Area of Operations (AO) Charger was a very dynamic operating environment covering over 4500 square km and comprised of approximately 1.3 million Sunni and Shia Iraqis. During the Former Regime, Saddam would reward his loyal Sunni’s by displacing the Shia native to the area. The areas along the rivers, one of the most fertile regions in all of Iraq, were prized to the Iraqis. This created a mixed population in AO Charger that was majority Sunni with a Shia minority.
The terrain of AO Charger consisted of wide open desert, vast farm lands, date palm groves, orchards, small villages, and an urban environment, all of which were at one time the epicenter of the province’s commerce. These differences in terrain aided in the complicated contemporary operating environment within AO Charger.
After the Elections of January 2005, the Sunni Muslims of Diyala found themselves out of the new political system that was now run by the Shias and Kurds. The empowerment of the once oppressed Shia Muslims led to the disenfranchisement of the Sunni Muslims that had long enjoyed the benefits of the former regime. The government in Diyala province became increasingly ineffective and by October 2006 was not even meeting. Additionally, government shipments of fuel and food to Diyala stopped during this time period.
In April of 2006 Abu Musab al-Zarqawi declared that the Diyala Province was the capital of the new Islamic State of Iraq. This announcement caused a larger number of Al Qaeda terrorists to move to the Diyala Province to fight against Coalition Forces and to further the creation of Zarqawi’s Islamic State of Iraq. In May of 2006, Zarqawi was killed in Hib Hib. This left a leadership vacuum in the Al Qaeda in Iraq organization that resulted in the flooding of the province with various Sunni insurgent groups.
The Iraqi Security Forces in Diyala became less effective under the leadership of Staff Major General (SMG) Shakir who took command of the 5th Iraqi Army (IA) in July of 06. SMG Shakir was a Shia Muslim and often furthered the wedge between the Shia and Sunni Muslims of the province by directing broad sweeping operations that resulted in the detention of hundreds of Sunni Muslims. Many of these detentions were made during the holiest of Muslim holidays, Ramadan. Under this weak leadership, the Iraqi Police were unable to establish stability and security within Baqubah and within the province as a whole. The Iraqi Security Forces were often seen as a tool of the Shia threat group, Jaysh al- Mahdi.
By the 1 December 2006, the insurgency within AO Charger was thriving. The local government and indigenous security forces were ineffective. Because of their ineffectiveness and corruption, the local populace did not have any confidence in their ability to secure and/or stabilize the province. All of this, coupled with the establishment of Zarqawi’s Islamic State of Iraq, helped to produce the most volatile AO in all of Iraq.
Furthermore, the Charger AO was a Brigade size AO in the previous Operation Iraqi Freedom rotation. The AO was now seen as an economy of force operation, while the nation’s capitol Baghdad and the Al Anbar Province were seen as priority to the stabilization of the country.
It was during this time that Al-Qaeda, the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI), Jaysh al-Mahdi, the 1920s Revolutionary Brigade, and many other threat organizations refocused their efforts away from the populace and onto TF Charger. This increase in targeting of Charger Soldiers was due to the fact that 1-12 CAV was the only functioning security force for the population.
From November 2006 to February 2007, the number of direct and indirect fire attacks doubled, while improvised explosive devices increased by 100 attacks during the same period. In December, the Islamic State of Iraq overran the Buhriz IA and Iraqi Police (IP) stations and destroyed a nearby check point. In an act of defiance, insurgents raised the ISI flag over the Buhriz IP Station. These attacks resulted in the refusal of the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) to man checkpoints and to stand their ground.
From November 2006 thru May 2007, the battalion saw some of the most ferocious fighting of any AO in Iraq during that time. The majority of the battalion’s 28 casualties and 83 vehicle losses were sustained during the first half of the deployment. In January and in February 3-1 HBCT attempted to strategically realign its forces in support of TF Charger. Finally, in late March, MNC-I committed its’ operational reserve, 5-20 IN, specifically for operations inside the city of Baqubah.
5-20 IN began conducting operations in Baqubah on 23MAR07 and immediately encountered heavy enemy contact, sustaining multiple destroyed vehicles and numerous casualties within the first few hours of operations. For the next two months 5-20 IN systematically conducted deliberate clearance operations in the main neighborhoods of east Baqubah.
Strategically, the “surge” was occurring, with additional brigades moving into Iraq when the decision was made to commit another three battalions to the clearance of Baqubah. In addition, the three-month extension to a 15-month deployment was announced in April.
With the addition of 1-23 IN from Baghdad and the addition of another three infantry companies to Baqubah, OPERATION ARROWHEAD RIPPER began o/a 20JUN07 to liberate the city of Baqubah of Al Qaeda forces. Also on this date, 3-2 SBCT formally assumed control of Baqubah.
OPERATION ARROWHEAD RIPPER and major combat operations formally ended on the 26th of July. The operation succeeded in liberating the city from Al Qaeda forces and in setting the conditions for Iraqis to rebuild their city. From the end of July until the transfer of authority to 2-12 FA and subsequent redeployment o/a 25 November 2007, TF Charger focused on both reconstruction operations and on reconciliation operations-getting Iraqis to set aside their sectarian differences and focus on the future of a free Iraq.