The Baghdad Security Operation Order of Battle: March 26, 2007


The Baghdad Order Of Battle as of March 26, 2007. Click map to view.

By DJ Elliott, CJ Radin and Bill Roggio

With the passing of the four year anniversary of the commencement of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Iraqi and Coalition security forces continue to press with reestablishing security inside the capital and the outer Baghdad belts. The Baghdad Security plan continues to show signs of progress. Sectarian murders have been dramatically reduced inside Baghdad, as have the mass casualty suicide attacks which plagued the city on a regular basis. Al Qaeda is still able to conduct suicide and car bomb attacks inside the city, but the effects of these attacks have been dramatically reduced.

In the past, the most devastating bombs were placed on large trucks - dump trucks, fuel tankers, and other large vehicles and driven into open markets to kill as many Shia as possible. Mohammad Fadhil, an Iraqi blogger who lives in Baghdad, notes the number of checkpoints in the city are increasing rapidly, and are having an effect in reducing major attacks. "With the constant force buildup many streets now host multiple checkpoints, both fixed and mobile," notes Mr. Fadhil. "All are positioned in a manner that allows soldiers in one to have visual contact with those in the next one. From my personal experience I can tell that the men staffing the checkpoints do not take their job lightly."

There have been no major changes to the disposition of U.S. or Iraq forces inside Baghdad. The U.S. still has three of the five combat brigades and an aviation combat brigade to deploy in support of the security operation. The U.S. 3rd Brigade Combat Team from the 3rd Infantry Division has been reported as being in Iraq, however there is no information on the location of this brigade. The question remains is whether the brigade will be moved into Baghdad, or deploy into the provinces - perhaps Diyala - to pursue al Qaeda.

The Coalition and Iraqi government are also in the process of retraining and redeploying the Iraqi police. One major weakness of the Iraqi Security Forces in 2006 was the Iraq National Police. The majority of the units were infiltrated with militias. Their deployment inside Baghdad without Coalition oversight partially led to the failure of the previous Baghdad security plan - Operation Together Forward.

The Coalition created Operation Quicklook, a program designed to purge the police battalions of militia and insurgents, issue new uniforms and identification badges and retrain and reequip the forces for urban combat and security operations. Phase I was inspections, Phase II is re-bluing, re-equipping, replacements (purge) and Brigade training, Phase III will be field training/ops and Phase IV is when the Ministry of the Interior takes over Phase I thru III. The most heavily infiltrated brigades were put through Quicklook II first. The 8th Brigade of the 2nd Iraqi Police Division lost over 40 percent of its ranks; the 4th Brigade of the 1st Iraqi Police Division was attritted by 30 percent. One year ago only one brigade commander and 2 battalion commanders were Sunni. Today, 4 of 9 brigade commanders and 13 of 27 battalion commanders are Sunni. Half of the Brigades have gone through Quicklook II., and at least three are now serving inside Baghdad along with other police units that haven't yet gone through the program.

The deployment of Iraqi and U.S. forces inside Baghdad may be having some impact on al Qaeda. "Over the last month, officials said that under Operation Law Enforcement more than 100 Al Qaeda operatives were killed or captured in the Baghdad area," notes the Middle East Newline. Al Qaeda is said to be fleeing Baghdad as the security plan expands throughout the city.

Al Qaeda in Iraq's most dangerous weapons remain the car and suicide bombs. Over the past week, al Qaeda conducted a steady stream of attacks inside Baghdad. The targets have been members of the Iraqi security services and the Shia community. Al Qaeda seeks to break the will of the security forces and incite the Shia to conduct reprisal attacks on Sunnis. The attacks have not been as deadly as was seen prior to the implementation of the Baghdad Security Plan.

This week, one major attack was reported inside Baghdad - a truck bomb that was aimed at a police outpost in the Doura district. Twenty were killed, including 16 police, and another 26 were wounded. Another major attack was aimed at Salam al-Zubaie, one of Iraq's two Deputy Prime Ministers. Zubaie, who is a Sunni, was targeted at his mosque in Baghdad, and was wounded in the attack. The lead suspect is a member of his security detail, a relative of Zubaie who was detained as an insurgent and subsequently released at Zubaie's request. Al Qaeda in Iraq claimed responsibility for the attack.

