“Husaybah has been cleared and secured” – An Interview with Col Davis

This afternoon I conducted an interview with Colonel Stephen W. Davis, the Commander of Marine Regimental Combat Team – 2 currently operating in western Iraq and engaged in Operation Steel Curtain in the border town of Husaybah.

Bill: What is the current status of Operation Steel Curtain?

Col Davis: Husaybah has been cleared and secured. Coalition forces are now conducting combat patrols. Construction is underway for basing of Iraqi and U.S. troops to maintain a permanent presence in the city, and provide security. We had a real good plan, but the execution was even better. I am pleased with the results of Operation Steel Curtain.

Bill: Coalition forces are now stationed in Sa’dah in the east and Karabilah in the west. Have there been any overtures from the pro-al Qaeda Salmanis tribe in Karabilah, or do you expect them to fight it out to the end?

Col Davis: We have been in contact with the Albu Malha tribe only. There were not many civilians remaining in Husaybah, most left two months ago during the fighting between the rival tribes in the region.

Bill: MNF-West states there were 1,000 Iraqi troops involved, while CNN and other news outlets reports 550. Is there an explanation for this discrepancy?

Col Davis: The number is just a hair short of 1,000. There is one full battalion of Iraqi Army soldiers, one brigade headquarters unit, units from the Desert Protection Force, and a Special Operations Forces unit, which was trained by [U.S.] Army Green Berets. These SOF units are high caliber units with a great deal of expertise and bring it to the battlefield.

Bill: How is the Desert Protection Force organized and trained?

Col Davis: These are platoon sized units recruited locally and trained in reconnaissance and scout techniques. They add a level of granularity due to their experience and local knowledge of the region. They have been very, very helpful during Operation Steel Curtain.

Bill: Operation Steel Curtain was launched right on the border with Syria. Iraqi Defense Minister Dulaimi stated “up to 180 terrorists escaped from Husaybah” and fled to Syria. Is this accurate?

Col Davis: I have no information on this. We are pleased with our plan and its execution, and we feel we sealed up the operational area as well as one can be sealed. I don’t think a whole lot slipped out, but nothing is airtight.

Bill: Has there been any cross border pursuit of insurgents fleeing into Syria?

Col Davis: There have been no cross border operations while I have been out here. We respect the sovereignty of international borders.

Bill: Last time we spoke, we discussed the morale of the Americans serving under your command. Can you give us a feel for the morale of the Iraqi troops?

Col Davis: The morale of the Iraqi troops is high. We are very fortunate to work with these soldiers and to watch them grow. The 2nd Brigade, 7th Division of the Iraqi Army is operating in the Hit/Haditha region, and the 1st Brigade, 1st Division is operating out west on the Syrian border. One of the battalions was engaged in Fallujah and Ramadi. There are some tough and battle hardened soldiers in these units. I am fortunate to have these two brigades directly under my command.

I dine nightly with [Iraqi Army] Colonel Razak, and we discuss the progress of the Iraqi troops and their ability to conduct combat operations. These units operating out here have good morale and show a high degree of proficiency in combat. They are in need of logistics assistance from us. These guys fight hard; I’ve lost six Iraqi soldiers since they have been operating out here.

The Iraqi troops are extremely helpful when it comes to identifying insurgents and al Qaeda. For example, outside of the displaced persons camp set up for citizens of Husaybah, Iraqi troops of the 1/1 picked two Saudis and a Qatari out of the crowd who were dressed as women, then engaged and killed all three. This is but one example of their proficiency.

Bill: Leading up to the December elections, are the local residents showing signs of relief that the combined forces are going to maintain a permanent presence in their towns? Do you expect a positive impact towards voter turnout?

Col Davis: That’s a good question. I don’t know. We are gratified with what we achieved prior to the referendum during operation Iron Fist and River Gate. LtCol Alford successfully cleared Sa’dah of insurgents two weeks prior to the referendum. During the referendum, Sa’dah turned out 600-700 voters [note the town is estimated to have about 2,000 residents] when we thought there would be no votes. The Iraqi people hate, they absolutely despise al Qaeda. If and when they are satisfied there will be a sustained presence of Iraqi and U.S. troops, they will execute their right to vote.

We were surprised at the turnout results during the referendum in certain areas. Rutbah, Sa’dah and Barwana all turned high number of voters. Hit, Haditha and Baghdadi had low voter turnouts. I think the sheikhs surveyed the landscape made a strategic decision. They knew the referendum would pass, decided to keep their bona fidas with the insurgents and keep al Qaeda in Iraq from threatening. I think they felt they would be better off saving their clout for the upcoming election. This shows the real influence these sheikhs can have out here. Iraq is a very interesting place, as you will see when you get out here.

