Best Defense

What’s happening down in Basra

Here is a note from a friend of a friend, in response to my query of last week: By "Devil Dawg" Best Defense Basra deputy bureau chief I’m a military advisor down here in Basrah. The report you cited isn’t entirely accurate. We did have three IEDs in the city over the last seven days; ...

Christiaan Briggs/flickr
Christiaan Briggs/flickr

Here is a note from a friend of a friend, in response to my query of last week:

By "Devil Dawg"
Best Defense Basra deputy bureau chief

I’m a military advisor down here in Basrah. The report you cited isn’t entirely accurate. We did have three IEDs in the city over the last seven days; however, there were no mass arrests made in association with those attacks. One was a flash bang grenade tossed into a liquor store the other night. This is a fairly common occurrence around here as some of the more conservative folk don’t take kindly to the bars and liquor stores that have sprung up along the Shatt downtown. Other establishments such as women’s clothing stores and barber shops have been targeted in the past. The second was found and diffused outside the home of a local citizen. As of yet, we haven’t been able to get the Iraqi Army to relay the significance of this particular individual and why he was targeted. Again, this type of IED is not uncommon as its an easy way to target a specific person (JAM has gone out of their way to not target random locals — no suicide attacks down here). The third was your run-of-the-mill IED on ASR Topeka detonated on a personal security contractor convoy. As usual, the site was within view of an Iraqi Army manned checkpoint, yet they saw nothing.

The main perpetrators down here are JAM and various other SEGs. In my particular division, we’ve got real concerns about the level of infiltration by JAM members and/or sympathizers. The continued emplacement of IEDs in the immediate vicinity of Iraqi Army checkpoints further reinforces these concerns.  Luckily, these groups have been reluctant to target the Iraqi Army specifically. No combined patrols or convoys were hit by an IED in the last 10 months. The Iraqi Army were literally our best force protection. In a 48 hour period last month, however, two combined missions were hit, including one of our own.

As far as the mass arrests are concerned, as you probably know, that’s the Iraqi Army preferred MO –round up everyone within a two block radius of an IED. When our patrol was hit with an EFP, they arrested six people who had nothing to do with anything, while letting the two trigger men walk because they couldn’t or wouldn’t search the area where we spotted them. Several individuals wanted for Article IV terrorism related charges were arrested this week, but none in conjunction with the three aforementioned IEDs. As one who closely tracks the Iraqi Army reported SIGACTs across the province, these are particularly hard to trace because rarely are the detainees being tracked by U.S. intelligence and the Iraqi Army are very reluctant to give us anything other than a name. Most of these people go through my counterpart’s interrogation room and yet I rarely have access to them.

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. @tomricks1
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