"Evil is powerless if the good are unafraid" - Ronald Reagan

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Iraq launches major offensive against Qaeda

From Alsumaria.

Interior Ministry spokesman Brigadier Abdul Karim Khalaf announced that Iraqi Forces launched a wide scale military operation against Al Qaeda strongholds in Diyala since Wednesday in counter to the most violent attack Iraqi Forces were subject to in the province.

Separately, the death toll of the armed ambush set against a joint police and awakening council patrol in Al Dulaimat village in Khan Bani Saad in Diyala rose to 35 deaths, security sources reported.

The sources clarified that deaths include 27 policemen among whom 3 officers and eight members of awakening councils.

Meanwhile, one US soldier was killed in a suicide bombing targeting awakening councils and police, the US military reported.

Moreover, Defense Ministry spokesman Brigadier Mohammed Al Askari announced that three leaders were killed including a Saudi while three other Al Qaeda members were arrested in a crackdown on Thursday in Mosul.

After a brief amnesty period, another offensive is launched in Diyala.

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Bungled raid in Diyala threatens political developments, military operations

From the Long War Journal.

Recent political progress in Diyala may unravel after a botched attempt to capture a provincial official at the main governmental center in Baqubah killed an assistant to the provincial governor.

An attempt to arrest a Sunni member of the provincial parliament, Husain al Zubsidy, by a special division of the Iraqi Army went foul early on Aug. 19, causing a 30-minute firefight between the Iraqi army and local police. A special assistant to the governor of Diyala was killed in the shootout. The assistant, al Tamimi, was also a close relative of the governor of Diyala, Ra’ad Rashid al Tamini, and the killing has threatened to unhinge gains made in recent weeks.

The Long War Journal has a good analysis of recent events in Diyala.

For a full read, click here.

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Iraqi soldiers storm Diyala governor's office, killing one

From Yahoo via AFP.

soldiers stormed the governor's office in the restive province of Diyala before dawn on Tuesday, killing his secretary and firing on local police, the governor told AFP.

The incident in the provincial capital Baquba, which occurred about 2 am (2300 GMT Monday), sparked clashes between the soldiers and local security forces which governor Raad Rasheed Mulla Jawad said had caused casualties.

"During the night, Iraqi forces from Baghdad burst into the provincial council building," arriving in Humvee armoured vehicles, said Jawad, whose province northeast of the capital remains one of Iraq's most dangerous areas.

A very interesting development in Diyala indeed.

For a full read, click here.

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Diyala governor survives potential coup d’état, suicide bomber

The Long War Journal provides an insight into Diyala from the tactical to operational level.

Governor Ra’ad Rashid al Tamini didn’t seem in an overly jovial mood on Wednesday, even if his aides all agreed on his high spirits. An outsider may say his face displayed more relief than joy, which is no surprise: firing your militant police chief, then surviving an assassination attempt and a coup d’état in a two-day period can wind even the most talented of political athletes.

The article continues with a central issue in securing and re-invigorating Diyala, namely, establishment of civilian government control in the region with support from a strong military and police force to further promote immediate security and long-term economic development. To accomplish this overall objective, the Diyala provincial council decided to fire it police chief who, according to the council, was not doing enough to promote security in the province.

In Diyala, north of Baghdad, months of a “cold war” between al Tamini and the provincial police chief, Ghanem al Qurayshi, came to an end Aug. 10. Diyala’s provincial council voted 36-0 to oust the police chief, after numerous run-ins with councilors and the governor over the extent of his police authority. Even after the vote, the central government in Baghdad could have countermanded the decision, given al Qurayshi’s close ties to power brokers within the Shia-based political parties.

“We have enforced the laws,” said al Tamini in an interview. “Our society will improve so much if we can educate people about how the law strengthens the country. It was the first time the provincial council applauded for me. The decision came from their hearts.”

Diyala, in many instances, is a microcosm of Iraq. The province encompasses areas of Kurdish, Sunni, and Shia influence. It is a mostly agrarian community which provides agricultural staples to other provinces. Its cities, more like towns, are a diverse mix of farmers, craftsmen, tribal chiefs, and technocrats. Tribal influence in this region is strong in many outlying areas and less organized in other areas. In some parts of the province, it is arid while other parts are lush giving it the name the bread-basket of Iraq. Due to its relative position from Baghdad, its security is vital to securing Baghdad which is why it became the center of activity for Al Qaeda in Iraq.

As such, Diyala residents have seen their share of Al Qaeda in Iraq, Iraqi government officials, local military officials, and US forces. Given that Diyala was the last bastion of control for Al Qaeda in Iraq, it is also possibly the most war torn and least effectively governed at this time. This vast province serves as a vital line of communication from Kurdish areas to the north, the central government to the south, Iran to the east, and Al Anbar to the West.

Securing Diyala starts with ridding the province of insurgents and then establishing the rule of law as al Tamini pointed out above. It continues with economic development in all aspects of society from farming, craftsmen, technocrats, and security forces. Economic development is now the key in Diyala. one hundred million dollars have been promised to the area. This money needs to get down to the local farmers in the form of microloads which will promote economic development, infrastructure development which will provide jobs for craftsmen, and government jobs which will allow people in the province to have a say in their future development. The security forces need vehicles and supplies to maneuver around the province to further promote security.