Outside, both al Qaeda and the Coalition are vying for supremacy in the flash point provinces of Anbar and Diyala. Coalition forces and the local tribes of the Anbar Salvation Council have begun clearing operations in the al Qaeda sanctuary of Ramadi. On March 20, the Anbar Salvation Council conducted one such operation in central Ramadi. Over Iraqi 500 police were involved. Forty-five suspected insurgents were detained during the operation, while one civilian was killed during an IED attack. Police "confiscated propaganda material and discovered several caches containing assault rifles, machine guns, and mortar and artillery shells used to produce improvised explosive devices." On March 26, U.S. forces, along with Iraqi police and Army units began a large scale clearing op in western Ramadi. The violence in Ramadi has been halved since February due to the cooperation between the tribes, the Iraqi Security Forces, and the U.S. military.

Al Qaeda has been conducting its own dirty offensive in Anbar. On March 24, police in Ramadi seized a truck filled with "five 1000-gallon barrels filled with chlorine and more than two tons of explosives." The truck was believed to have been aimed at the Jazeera police station, and he driver was detained and is being interrogated. Al Qaeda has conducted seven suicide chlorine attacks this year, including five in Anbar province. Thirty-two were killed in the attacks and over 600 were poisoned by the chlorine gas.

Diyala continues to remain a major base of operations for al Qaeda and its command center to conduct attacks into the Baghdad. A major operation to clear Diyala is in the pipeline, according to CBN News. "Sources say the initial plans involve three distinct strikes from three different directions. The goal is to destroy enemy training facilities and prevent al Qaeda forces from escaping," notes Erick Stakelbeck. "The insurgents are left with two choices--either to stand and fight or to retreat into Iran--at which point, they're Iran's problem," according to Daveed Gartenstein-Ross. During an operation last week, American forces freed over 200 hostages in Muqdadiya. Many of those freed were Iraqi police. Al Qaeda has been working to dismantle the police in Diyala province, which pose a major threat to their rule.

Iraqis living in Diyala are asking the Iraqi government to fight al Qaeda and prevent the province from "turning Diyala cities [into the next] Taliban emirate," notes Al Saabah. "Citizens said that the situation in the cities of Baquba, Muqdadyia, Khalis and Bald Ruz are turning into a major humanity disaster, especially after al Qaeda issued a list of all forbidden activities including] working at governmental offices, ownership of satellite and internet sets, as well as the destruction of mobile phone towers."

Meanwhile, the Iraqi government and Coalition forces maintain the pressure on Muqtada al Sadr, the leader of the Mahdi Army, and his backers in Iran. Sadr's militia is "breaking into splinter groups," the Associated Press reports. About 3,000 Mahdi fighters are said to be "financed directly by Iran and no longer loyal" to Sadr. The hundreds from splinter Mahdi force have "crossed into Iran for training by the elite Quds force." Qais al-Khazaal, a former aide of Sadr, is said to be leading the Iranian backed faction. The rest of the Mahdi Army is currently in reconciliation talks with the Iraqi government.

The Coalition had a big break in getting to the bottom of the Karbala raid in January, which resulted in the kidnapping and subsequent murder of five American soldiers. Coalition forces captured Qais Khazali, his brother Laith Khazali, and several other members of the Khazali network. Khazali "has been a spokesperson for Muqtada al Sadr, and is commonly referred to as his senior aide," notes IraqSlogger. An American military intelligence official informs us Khazali is a member of Iran's Qods force, which is believed to be behind the Karbala attack.

Iran continues to interfere with Coalition and Iraqi efforts to secure Iraq. On March 23, naval elements from the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps captured 15 British sailors and marines in Iraqi waters in the Shatt al Arab waterway. The British servicemen had completed a boarding mission and were subsequently surrounded by the IRGC navel forces. The Brits have been transported back to Tehran and there are rumors they will be prosecuted for espionage. This came as the United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 1747, which placed sanctions on Iran for its failure to halt its nuclear enrichment program. Iran is likely looking for the release of senior Qods Force members captured in Irbil. Over 300 members of the Iranian intelligence forces are said to be in U.S. custody in Iraq.

As we have stressed in the past, the new Iraqi security plan is still in its infancy, and it is too soon to know if the operations will succeed of fail. The initial signs are encouraging, but the enemy always retains the ability to adjust their tactics. The fracturing of the Mahdi Army is a positive indicator for success in Baghdad, however it is unclear if the Iranian backed group will step up attacks in the city. Sadr's political power has waned while he remains in Iran, however his return to Iraq could signal a change. Iran continues to arm and train militias inside Iraq. Al Qaeda's support base in Diyala must be broken. The signs are good that al Qaeda is being sidelined in Anbar as the Sunni tribes and former insurgents take the fight to al Qaeda in Ramadi. The Iraqi government and Multinational Forces Iraq must remain agile to deal with these threats, and must remain on the offensive in the provinces to keep al Qaeda on its heels.



