FALLUJAH, Iraq --
The last battalion of Iraqi soldiers with 2nd Brigade, 1st Iraqi Army Division, withdrew from the Anbar Province city of Fallujah, Sept. 1, leaving the city’s security and stability in the hands of the local police and government.
Brig. Gen. Ali al-Hashemi, the brigade’s commander, said the time had come when Iraqi Police alone could handle law enforcement in the city.
“I am very confident in the IPs keeping the city safe. Besides, it is their job to work to keep the city safe,” al-Hashemi said through an interpreter. “It’s not the IA’s job. The army should not be inside the city. The police should be in the city.”
Lt. Col. Daniel T. Thoele, the operations advisor for 2nd Brigade Military Transition Team with Regimental Combat Team 6, spoke well of the departing unit.
“The 2nd Brigade has been phenomenal,” said Thoele. “I think today is a historical event because of not only the success of the IA, but the IA working closely with the Iraqi police.”
Initially the IA provided security over the city to give the fledgling police force time and breathing space to develop. Now with a strong force, the locals trust the IPs and are cooperating with counterinsurgent activities.
“(Since) Col. Faisal got here in November, there has been expediential growth with the IPs, both in their numbers and also in their development,” Thoele said. “The IPs are still having equipment and manning problems, but they are working through it.”
Under al-Hashemi’s guidance, his soldiers routinely respond with, “I am Iraqi,” whenever asked by civilians whether they are Shiite or Sunni, Thoele said.
“I am very confident and very happy about everything they did in the city of Fallujah, because I see the result and the city is a lot safer and a lot of progress was made here,” al-Hashemi said about his soldiers’ efforts. “We were very successful because all the forces were working together. The IA, IPs and the Marines all worked together as one team. There were three commanders, IA commander, IP commander and a Marine commander. We had a very good understanding of working with each.”
The brigade has relocated to northern regions of Anbar to replace Marine units, take over combat outposts and operate patrol bases. They will now refocus outside of the city to protect the highways and countryside to prevent insurgents access to population centers like Fallujah.
The 2nd Brigade Headquarters will remain here at the Iraqi Training Center for logistical and the training purposes.
“I think it’s important to understand the IA and IPs have a great relationship and it doesn’t matter whether they’re Shiite, Sunni or anything,” Thoele said. “I don’t see the sectarian strike here that you hear about in Baghdad, because here it doesn’t matter. It’s all Iraqis working together.”