The Brits are ready to start pulling out of Iraq.
Britain plans to reduce the size of its military force in Iraq from 9,000 to 3,500 soldiers within a year and increase its troops in Afghanistan in a renewed bid to hunt down Osama bin Laden and other senior Al-Qaeda figures reportedly hiding close to the country’s border with Pakistan, a leading London newspaper said on Sunday.
Lt Gen James Conway of the US marines recently said that the withdrawal of American troops within the same time frame as the British was possible because Iraqis were “starting to take control of their own situation”.
Iraqi security forces are ready to take over, Gen. Conway? You may want to check with your own Marines in Regimental Combat Team-2 and ask them about the Iraqi Freedom Guard.
During its short life, the Iraq Freedom Guard of maybe 100 fighters had a distinguished record in Anbar province.
But on an afternoon last month, the Freedom Guard’s fall from grace led to the deaths of two unit soldiers and more questions about how reliable an ally Iraq’s nascent armed forces are.
Seeking to make a point not fully understood by Marine commanders with whom they worked, guard fighters finished weeks of missions in Anbar by marching without clearance to violent Haqlaniyah, a small town on the Euphrates River.
Just hours before U.S. troops were to attempt to root out an insurgent cell in the town, Iraq Freedom Guardsmen confronted several young men.
Then, a roadside bomb blew up next to the Iraqi unit. Besides the soldiers who died, three other Freedom Guardsmen were wounded, and the Americans who followed that night arrived to find the town abandoned.
“This incident we’ll look into,” said Col. Stephen Davis, the Marine Regimental Combat Team-2 commander whose Marines patrol the area of Anbar province where the Freedom Guard operated. “You do not want friendlies going forward in an uncoordinated fashion.”
Third Battalion commander Lt. Col. Lionel Urquhart said he was later told the Iraqis wanted to celebrate the conclusion of their operation with a tribal dance nearer their enemies. Lawson and Capt. Lance Langfeldt, a tank officer who followed them, said they were told the guardsmen sought revenge for a member killed earlier by area insurgents.
Marines who watched said the Freedom Guard roughed up several young men along their march. Then, soon after the Iraqis danced in the street and fired their weapons toward Haqlaniyah — a remote-controlled bomb exploded a few feet from them.
The blast knocked Langfeldt down into his tank. One Freedom Guardsman was killed immediately and another died on the trip to the American base near Haditha. The unit was evacuated and badly shaken.
Clearly frustrated, the Marines say the future of Iraq remains in the hands of such forces.
“We can give them the teaching, the mentorship, the leadership,” Davis said. “But it is their nation and they need to be able to provide their own destiny.”