Cautious optimism: Iraqi commander holds hope for future of Anbar

5 Sep 2007 | Pfc. Brian Jones

) -- Iraqi soldiers with 2nd Brigade, 1st Iraqi Division, have relocated to north of Fallujah to more rural lands to prevent insurgents from entering the cities.

It is a significant step forward that has been enabled by both the tribal awakening in the countryside surrounding Fallujah as well as the increasing professional development of the Iraqi Police. The sacrifices of both Iraqi and Coalition Forces in the city, most recently Marines with 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, have created an urban environment where commanders said they feel they can trust the IPs with handling the security picture on their own, without backup from the Iraqi Army.

Most notably, police and military transition teams have worked tirelessly for years to raise the quality of the ISF. In doing so, they have created a relationship of mutual respect, said Brig. Gen. Ali al-Hashemi, the commanding officer of the brigade.

“I always like working with the Marines,” said al-Hashemi, through an interpreter. “I always share my information with the advisors and I don’t keep them in the dark. I always keep them in the light on what I am trying to do and they do the same. That’s what has made us work together very well.”

Al-Hashemi is a leader with a multitude of experience having trained with the Egyptian Special Forces and is the recipient of 13 Iraqi Medals of Honor. He has also been a personal guest of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to brief him on security measures and the successful progress that his brigade has made in Fallujah.

“I understand the culture of the Marines,” al-Hashemi said. “I know how they work. They have great experience and they learn from their mistakes. As I worked with the Iraqi Army before, I was trained by the Marines. I fought alongside the Marines against the insurgents in Mosul, Baghdad, Ramadi, western Anbar, Fallujah, and every place we worked together was successful. I hope the new battle space is the same.”

His brigade will continue on in their mission in partnership with the Marine advisors with 2nd Brigade Military Transition Team with Regimental Combat Team 6, stationed at Camp Fallujah, as well as other battalion-level teams stationed elsewhere.

“The 2nd Brigade is a lot different than the other brigades,” al-Hashemi declared. “The relationship between the IA officers and the IA enlisted with the Marine advisors is very good, very understanding. There has been a lot of support from the MTT with the IA, making it much easier to coordinate with the other forces.”

Al-Hashemi, a heftily built man with a somber, focused look in his eyes, yet a generous smile and appreciative manner, explained his intentions in their new area of operations.

“The battle space is going to be ours. We are going to make it safer and we plan on doing big operations there,” al-Hashemi said. “I am planning on working with the people there, the civilians and IP, and starting a relationship with them and get to understand the people and what they need. I am very confident that in a few months, I can make that battle space very safe.”

Al-Hashemi ended with thanking the brigade MTT and the battalion transition teams for their support.

“I am very proud of working with them,” al-Hashemi declared. “My relationship with them is very strong. I am very optimistic working with the Marines and I would like to keep working with them and supporting them so I can keep getting the support from the Marines and work with the local forces over in that area that we are going to together. We can make that new battle space safer and hopefully turn it over to the Iraqi police there.”

Headquarters Marine Corps