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Basra Offensive Was ‘Turning Point’ for Iraq, General Says
American Forces Press Service ^ | Gerry J. Gilmore

Posted on 04/01/2009 4:59:29 PM PDT by SandRat

WASHINGTON, April 1, 2009 – Last spring’s Iraqi-planned and Iraqi-led military campaign that successfully subdued insurgents in and around Iraq’s southern city of Basra was a turning point in the conflict, a senior U.S. officer posted in Iraq said today.

When Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki decided in March 2008 to attack insurgents and criminals lodged in Basra, Multinational Corps Iraq “had its first opportunity to gain the initiative in the south,” Army Lt. Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III told reporters at a Baghdad news conference.

“We didn’t hesitate in partnering with the Iraqi security forces,” Austin, commander of Multinational Corps Iraq, recalled. “And while it was an Iraqi-conceived and an Iraqi-planned operation, we took the opportunity to provide our combat enablers through our military transition teams with the Iraqi units.”

Maliki ordered the rapid deployment of thousands of Iraqi security forces to Basra to confront illegal militias and criminal elements said to be operating there. The U.S. military provided logistics, air and other support to the Iraqi campaign. After intense combat against the Iraqi forces, most of the insurgents in Basra eventually decided to opt out of further fighting.

Austin cited three reasons why the Basra operation “was a decisive point” for the future of all Iraq:

-- It was the first large-scale deployment of the Iraqi army by order of the prime minister;

-- It was a clear signal to all extremists and criminals, whether Sunni or Shiia, that they don’t have a future in Iraq; and

-- The Iraqi government demonstrated that it is a government for all Iraqis.

If the Basra offensive had failed, Austin said, it would have led to a chain of events that “would have unraveled” the hard-fought gains made against insurgents in Iraq. Instead, the Iraqi military victory in Basra “became a real turning point for the country and for the Iraqi security forces,” he said.

Today, things are looking up in Basra, Austin said, noting that violence there is at a six-year low. The local economy, he added, is improving, while the nearby port of Umm Qasr is enjoying revived business.

“And this progress is all possible by the defeat of the criminals and extremists that once dominated the south” of Iraq, Austin said.

U.S. forces involved in operations in Iraq’s Jazeera Desert, which borders Syria, and in and around the city of Mosul in northern Iraq achieved “some absolutely remarkable impacts” on al-Qaida and other extremist networks, the general said. These actions “resulted in a steep reduction of high-profile attacks against the people of Mosul and in Baghdad,” he said, and each foreign fighter removed from the scene likely prevented a terrorist suicide attack.

It was clear in 2008, Austin said, that long-term security in Iraq hinges on the capabilities of the Iraqi security forces. “We also knew that was important for us to further develop our partnership with the Iraqi security forces,” he added.

Meanwhile, Iraqi security forces increasingly are taking on more responsibility, Austin said, as U.S. forces in Iraq have been reduced by 25 percent over the past year or so. And despite a smaller U.S. force structure, he added, security in Iraq “has continued to improve.”

“And that is because of our strong partnership” with the Iraqi security forces, he said.

The 18th Airborne Corps’ headquarters unit from Fort Bragg, N.C., has served as the headquarters for Multinational Corps Iraq for 14 months, Austin said. He and his troops are slated to return to Fort Bragg in a few weeks. The 700-member 18th Airborne Corps contingent will be replaced by the 1st Corps headquarters element based at Fort Lewis, Wash.

TOPICS: Foreign Affairs; War on Terror
KEYWORDS: basra; frwn; iraq; turningpoint

1 posted on 04/01/2009 4:59:29 PM PDT by SandRat
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To: MozartLover; Old Sarge; Jemian; repubmom; 91B; HiJinx; MJY1288; xzins; Calpernia; clintonh8r; ...
If you would like to be added to / removed from FRWN,
please FReepmail Sandrat.


2 posted on 04/01/2009 5:00:01 PM PDT by SandRat (Duty, Honor, Country! What else needs said?)
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To: SandRat
Interesting, because I just finished reading Bing West's, The Strongest Tribe (Random House, 2008): he argues that Maliki moved on Basra rashly, and it would have been a resounding defeat for his administration if American forces hadn't pulled the fat out of the fire. I think I recall West saying something about the rate of defections in the Iraqi Army being substantially lower during this campaign.
3 posted on 04/01/2009 5:07:27 PM PDT by 1rudeboy
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oops—meaning that the Iraqi Army performed better than in the past, and was beginning to show signs of cohesion.

4 posted on 04/01/2009 5:08:45 PM PDT by 1rudeboy
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To: SandRat

November 4, 2008 was the second turning point for Iraq.

5 posted on 04/01/2009 5:09:30 PM PDT by RobinOfKingston (Democrats, the party of evil. Republicans, the party of stupid.)
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To: SandRat

The Basra uprising was very much the Tet offensive of this war. Had the Sadrists won-or more to the point, been portrayed as winners-the shockwaves would have been felt all the way to Washington. That our victory was plain to the world, we can largely credit to the new media, including Free Republic. There was no chance for a Walter Cronkite to proclaim us losers in this war-though God knows, his heirs tried to.

6 posted on 04/01/2009 5:56:11 PM PDT by tanuki (The only color of a leader that should matter is the color of his spine.)
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