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READER COMMENTS: "The Baghdad Security Operation Order of Battle: March 26, 2007"

Posted by crosspatch at March 26, 2007 2:17 PM ET:

Someone pointed out on another site an article reporting that hardcore terrorists might be quitting Iraq and heading to Lebanon.

Not sure how much stock to put into it, but I thought I would share in case someone else happens to see any additional indications.

Posted by GK at March 26, 2007 2:20 PM ET:

I have been reading this blog for two years, reading the majority of articles during that time (even when Bill was writing elsewhere). Thus, I have read perhaps as many as 500 of Bill's articles.

Yet, after all this time, I still get the impression that our effort in Iraq has become a stalemated war of attrition. We continue to adapt our tactics, but Al-Qaeda continues to adapt theirs as well. The Kurd area is the only one that has truly become what we had hoped it would. Many Iraqis want freedom and prosperity, but there are enough troublemakers to prevent those who want a better life from reaching the critical mass needed to make that state irreversible.

Our media is hell-bent on ensuring a loss for America in this war, and we don't seem to have a strategy to counter this. Thus, we are losing the PR War to the Al-Qaeda/MSM de facto alliance.

When there is a war of attrition, while time is working against one side and in favor of another, the one against whom time is working (us) has a problem.

Posted by crosspatch at March 26, 2007 2:41 PM ET:

"Yet, after all this time, I still get the impression that our effort in Iraq has become a stalemated war of attrition."

I, for one, don't share that assessment. I did up until the point where the Anbar tribes started, in a significant way, to oppose al Qaida. The joining in the police force and army of significant numbers from the Sunni tribes and the turning of the population in many areas against al Qaida are sea change events.

al Qaida and other insurgent entities can not stand once the population at large turns against them and the tribal leadership throwing their lot with the government is the end of the "stalemated war of attrition" you mention. Should this process be repeated in Diyala, it is all over and as I mentioned in my other comment on this thread, there is at least one indication that Sunni jihadis may be starting to leave Iraq for an easier go of it elsewhere. That they would choose Lebanon is a pretty good indication of Syrian facilitation in all of this too. My guess is they aren't traveling though Jordan.

Two significant events seem to have happened. We have made signficiant inroads on cracking Iranian support mechanisms for the insurgency and the population of Anbar has made inroads in cracking Syrian facilitated groups. If Diyala can be brought under control and the population follow the Anbar model, it is all but over for the insurgency as any kind of regional alternative to the government.

Posted by crosspatch at March 26, 2007 2:45 PM ET:

Another data point:

'According to Arab newspaper al-Hayat the "1920 Brigades" another insurgent group, is also fighting alongside the tribal militias of al-Anbar against al-Qaeda fighters and together they have managed to drive them back from the area around Abu Ghreib.'

According to AKI in an article describing the death of 4 Saudis in Anbar.

Posted by anand at March 26, 2007 3:03 PM ET:

Crosspatch is right. The trajectory in Iraq is positive except for Diyala. In Baghdad, it remains unclear how much of the recent drop in violence is sustained.

By far, the main problems in Iraq are Baghdad and Diyala.

Unfortunately, the violence in Diyala is quite a bit worse than it was a few months ago. It isn't clear that Diyala can be calmed down without reducing the tempo of operations elsewhere in Iraq. Part of the problem in Diyala is political. Sunni Arabs (although 48% of the population) have little representation in the provincial and local governments. Diyala desperately needs new provincial elections. Many are furious at the way Sadr, Hakim and Dawa are ruling over them. The 5th IAD is the most problematic division in Iraq after the 7th and 10th IADs. Its not clear that 5th IAD is up to the job in Diyala. The Diyala IP certainly aren't.

Without managing the violence in Diyala better, there is no solution to Baghdad or the rest of Iraq. And it's not clear that Diyala can be pacified quickly enough for US public or Congressional opinion.

Oh, I just got an idea for how to solve the problem in Diyala. Maybe we can ask Pres. Chirac to send two French Brigades and assume control over the battlespace in Diyala.

Posted by joe at March 26, 2007 3:24 PM ET:

Al Qaeda in Iraq seems to be ignorant of the fact that you need the support of the local population for a succesful insurgency. They had the support of the population when they focused on fighting the U.S. and the Shia. Since they tried to take over the Sunni Areas and started killing tribal shieks and not returning their bodies and banning television and other personal items it seems they have really pissed of much of the local population. If this continues much longer and all indications is that it will, Al Qaeda will likely destroy itself. That seems to be the downside of being a bunch of intolerant fanatics.

