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January 8, 2008

Iraq Briefing - 07 January 2008 - Col Charles Flynn

Col Charles Flynn, Commander of the 1st Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division, speaks via satellite with reporters at the Pentagon, providing an update on ongoing security operations in Iraq. I am not quite sure where they fit into the MNF-Iraq force structure.

Col Flynn is in Iraq, and is linked via teleconference to the briefing room at the Pentagon.

(The URL for this video is at http://www.dodvclips.mil/?fr_story=FRdamp237911&rf=bm)

Given the confrontation between Iranian gunboats and three U.S. Navy ships yesterday in the Straight of Hormuz, I thought the best place to start was with the exchange about Iranian interference in Iraq.

Q (Courtney Kube from NBC News) Beyond the U.S. efforts and the Iraqi security force efforts to reduce the EFPs, do you see any indications, any early indications, that one of the reasons the EFPs have been reduced in the area is because of Iran's stopping the supply of these weapons, any kind of Iran involvement in this in a positive way?

COL. FLYNN: Yeah, I think that since the talks in September, there has been what would appear to be a reduction in lethal flow of the EFP (Explosively Formed Penetrator) and other ordnance or munitions that have been used in attacks. At the same time, as I mentioned, there are influences and elements, particularly in Southern Iraq, where they're going to continue to try to foment unrest and use some of their malign influences to try to disrupt our operations, and those really of the Iraqi security forces, namely the police and the army.

It seems speculation on Col Flynns part to link a reduction of EFPs with the talks, but if true then they were worthwhile. And those of us on the right who wondered at their usefulness may have been wrong.

The other important exchange was about the Concerned Local Citizens groups, which have been the topic of much discussion recently. Gen McCaffrey stressed their importance them in his report last month. Major General Joseph Fil, Commanding General of Multi-National Division-Baghdad and First Cavalry Division, discussed them in his Dec 17 press briefing. Major General Mark Hertling, Commander of Multi-National Division-North and the 1st Armored Division, discussed them in his Nov 19 press briefing.

Q Sir, Gordon Lubold with the Christian Science Monitor. I wonder if you could talk a little bit, if you haven't already, about the concerned local citizens in your area. What kind of numbers do you have? What's the breakdown, Shi'a-Sunni? I missed, maybe, before, the composition. And what kind of activity do you see them conducting, any operations against them that you've seen so far?

COL. FLYNN: The program that I mentioned in my remarks was a Community Transportation Initiative Teams; it's really not part of the concerned local citizen program, although it is like that. It's more a civil-military outreach program and really an employment program. It does engage the tribes through the tribal sheikhs. We have over 12 tribes involved in that. It essentially goes from the area on Tampa northeast of Diwaniyah and goes all the way south to the Kuwait border and then down to Camp Bucca just east of Basra.

And it's really been a fantastic program. It has employed over 250 employees, and they get paid to do essentially roadwork. And they're out there every day. They're working hard. Their members are engaged in reporting information. In fact, just yesterday we had one of the teams identified an IED that was in fact later discovered to be an EFP. They saw it on the side of the road. They called the local police. The local police called and went over to our Joint Security Station. They went out together, cordoned the area off, and they were able to recover the EFP so we could get the -- you know, exploit the information that we get from those attack sites.

So to me -- and there's been a number of those that have occurred. So to me that's really the most positive part of this, is that it's an employment opportunity, the tribes are involved, and they are working with us to reduce attacks on the highways. And that's not just attacks against Iraqi security -- or coalition forces, but also against Iraqi highway police, oil pipeline security forces and, of course, Iraqi army elements that move on those roads.

Q Do you have also more traditional concerned local citizens manning checkpoints and that kind of thing, and how many of those do you have in your --

COL. FLYNN: No, I don't have those in our area. I know they're in the Qadisiyah province when we're on MSR-Tampa, but I believe those are being executed and implemented by the Georgian brigade that operate up there. We do most of our work here with the Australian battle group and the Romanian battalion, as I mentioned in my statement.

We're making progress, slowly burt surely.

Posted by Tom at January 8, 2008 7:43 PM

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