BAGHDAD — After five months, we are seeing the benefits of the surge. Our Division Headquarters, our Second Brigade Combat Team, our Third Brigade Combat Team and our Combat Aviation Brigade were all brought to Iraq for that purpose. The last of the units arrived in May, and, as the summer winds down, we see the tremendous success these soldiers are contributing to securing Iraq.
Successive and successful combat operations followed our arrival and now the Iraqis are gaining confidence to take a stand on their own. They are showing they want to remove the extremists and they are demonstrating their intolerance at having terror inflicted on them. In June, we conducted Operation Marne Torch to capture or kill insurgents. The Iraqi citizens told us where the insurgents were hiding their explosives, IEDs, and weapons — things that would have been used to launch attacks into Baghdad and other communities here. In July, we launched Operation Marne Avalanche that allowed us to focus on an area that had become notorious for enemy activity along a major Shia-Sunni fault line. Our soldiers, in coordination with the Iraqi Security Forces and ordinary citizens, conducted deliberate operations to take out the enemy and restore peace to the neighborhoods.
Both operations, Marne Torch and Marne Avalanche, denied sanctuaries for al-Qaida and Shia extremists. The operations resulted in more than 100 enemy killed, 400 detained and 42 high-value individuals — the worst of the worst — in custody. There was a domino effect. When we took out the leaders and their weapons, terrorists grew more fearful and they started to run and hide. At the same time, Iraqi security forces grew in strength, prestige and capacity.
In recent weeks, sectarian violence has decreased and we are seeing Iraqis — not just their security forces — step up to the plate to secure their own neighborhoods. This is just like what happened in western Iraq where our First Brigade Combat Team worked with Sunnis to fight al-Qaida. When I fly over the battlefield, I see ordinary Iraqi citizens manning and running their own checkpoints and using their own weapons to make their neighborhoods secure. In one case, a 77-year-old man is manning a check point with a knife.
We will soon launch Operation Marne Husky. Our Combat Aviation Brigade will approach the enemy from the skies, going into an area where our ground forces cannot reach. Detailed planning with a ground infantry company will allow our aviators to continue to disrupt enemy actions; insurgents are learning there is nowhere to run and hide. Marne Husky will keep our enemy on the run, capitalizing on air power and technology. As we continue to conduct operations into the fall, our Iraqi counterparts will conduct operations with us, and grow ever more confident to conduct operations on their own.
Times have changed since we arrived in March. We are no longer constructing American patrol bases. Now, we build joint patrol bases, where we live and serve side by side with Iraqis so that we make them successful securing their future.
Our soldiers are doing great work. Just this week, a private first class in our Third Brigade caught one of the Division’s high-value targets while clearing a room. His instincts told him to look under a bed and he caught one of our 15 most wanted.
It’s the dedication and spirit of soldiers every day that keeps us going; it’s their determination that keeps you safe.
Every day your neighbors, America’s sons and daughters, 3rd Infantry Division soldiers, don 60 pounds of body armor in temperatures that approach 130 degrees to face down a barbaric enemy here. They do so, so that our children and our children’s children can know safety and security back home.
Our soldiers are encouraged by the letters you send, which reassure them of your support during these very difficult times.
Despite the momentum we’ve gained from the surge, we expect the enemy to strike back, to do something to convince the world that our gains are not significant. We are going to continue the pressure into September and into the fall. We eagerly await the arrival of our Fourth Brigade Combat Team in November to join us and continue to stress the enemy. Rock of the Marne!
Lynch is the commander of the 3rd Infantry Division, based at Fort Stewart but deployed to Iraq.