Safety and security in the north Baghdad have improved since Australian elements of the Task Group Taji Four (TGT-4) began their “Advise and Assist” role as part of Operation Okra in December 2016.
By working with the Iraqi Army’s Northern Baghdad Operations Command (NBOC), the Advise and Assist sub-unit is helping Iraqi Security Forces in the planning of battalion-level clearances in NBOC’s area of operations, which results in the seizure of enemy weapons and prevention of Daesh bomb attacks.
The Advise and Assist unit is also providing input into training design and facilitating access to coalition assets such as unmanned aerial surveillance (UAS).
Officer Commanding, Major Brian Hickey, said the unit is making a direct contribution to safety and security in Baghdad and northern approaches to the city.
“We work closely with the NBOC on a daily basis, helping them to plan and coordinate clearance operations that save lives,” he said.
“We’re helping them to access coalition intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) platforms that enable them to detect and defeat the enemy in their area of operations.
“By helping them to access and incorporate coalition support, we’re enabling the NBOC to stay one step ahead of the enemy.”
The ‘Advise and Assist’ role is part of TGT-4’s mission to build partner capacity and provides the Iraqi Security Forces with the training, advice and assistance they need to defeat Daesh and maintain security in Iraq.
Importantly, the unit is also contributing directly to the safety and security of TGT-4 personnel based at the Taji Military Complex about 20km north of Baghdad.
“By working with the NBOC, the ‘Advise and Assist’ unit is helping the Iraqis to clear and secure the key approaches to Baghdad and surrounding areas, immediately north of the city,” Major Hickey said.
“As a result, the unit is making an important contribution to the force protection of our men and women and other coalition forces based at Taji.”
As part of its mission, the Advise and Assist unit is helping the Iraqis to gain access to data from coalition ISR platforms such as drones, providing imagery data that can be used to identify enemy locations and activities.
The Second-in-Command of the unit, Captain Nathan Small said in a recent case, TGT-4 was able to give the NBOC access to surveillance data that led to the identification of a weapons cache and a Daesh safe house.
“As a result, Iraq Security Forces were then able to seize the weapons and prevent a suicide bomber from launching a planned attack,” Captain Small said.
The Deputy Commander of the NBOC, Iraqi Army Brigadier Wassam, said the assistance he receives from the Advise and Assist’ unit is very important for the fight against Daesh.
“Expertise is very important for all armies,” Brigadier Wassam said.
“By accessing the Australians’ expertise we have been provided with the skills to help us to defeat Daesh.”
“We are now sharing this expertise and knowledge with our own forces. We really appreciate the help of the Australian and coalition forces in Iraq.”
The ‘Advise and Assist’ team is also working closely with the Iraqi Army’s Training cell to identify lessons learnt from previous operations and incorporate information regarding enemy Tactics, Techniques and Procedures (TTPs).
The ‘Advise and Assist’ Training Officer, Warrant Officer Class Two Paul Duhring, said the team is making a direct contribution to the effectiveness of training delivered to the Iraqis by coalition forces.
“We’re providing advice and assistance to ensure that the Iraqis receive training that is relevant, effective and up-to-date,” WO2 Duhring said.
“As an example, the technology used in Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) is always changing.
“We provide advice and expertise to ensure our coalition partners deliver counter-IED training that remains effective.
“We’re helping the Iraqis to integrate training as well as planning and coalition assets into their operations. We’re helping them to be more combat effective now and into the future.”