COL Stephan Twitty: 4th BCT Ninewah Province Posted by: McQ
on Friday, July 27, 2007
The 4th BCT is a part of the famed 1st Cavalry Division and is now located in Ninewah Province - the most northern province which borders on Syria to the west, Turkey to the north and Iran on the east. It is comprised of mostly Sunni and Kurds with a smattering of Shia and others. Up until recently, the ISF forces in the area have been almost completely comprised of Kurds as the Sunnis have mostly boycotted or refused to cooperate and participate with the central government.
That has now changed, with the Sunni sheiks offering to help and asking to be included. The province is presently recruiting 3,000 new police and 3 battalions of IA troops, all of which will be Sunni. The inclusion of Sunnis into army and police ranks is part of the province's reconciliation package. At present the ISF forces are about 20,000 army and 20,000 police in the province.
COL Twitty's brigade took over operations in December of last year and has seen some remarkable changes taking place. When he first took over Mosul, its security required two of his four battalions. It now requires only one, which has allowed him to take his other battalion and make it a "super MTT" which concentrates strictly on training the ISF. He has another battalion at Tal Afar to the west and his fourth battalion is in the south along the Tigris river valley.
Since his brigade has taken over the province, daily attacks have dropped by 50%, going from 15-18 a day in December to about 7-9 a day now. This has primarily been a result of the training level of the Iraqi Army/Iraqi Police (IA/IP) forces, increasing the op tempo since the operations in Baquba began and taking other basic security measures.
COL Twitty was very complimentary of the IA/IP forces and said they are, by far, doing most of the fighting of AQI and Ansar al Sunna in Ninewah. His assessment of the terrorists and insurgents put AQI as a major player in his area along with Ansar al Sunna. He says while they are separate organiztions, they do operate together if advantageous to do so. He calls it a marriage of convenience. He also said that ISI is attempting to gain a foothold in the province after being run out of Baquba.
He also pointed out that while AQI and other groups are quick to regenerate their leadership after CF and IA/IP successes against them, they're having real difficulty replicating the quality and experience levels taken out. When asked about the presence of foreign fighters in his area, COL Twitty said he doesn't really see that many.
I asked him about PRTs and EPRTs as I have reported rather extensively on them and see them as a vital part of the plan for success in Iraq. He seemed very pleased with the question and said they have been a huge asset and are really helping organize, prioritize and accomplish critical projects in the province.
Another change has been the huge increase in human intelligence (humint) they've now begun to receive. Tips to terrorist locations, arms caches and the like are way up.
That brings us to two bits of bad news. One - as good as the IA/IP are, at least in this province, of carrying the fight, they still can't sustain themselves logisitically. That, of course is a very critical piece to them being declared ready to fend for themselves militarily. At this point though, they can't sustain themselves in fuel, ammo, or uniforms and they're not able to maintain their equipment properly. I would assume, although I didn't ask, that this is one of the primary areas the "super MTT" is working.
Two - Ed Morrisey asked if the withdrawal debate is having any effect on COL Twitty's operations in Ninewah. He never hesitated saying, with emphasis, "Absolutely!".
COL Twitty then elaborated saying there isn't a day which goes by or a meeting in which he talks with Iraqis at all levels, when he isn't asked whether we plan on staying or if we're leaving. He said they say "you came and liberated us and now you're going when we need you the most?" Twitty feels the fact that there isn't clarity on that issue is one of the primary reasons that there is reluctance on behalf of part of the population to buy into the process is still evident.
Monday, I'll be speaking with COL Mark R. French, Deputy Commander for Professional Development and Training, Civilian Police Assistance Training Team (CPATT), Multi-National Security Transition Command - Iraq (MNSTC-I) about the new Italian Carabinieri Police Team sent at the request of the Iraqi Government to help train the MoI Police on special military police tactics that will go into effect in September when the new school is built.
Any questions you might like me to ask COL French are welcome.
Question: Isn’t there an enormous risk that all-Sunni battalions will never be loyal to a central government which inevitably must be controlled by Shia? What precautions are being taken / can be taken against these forces using their equipment and training against other Iraqis? What happened to the commitment to create integrated armed forces?
Isn’t there an enormous risk that all-Sunni battalions will never be loyal to a central government which inevitably must be controlled by Shia?
Good questions, Francis. Apparently they don’t think it is any more of an enormous risk than having all Kurd battalions as they do now. As COL Twitty said, the Sunni sheiks are the ones who have asked to buy in and this is the "reconciliation package" they all (local, province, national) agreed too.
What precautions are being taken / can be taken against these forces using their equipment and training against other Iraqis?
Precautions? We’re there and we have embeds with them.
That and ensuring that these troops live up to their oath to support their country and its constitution. I’m not sure how you get people to do that unless you allow them to demonstrate it through service. The "precaution" if there must be one, would most likely be US troops at this point.
As COL Twitty said, the IA/IP pretty much carry the fight themselves in that province and have been doing so successfully to this point. There have been no incidents that I’m aware of (and he didn’t mention any) of cases where these forces have shown any indication of doing what you fear.
What happened to the commitment to create integrated armed forces?
As it so happens these battalions are joining existing IA divisions (they’re expanding the size of those divisions) so the commitment still exists and this is, in fact, a step in that direction.