Rutbah - Fact vs Fiction
Report of ambush, casualties on U.S. forces in the western town of Anbar false
News from the distant western towns of Anbar province is few and far between as reporters do not often travel to the far reaches of Iraq. The town of Rutbah is particularly distant from the center of gravity of Baghdad. Rutbah is a smuggler's town and a transit point in the Syrian desert in the southwestern corner of Iraq, which is nearly equidistant from Syria, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. Al Qaeda has attempted to control the town to facilitate the transit of weapons, cash and foreign terrorists into Iraq's central regions.
Today, IraqSlogger reprinted an unconfirmed account of a battle in Rutbah which originated from the Voice of Iraq. The report claims a U.S. convoy was ambushed after a roadside bomb attack, with untold numbers of U.S. casualties and destroyed military vehicles. "Unidentified gunmen lurking in 4WD vehicles with mounted machine-guns ambushed the U.S. convoy after the explosive devices went off," according to Voice of Iraq. "Civilians, who were driving nearly 200 meters behind the U.S. convoy, told VOI that a number of U.S. soldiers were killed and wounded, adding that the explosive charges destroyed several U.S. military vehicles."
"No comment was made by the U.S. on the incident in Rutbah," Voice of Iraq claimed.
But in an email follow up with Major Jeffery Pool, the Public Affairs Director for Multinational Forces West, we've discovered the incident reported in Rutbah is in fact false. "Looking back one week from today we show no enemy activity in AO [Area of Operations] Mobile," said Major Pool. "AO Mobile covers almost the entire route from the two points of entry at Waleed and Trebil to Ramadi. [This week] there was one small weapons find and one detainee taken, but that is it."
AO Mobil is controlled by the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operation Capable). "Task Force Bullrush [the designation of the 15th MEU] has done a absolutely outstanding job of securing the city from Al Qaeda in Iraq and helping to improve lives of the citizens in Rutbah," said Major Pool.
The news going unreported from Rutbah is far less glamorous than the false report of an ambush of a Marine convoy and mass casualties. Ma'moun Sami Rashid Alwani, the Governor of Anbar province, accompanied by the Director Generals of Education, Electricity, a Provincial Council representative and Brigadier General John Allen, the Deputy Commanding General of Multi National Force West, recently visited Rutbah to discuss "topics concerning the critical infrastructure of power, water, fuel, education, sanitation, security and healthcare requirements in the city." Governor Ma'moun "pledged nearly 50 million Iraqi dinar (approximately $35,000) to the city," - a large sum in the impoverish environs of western Iraq.
The local government recently recruited 70 police officers, and there are now a total of 200 volunteer police from Rutbah ready to attend an Iraqi Police training academy. They are waiting for final approval from Iraq's Minister of the Interior.