Operation New Dawn: U.S. Engaged in Combat in Iraq

Note: Yet another “Mission Accomplished” for the U.S. led war in Iraq.  This time, Barack H.Obama is the flag pole from which the people in the United States and the rest of the world see the deceit waving in front of them.  Combat is not over, combat troops are still there.

AP

Even as President Barack Obama was announcing the end of combat in Iraq, American soldiers were sealing off a northern village early Wednesday as their Iraqi partners raided houses and arrested dozens of suspected insurgents.

While the Obama administration has dramatically reduced the number of troops and rebranded the mission, the operation in Hawija was a reminder that U.S. forces are still engaged in hunting down and killing al-Qaida militants — and could still have to defend themselves against attacks.

That reality was front and center at a change-of-command ceremony in one of Saddam Hussein’s former palaces outside Baghdad that the American military now uses as its headquarters. Officials warned of a tough road ahead as the U.S. moves into the final phase of the 7 1/2-year war.

Of paramount concern is Iraqi leaders’ continued bickering, six months after parliamentary elections, over forming a new government — a political impasse that could further endanger stability and fuel a diminished but still dangerous insurgency.

“Iraq still faces a hostile enemy who is determined to hinder progress,” Gen. Lloyd Austin, the newly installed commander of the just under 50,000 U.S. troops still in Iraq, told the swelling crowd that was clad in military fatigues and political suits. “Make no mistake, our military forces here and those of the Iraqi nation remain committed to ensuring that our friends in Iraq succeed.”

Vice President Joe Biden presided over the gathering at al-Faw palace, Saddam’s gaudy former hunting lodge replete with fake marble walls and a huge chandelier made of recycled plastic.

The remaining U.S. forces in Iraq would be “as combat ready, if need be, as any in our military,” Biden said, flanked by Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen for the 75-minute ceremony, which also changed the U.S. mission’s name from “Operation Iraqi Freedom” to “Operation New Dawn.”

Three years ago, about 170,000 U.S. troops were in Iraq. Of those who remain, fewer than 10 percent — or 4,500 — are special forces who will regularly go on raids and capture terrorists, albeit alongside Iraqi troops.

Obama ordered the end of combat missions by Aug. 31 in a step toward a full withdrawal of American forces by the end of next year that was mandated in a U.S.-Iraqi security agreement.

Violence also has declined dramatically since early 2007, when the Pentagon poured tens of thousands more troops into Iraq over a matter of months to quell a Sunni insurgency that had lured the country to the brink of civil war. Additionally, a Sunni revolt against al-Qaida in Iraq and a Shiite militia cease-fire have helped tamp down attacks, although bombings and shootings across Iraq continue on a near-daily basis.

But Iraqi forces are heavily dependent on U.S. firepower, along with helicopters, spy data and other key tools for combating terrorists that they won’t be able to supply on their own for years to come.

“Every soldier I have knows that fighting is not over because there are groups here that still want to hurt us,” Maj. Gen. Tony Cucolo, commander of U.S. troops in Iraq’s volatile north, told The Associated Press recently. “But clearly combat operations is not in our mission statement.”

In Hawija, once a hub for Sunni militants and Saddam’s disaffected allies located 150 miles north of Baghdad, roughly 80 U.S. soldiers teamed up with more than 1,000 Iraqis to arrest about 60 terror suspects in the early morning raid Wednesday.

From checkpoints and command centers to helicopters hovering overhead, the Americans were on hand at the request of Iraqi police. But it was the Iraqis who went into houses and arrested suspected insurgents — including two considered high-value targets — while the U.S. watched the operation from afar.

Hours before the raids, Lt. Col. Andy Ulrich gave his soldiers a pep talk to counter concerns they weren’t on a worthwhile mission.

“You all are combat troops not doing a combat mission, although it looks smells and feels and hurts a lot like combat,” Ulrich said.

“Don’t worry about what the politicians are saying because we have a mission,” he added. “The bad part is, we can’t go kicking the doors ourselves and get these guys. We’ve got to kind of convince Iraqis to do it, but the good part is, they’re kind of willing to do it.”

Iraqi forces across Baghdad appeared to be on heightened alert, aiming to reassure the populace and ward off insurgent attacks to coincide with the change in command.

Intelligence officials had warned al-Qaida in Iraq might use the U.S. military’s shifting mission to launch suicide bombings around the capital in the days leading up to Wednesday’s ceremony. However, the day was relatively quiet, except for a roadside bomb in eastern Baghdad that police said killed one person.

At the Baghdad ceremony, Gen. Ray Odierno, the outgoing commander, formally ended his nearly five-year tour in Iraq on a reflective note.

“This period in Iraq’s history will probably be remembered for sacrifice, resilience and change,” Odierno said. “However, I remember it as a time in which the Iraqi people stood up against tyranny, terrorism and extremism, and decided to determine their own destiny as a people and as a democratic state.”

