Iraqi Col. Ali Sabah, commander of the Basra Emergency Battalion, displays ancient artifacts Iraqi Security Forces discovered Dec. 16, 2008, during two raids in northern Basra.
U.S. Army photo by Multi-National Division South East PAO
Earlier this month, Iraqi Security Forces uncovered hundreds of historical artifacts during two raids in northern Basra. The 228 ancient artifacts included Sumerian and Babylonian sculpture, gold jewelry and other items from ancient Mesopotamia.
“This is my favorite item,” said Iraqi Col. Ali Sabah, commander of the Basra Emergency Battalion that led the operation, holding a piece of gold jewelry. “It’s gold from the Babylon ages and about 6,000 years old. It doesn’t have a price.”
The Basra Emergency Battalion led raid operated from tips that smugglers intended to remove the treasure from the country.
“I’m very happy because this is my civilization’s heritage,” he said. “We got information that there were important Iraqi monuments that were going to be smuggled outside of Iraq,” Sabah said.
After verifying a tip, the operation kicked off with a house raid that recovered 160 pieces of Iraqi monuments that were found in the yard. “We arrested five of the guys and they admitted to the crime,” he said. These arrests led to a second raid on in al-Ayaqub in northern Basra. The monuments were found in a box in a corner of the yard covered with blocks. “We knew what we were looking for because we had pictures,” Sabah said.
“We will send it back to Baghdad via the Ministry of Defense to action moving it to the Iraqi Museum,” he said.
Sabah said he hopes Iraqi authorities will get more information of this kind. “The soldiers are very, very proud to conduct this operation,” he said. “I can’t describe how happy we were when the soldiers found it.
“Each of the soldiers will be very proud when they visit the museum with their families and their wives and they can say â€˜I brought it back’.”
Army Chief of Staff Assesses Iraq Situation, Notes Future Goals
As part of a week-long tour to visit soldiers around the world in Korea, Japan, Kuwait, Afghanistan and Iraq, Army Chief of Staff Gen. George W. Casey made a stop in Iraq to assess the current situation in country and speak with troops.
“I really just wanted to look as many of our men and women in the eye as I can and thank them for what they’re doing and for the sacrifices that they and their families are making here around the holidays,” Casey said.
In an interview with American Forces Network during his visit to Victory Base Complex, Iraq, Dec. 22, Casey, who previously served as the commanding general of Multi-National Force â€“ Iraq, spoke of the immense progress he’s witnessed in Iraq in comparison to previous visits to the country.
“I’ve seen huge progress here in Iraq since July of 2004,” Casey said. “What I saw in Basrah and on the streets of al Amarah was a real vitality among the Iraqis. When I looked at the security forces, I saw confidence and a commitment that I didn’t necessarily see when I was here before.”
Casey addressed the goal of balancing the force in coming years to accommodate proper recuperation and preparedness of Soldiers and their families between deployments.
“While this is the most resilient, professionally seasoned combat force that I’ve been associated with in the 38 years of my own service, we’re stretched, and we’re deploying at a rate we can’t continue and still sustain the all-volunteer force, and we don’t have enough time at home to prepare for other things,” Casey said. “Probably the most significant progress has been in our [the Army's] growth. In 2007, the president directed we grow the Army by about 74,000, and originally, plans were to complete that growth by 2012.”
Casey said the increase in the force could happen much sooner than initially anticipated. He pointed out that the uptick in troop strength would make deployments much easier on soldiers.
“With (Defense) Secretary (Robert M.) Gates’ help, we accelerated the growth to 2010 and I’ve been told recently by our personnel folks that we except to bring in the people we were looking for by the end of 2009, so that’s three years faster than we thought,” Casey said.
“If we hold the demand for our forces relatively steady â€“ about where we are now â€“ and we grow, what that means to our soldiers is they’ll spend more time at home between missions because we have more units to go,” Casey said. “So, we expect in 2009 to get almost an average of 18 months home between deployments, in 2010 to get into 18 months and in 2011 to get almost 24 months between deployments.”
According to Casey, the Army that can be expected in future years is the force America needs with the conditions soldiers want.
“The Army we’re trying to build by the end of 2011 is an expeditionary Army that deploys on a rotational cycle,” Casey said. “We believe that’s the Army the country needs for 21st century challenges. And when we get there, we want to be able to deploy that Army without a stop loss.”
The probability of stop losses in the Army should significantly wane within the next one to two years and soon be nonexistent.
“I directed my personnel folks to begin weaning ourselves off of stop loss as soon as we can, but no later than the first of January 2010,” Casey said. “I want to be able to start deploying units without stop loss.”
Casey did note, however, that the transition would likely take about two years to come full circle.
This is Sgt. Stryker Signing out.