Army Lt. Col. Andy Shoffner is a veteran of the "clear, hold and build" strategy that saw U.S. and Iraqi forces fight their way into the roughest parts of Anbar province a few years ago.

But that method is proving difficult to apply in Kirkuk province. Shoffner, now commanding the 4th Squadron, 9th U.S. Cavalry Regiment, says there is a shortage of U.S. and Iraqi forces to combat the threat posed by Sunni Arab nationalist and Islamist insurgent groups in southern areas of the province.

"We are able to clear, but are not able to hold because of a lack of (Iraqi forces)," he said. "The bad guys are going to go where we’re not."

While Iraq police and soldiers may be taking the lead in other parts of the country, 4-9 soldiers and their Iraqi counterparts are working their way through Arab-dominated southern parts of the province that are largely devoid of a regular Iraqi police presence. As such, the area is a staging ground for various insurgent groups.

There is just one Iraqi police station along about 75 kilometers of a main provincial supply route, Shoffner said.

After arriving here earlier this year, Shoffner said he went to an Iraqi police chief and suggested more IP stations in the southern part of the province.

Shoffner said the Iraqi police chief pulled out a request for 15 more stations that was denied by the Iraqi government last year.

"The entire war has been ‘Do more with less,’" Shoffner said.

Budget and resource cuts are limiting the growth of the police force throughout the country.

In Kirkuk province, there are also concerns about the approximately 1,900 "Sons of Iraq" working here. The Iraqi government started cutting checks to the men March 1, but only about 20 percent of the group will be folded into security forces, Shoffner said. A plan to fold the remaining members into civil jobs remains in the works.

There are also lingering concerns about the loyalty of group members and whether a higher paycheck from the insurgent side will sway them away from the Iraqi government.

Before the 2nd Brigade, 1st. U.S. Cavalry Division arrived here last month, a roadside bomb detonated 50 meters from a "Sons of Iraq" checkpoint, suggesting some level of complicity within the group, Shoffner said.

And since the Jan. 1 security agreement, there’s only so much Shoffner and the rest of the brigade can do. The Iraqi government will lead the way in trying to sway the Arabs of southern Kirkuk province away from centuries-old tribal loyalties, he said.

"I’m always looking at this through a Western lens, which is a hindrance," he said. "The best solution will be an Iraqi solution. Our contribution is to support the Iraqi government."

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