Bill: Does RCT-2 intend to immediately follow combat operation in Qusaybah with reconstruction operations, as was done recently in Tal Afar?

Col Davis: Right now we have about 900 residents of Husaybah being taken care of in a displaced persons facility set up just outside the city. We will make sure the city is secure and the services are up and running as quickly as possible. There needs to be a safe environment in the city. There wasn’t extensive damage within the city, but there are some homes that were used as safe houses that were destroyed.

The Desert Protection Force escorted residents out of harms way to the displaced persons facility, where they receive food, shelter and medical care. Word spreads pretty fast throughout the city and they came to the facility on their own. As in all of the cities and towns out here, once the citizens are free of the influence of the insurgents and are assured the Iraqi Army will remain, they open up and show us who has been supporting the insurgency, where they are hiding, lead us to ammunition dumps and safe houses and provide tips on what the insurgent have been saying and planning.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of The Long War Journal.


  • hamidreza says:

    A great interview, Bill. Thanks! It answers all my questions. Have a nice trip.

  • Update on Operation Steel Curtain – V

    After four days of fighting, U.S. and Iraqi forces have secured the town of Husaybah, along the Syrian border. Reports indicate 36 terrorists were killed and another 150 captured, many of them foreign fighters from North Africa or Asia. In securing the…

  • Mixed Humor says:

    Great interview Bill, very informative. One of these days you’re gonna be one of the military analyist appearing on the various news networks.
    Need an agent? 😉

  • Justin Capone says:

    Making Tribal War Work for the U.S. in Iraq

  • Update on Steel Curtain

    An article at the Marine Corps Times says operations in Husaybah have concluded and are moving on to Karabilah…The experience and the confidence Iraqi soldiers will gain as they participate in real-life, live-fire combat operations will serve them …

  • Don Surber says:

    Iraq v3.11

    Remember Iraq? Yea, it is that place about the size of California and more insurgents than Paris. So how are things going there? Bill Roggio at The Fourth Rail interviewed Marine Col. Stephen Davis about this Operation Steel Curtain, which looks like i…

  • TallDave says:

    Great interview. I can’t thank you enough for this kind of coverage. It’s just not available anywhere else.

  • enscout says:

    Great news for the residents of Husaybah and for America.
    Congrats to the American and Iraqi forces that risked their future fighting for Liberty’s sake.
    Any feel for the future in places like Ramadi?

  • Cheryl says:

    You did a great job and I just know the MSM are eating their hearts out to get an interview with such a high ranking member of the Marines.
    Even better is the clear and concise manner in which you asked your questions — without the bias and spin we hear so damn often.
    I can’t wait to read your accounts on the ground.
    Colonel, please keep our friend safe….
    By the way Mixed Humor, if Bill needs an agent, I get first shot at it 🙂

  • Jamison1 says:

    An agent is an excellent idea.

  • Justin Capone says:

    Ramadi is a very large and hard nut to crack, but when we do the insurgency will be pretty much toast.

  • God, Guns and Guts did it again.

  • Justin Capone says:

    I wonder if the Baathists will be the first to put their guns down or if they will wait for the foreign fighters to be crushed. The Baathist resistance groups have seemed to be overall a bunch of whimps. Their most heroic manuvers seem to be placing IEDs by the side of the road. However, the jihadists have shown themselves willing to stand and fight to the death on a number of occasions. Though, not all of them are willing to put their head in the line of fire.
    That reminds me I went by a group of protesters two days ago that were chanting “stop the war” and one of them had a big sign that said “make peace with your enemy”.
    Suffice it to say I started laughing at them, I got this funny picture of my mind of US and UN diplomats sitting behind a table trying to negotiate with Iran and Zarqawi on how to split up Iraq.
    Of course the US media has neglected to inform the US public anything really about the war (other then the deaths, the so called torture, and the constant and mindless drum beat of Bush lied and Saddam didn’t have WMDs or links to terrorism) so I fear over time there will be more idiots like this around and more politicians starting to sound like these fools. sigh.

  • Operation Steel Curtain

    Blogger Bill Roggio has an interview with Colonel Stephen W. Davis, the Commander of Marine Regimental Combat Team – 2 currently operating in western Iraq and engaged in Operation Steel Curtain in the border town of Husaybah. click here

  • Soldier's Dad says:

    Excellent interview Bill!!!