Posted by crosspatch at March 26, 2007 4:11 PM ET:

"Oh, I just got an idea for how to solve the problem in Diyala. Maybe we can ask Pres. Chirac to send two French Brigades and assume control over the battlespace in Diyala."

Right idea, wrong army. Couple of Chinese brigades might shut them right down.

Posted by crosspatch at March 26, 2007 4:25 PM ET:

But events of the past few weeks tend to suggest that the extremists have begun targeting their own potential supporters, indicating a degree of political desperation, and a likely drop in support. And the attacks - though still atrocious - have become less effective. Both of these are significant indicators, independent of the bombings themselves.

From an article at Small Wars Journal. This leads me to believe that al Qaida is in the "punishment" phase where they have realized they have lost the population and are simply using up what inventory they have while their more experianced cadre are on their way out of the country so they might fight another day.

Indications are mounting that would lead me to the conclusion that al Qaida in Iraq's most capable operators are either captured, dead, or gone.

Posted by GK at March 26, 2007 4:26 PM ET:

I, for one, don't share that assessment.

We sill don't have any strategy to counter the media campaign against us.

US troops are dying today at the same or greater rate as in the first 3 years of the war. That does not mean that progress has not occurred, but it does mean that these daily deaths can be packaged by an anti-war MSM into an impression that things are going badly for us. 70% of the laypeople will be convinced.

As I have said many, many times here, without a strategy to win the media war, the actual progress on the ground is almost irrelevant as far as public support goes. The media war is at least as important as the military war, if not more.

Another thing that bothers me is how we allow Iran to get away with this much. Reagan accelerated the demise of the USSR because he knew they could not keep up with dollar-for-dollar spending from us, in arms.

Iran's GDP is a measly $200 Billion. Surely there must be a similar cold-war-type spending race we can lure them into. Given that our economy is 70 times larger than theirs (not even counting help we could get from Japan, Britain, Australia, Kuwait, UAE, etc.), surely we can execute a Reagan-style outspending of such a tiny economy.

Posted by crosspatch at March 26, 2007 4:46 PM ET:

"We sill don't have any strategy to counter the media campaign against us."

The truth as I see it is that there isn't much we *can* do to counter it. The news media in this country is privately owned. In this case, most of the owners have a political agenda opposite of our current administration. The government can make information available, but they can not make AP or NBC or CNN run it. The outlets choose what to run and in most cases they appear to choose anti-administration propaganda.

The government can release a million things a day but can't force the media to report a single one of them. Short of opening government radio, television, web, wire, and newspaper outlets ... how would you propose the government counter it?

The fact is that there is one outlet that will publish favorable news and that outlet has become by far the highest rated television news source in the marketplace. People think that the demise of the print media (both news and magazines) is due to the media itself ... that the fact that it is printed on paper is the reason. I disagree. It is the message they are printing.

Example ... Murdoch's Times of London has just started printing in New York because of an increasing demand for that paper in Manhattan just as the NYT is showing decreasing demand for their product. If Murdoch or someone like him bought one of the paper conglomerates and applied the same phiolosphy as that applied at the cable Fox News Network, they would have a wildly successful paper.

The fact is the government *can't* "counter" the media effectively. The people have to decide to consume the media that covers the government fairly. It is just that in many mediums such as print, that is nearly non-existant (Washington Times is one that comes to mind, but I can't think of another like them).

Posted by ECH at March 26, 2007 4:56 PM ET:

If Harkim and Sadr can't block this in parliment it will be great news.

"Iraqis May Allow Baathists to Return

Iraq's prime minister and president will introduce a bill in parliament as early as Tuesday that allows former members of Saddam Hussein's Baath party to return to government jobs and join the military, two Iraqi officials said.

The measure - long demanded by the U.S. to appease Sunnis - provides for a three-month challenge period after which Saddam's ex-followers - including those who worked in the feared security apparatus and paramilitary forces - would be immune. The measure goes to parliament under the names of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Shiite, and President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd. Shiites and Kurds make up nearly 80 percent of Iraq's population and both were severely repressed by Saddam's largely Sunni regime.

http://www.wral.com/news/national_world/world/story/1248413

Posted by crosspatch at March 26, 2007 6:15 PM ET:

Good news from Omar:

Overall, the security operation continues to gain more support among the political parties, including some that were skeptical in the beginning out of fear the operation would not be impartial. Today a spokesman of the Accord Front, to which VP Hashimi and deputy PM Zobaie belong, affirmed the AF's support for the ongoing operation saying, "Our bloc, seeing the security forces covering Baghdad's districts and operating without discrimination, is now convinced that the operation is unbiased."

