Northern Lights & Other Counterinsurgency Ops
A cordon & search operation in Abu Ghraib includes an air assault by elements of the 10th Mountain Division; sweeps around Baghdad likely part of Scales of Justice
Iraqi and Coalition forces have increased the tempo of multi battalion sized operations in the outlying regions surrounding Baghdad. Two multi-battalion operations, Iron Strike and Northern Lights were conducted in the past two days in the towns of Salman Pak and Abu Ghraib. Meanwhile, Operation Scales of Justice, which began when a battalion of the call forward force was deployed from Kuwait to provide additional security during the "run-up to [the Muslim holiday of] Arba'een and over the vulnerable period of the formation of the new Iraqi Government."
Operation Northern Lights is a combined and joint multi-battalion operation consisting of 1,400 soldiers and Marines from the 3rd Brigade, 6th Iraqi Army Division, 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment and the 2nd Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment, 10th Mountain Division. Northern Lights kicked off with the Marine and Iraqi Army battalions "moving to blocking positions by ground" and the battalion from the 10th Mountain conducted the air assault. This is a a counterinsurgency sweep designed to uncover weapons caches and flush out insurgent and al Qaeda members. Two large weapons caches were unearthed, which included RPGs, assault rifles, bomb making equipment, mortars & mortar rounds, ammunition and an Iraqi police jacket. Iraqi soldiers wounded an insurgent after he opened fire at one of the cache site, and "Iraqi and Coalition Forces have detained two persons of high-value interest and 16 suspected terrorists." Northern Lights is the fifth air assault operation in the past three months.
Inside Baghdad proper, Operation Scales of Justice appears to be designed to beef up security. Scales of Justice is a brigade plus task force comprised of the call forward battalion from the from the 2nd Brigade, 1st Armored Division and "two Iraqi Army battalions, three National Police battalions and three Coalition battalions." Also in Baghdad, three peace activists were freed from captivity by British Special Air Service commandos assigned to Task Force Black, "a combined team of about 250 US, British and Australian special forces backed up by intelligence personnel." al Qaeda conducted its own mission and murders twenty five during a suicide strike on the the Baghdad headquarters of Iraq's anti-terrorism squad.
North of Baghdad, Operation Swarmer concludes after six days of sustained operations in the farmlands northeast of Samarra. CENTCOM reports Swarmer resulted in "104 suspected insurgents currently being detained and questioned, and 24 caches discovered," and breaks down the results of the weapons caches:
- Six shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles
- Over 350 mortar rounds and three mortar systems
- 26 artillery rounds
- A variety of IED-making materials and other military items
- Over 120 rockets
- Over 3200 rounds of small-arms ammunition
- 86 rocket-propelled grenades and 28 launchers
- Six landmines
- 12 hand grenades and 40 rifle grenades
- 34 rifles and machineguns of various types
It seems Swarmer wasn't the fizzled Potemkin operation some made it out to be. Coalition forces have also been conducting a sustained counterinsurgency sweep on the Jabouri Peninsula near Balad. This is a combined U.S. and Iraqi operation made up of the 1-8 Combined Arms Battalion, 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division and the 1st Battalion, 3rd Brigade, 4th Iraqi Army Division. Bomb making material, weapons and ammunition have been discovered, along with four SA-14 surface-to-air missiles.
Also, South of Samarra, Coalition forces killed four al Qaeda and detained one during a raid against a High Value Target described as a "a top al-Qaida in Iraq cell leader who controls a large number of al-Qaida in Iraq associates in the Samarra/Balad area." In Diyala province, Coalition forces arrested Fares Kadhim Lafi, an "aide to al Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi" who "carried out 27 operations including an attack on a minibus that left nine civilians dead."