  • hamidreza says:

    Justin, I read somewhere that when winter arrives, the Baathists put aside their guns and the insurgency, because it is too cold outside ! However, this is not true for the Islamist deadenders. I guess the dream of 72 warm bosoms in the dead of winter can get them going even faster.
    The Baathists (Sunni Ultra-nationalists) are completely under the impression that what is standing between them and absolute rule on Iraq and collecting all the oil money are the U.S. forces.
    I kid you not. They actually believe that
    without the US presence, they can defeat an alliance of Kurds and Shiites (backed by Iran) which consists of 80% of Iraq. They believe that they can march all the way down to Basrah and north to Irbil and East to the Iranian border.
    There is no doubt that the Baathists can initiate a bloody civil war complete with ethnic cleansing. But to believe that they can overpower the other 80% after a short fight and brow beat them into submission – they must be completely deluded. Maybe the US should issue “duck hunting licenses” to the Mahdi and Badr and Hezbolla militias for a season or two, so the Sunnis get to know their opponents from close. Then you will see the Sunnis demand US protection and decry the lack of security!!

  • Justin Capone says:

    We just need to give the Kurds an airbase with old B52 bombers and tons of bombs and this whole thing would be over quite fast.

  • orangeducks says:

    I never cease to be amazed at how biased, lazy, and uninformative the mainstream media continues to be about the situation here. I’ve been living in the Mansour District of Baghdad for over a year and have come across countless stories from the Iraqis, and have witnessed plenty of things myself, that are much more informative and truthful than the typical AP or Reuters story. And that’s without even looking for the truth.
    The fact that Bill can get an interview like that shows that access to the truth is possible. You just have to find it, or at very least, be open to it.
    It is heartening to see at least SOMEONE making an effort to get the real information. But I suppose we can’t be too hard on CBS, NBC, ABC, or CNN – apparently they don’t have the wealth of resources at their disposal like Bill does(?!).
    Thanks Roggio.

  • Don Cox says:

    Thanks for doing that interview. Sensible well thought out questions with no political slant, which means that you get sensible straightforward answers.
    This is what we need.

  • hamidreza says:

    Its good to hear that the Husaybah operation has completed just in time. The Marines will have to be quickly redeployed to the new dangerous insurgency brewing further west – you know, the one underway in Paris, France!
    But seriously, the Intifada in France is a total vindication of Bush and the Iraq invasion.

  • Barry Barber says:

    It’s obvious that for US commanders to have credibility with the Iraqi commanders, the Iraqis must believe the US will stick around.
    The politicians and media jerks who harp exclusively on pullout and withdrawal dates are hurting US credibility, and probably getting a lot of people killed. They’re also slowing down any possibility of meaningful withdrawal of US troops.

  • ikez78 says:

    Instead of having those groups target the Sunni nationalist/Baathists, how about having those groups (excluding Hezzbollah) target the foreign jihadis to show the Sunnis what they are capable of militarily and show them what they are capable? Foreign jihadis as target practice and cannon fodder.

  • Nicholas says:

    I’m worried that the riots in France and other European countries (Belgium and I think perhaps Denmark soon?) are related to the WOT. But after what I’ve read so far, I’m not totally convinced.
    Some people say it’s a political problem. Some people say it’s crime gang violence. Some people say it’s due to the way these people are treated by the French authorities. I’m not sure who to believe.
    Sorry this is a bit O/T, but I think it may be relevant to the WOT in general, however I don’t see enough evidence to be sure yet.

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  • Dwight in IL says:

    Some people say it’s a political problem. Some people say it’s crime gang violence. Some people say it’s due to the way these people are treated by the French authorities. I’m not sure who to believe.

    I’ve said elsewhere that I think it’s a mixture of all of these. A blogger on the ground says that he sees good evidence that the core rioters are criminal gangs disliked by most residents of the poor areas: http://oxblog.blogspot.com/2005/11/give-blogger-chance-foundation-prize.html

    Of course, these criminals are known to funnel money to Islamist terror groups, and presumably have Islamist ties in France. So there are Islamists involved, but my guess is that this isn’t a general Muslim uprising so much as a cynical bid by criminals and Islamists to create Islamic no-go zones where brutal crime and Sharia can go hand in hand.

    So, in that sense, just the jihadis in Iraq. Which, of course, is why the general populace often turns against these thugs in the end.

  • Super 6 says:

    Another leader bites the dust……..

  • Media Lies says:

    Operation Steel Curtain has succeeded….

    ….in securing Husaybah and Omar is happy about it

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