The Coalition effort to interdict, deny and destroy the insurgent’s capabilities in the Western regions of Iraq bordering Syria is dubbed Operation Matador. Colonel Bob Chase, the chief of operations for the Second Marine Division, reports that insurgents are standing their ground and fighting, and all the better:
“When we get there, they are deciding to fight, and as such they are dying As marines we’d rather engage them that way than through an I.E.D The enemy honestly felt that they had a sense of security up there It had been a safe haven, and a lot of folks up there were former Baathists. Now it is no longer a safe haven, and it will never be a safe haven again We are going to continue this for a number of days The objective is to totally disrupt the safe havens and rat lines that have allowed them to bring those materials across the border. This had been a very secure area for the insurgents.”
The importance of these enemy strongholds leaves the insurgents little choice but to stand and fight, as this is the rear area and critical supply line of the insurgency, without which their effectiveness would be diminished.
Operation Matador in the Western desert is the natural progression of operations designed to sweep through Iraq to engage the insurgency region by region. The operations began late last summer in the Southern Shiites areas surrounding Najaf, then moved to Fallujah and the Sunni Triangle in the fall, and to Mosul in the North, the Triangle of Death south of Baghdad and along the Euphrates River west of Baghdad throughout the winter.
As the regions obtain a measure of Coalition presence and the Iraqi government takes greater responsibility for security, the next logical step is to cut off the flow of weapons, finances and fighters from outside the country. A focus is shifting to secure the borders with Iraqi border guards:
Hoping to clamp down on the smuggling of people and weapons, the United States is paying for the rebuilding of 190 Iraqi border forts, including 58 already completed, according to American officials involved in training new Iraqi forces.
A senior American commander familiar with the border situation said effective control of infiltration by foreign fighters was still “some months away.” But he added that border control was crucial to Iraq’s security because foreign fighters were believed to make up a large percentage of suicide bombers. “It’s not Iraqis who are blowing themselves up,” he said.
Arthur Chrenkoff reports that the appointment of a Sunni as Minister of Defense has caused the “dam to break” , and Sunnis are now flocking to join the military:
“Iraqi Arab Sunnis started heading for the army enlisting centers to join the new Iraqi Army. This was evident by the long lines and large crowds of young men outside these centers in the largely Sunni area of Baghdad. This is the main reason for the increase in the terrorist activities in and around these centers
Ahmend Mahmud, age 30, from Aathamiah came to the enlisting office to join the new Iraqi military. “I came because I desire to join in protecting the peace and my country,” he said. Adnan Hussein from Meqdadieh who was in the old Army said; “Since the fall of the old regime I had no employment to feed my kids, thus I decided to join the new military, which pays a decent wage, and I heard a number of (Sunni) religious leaders call for us to join the new army”. Luaai Ahmed from Aathamiah said, “I voluntarily enlisted in the new military because I wanted to and upon advise from my relatives”.
We are seeing the evolution of progress in Iraq: persistent military operations to destroy the enemy and his capabilities; political wrangling between the Iraqi parties to create a unified and inclusive government; attempts to split the Sunnis from the insurgency; improved capabilities of the Iraqi security services; participation of the Iraqi people with fighting the insurgency and joining the military; and the direct engagements with al Qaeda in their self declared homelands. The fight is far from over and even further from being lost, but the terrorists will only become more desperate as their prospects for victory diminishes.
Belmont Club has more details of Operation Matador.