The Iraq Offensive


Baghdad and the Belts. Red bordered units identified as active in offensive operations. Click map to view.

A status update on Operation Phantom Thunder

Iraqi and Coalition forces maintain the pressure against al Qaeda, Sunni insurgents, and the "rogue," Iranian backed "secret cells" of the Mahdi Army and the Qazali network. Operation Phantom Thunder is underway inside Baghdad and the Belts, as well as against al Qaeda's network nationwide. Also, the northwestern region of Iraq has been a focus of U.S. and Iraqi operations. The simultaneous operations to pressure al Qaeda's network are occurring in all theaters throughout Iraq. An update on each theater is provided below.

The Network

Coalition forces continue strike at al Qaeda's leadership cells. Multinational Forces Iraq confirmed two senior al Qaeda operatives were killed on June 23. "Mehmet Yilmaz, also known as Khalid al-Turki, was a known terrorist and senior leader in al Qaeda who operated a cell that facilitated the movement of foreign fighters into Iraq for al Qaeda operations," Multinational Forces Iraq reported. Yilmaz was a global terrorist, with roots back to Pakistan. "Yilmaz was an al Qaeda leader who led a group of Turks to Afghanistan in 2001 to fight against Coalition Forces. Intelligence reports indicate he was wounded in the fighting there and went to Pakistan for treatment, where he was captured by the government in 2004 and deported to Turkey. He was released in late 2005 and returned to al Qaeda operations in 2006, moving his operations to Iraq."

Coalition forces also killed Mehmet Resit Isik, also known as Khalil al-Turki. Isik was "a close associate of Yilmaz who was assessed to be a courier for the same al Qaeda cell and a close associate of Yilmaz and senior leaders within al Qaeda."

Two al Qaeda operatives were killed and two captured in raids on Tuesday in Bayji, Mosul, and Baghdad . Wednesday's raids in Mosul and Baghdad resulted in six al Qaeda operatives captured. One of those captured in Mosul "is believed to have replaced the al Qaeda emir of east Mosul after his capture May 31." Al Qaeda's Mosul network has become a focus of Coalition efforts of late. The network has regenerated since Ansar al-Sunnah merged with al Qaeda this spring.

Diyala

Eleven days after Operation Arrowhead Ripper kicked off in the provincial capital of Baqubah Coalition and Iraqi forces have been conducting operations throughout the province. In Baqubah "at least 60 al-Qaida operatives have been killed, 74 have been detained, 31 weapons caches have been discovered, 81 improvised explosive devices have been destroyed and 18 booby-trapped structures have been destroyed," since the start of Arrowhead Ripper, Multinational Forces Iraq reported.

Coalition and Iraqi forces have also distributed "approximately 265,000 pounds of rice and flour ... handed out over 10,000 vegetarian humanitarian rations, and thousands of bottles of water." An al Qaeda warehouse "filled with food seized by al Qaeda from Government of Iraq food shipments to the city" was found by Iraqi troops in the Khatoon neighborhood.

A joint Iraqi and U.S. operation in Muqdadiyah and the Hamrin mountains resulted in the capture of 18 al Qaeda fighters, while Iraqi soldiers captured five al Qaeda operatives in an operation in nearby Balad Ruz. Two "gunmen" were killed during a raid near Al Thurah, north of Muqdadiyah. In Khalis, Iraqi Police intervened after two villages conducted a battle which resulted in four killed and 19 wounded.

The North (Mosul/Salahadin/Tikrit)

In addition to the operations in Diyala and the raids against al Qaeda's network in Mosul, the northern theater has seen an increase in operational tempo from Iraqi and U.S. security forces. With operations ongoing inside Baghdad and in the belts, this region is the natural fall-back position for the terror network.

Iraqi Police and Army units are the main targets of al Qaeda and insurgent attacks in Salahadin and Ninewa provinces. There is one U.S. combat brigade in each province, and Ninewa is Iraq's second most populated province. The Iraqi Security Forces shoulder the majority of the security in the north. Four Iraqi police were killed in an ambush near Kirkuk on Wednesday.

Joint U.S. and Iraqi operations in Mosul and Tal Afar resulted in the capture of 25 suspected insurgents. Another five al Qaeda operatives were captured in a raid near Mosul.

In the city of Taji in Salahadin province, the newly formed neighborhood watch turned in another large weapons cache. In Tikrit, fourteen insurgents died in a "work accident" when the truck bomb they were assembling detonated prematurely.

Northern Babil

As part of Operation Phantom Thunder, Northern Babil Province has been split into two major theaters: the area around Arab Jabour (Operation Marne Torch) in the southeast, and the area around Mahmudiyah (Operation Commando Eagle) in the southwest.

