Second of five additional brigades now in Baghdad for troop 'surge'
While Congress and the White House continue sparring over President Bush’s troop increase for Baghdad, the second of five planned additional U.S. brigades has arrived in Iraq’s capital.
Some 3,100 soldiers with the 4th Brigade, 1st Infantry Division have “completed their movement into Iraq” and will “assist Iraqi Security Forces in stemming sectarian violence and protecting its citizens,” the U.S. military command announced Thursday.
The brigade is the second of five tapped by the Pentagon to carry out Bush’s “surge” of American troops in Baghdad. The 2nd Brigade, 82nd Airborne arrived at a base in east Baghdad in mid-January.
In Washington, Army Secretary Francis Harvey said Thursday that the additional 21,500-troop plus-up tempo, which calls for moving one brigade each month to Iraq, has the service “probably at the optimum right now” in terms of how quickly it can get the extra soldiers to the field.
“I think we’re optimized,” Harvey told reporters. “Nobody goes unless they’re trained and equipped. That’s the red line.”
However, “If it was super-serious, we’d have to reconsider,” Harvey said. “But [for now], we’re saying our basic, fundamental principal is that nobody, no unit, goes over unless they’re fully trained and equipped. And that’s what we’re doing.
If commanders in Iraq were to request, and President Bush approve, even more Army troops added to the plus-up, Harvey said, the Army could provide those numbers.
All told, about 17,500 soldiers are involved in the Baghdad side of the plan; between the two brigades now there, a total of about 7,000 of the additional troops are in place. Some 4,000 additional Marines have been tapped for Anbar.
“The brigade will play an important role in increasing the amount of pressure applied to insurgent groups conducting violent activity in Baghdad,” said Lt. Gen. Ray Odierno, commander of Multi-National Corps-Iraq. “The additional soldiers will also allow the Iraqis to train their security forces to a level that will enable them to maintain security. It will allow their government to continue to mature.”
The 4th Brigade, 1st Infantry Division had deployed from Fort Riley, Kan., heading through Kuwait on its way to Iraq.
American troops in Baghdad are now pushing from larger bases into “Joint Security Stations,” smaller outposts in the center of the city. Of the 32 planned JSS outposts — which are to be used by American and Iraqi forces working together — about 15 have been established and occupied, officials said Thursday.
The new security push is aimed at stanching the sectarian violence that erupted between Sunni and Shiite factions in the city. By teaming U.S. and Iraqi forces, the military hopes to increase security and speed the development of the Iraqi troops.
By putting the units in smaller — and more dangerous — bases throughout the city, American officials are establishing a permanent presence where before only sporadic patrols were conducted.
“Their mission will be to assist Iraqi Security Forces to clear, control and retain key areas of the capital city in order to reduce violence and to set the conditions for a transition to full Iraqi control of security in the city,” a military news release Thursday read.
According to the plans announced by the Pentagon after Bush’s speech in mid-January, the units were to arrive in separate waves every 30 days. The next unit scheduled is the 4th Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, from Fort Lewis, Wash.
Stars and Stripes reporter Lisa Burgess contributed to this report.