Late Friday I conducted an interview with Colonel Stephen W. Davis, the Commander of Marine Regimental Combat Team - 2, who is responsible for fighting in western Anbar province, also known as AO Denver....There is more. Roggio's interview gives a much better picture of what is going on than interviews of Davis by the media which is pushing its own "It is hopeless, we are in real trouble" agenda. Davis's assesment of al Qaeda is clearly correct and I would add to that the FRE's who are not willing to join the political process. I think many of the FRE's fear retribution for the terrorism they perpetrated under Saddam.
Col Davis: There are three levels of enemy in our area of operations - AO Denver. First there are the independent tribal fighters operating in this barren region who are traditional smugglers and are wrapped up in an assortment of criminal enterprises. There are the Baathists hardliners, the former regime elements that are fighting to rid the area of an American presence and are looking to return to power. Then there are the al Qaeda jihadist who are not interested in the stability of the region, but only interested in killing Iraqis and Americans, establishing their Islamist Caliphate and terrorizing the local population.
These various groups will work together or fight each other on any given day. The jihadists are not predominant in numbers but are providing the bulk of the leadership, the financiers that fund the terror activities and the technical knowledge of the insurgency. This area of Iraq is complex. Generations have been conditioned by Saddam to be survivalists and will do what is needed to survive. When the people become convinced we will remain to provide security and services, they cooperate with us. They hate the foreign fighters; they despise them for what they have done to their families and their towns and cities.
Col Davis: The greatest threat by far is the IEDs (improvised explosive devices), VBIEDs (vehicle borne IEDs), SVBIED (suicide VBIEDs). This is the insurgent's most deadly weapon. It has been rewarding to watch the proficiency develop in the Marines, sailors, soldiers and airmen serving out here to detect and disable these weapons. During Operation River gate, we encountered an average of four dozen IEDS a day during the course of a ten day period and 90-95% of these weapons were disabled or destroyed before they could be detonated.
Bill: Do you think domestic elements of the insurgency would be willing to lay down their arms and enter the political process, or are they too indebted to al Qaeda?
Col Davis: al Qaeda in Iraq will not lay down their arms to enter the political process, and they must be eliminated. They are vermin. We focus our efforts on destroying their networks and hunting the leaders, financiers, technical experts, and facilitators.
There is a possibility that the Sunni moderates can reach out to the Former Regime Elements / Baathist and encourage them to join the political process. But many of these FREs may not be willing to cooperate in power sharing.
Roggio interviews the Marine commander in charge of US forces in Iraq's wild west