In the southeast, six insurgents were killed near Salman Pak after about 30 attacked an Iraqi National Police station and checkpoint. A British Royal Air Force GR-4 Tornado and two U.S. Army OH-58D helicopters fired at the insurgents in support of the Iraqi nationals Police. Also, two more insurgents were killed and seven captured in the village of Al Dura'iya, and one insurgent was killed and another wounded "south of Baghdad."

In the southwest, a recruiting drive in the city of Yusufiyah netted over 1,200 volunteers. Only 200 applicants were expected, and 252 were accepted. "The surplus applications - including one from a local woman - will be kept and as the JSS expands, those individuals will be the first called for new hires," Multinational Forces Iraq stated. Further south in Najaf, Iraqi Security Forces arrested an al Qaeda operative.

Baghdad

Clearing operations continue in the capital as al Qaeda conducted two successful mass casualty attacks. A car bomb attack in the western Rashid neighborhood of Al-Bayaa killed 21 civilians and wounded 42, while a suicide attack in the Kadhimiyah neighborhood in northern Baghdad killed 10 and wounded 15.

U.S. and Iraqi forces are still in the process of clearing the Rashid district. Eleven IEDs were found in Rashid and several insurgent attacks were defeated on June 25 and 26. Iraqi Security Forces "killed 14 gunmen, captured 114 others and arrested 2 suspected militants in several areas of Baghdad during the past 24 hours," Voices of Iraq reported. "The forces managed also to free three captives, defuse two bombs and confiscate large amount of weapons and ammunition in different areas of Baghdad, mainly in Kadhimiyah City in northern Baghdad." U.S. forces also captured six insurgents in eastern Baghdad.

Eastern Anbar Province

Reporting on Operation Fahrad Al Amin in eastern Anbar province has been virtually non-existent. While Iraqi and Coalition forces have been solidifying the police presence in Fallujah and are conducting operations in Karma and the Thar Thar region, the eastern Anbar theater has surprisingly been quiet.

Mahdi and the Iranian Cells

Both the United States and Britain continue to point the finger at Iran and the Qods Force involvement in training, funding, arming, and planning attacks against Coalition and Iraqi forces inside Iraq. Operations continue to target these Iranian backed secret cells, which include the Qazali Network and "rogue" elements of Muqtada al Sadr's Mahdi Army.

"Iraqi Special Operations Forces, Iraqi Police and Iraqi Army forces destroyed a large weapons cache during an early morning operation June 26 southeast of Nasiriyah," Multinational Forces Iraq reported. "The cache is linked to a rogue Jaysh Al-Mahdi (JAM or Mahdi Army) militant group." One suspect was detained in the operation.

Meanwhile, Muqtada al Sadr continues to attempt to brand himself as a nationalist leader since his return last month from a four-month, self-imposed exile in Iran. Sadr plans to carry out a march to Samarra's al-Askaria mosque on July 5, which was destroyed in attacks in February 2006 and May 2007. Sadr's past two demonstrations failed to draw more than ten thousand protesters, when in the past he would draw hundreds of thousands.



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READER COMMENTS: "The Iraq Offensive"

Posted by Paul at June 28, 2007 11:30 AM ET:

This has quickly become my favorite site for info from Iraq. Thanks for all you do.

Recognizing that we're only a few weeks into Operation Phantom Thunder, I'm surprized by the relatively few numbers of insurgents killed/captured. So far, this doesn't appear it'll be the crushing blow we're all hoping for, as our military leaders acknowledge we cannot maintan this pace due to troop rotations, etc.

I'd be curious to hear the estimates from our military leaders on the size of each of our enemies in Iraq, especially al Qaeda in Iraq.

Paul

Posted by Mike E at June 28, 2007 12:38 PM ET:

Paul,

My understanding is that insurgent KIA numbers are vastly under appreciated by most people, this is likly due to the fact that the military does not do body counts and the MSM has little interest in keeping tabs on enemy dead.

From a recent interview by Gen Odierno, 3184 insurgents were KIA (1016 were wounded) between January 15 and May 31 2007 (before the surge had even reached full strength). The relevent slide is here.

http://www.defenselink.mil/dodcmsshare/briefingslide/305/070531-D-6570C-007.jpg


Nevertheless, the number of enemy KIA is probably not the most significant metric in a counter insurgency. I would say the real sucess of the surge has been in nurturing the Anbar awakening and reducing sectarian violence.

Posted by Marlin at June 28, 2007 12:50 PM ET:

I have been somewhat surprised by both the (relatively) slow pace of Arrowhead Ripper in Baqubah and the lack of casualties. The Associated Press had an interesting article yesterday that provided some insight.

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

Because of such an invisible threat (IEDs), U.S. military commanders have encouraged their soldiers to carry out the current Baqouba offensive on foot and under cover of darkness - scurrying single file down the edge of wide thoroughfares and searching house-to-house methodically.

