Operation New Market Commences in Haditha
Operation New Market has commenced in the city of Haditha. The city is strategically located on the Euphrates River; it sits at the midpoint between Baghdad and Qaim on the Syrian border, as well as at the crossroads to a major highway to Mosul in the north. Wretchard's prediction and explanation of The River War still holds true to this day.
American Marines currently garrison the Haditha Dam, but do not maintain a presence in the city itself. Over 1,000 Marines are involved in New Market, and while the force size is similar to that of Operation Matador, initial reports indicate New Market is not similar in scope. It appears New Market is a designed as cordon-and-search operation, where a region the city is surrounded and methodically searched for enemy fighters, weapons and support structures.
In Haditha, helicopters swept down near palm tree groves dropping off Marines who blocked off one side of the town, while other troops on foot and in armored vehicles established checkpoints and moved toward the center of this city, 140 miles northwest of Baghdad. U.S. warplanes circled overhead.
No significant arrests or casualties have been reported. Iraqi security force participation is minimal, as "a small reconnaissance unit of Iraqi soldiers is participating in the attack." A good estimate for the size of the Iraqi unit would be a platoon or company. The Chicago Sun-Times states "Haditha has no functioning police force, and U.S. military officials acknowledge that their presence has been light in the city but say Iraqi troops are expected to arrive soon."
Haditha is more closely situated to the American and Iraqi concentration of forces in the Sunni Triangle, and the real question will be is if this a a "search and destroy" or a "clear and hold" mission. The question will be answered if Iraqi Security Forces do indeed arrive and garrison the city.
UPDATE: Chester has more