Exit Sword, Enter Scimitar
As London recovers from the attack on its transportation system, Coalition forces continue on the offensive in Iraq's Anbar province. Operation Sword was directed at the city of Hit, which lies west of Fallujah along the Euphrates river, has completed. Unlike some recent search & destroy operations in the Anbar province, Sword has left an Iraqi force in garrison.
Hit joins the major cities of Ramadi, Habbaniyah and Fallujah in having persistent presence of Iraqi Security Forces. Hit is now the Al Anbar city furthest west to maintain a fully-trained ISF presence. There are now approximately 1,500 more trained Iraqi soldiers working in Al Anbar than there were at the conclusion of Operation Matador on May 7.
This appears to be a carefully thought out plan to slowly create a presence of Iraqi Army units in the region. The Iraqi government is positioning Iraqi forces to secure cities along the Euphrates ratline, creating a nucleus of Army units familiar with the region that can further seed the future Iraqi Army units to follow in their path.
The newest operation is Scimitar and is being conducted in the town of Zaidan about 20 miles southeast of Fallujah. Like previous operations in Anbar, Scimitar is a battalion sized exercise conducted with Iraqi forces.
"The military said it did not announce the offensive earlier because commanders did not want to tip off insurgents that a major operation had begun. The campaign -- named after a curved Asian sword -- includes 500 Marines from the 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion, Regimental Combat Team-8, stationed in Okinawa, Japan, the military said. About 100 Iraqi soldiers were supporting the operation, which is designed to disrupt insurgent activity in the Anbar province."
The Coalition retains the ability to conduct multiple battalion sized operations indefinitely indicating a reserve forces is being built. This strength is likely attributed to the rise of the Iraqi Army, which is increasing its capability to operate in hostile locations. The Coalition is taking the fight to the heart of the insurgency - Western Iraq.
Zarqawi has recognized the threat, and has declared the Iraqi Army to be the real enemy. In a recent communiqué, he has stated as such, and is attempting to chide other insurgent groups to tow the line of al Qaeda in Iraq. He is essentially challenging domestic Iraqi insurgents who would rather attack the Americans to kill their own Iraqi brothers. Zarqawi also alludes alludes to a rift within the insurgent groups, as well as a dearth in support among the ummah.
Some say that the resistance is divided into two groups - an honourable resistance that fights the non-believer-occupier and a dishonourable resistance that fights Iraqis We announce that the Iraqi army is an army of apostates and mercenaries that has allied itself with the Crusaders and came to destroy Islam and fight Muslims. We will fight it Some want us to end our jihad in Iraq God has ordered us to fight the non-believers... We think that the nation is committing a sin by failing to support the mujahidin.
The question remains is whether the Iraqi insurgents not inclined to kill their own countrymen will also be treated as apostates by Zarqawi's terrorists. Al Qaeda is not known for its tolerance, understanding or acceptance of dissent. Things will get mighty interesting Zarqawi becomes frustrated and treats the insurgents who refuse to conduct attacks on the Iraqi Army as unbelievers.
Hat tip to reader and friend Marlin for the links provided in this post. Marlin regularly beats me to the punch and forwards me links on Iraq before I get a chance to look at the news, making my job easy. Many thanks.