received commands from Coalition forces. On September 2, the 1st Battalion, 2nd Brigade, 3rd Iraqi Army Division, became the third and final battalion to take the lead in assuming security operations for the city of Tal Afar. On September 1, soldiers from 1st Iraqi Army Division assumed control of the Abu Ghraib prison from U.S. Army Task Force 134. Also on September 1, the Iraqi Ground Forces Command (IGFC) assumed command and control of the 8th Iraqi Army Division, which had been under command of the Multinational Corps-Iraq. Over the coming months, the IGFC will assume control of the remaining nine Iraqi Army divisions.

In an effort to curb sectarian violence and foster unity between Shiite and Suni parties, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki issued a four-point plan, which calls for:

* Commissions to be established in every Baghdad district, made up of representatives of all parties as well as religious and tribal leaders and security officials to serve as consultants on security matters.

* A central prosecution commission to coordinate security issues as well as monitor Iraqi police and armed forces.

* A common new information commission to control the media.

* Monthly meetings to evaluate the plan's performance and make adjustments as needed.

Taliban in Afghanistan. In recent months there has been a strong resurgence of Taliban activity in Afghanistan. In southern Afghanistan insurgents have engaged in open battles with NATO forces in an effort to push them from staging grounds there. …