Relieved of command
MOSUL, IRAQ: On the western outskirts of Mosul, Combat Outpost Inman sits on a dusty and violent stretch of road that serves as an al Qaeda supply line from Syria into the provincial capital. The soldiers of the 1st Battalion, 3rd Brigade, 2nd Iraqi Army Division are assigned to secure a vital stretch of this road leading from Tal Afar, but they have come short of its task. The leadership of Iraq's 2nd Division arrived at Inman on March 20 with one goal in mind: fix the problem.
And on that day, today, a big part of the problem was fixed. The battalion commander was relieved of command.
Combat Outpost Inman is infamous for being the location where on Dec. 26, 2007, an Iraqi soldier opened fire on a group of US soldiers while they worked to establish the outpost. Captain Rowdy Inman and Sergeant Benjamin Portell were killed, and three other US soldiers and one interpreter were wounded. The Iraqis believe the Iraqi soldier was an infiltrator who seized the opportunity to attack the US soldiers. The Iraqi soldier and one other accomplice were captured and are awaiting trial in an Iraqi court. The combat outpost they were working has been named in honor of Captain Inman.
This was an ominous beginning for Combat Outpost Inman.
To bolster Iraqi forces in Mosul, the 2nd Division moved two of its battalions from the 3rd Brigade in southern Ninewa province and assigned them to the 2nd Brigade. The 1st Battalion was assigned to Combat Outpost Inman in early February and has failed to secure its assigned route. The problems in the battalion started with its commander.
The commander, Lieutenant Colonel Favil, was arrested a few weeks ago by Iraqi police and is awaiting trial. Favil apparently got into an argument with his brother, pulled a gun, and shot him. It is unclear if his brother was killed.
Favil is also accused of abusing the Army's leave policy, as he was always absent from his unit. Favil took the unit's Badger, a mine-resistant ambush-protected armor vehicle, with him on leave. When it was discovered Favil was in jail, the Badger was found outside his home. The unit has since recovered the vehicle.
The leadership of the 2nd Division acted quickly and decisively to put an end to Favil's transgressions. Within three weeks of being notified of Favil's activities, he was relieved of command.
News of Favil's exploits were first reported by Major Jim Johnson, the Military Transition Team leader for the 1st Battalion of the 3rd Brigade. Johnson identified Favil's absence to Lieutenant Colonel Jeff Meeker, the 2nd Brigade's lead adviser, who then talked to Brigadier General Taha Askar and Colonel David Brown, the 2nd Division's lead adviser. The matter was escalated to Brigadier General Mouta'a al Khazraji, the 2nd Iraqi Army Division commander, who then traveled to Inman to attempt to get the battalion's executive officer to take the lead and begin securing the route.
But the battalion's executive officer was also negligent. The company's officers and soldiers were abusing the leave policy, said Lieutenant Colonel Atyia, the 2nd Brigade's operations officer. "We need to fix the leave situation - they are violating the policy," said Atyia after being assigned as the new battalion commander. "Their officers are said to stay at the headquarters and are not patrolling with their soldiers." Without the leadership, the Iraqi troops then abandoned stretches of the road, and the insurgents and al Qaeda proceeded to seed it with IEDs.
After several visits to the outpost, Brigadier Generals Taha and Mouta'a decided it was time to replace the unit's leadership. On March 20, Mouta'a and Taha arrived at Combat Outpost Inman. Favil was still in jail, and his executive officer was nowhere to be found. Mouta'a proceeded to dress down the unit's officers for the unit's failures. Mouta'a formally stripped Favil of his command on the spot and relieved the executive officer as well.
Taha assigned Atyia as the new battalion commander and replaced the executive officer with a major who has been with the unit for only two weeks. Atyia served as an officer in Saddam Hussein's Army, and he has previously led a battalion. The young major was recently the leader of the Minister of Defense's personal security detachment.
A command opportunity
While Favil's violations of the rules of the military and his run-in with the law can be seen as a failure of the Iraqi military officer corps, the US advisers assigned to Iraq's 2nd Division see this as both an opportunity and a positive step in the unit's development. Johnson, the battalion's lead adviser, said the troops in the unit are loyal to Favil, but they have the potential to operate effectively if given the proper leadership.
Meeker believes the division's leaders, who have been hesitant in the past to change junior leadership during the fight, are growing. "We can use more of that from the senior leaders," said Meeker. "It is a sign they are acknowledging there are issues and are fixing them."
Meeker also said this incident was a success for the adviser program, as a problem was identified by the battalion adviser, passed up the chain of command, and the advisers worked closely with their Iraqi counterparts. Meeker was clear that the ultimate decision belonged to the Iraqi generals. "We can only advise them of their options," said Meeker. "In the end, the decision to relieve Favil was theirs alone."
"The change of command is a good sign," said Brown, the division's chief adviser, as he smiled while departing from Combat Outpost Inman.