Having just come from this region, it has a strong provincial reconstruction team (PRT), a solid military and police transition team (MTT/PTT), a capable military and police force combined with a capable and committed civilian government which is linked with US forces to promote longterm security and economic development. The severe drought in the region is complicating economic recovery as have past battles which pitted neighbor against neighbor. Relationships need to be rebuilt, not only between neighbors, but also between citizens and government officials, government officials and security forces, and finally tribal leaders and government all while trying to defeat the last vestiges of Al Qaeda in Iraq from the region.

PM Maliki's efforts in the region will jump start security. Now it is up to Iraqi government officials, the Iraqi military and police, PRTs, MTTs/PTTS, and the US military all working in concert to bring economic vitality back to this wartorn region. The efforts in this region encompass all forms of economic development from vegetable farmers to chicken coup ranchers, craftsmen who provide implements for these farmers and ranchers, and development of the oil sector within this region. Efforts must be moved forward while keeping tribal leaders, businessmen, and government officials all focused on the end result, namely, a free democratic province with a diverse economy which could once again become the bread-basket of Iraq, not only in terms of agriculture, but also in terms of small industry and local government initiatives.

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Police hail round-up of al Qaeda suspects

The Miami Herald provides a good insight into what is currently happening in Diyala at the strategic and operational level.

More than 600 arrests of high-level and not-so-high-level al Qaeda in Iraq suspects have been made here in the last two weeks. There have been some major rough spots -- insurgents have mounted at least three lethal attacks against Iraqi security forces, and they tried to kill the provincial governor Tuesday -- but it seems that Operation Glad Tidings, which brought more than 30,000 Iraqi troops and policemen into Baqouba and the surrounding countryside of Diyala province, is moving from the clear-and-hold phase to the public relations phase.

However, reconstruction money has not yet been delivered or spent within the province.

A $100 million reconstruction fund has been announced but not a penny of it has been spent, and the committee that will decide how to spend it does not exist yet.

''We are not strangers,'' Ghaidan said at a neighborhood meeting to 120 displaced families who were sitting before him under an awning. "We know what happened here. There is unemployment, yes. Al Qaeda stopped everything -- government, services -- and most people got threats."

"We know all this. We have come to solve all these problems. Government has many gates, but the Ministry of Defense will open them for you.''

The families listened appreciatively, but when the general finished and walked toward his truck, dozens of mothers in their black abayas pushed toward him. They wanted prosperity, but all that the general had to offer, for the moment, was water and boxes of rice.

Diyala is one of the last bastions of Al Qaeda in Iraq. Currently the Iraqi military is conducting clearing operations in this region and from the story, beginning to transition to rebuilding operations. Getting the economy restarted is extremely important as Al Qaeda in Iraq completely wiped out the bustling economics of this region. To add to misery, a severe drought is continuing so that even basic supplies are in short supply. How the Iraqi Government helps Diyala may very well be indicative of the path the nation, as a whole, takes in the future.

For a full read, click here.

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[Diyala] After Al Qaeda

From Newsweek discussing Diyala Province two weeks after the start of operations to clear it.

This time the sound of Stryker personnel carriers rolling into the town of Himbus had a triumphal rumble to it. Two weeks after launching an offensive to drive Al Qaeda in Iraq from its stronghold in Diyala province, American soldiers were back, arriving in broad daylight in a trio of provincial towns to see townsfolk cautiously venturing into streets they had once avoided and interacting openly with Iraqi security forces.

Platoons watched as residents lined up for fleece jackets and rice being distributed by Iraqi soldiers in the hamlet of Abu Musa. Soldiers mingled with people receiving medical care for the first time in weeks at a clinic in Himbus. And they stood guard while men, women and children filled jugs of kerosene from a tanker truck in Taiha.

"Iraq forces now have control of the bread basket, announced Lt. Col. Rod Coffey, commander of the 3rd Squadron of the 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment. "The facts on the ground are we have freedom of movement and the insurgents do not."

How secure is it?

The soldiers' drive back to Warhorse base after their visit to Himbus, Tahia and Abu Musa did offer one measure of Operation Bread Basket's success in rousting Qaeda cadres from their embeds. Three Strykers drove over an IED on a stretch of road the Americans call Route Ann. It did not go off. "There was no triggerman," said Coffey. "With our forces around, they cannot get into position [to detonate their bombs]."

Diyala, once the stronghold of Al Qaeda in Iraq and the capital of Islamic State of Iraq is being returned to its citizens.

For a full read, click here.

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Large cache, underground bunker system discovered during Operation Phantom Phoenix (Esalwid)

From MNF-I.

Coalition Forces discovered a complex cache site and underground bunker system inside a dense palm grove Jan. 12 near Esalwid, Iraq, during Operation Raider Harvest which is a division-level operation that is part of the countrywide Operation Phantom Phoenix.

Soldiers of Company I, 3rd Squadron, 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment, found the 70-meter complex, which included a sleeping building, a building for storing food and a building for constructing improvised explosive devices, as well as two underground living bunkers.

Located at the site were numerous weapons and explosives, including various munitions, small arms, more than 10 IED cases, along with numerous other material for making IEDs, and various ammunitions and military gear. Coalition Forces also found several log books containing AQI members with their assigned weapons and a map of IED locations.

A power line leading to the site was traced back to the home of a nearby villager, who was detained along with five of his military-age-male family members.

Coalition Forces are now beginning to get into Al Qaeda's secret lairs. A 70-meter underground complex with sleeping quarters is a significant find. I am sure several move of these complexes will end up being found as Coalition Forces continue into the "Bread Basket" region

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