INDEPENDENT NEWS

Cablegate: Planning for Kadhimiya Pilgrimage Shows Increased

Published: Tue 14 Aug 2007 02:18 AM
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TAGS: PINS PTER PHUM MOPS PREL PINR PGOV IZ
SUBJECT: PLANNING FOR KADHIMIYA PILGRIMAGE SHOWS INCREASED
ISF CAPACITY
REF: 06 BAGHDAD 003014
1. (U) SUMMARY: The absence of sectarian violence at the
August 9 annual pilgrimage to the tomb of the 7th Imam Musa
Kadhim in the Kadhimiya neighborhood of Baghdad provided
evidence of increased coordination capacity of the Iraqi
Security Forces (ISF), compared to last year, in which some
20 pilgrims died. The preparations were also noteworthy for
the high level of coordination between the several Iraqi
security agencies, ministries and the press. While the
Coalition Forces (CF) participated to a certain extent, this
security effort was principally an Iraqi effort. An Iraqi
official noted that many of the lessons from this plan could
be applied to future religious holidays, such as the upcoming
Shabaniya 12th Imam celebration. END SUMMARY.
2. (SBU) Increased and better coordinated preparations by an
array of GOI security forces to counter any terrorist attacks
during the Imam Musa Kadhim pilgrimage on August 9 paid off,
as demonstrated by the absence of violence and loss of life.
The ISF coordinated security preparations through the Iraqi
Baghdad Operations Command (BOC), the unified command
operationally responsible for all security forces in Baghdad.
Drawing on its forces of two Iraqi Army (IA) divisions, the
BOC held extensive planning meetings that included reviews of
past mistakes, and better measures to ensure the safety of
the pilgrims, according to CF liaison officers to the BOC.
Opining that the confidence of the Iraqi people in some areas
regarding the ISF has increased, the BOC Commander pointed
out that he believed the pilgrims demonstrated overt acts of
"trusting the security forces" as a legitimate arm of the
government.
3. (SBU) The BOC used intelligence to identify potential
threats and developed appropriate countermeasures to address
those threats. The BOC then coordinated those plans with all
the appropriate entities of the ISF, Ministry of Interior
(MOI), Ministry of Health (MOH), Ministry of Transportation
(MOT), local authorities, and the press. According to COL
Abd Al-Amir, BOC Plans Officer, this coordinated effort is
the time in the history of Iraq8 that all the ISF
elements have worked together to such a degree. The
execution of the operational plan was slightly impeded,
however, below the brigade level due to an institutional
absence of consultation with lower echelon officers prior to
the execution phase. The BOC decision to keep the security
plans for the annual pilgrimage close-hold until relatively
late in the game meant that leadership on the ground was not
afforded maximum time to coordinate and implement the plan.
MNF-I observers indicated that the After Action Review (AAR)
was markedly candid and constructively critical of the
operation. Although AARs are often used within Armed Forces
within the Middle East, this event was marked by the
exceptionally unfamiliar concept to Iraq and, more or less,
in the region of being constructively critical in an open
forum to benefit and improve future planning and operations.
LESSONS LEARNED FROM PREVIOUS YEARS
4. (U) Though the ISF planned extensively for the security of
last year,s pilgrimage (reftel), planning was insufficient
to prevent the tragic death of some 20 worshipers who were
killed by snipers positioned along the pilgrimage routes.
This year, the ISF took extensive precautions to secure those
routes from sniper fire in advance by identifying likely
sniper positions, and securing them in advance. In addition,
last year, many pilgrims were attacked when they strayed from
the designated routes. Accordingly, the ISF took care to
demarcate and secure designated routes, and used the media to
implore pilgrims to stay on the designated routes. This year
the ISF also took measures to brief pilgrims on safety
procedures.
5. (U) The National Police (NP) had control of the Khadimiyah
Shrine middle cordon check points, and performed the vehicle
and physical searches of people entering the Kadhimiya Shrine
immediate-control area (40 female screeners were employed by
NP to screen and assess female pilgrims entering the cordon).
The Iraqi Police (IP) augmented these efforts by having
control over the interior cordon ) closest to the Kadimiyah
Shrine while also assisting the NP in patrolling the streets
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immediate to the Shrine and within the confines of the
district. The route was demarcated by the IA, based upon
historical information obtained during past pilgrimages.
Coordination between IA, NP and IP ensured security of the
route with patrols augmented with multiple checkpoints. ISF
preparations also included public service announcement
warning of the possibility of tainted (possibly intentionally
poisoned) food, which occurred in the past.
6. (U) The greatest casualty-producing threat to the pilgrims
was the potential for a mass casualty attack using a vehicle
borne improvised explosive devices. The ISF coordinated with
the MOT to implement a complete vehicle ban in Baghdad. This
ban was publicized well in advance so that Iraqis and
pilgrims could plan their schedules accordingly. The most
likely threat to the pilgrims was the potential for indirect
fire (IDF) from mortars and rockets. The ISF coordinated
with CF to implement increased focused air weapons presence
within the area of operation specifically monitoring
historical point of origin sites for IDF. In addition, the
ISF worked with the MOH to ensure that sufficient ambulances
were pre-positioned in strategic locations in the event of
any attack. Further, ISF coordinated with CF to provide
stand-by air ambulance in the event of a mass casualty
incident.
AN IRAQI SHOW
7. (U) Iraqis led the security preparations for this event
from start to finish. The ISF coordinated with the CF on
many levels, and CF personnel deployed to support the ISF,
notably in using CF assets to protect against IDF, and with
helicopter support. The ISF, nevertheless, carried out the
planning and most of the execution of this operation. On
balance, the ISF, particularly the BOC, conducted effective
planning for the operation, and continues to concentrate on
coordination with its lower echelon commanders and senior
ministerial officials in order to facilitate better
execution.
8. (U) COMMENT: One key factor in the success of this
security operation is that more ISF personnel than in
previous years have become available with the appropriate
training. The ISF has begun to reap the fruit of CF training
programs. What remains to be seen is whether the successes
of this pilgrimage can be leveraged into institutional
standard operational procedures for similar events. END
COMMENT.
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