By Robert Bruce
“The coalition remains offensively oriented to kill or capture anti-coalition elements and enemies of the Iraqi people, and to establish a safe and secure environment. To that end, the coalition conducted 1,768 patrols, 24 offensive operations, 32 raids and captured 114 anti-coalition suspects in the past 24 hours.”Coalition Provisional Authority Briefing, 12 Jan 04
While his political enemies at home and abroad endlessly repeat the lie that American efforts in liberating Iraq were “unilateral,” President Bush has, in fact, assembled a large and energetic international team. So far, more than forty-six countries are on board, perhaps most prominently Australia and Great Britain.
Bush’s “Coalition of the Willing” has recently enjoyed some surprising additions. For example, Japan’s Self Defense Forces, traditionally authorized to participate only in domestic operations, have tactical air transport elements that can now be found proudly standing in formation.
Those allies involved in direct military action are the focus of this featurette. At the beginning of the war it was mostly the Brits and Aussies whose blood was spilled along with that of Americans. Their elite SAS and Commando units were out front with American counterparts quite awhile before more conventional forces made their move. Then, British mechanized infantry and armored units crossed the border in force and rushed to take assigned objectives.
At the same time Commonwealth Naval and Air Forces were fully integrated in coalition operations. Their combined sea, land and air team contributed substantially to the quick victory over Saddam’s defenders and the continuing process of “establishing a safe and secure environment.”
Now, more than a year after the end of major fighting, allied forces from some 35 countries are organized into two major commands under Combined Joint Task Force 7, headed by US Army Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez.
The commander and two thirds of the troops in Multi-National Division (South East) are British. In addition, he has soldiers from Italy, Denmark, Czech Republic, Portugal, Korea, Netherlands, Romania, Norway, New Zealand, and Lithuania.
The Poles have command of the Multi-National Division (Central South), with a roster of more than two dozen other nations. Among these were Spain, Romania, Ukraine, Thailand, Honduras, and Mongolia.
While one can imagine the endless difficulties presented in effectively employing such a bewildering collection of troops with completely different languages, customs, tactical training, weapons, ammunition, communications gear, etc., their respective commanders publicly minimize these challenges.
However, it is fair to note that both of these divisions are responsible for geographic areas of Iraq that do not have high concentrations of Iraqis that were previously known as Saddam’s loyalists. As such, the dirty job of “stabilizing” Baghdad and other hotbeds of fanaticism continues to be up to the Americans.
Iraq’s Coalition Provisional Authority is working to build basic governmental elements. To this end, the new Iraqi Civil Defense Corps and Iraqi Police are being recruited, screened and trained. This process has advanced to the point where large and growing numbers of them are working alongside American and Allied forces in almost all aspects of the stabilization process, but not without some ugly incidents….
With the signing of agreements that, it is hoped, will lead to a responsibly self-governing Iraq, the presence of American and Allied military forces should gradually diminish. However, as it took many years to “stabilize” Western Europe in the aftermath of World War Two, the process in post-Saddam Iraq is most probably to be longer and even more difficult.
More information on the Coalition Provisional Authority and Coalition Joint Task Force 7 is available in links at CENTCOM’s website: www.centcom.mil
|This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V8N5 (February 2005)|