Iraq: COL Richard Simcock, Cdr Marine Regimental Combat Team 6 Posted by: McQ
on Wednesday, August 22, 2007
RCT 6 is in eastern Al-Anbar province, an area which has seen a change from the most deadly area in Iraq to one of the most peaceful. COL Simcock commands the Marine RCT in charge of that AO. When asked about the level of combat there, he says that there is nothing in his battle space that a "Marine Rifle Squad" can't handle. That, obviously, means there are no large scale enemy activities going on in that region.
Responding to a question about the Iraqi Security Forces and their readiness (as I recall, the questioner asked how ready they would be if the Marines had to withdraw relatively quickly), COL Simcock said they're not quite ready. His description is the Marines are "partnered" with them. That means they do operations together. The next step is to have them in the lead. Then, of course, finally to be able to operate independently.
One of the things going on there in Al-Anbar is the steady integration of Sunnis into the ISF. Simcock says that more and more are being integrated as each local "boot camp" graduates and that the integration is seeming to cause no real problem.
As we're all aware, the National Police continue to be a problem, but what seems to be working is standing up local police forces.
In Fallujah, for instance, Coalition Forces are partnering with local citizens and local Iraqi police, with the ultimate goal of withdrawing military forces from the city proper. By establishing checkpoints and manning them with local nationals who can distinguish citizens from outsiders, Coalition Forces have helped enable legitimate Iraqi security forces and prevented terrorists from re-establishing operations in the city.
And, of course, in COIN, preventing the terrorists the ability to re-establish themselves is how you a) win the hearts and minds and b) prevent the terrorists from doing the same (or, instead rule through terror).
I asked him about the common lament we hear from all the commanders we talk too, i.e. that at local and provincial level, the governments are standing up and taking charge, but that the link from the central government is tenuous at best or, in some cases, non-existant.
He agreed that the link from the central government was, at this time, tenuous. They are, for instance, getting money, equipment and support from the Ministry of Interior for police and ISF. But that's about it. He said that it remains a problem and is the key to finally establishing successful governance in Iraq. No surprise there.
I followed up by asking if he felt good about what he saw at developing at a local and provincial governmental level. COL Simcock said, "to say I feel good is an understatement". He went on to say the change is both phenomenal and heartening. He, like many other commanders, sang the praises of his EPRT and the huge progress they have enabled.
When asked about what he needed the most, he said "engineers and route clearance" capabilites. His engineers are working 24/7 either tearing something down or building something. He needs more. As for route clearance, as he stated, the roads are the enemy's chosen battle space. So route clearance is critical. The Marines are receiving more and more MRAPs and are utilizing them as they get them. COL Simcock was very pleased with how those he has were performing but he said he needed more and is in line to get about 400 more by year's end.
This is another in an ongoing series of reports where bloggers are able to talk directly with commanders and others on the ground about what is going on inside Iraq. It is set up and enabled by DoD. In most cases these are the same commanders who the press talks too either before or after our call in the daily Pentagon press briefing.
They deal primarily with the military aspects of the war, not the political side, although there is some bleed over. You're welcome to leave any questions that interest you in the comment section and if pertinent to the situation/person on the call, I'll be glad to ask it.