A Springtime of Ops in Iraq
Over the course of the past week, Coalition forces conducted four separate battalion size plus operations in Iraq, two in Anbar - Spear in Karabilah and Dagger near lake Thar Thar, one south of Mosul in Tal Afar (Operation Veterans Forward), and one south of Baghdad - White Shield. Force estimates for Spear and Dagger are at about 1,000 combined Coalition and Iraqi forces each, about 4,000 troops for the Tal Afar operation and 2,000 troops, split between American and Iraqi forces for White Shield.
The past week of operations follows a spring of military offensives designed to disrupt the enemy's activities in the Anbar province, starting with Matador, which was followed by New Market and then Thunder/Lightning in Baghdad. The difference is the earlier operations were conducted sequentially while the past week's operations are being conducted simultaneously, indicating American forces are being freed up at greater numbers than in the past.
Wretchard at Belmont Club asks "So where do are US forces getting the manpower to up the pace of attack?" He looks at the options, and concludes the spare forces are due to Iraqi forces entering the battle. Omar at Iraq the Model points us to an article which states an Iraq brigade has assumed most of the responsibilities the province of Salahideen, which includes the cities of Tikrit (Saddam's home town and tip of the Sunni Triangle), Beiji and Dujail.
According Abduljabbar Saleh , the brigade commander, "My brigade is capable of providing 80 per cent of security needs across this large area and in the light of the kind of weapons at its disposal" and that the brigade "carried out 90 per cent of tasks" in the region. The only limiting factor is the quality of weapons, equipment and supplies. Saleh's comments tacks closely to those of Austin Bay, who stated the limiting factors keeping the Iraqi Army from operating independently are logistics and heavy weapons.
What we are seeing is the tempo of the Coalition's operations dramatically increasing after the hesitation of the Iraqi government after the successful election this spring. Iraqi forces, while not able to fully operate independently from American units, are increasingly throwing their combat power into the fight, freeing up American forces to conduct simultaneous battalion sized plus combat operations over a wide area.
As the Iraqi Army and police units further their ability to operate independently, American power will be freed up to strike at the heart of the insurgency along the Syrian border, while Iraqi units can occupy the cleared towns and cities of western Iraq. The warnings are being issued to the tribal leaders of Anbar: fight the insurgency and receive assistance or fight the Americans.
It is no wonder the Syrians are warming up to the idea of a UN patrolled buffer zone along the Iraqi-Syrian border and making every effort to tout their attempts to secure the border (hat tip to Marlin). As spring turns to summer, the fight is moving westward at a heated pace. The Americans are coming, and the Syrian complicity in the Iraqi insurgency cannot be ignored for long. The political pressure is now reaching across the Syrian border as well.