NINEWEH PROVINCE, Iraq --
Anbar province, once a hotbed of insurgent activity, has reached a calm and stability once never thought possible.
Now that there has been an uptick in al-Qaida in Iraq activity in Iraq’s northern province of Nineweh, a Marine Air Ground Task Force from Multi-National Force – West has come to aid Multi-National Division – North using tactics they found successful in Anbar.
Securing Nineweh’s borders with Syria, combining and utilizing coalition and Iraqi intelligence, and working closely with Iraqi security forces are three key factors in establishing security in this province, said Maj. Gen. Richard P. Mills, commanding general, ground combat element, MNF-W.
Over three days, Mills and a team from the MAGTF met with commanders from the Iraqi Army, border security forces, and a prominent sheikh in the province to discuss the ways in which his Marines can help.
“It’s been important to create relationships with tribal leaders and Government of Iraq representatives,” said Mills, who is from Huntington, N.Y. “Through them we can make sure that we are meeting the people’s needs by providing security and pinpointing and engaging troubled areas.”
One major issue that the general discussed with his Iraqi counterparts is a drought that has plagues the people of Nineweh province. Mills ensured the Iraqis that his Marines would work with the ISF to aid the people in their time of need.
“Humanitarian affairs with the ISF show the Iraqi people that they are not their enemy, but their friend,” said Mills. “Under the former regime, the army and police were oppressors, but we want to the set the example that the ISF are here to help the people of Iraq.
Another of Nineweh’s major problems has been foreign fighters travelling in and out of the city of Mosul and escaping the country over the border with Syria. During a meeting between Iraqi border security forces and Marines sent to assist them, the Iraqis told the Marines what was being done to fix the problem, and what assistance they needed from Coalition forces.
“We are going to seal the border to stop the foreign fighters and weapons from travelling into this county,” Mills said. “Creating a berm was successful for us in Anbar, and we want to help repair the berm here to aid the border forts.”
Even with a secure border, al-Qaida in Iraq insurgents are still escaping to and hiding in cities west of Mosul. By putting Marines in the western portion of Nineweh, the MNF-W MAGTF will be able to prevent insurgents operating in the area.
“Our presence here has and will continue to disrupt the enemies in this area,” said Col Robert O. Sinclair, assistant chief of staff, operations, jump command post, MNF-W.
The Marines’ primary role in Nineweh is to establish security. Through their continued presence, the people of Iraq see an addition to the Coalition and Iraqi forces that are aiding them, and the enemy sees a larger and ever more present threat to them. The Marine forces serving in Nineweh are ensuring that their presence is continuous and visible by operating near local cities and villages for long periods of time.
“We are using every part of the MAGTF, air, ground and logistics, to put a force in the area that can live, operate, and stay in the field,” said Mills.
Ultimately, Mills said that long-term security and stability in the area is the responsibility of the ISF and government officials. But, while the Marines are present in Nineweh, they will do everything in their power to assist them.
“It’s important that we partner with the local power brokers,” he said. “By working with them it allows us to increase their capabilities, and most importantly, it shows the Iraqi people that it’s their responsibility and that they’ve reestabliched themselves as a functioning government.”