MG Rick Lynch: Commander MND-C Posted by: McQ
on Monday, January 14, 2008
I've had the enjoyable opportunity a couple of the times in the past to be a part of a conference call with MG Rick Lynch, commander of the 3rd ID and MND-C. He and his troops have been there 10 months now (they deployed as a part of the surge) and his mission has been to take on the al Qaeda sanctuaries in Karbala, Babl and the southern belts of Baghdad and push AQ out of there. Lynch said that when they began operations in the area, they averaged 25 attacks a day and about 40 casualties a month in his area. Today attacks are down to 5 a day and on average only 1 of those has any effect (casualties or equipment damage). And, as with the rest of Iraq, civilian casualties are down about 70%.
He said the difference, from then to now, is startling. He also said it is tenuous but steadily improving. They've now embarked on two simultaneous operations, one kinetic and one focused on improving the lot of ordinary Iraqis. That latter operation is Operation Marne Fortitude II. It is an operation focused in five areas: transition, governance, economic development, reconstruction and job development. Lynch said "services, not security, are the priority of Iraqis now".
Quite a change.
The other operation is Marne Thunderbolt which is where the 40,000 lbs of bombs was dropped you heard about. They hit 50 targets in about 10 minutes and half of the targets had secondary explosions which means there was definitely something there. Lynch said much of the targeting info was very precise and a result of their relationship with the Concerned Local Citizens.
In fact, speaking of the 31,000 CLCs, he pointed out that they've been instrumental in killing or capturing 500 AQ, turning over about 400 caches and 400 IEDs.
But back to Marne Thunderbolt. Blocking positions have been established in southern Arab Jabour (SE of Baghdad) and the insurgents are being rooted out of their latest sanctuaries.
Michael Yon warned, in an email, that we're likely to see casualties spike this month due to these operations.
Lynch was asked more detailed questions about the CLC, to include one about a report in the NY Times that the US is arming them. He said that wasn't true, that no weapons or ammunition are provided to CLCs by the US. However, he said they pay local sheiks to maintain the CLC (at the rate of about 75% each of the pay of a local Iraqi policeman) and with the money they equip and pay the CLC. That could and probably does include weapons and ammo. What coalition forces do provide the CLC is communication equipment, uniforms and some vehicles. They also help improve the check points they man (approx 1,400 in number).
I asked about their integration into the ISF, something Lynch was concerned about during our last briefing. He said that situation was improving and that about 1/3 of them hoped to join the ISF, but wanted to do so at a local level as a policeman. The other 2/3s were more interested in other employment. One of the things they've done is to put together what Lynch described as a sort of civilian job corps where these men are employed repairing roads, bridges and other infrastructure.
He said that his job, which was full-time fighting AQ not too long ago, is now about half spent on jobs and trying to help create them.
Lynch was asked his opinion of the Iraqi Army units he worked with. He said he was very proud of them and that in terms of "competency, capability and focus" they were outstanding (that's the 6th and 8th Iraqi Army Divisions). Their problems are mostly logistical (maintenance and supply) and that when that piece is finally up to speed, they'd be able to operate totally independently and sustain those operations.
He said the police forces remain a mixed bag, but improving. Of the two national police brigades he works with in that area, one is excellent and one is marginal. The marginal one is a mostly shia bde in a predominantly sunni area (Salman Pak). He said their preformance was improving but still had a way to go.
That, of course brought questions about how the Iraqis and the various sects were getting along. According to MG Lynch, conversations with ordinary Iraqis now, more than ever, stress a national focus instead of that of a religious or ethnic focus. They talk of themselves as "Iraqis" almost exclusively.
His last few remarks were interesting. He said "I've never been more optimistic" about success in Iraq. But, and he was careful to say this, "the enemy is still out there and they still have a vote", and quoting Gen. Petraeus, he said "there's no one dancing in the end-zone over here."