A joint U.S. & Iraq force launches large air assault operation; Iraqi military uniforms discovered
North-central Iraq has become a main focus in the fight against the insurgency. In what is described as the “largest air assault operation since Operation Iraqi Freedom I,” a joint Iraqi & U.S. multi-battalion task force, comprised of elements of the Iraqi Army’s 1st Brigade, 4th Division, the Iraqi police 2nd Commando Brigade, the 101st Airborne Division’s 3rd Brigade Combat Team and the 101st Combat Aviation Brigade struck at a town northeast of Samarra. Samarra and the surrounding region has been a hotspot and it is believed al Qaeda is operating in this region.
CENTCOM reports the task force is made up of “more than 1,500 Iraqi and Coalition troops, over 200 tactical vehicles, and more than 50 aircraft…” and gives the blow-by-blow on the raid:
Attack and assault aircraft provided aerial weapons support for the operation and also delivered troops from the Iraq Army’s 4th Division, the Rakkasans from 1st and 3rd Battalions, 187th Infantry Regiment and the Hunters from 2nd Squadron, 9th Cavalry Regiment to multiple objectives. Forces from the 2nd Commando Brigade then completed a ground infiltration to secure numerous structures in the area.
Blackhawks from the 101st Airborne Division’s aviation brigade departing a military base to begin Operation Swarmer near the city of Samarra. Image courtesy of Sgt. First Class Antony Joseph, 101st Combat Aviation Brigade.
The assault netted “a number of enemy weapons caches have been captured, containing artillery shells, explosives, IED-making materials, and military uniforms.” The inclusion of the military uniforms, while certainly not a new development, serves as a reminder that insurgents are using Iraqi Army and police uniforms, and that some of the reported sectarian-related violence may in fact be initiated by the insurgency to discredit the Iraqi Security Forces and stir up ethnic tensions.
Further evidence of masking insurgency action under the guise of police forces is discovered in a separate raid in north-central Iraq; “After receiving information on a possible fake identification workstation, Soldiers from 2nd Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment, conducted a cordon and search with members of the Iraqi Police. Once inside the target residence, the combined force discovered more than 300 false identification cards, including Iraqi Police IDs.”
Again, while none of this is earth shattering news, these insurgent activities must be remembered and factored into reporting of sectarian related violence as well as claims the Iraqi Security Forces are involved in death squads. No doubt there are illegal actions by rogue units or individuals in Iraqi Security Forces, but some of these killings are very likely the actions of insurgents hoping to discredit the ISF and degrade the security situation.