Operations and Negotiations in Iraq
The 'maintenance' phase of the Anbar Campaign proceeds as Iraqi Army units continue to take greater responsibility for security operations in Anbar province. Iraqi units are increasingly conducting independent operations in the region after joint Coalition and Iraqi operations over the fall placed a permanent presence in the towns and cities along the Western Euphrates River Valley. Operation Moonlight on the Syrian border was one such example. Operation Final Strike is the latest.
Final Strike is an independent counterinsurgency operation conducted by two battalions (about 1,000 troops) of the 3rd Brigade, 1st Iraqi Army Division in the eastern Jazerra desert region which lies northwest of Habbaniyah, an area which has been classified as a "known insurgent staging area for attacks against Iraqi citizens, Iraqi Security Forces and Coalition Forces." Multinational Forces - Iraq states the "Third Brigade controls their own battle space within the 2nd BCT's area of operation. Since the end of August, 3rd Brigade has been conducting independent counter insurgency operations in this area." Captain Jeffrey Pool explains the operation was conceived and supported by the Iraqis all the way "down to the casualty [evacuation] plan. We did have fixed wing aircraft on station in case they met with resistance."
Gateway Pundit provides translations of Iraqi press reports from Haider Ajina, which states the Iraqi Army preparing to assume responsibility for security in Mosul, as well as Diwaniah and Wasit provinces. Multinational Forces - Iraq confirms the Iraqi Army has indeed taken control of Diwaniah and Wasit provinces.
As the Iraqi Army assumes a greater role in security responsibilities, the Coalition has opened up talks with various insurgent groups in an attempt to co-opt them into the political process. Newsweek reports "The groups include Baathist cells and religious Islamic factions, as well as former Special Republican Guards and intelligence agents," and "Iraq's insurgent groups are reaching back."
In the Newsweek report, Zedan al-Awad, an Anbar sheikh, states Iraqi and Coalition forces do not have the upper hand in Anbar; "Zarqawi is in total control of Anbar. The Americans control nothing." The facts on the ground do not support this assertion. U.S. and Iraqi troops maintain battle positions in each town and city along the Euphrates River Valley, and the process to train and equip local police forces has already begun. The creation of local city councils continues, and reconstruction efforts are underway.
The Iraqi insurgents, particularly the local, nationalistic elements, are an opportunistic bunch, and recognize the situation on the ground in Anbar province. They are exploring their options, negotiating, and in some cases declaring war on al Qaeda because they recognize the Coalition and Iraqi government have a tactical and strategic advantage over Zarqawi.