Then, wistfully using his military call sign one last time, Odierno ended his remarks: “Lion 6 — out.”

Obama ordered the refocusing of the U.S. mission last year to fulfill a campaign promise of ending what he once termed “a dumb war” and one that Gates acknowledged Wednesday was launched without justification. In an address Tuesday night Obama announced the end of American combat, but made clear that this was no victory celebration.

“Of course, violence will not end with our combat mission,” the president said.

Defining the front lines in a war where soldiers who are attacked while delivering supplies could just as easily return fire as Marines while on a raid to round up suspected insurgents has never been easy. Some of the key ongoing threats to the safety of American forces are the same as they’ve always been: rockets, mortars and roadside bombs.

U.S. military officials have said Iranian-backed militias are stepping up their attacks against targets in Baghdad, trying to make it look like they’re driving out the Americans. Since arriving in Iraq, the battalion taking part in the Hawija raids has been hit by rocket and grenade attacks on their patrols and on their base almost every other day.

In the western Iraqi city of Ramadi before the ceremony, Gates told reporters the U.S. would consider keeping some military forces in place past next year, if the Iraqi government requests it.

Asked whether the U.S. was still at war in Iraq, Gates answered succinctly, “I would say we are not.”

He was less definitive about whether the 7 1/2-year war was worthwhile. More than 4,400 American troops and an estimated 100,000 Iraqis have been killed since the 2003 invasion, and billions of dollars have been poured into the war effort.

Claiming that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction, then-President George W. Bush ordered the invasion with approval of a Congress still reeling from the 9/11 attacks. Bush’s claims were based on faulty intelligence, and the weapons were never found.

“The problem with this war, I think, for many Americans, is that the premise on which we justified going to war turned out not to be valid,” Gates said. “Even if the outcome is a good one from the standpoint of the United States, it’ll always be clouded by how it began.”

U.S. Combat Troops Remain in Iraq

Note:  Although most main stream media lied to the public about the one hundred percent complete removal of combat troops, at least 50,000 soldiers will remain in Iraq under disguised names.  One has already been killed since the official announcement of Obama’s version of Mission Accomplished.  In reality, it is mission failed and a broken promise.  The U.S. has never left any country it invaded.

Army Times

As the final convoy of the Army’s 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, based at Fort Lewis, Wash., entered Kuwait early Thursday, a different Stryker brigade remained in Iraq.

Soldiers from the 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team of the 25th Infantry Division are deployed in Iraq as members of an Advise and Assist Brigade, the Army’s designation for brigades selected to conduct security force assistance.

So while the “last full U.S. combat brigade” have left Iraq, just under 50,000 soldiers from specially trained heavy, infantry and Stryker brigades will stay, as well as two combat aviation brigades.

Compared with the 49,000 soldiers in Iraq, there are close to 67,000 in Afghanistan and another 9,700 in Kuwait, according to the latest Army chart on global commitments dated Aug. 17. Under an agreement with the Iraqi government, all U.S. troops must be out of Iraq by Dec. 31, 2011.

There are seven Advise and Assist Brigades in Iraq, as well as two additional National Guard infantry brigades “for security,” said Army spokesman Lt. Col. Craig Ratcliff.

Last year, the Army decided that rather than devote permanent force structure to the growing security force assistance mission, it would modify and augment existing brigades.

The Army has three different standard brigade combat teams: infantry, Stryker and heavy. To build an Advise and Assist Brigade, the Army selects one of these three and puts it through special training before deploying.

The Army selected brigade combat teams as the unit upon which to build advisory brigades partly because they would be able to retain their inherent capability to conduct offensive and defensive operations, according to the Army’s security force assistance field manual, which came out in May 2009. This way, the brigade can shift the bulk of its operational focus from security force assistance to combat operations if necessary.

To prepare for their mission in Iraq, heavy, infantry and Stryker brigades receive specialized training that can include city management courses, civil affairs training and border patrol classes.

As far as equipment goes, the brigades either brought their gear with them or used equipment left behind that is typical to their type of brigade, said Ratcliff.

The first Advise and Assist Brigade — the 4th Brigade Combat Team of the 1st Armored Division from Fort Bliss, Texas — deployed last spring to Iraq, serving as a “proof of principle” for the advisory brigade concept.

Of the seven Advise and Assist Brigades still in Iraq, four are from the 3rd Infantry Division, based at Fort Stewart, Ga. The 1st Heavy Brigade of the 1st Armored Division, based at Fort Bliss, and the 3rd Brigade Combat Team of the 4th Infantry Division, based at Fort Carson, Colo., are also serving as Advise and Assist Brigades.

The 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team of the 25th Infantry Division is based at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii. A combat medic from that unit was killed Aug. 15 when his Stryker combat vehicle was hit with grenades, according to press reports.

Two combat aviation brigades also remain in Iraq, according to Dan O’Boyle, Redstone Arsenal spokesman. Three more are deployed in Afghanistan, where there are currently no Advise and Assist Brigades.