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Daily Iraq Report for March 8, 2007

Army General David Petraeus, the commander of Multinational Forces Iraq, gave his first briefing from the theater early this morning. The surge in American forces to Iraq will now include an additional 4,600 troops. About 2,200 Military Police (MPs) will be deployed, along with 2,400 support troops. "The MPs will arrive in Iraq over the next few months and will be assigned to duties at detention centers, to provide route security for convoys and to mentor Iraqi police," notes American Forces Press Service. "Additionally, the Republic of Georgia has volunteered to send an additional combat brigade... and Australia will contribute 70 seasoned military trainers." The full compliment of of U.S. forces will not be in Iraq until early June, General Petraeus said today.

One region in Iraq that must be dealt with is Diyala, a mixed Sunni-Shia province where al Qaeda has massed since the announcement and implementation of the Baghdad Security Plan. Al Qaeda in Iraq is using Diyala to train, arm and sortie suicide and car bombers into Baghdad and the surrounding areas. One American military intelligence officer described this to me as "launching human artillery" from the province. Several thousand al Qaeda in Iraq fighters may be operating from Diyala.

General Petraeus said Diyala will be a focus of the troop buildup. As we noted in the past, only 2 of the 5 U.S. combat brigades are currently in country, and the remaining three may be moved to the provinces depending on the security situation in Baghdad.

Al Qaeda's activities in Diyala may be stirring up local resistance to the terror group. Al Sabaah reports local sheikhs in Diyala may be organizing against al-Qaeda and its Islamic State in Iraq, " which [is] spreading corruption in the province districts." The Iraqi government is considering military action in Diyala as well. But, as General Petraeus noted today, a political solution is also needed.

A similar disgust for al-Qaeda has occurred in Anbar province, where the local tribes and elements of the nationalist Sunni insurgency have banded together to form the Anbar Salvation Council, and are now actively working with U.S. and Iraqi forces to provide security and hunt al Qaeda in Iraq. The Anbar Salvation Council is also providing the political support needed to restore order in Anbar. The Diyala sheikhs who stand up to al Qaeda and its Islamic State in Iraq will be targeted by al Qaeda, as they have been in Anbar and elsewhere.

Al Qaeda in Iraq continues to step up its bombing campaign in and around Baghdad in an effort to reignite the Sunni-Shia sectarian killings. There were two additional suicide attacks on Wednesday: a car bombing at a check point in southern Baghdad, which killed 12 Iraqi National Police and 10 civilians, and a suicide strike at a café in Bald Ruz, about 235 miles north of Baghdad, which killed 30 civilians and wounded 25.

Iraqi and Coalition forces continue operations against al Qaeda and insurgent cells throughout Iraq. Coalition operations in Mosul, Al Qaim and Karma resulted in 7 al Qaeda in Iraq killed and 6 wounded. Iraqi Security Forces killed a wanted IED cell leader and captured 4 insurgents in the the Latifiyah area, where terrorists are planting bombs to kill pilgrims on the road to Karbala. Iraqi security forces killed 10 insurgents and captured another 36 in operations nationwide.

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