Cracking An Insurgent Cell
Finding--and breaking--the ruthless killers of Iraq is not a pretty business. An exclusive inside look at how it's done
In the courtyard of Four West, Fox and Musick begin talking about whether they should take the detainees from the police. "If it is a high-value guy," Fox says, "I will gladly grab him." But the Americans must consider whether there is really enough evidence to hold the detainees. If the evidence doesn't meet American standards, military lawyers will release the detainees--angering the Iraqi forces who originally captured them. The American interrogators come up to Fox. The detainees know more than they have told the police, says a sergeant. The police are not pressing for names of the insurgent cell's members or the location of the group's weapons. Fox steps into al-Jabouri's office. "We want to take these guys," he says. Al-Jabouri looks reluctant, but finally he agrees to let Fox pick up the prisoners, at 8 p.m.
Custody. There is a problem, though. The American military's regulations say that an Army unit can hold and question a detainee for only three days before he must go to a regional detention center, since battalion jails are not meant to be long-term holding facilities. After 2 1/2 years of occupation, many insurgents know the policy--and so keep their mouths shut while getting the "three hots and a cot" provided by the Americans.
This time, however, Fox thinks he can get around the rule. A little after 8 p.m., Fox arrives at western Mosul's main police detention facility, the One West police station, to pick up the two detainees. Some of the officers are reluctant to let the Americans take the prisoners, but Fox heads over to the jail to see Col. Abed Hamid Hassan, the Iraqi Police Department's intelligence officer. A few minutes later, Fox returns with Nashwan and Adel. They look nervous as their wrists and ankles are cuffed together and they're led off to one of the battalion's Stryker armored vehicles.
But Fox has no intention of actually taking custody of the two detainees. Rather, his plan is to turn them over to a man waiting in the courtyard: Maj. Sabah Majeed, the intelligence officer for the 2nd Battalion, 2nd Brigade of the Iraqi Army 2nd Division--and a former interrogator in Saddam Hussein's army. Fox has been coy with the police about this because there is a good deal of bad blood between the police and the Iraqi Army in Mosul, as is the case throughout most of the country.
For the past year, Iraqi Army units have received intense training in Mosul. American Special Forces units have drilled Iraqi Army companies on tactics. Military training teams have focused on teaching Iraqi staff officers mission planning. And the infantry battalions in Mosul conduct joint operations daily. The strong interest and focus have made the Iraqi Army units in Mosul quite effective. On raids the Iraqi soldiers often still swarm the buildings, rather than moving deliberately like an American infantry squad, but they know how to hunt insurgents.
The police have received far less training. Many of the American patrol leaders in western Mosul believe the police commanders in their neighborhoods are corrupt. And both the Americans and the Iraqi Army fear the police force could collapse again if challenged by insurgents. For their part, the police complain that the Iraqi Army soldiers shoot at them without cause. The all-Sunni police force in western Mosul also regards the Kurdish battalion in that part of the city as an occupying force. The reason is that when the Americans created the new Iraqi Army, they allowed Kurdish militia units, known as peshmerga, to join en masse. Though the Kurdish force is technically part of the Army, the Kurds, the Iraqi police--everyone, it seems, but Fox--still call its members peshmerga. Fox views repairing the police-Army relationship as one of his most important missions. "If you look at history," Fox says, "no counterinsurgency effort has been successful in any war without the police and army working toward a common goal."