On the other hand extremist parties of both sects continue their criticism of the operation, in stupid and somewhat amusing ways. One case I found funny is related to the recent discovery of a large weapon cache that included 470 anti-tank land-mines in Jameela district near Sadr city. The discovery of the stash was reported by MNF-I website, as well as Qasim Ata the official spokesman of Baghdad operations.

Neither report accused a specific entity of being responsible for possessing the cache, but then I saw the Sadrist lawmakers (I mean lawbreakers) on TV gather reporters to tell them that the whole story about finding weapons is a lie!

It was a textbook example of how denying involvement in a crime can only make people believe that you are indeed responsible.

Posted by Marlin at March 26, 2007 7:25 PM ET:

I hope this is true.

---------------------------------

Iraqi security forces on Monday confirmed the arrest of an al-Qaeda leader and two of his aides in western Baghdad, according to a report by the Voices of Iraq news agency.

'A force from 3rd Brigade raided Abu Ghraib area and arrested Ahmad Farhan and two of his close associates last Tuesday,' Baghdad security plan spokesman Qassem Atta told a press conference in the city.

Atta played video footage showing Farhan, an emir (leader) of the international terrorist network, confessing to his ties with a wanted man called Abu Omar al-Baghdadi.

'I receive support from Syria and Jordan and have got four groups with an emir and 25 members for each,' Farhan said in the videotaped confession.

Atta said Farhan acknowledged his direct responsibility for 300 killings and 200 kidnappings, adding 17 hostages were freed and four kidnappers were arrested in Abu Ghraib.

'Seventy-one wanted terrorists were arrested and ammunition seized in the area of al-Latifiya (south-east of Baghdad),' Atta added.

Deutsche Presse-Agentur: Al-Qaeda leader, two aides arrested in western Baghdad (1st Lead)

Posted by Terry Gain at March 26, 2007 9:21 PM ET:

Great stuff all. Keep on keeping on, especially you crosspatch.

Posted by Cannoneer No. 4 at March 27, 2007 3:38 AM ET:

GK and crosspatch:

"We still don't have any strategy to counter the media campaign against us."

"The truth as I see it is that there isn't much we can do to counter it."

Counter propaganda is a legitimate task for Psychological Operations, unfortunately strategic counter-propaganda to mitigate the effects of the enemy's propaganda on the American domestic target audience is beyond the capabilities of regular US Government military or intelligence psychological operators, because they are prohibited by law from targeting the domestic audience. As DJ pointed out on another thread, we are the only country in the world that has voluntarily hamstrung itself in that way. Some people might think changing the law to enable our operators to fight back would solve that problem, but the political facts on the ground are that the current majority party in Congress is never going to repeal the Smith-Mundt Act of 1948, so either we just grab our ankles and take the steady stream of unchallenged enemy propaganda, or We The People exercise our rights under the First Amendment to refute it, condition our fellow citizens to resist it, minimize its effects and mitigate the damage it does to our morale and will.

What the regulars are not allowed to do must be accomplished by irregulars.

Posted by Drazen Gemic at March 27, 2007 6:41 AM ET:

Maybe the information that media receives from US military is not atractive enough for them. I know that it has been discussed, but enemy casualties, and number of detained may help.

People should feel that this is partly getting even for 9/11, and that justice is being served.

I remember a short war in Slovenia, when they repelled the former Yugoslav Army. It was not much of a war, and it lasted only a couple of days. There was a picture shown many times, a young Yugoslav constript dead in a burning vehicle. He had an expression of grief on his face, as if accusing ones who sent him to death. Many agencies, even foreign, reprinted that photo, and I guess it made an impact.

It is not very civilized, but no media in the world is interested in civilized war. They want blood and suffering, and that is what they get from terrorists, that is what can sell. They don't care for captured enemy combatants treated like hotel guests. Some lines, like laws and Geneva conventions should not be crossed.

Activists might scream, but that's good, because people are generaly annoyed by activists.

DG

Posted by RHYNO at March 29, 2007 11:19 AM ET:

KEEP THE PRESSURE ON. IF THE INDIG. POPULATION IS FIGHTING AL-QAEDA, SO MUCH THE BETTER. EVENTUALLY THEY WILL TURN ON U.S. TROOPS. THE BEST WE CAN HOPE FOR IS TO SET UP A STABLE GOV., AN ARMY THAT CAN STAND UP, SO WE CAN LEAVE. I STILL BELIEVE WHEN WE ARE GONE, THE COUNTRY WILL DEGENERATE INTO CIVIL WAR ANYWAY.