Operation Steel Curtain , which is aimed at closing down the border crossing to Syria and destroying al Qaeda in the town of Husaybah, is currently in day three. Multinational Forces West confirms thirty six insurgents have been killed over the course of the operation. Capt. Conlin Carabine, a Marine company commander fighting in Husaybah, estimates 60 to 80 insurgents have been killed during the fighting to date. One Marine has been killed and six wounded since the operation began.
al Qaeda and insurgents continue to use schools, mosques and private residences as fighting positions and ammunition dumps. And they continue to target civilians. Three terrorists were killed while attempting to pass through a checkpoint manned by Iraqi Army soldiers which was near a secure zone for non-combatants. Citizens of Husaybah tired of the terrorists’ tactics are turning in jihadis to the Iraqi soldiers operating in the city. According to Lt.Col. Christopher C. Starling, “At a checkpoint yesterday, outside the city, residents offered information to Iraqi Army soldiers leading to the capture of individuals and weapons caches.”
The Army Times reports Marine commanders believe the insurgents in Husaybah may have been caught off guard, as the attack came from the west of the city, as opposed to the east from Sadah where Coalition forces established bases after Operation Iron Fist.
Capt. Brendan Heatherman, the commander of Kilo company, 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, states, “We surprised them coming into Husaybah from the west… I think they started pulling back to spots where they can set up a better defense.”
It is believed the insurgents have been pushed to several neighborhoods in the eastern edge of Husaybah. The Washington Post states seven of the eleven neighborhoods in the city have been cleared, and Iraqi Army Captain Arkan Hussein predicts “the town will be cleansed within three to four days… Only small pockets of the fighters remained.”
al Qaeda has responed to the Coalition assault on Husaybah. Abu Masayra al-Iraqi, the al Qaeda in Iraq’s spokesman, has warned the Coalition to cease operations in 24 hours or “they will only see from us the worst and something that’s going to make the earth tremble under their feet.” While al Qaeda issues threats, their organization continues to experience horrid attrition rates in Western Iraq. Multinational Forces West confirms two al Qaeda leaders, Abu Umar and Abu Hamza, were killed in raids in Husaybah on November 1. One of those killed, Abu Umar, replaced Abu Asil, who was killed two day prior. Operation Steel Curtain will only make al Qaeda’s ability to operate in Western Iraq all the more difficult.