First published on the UK Ministry of Defence website on 11th Jan 2008
The Iraqi Army is leading its first joint foot patrols through areas of Baghdad under the mentoring eye of the US/UK Military Transition Team (MiTT).
In the divided Sunni/Shia district of West Rashid ‘Mahala’, Iraqi, American and British troops have been cooperating to improve the security and stability.
The 11-man US-led MiTT team also has four members of 1st Battalion the Royal Regiment of Scotland posted to it from Basrah.
Major Kurt Roberts (US Army), Team Chief for the MiTT team in Baghdad, said:
“The MiTT teams were formed to work with the Iraqi Army, Police and some with the local police. My particular team is designed to work within an Iraqi Battalion. Our job is to help them grow and learn, help them with the training level they’re already at and help them get a little better.”
Captain Kev Gartside of the 1st Battalion the Royal Regiment of Scotland explained why the British troops are serving in Baghdad:
“The Iraqi Battalion here is from the 10th Division, which is from the South East. They’ve been loaned to Baghdad because there’s a requirement for more troops up here. And because of that, the US have requested British troops come up here to help with the mentoring. So we’ve got four Brits up here with the 11-man US MiTT team that mentors them. It’s a great relationship that we’ve developed with them. It’s a three-way thing between the US, the UK and the Iraqis. It’s all interacting very well and we’ve formed quite a bond between us all.”
Major Abed, (Iraqi Army) – 2nd in command of 1st Brigade, 2nd Battalion, 10th Division said:
“We work very well with the coalition forces; we do our job together, we ask them advice for when we go to our missions. We have a daily meeting to exchange information and plan together.”
The MiTT team go out on regular patrols with the Iraqi troops around the West Rashid district.
Captain Gartside explains what happened on one:
“It was a joint dismounted patrol between the UK/US MiTT team and the Iraqi Army Battalion that is the ground-holding unit in this area. We were in an area that is a mixed Sunni and Shia area, and only as little as a couple of months ago, it was a real warzone and there was a lot of ethnic cleansing going on there. It’s developed now to the stage where we’re able to encourage dismounted patrols by the IA (Iraqi Army) which is something that would have been unheard of a couple of months ago. They’re now there to, as well as keep the peace, go beyond that and take over primacy from the US, and reassure the locals that we’re getting somewhere with the political situation, and the things that matter to them – water, food, electricity – will get through to these areas; which we saw today, with people cleaning the streets, rubbish being burnt and the water trucks cleaning out the sewage. That’s what’s important to the people.”
The district could house an IED or bomb-making cell or have an Al Qaeda presence. Patrols aim to gather intelligence on insurgent activity in the area, as well as gain the trust of the locals. The team and their Iraqi colleagues have had recent successes; including finding a large IED cache during a house search last week.
Major Kurt Roberts (US Army), Team Chief for the MiTT team in Baghdad is optimistic that they are on the road to stability and that they are starting to see improvement on the ground:
“We on the ground start to see a turning point. From the ground roots – I can’t talk for the higher levels of the government – but from the ground roots, it looks like the people are more appreciative of what’s going on and that helps the soldier feel better about his job that he does, when the people he’s doing it for appreciate what’s going on.”
Major Abed, (Iraqi Army) agrees:
“We have seen progress in the neighbourhoods; people aren’t afraid now, they come out into the streets. The local shops are open, they come to Iraqi military and police officers and they come for advice; they ask them for help if they have problems with people. This was not happening before.”
It’s hoped the progress in the West Rashid Mahala can be replicated around other districts of Baghdad.