But the reduction in mobility makes it difficult to control a wide area. One of the Stryker's strong points was its ability to move troops quickly to areas where they are needed.

In the first four days of the operation last week, soldiers moved just slightly over a mile into western Baqouba, said Command Sgt. Maj. Jeff Huggins, 41, the senior noncommissioned officer with the 5-20.

MyWay: US Foot Patrols Seeks to Sidestep Mines

Posted by cjr at June 28, 2007 2:20 PM ET:

" But the reduction in mobility makes it difficult to control a wide area. One of the Stryker's strong points was its ability to move troops quickly to areas where they are needed. "

So the author is critiziing the commanders for wasting a key Stryker capability. Unfortunately, what the author is actually saying is that she doesn't understand the capabilies of the Stryker and has a trivial understanding of military operations.

The same features that allow the Stryker to move quickly in the daytime are exactly the same features that allow Stryker units to coordinate operations better and therefore increase its effectiveness at night. The capability isnt being wasted. Its just being used differently.

Posted by hamidreza at June 28, 2007 2:23 PM ET:

Thank you Bill for the excellent roundup.

It will be interesting to see how many will show up for Sadr's call to demonstrate. I wonder if July 5th is a religious holiday. Maybe al-Qaeda can blow up one of their IEDs on Sadr's path. But Al-Qaeda becoming increasingly a tool of the Iranians, this may not happen. I believe Ansar al-Sunna that has joined al-Qaeda is a Sunni Kurdish Islamist group with bases inside Iran.

Posted by mxpwr03 at June 28, 2007 2:30 PM ET:

Great story. I picked up the NYT today and all they had on Iraq was an alleged shooting of Iraqi civilians by U.S. forces in Sadr City. As soon as I got home I went here and read about operations not only in Baghdad, but throughout the country. Keep up the good work, this site continues to be the best news summary of events coming out of Iraq.

Posted by Paul at June 28, 2007 2:41 PM ET:

Thanks Mike,

I'm relatively new to this site, and I agree with an earlier post that even the comments here are very informative. But, I still feel we're missing a summary of what we're up against. How large is al Qaeda in Iraq? How large is/was the Sunni insurgency and approximately what percentage have been turned? The last I've heard was a figure of about 30,000 for the entire insurgency several years ago. Our leaders must have these numbers and it would help give a better perspective. Your link above helps show how lopsided the fighting is, but do we have any idea how many fighters are flowing into Iraq on a monthly basis? I try to follow the Iraq war pretty closely, and haven't seen this kind of info anywhere.

Posted by anand at June 28, 2007 3:44 PM ET:

"I wonder if July 5th is a religious holiday"

The prophet, Muhammad's, peace be upon him, daughter Fatimah's birthday. Muhammad said that Fatimah was the second holiest woman ever born; after Mary--mother of Jesus. The 12 Shia Imams are from Fatimah's blood line. To this day, Muqtada, Hakim, King Abdullah of Jordon, and many other muslims claim to be of Fatimah's bloodline:

http://www.jannah.org/sisters/fatimah.html

hamidreza, there is little doubt that the Al-Qaeda/Takfiri types, and the Baathists will try to kill as many civilians from this march as possible. Killing Muqtada would be an amazing "get" for them. Al Qaeda loves to kill Iranians and their proxies. They like to kill them with Khamenei's money and support even more.


cjr, not every journalist can e-mail you and DJ to ask military questions. They are winging it. ;-)

Paul,

There is no simple answer to your question. Think concentric circles with the hardcore sunni arab insurgents being the inner circles.

Posted by Honza P at June 28, 2007 4:19 PM ET:

I am amazed that our casualties are so low, what with all the booby-trapped buildings and such.
I suppose the high level of local cooperation and otherwise improved intelligence accounts for this?

Posted by Cincy at June 28, 2007 4:34 PM ET:

"But, I still feel we're missing a summary of what we're up against. How large is al Qaeda in Iraq? "

For some reason those guys keep dodging the darn census takers.

Posted by AQI Losses at June 28, 2007 8:51 PM ET:

Paul,

This doesn't completely answer your question, but may help you get a better perspective of the size of AQI.

Since the official launch of the Baghdad Security Plan, on Feb 14th, I've been keeping tabs on AQI losses. The data is updated through June 28th.

Also, the only source used are MNF-Iraq press releases. Therefore losses are even greater. For example, the major battles between the Anbar Salvation Council and AQI in eastern Anbar that Bill has reported on.

At least 519 killed. Those killed includes the following leadership:

Top Leadership (Tier I)

§ AQI Information Minister/Official Spokesman and two senior advisors (Taji)

Emirs/Regional Leaders (Tier II)

§ Emir in the Hay al-Jamah area of Baghdad and part of a deadly VBIED cell (Baghdad)
§ Security Emir (Eastern Anbar Province), linked to chlorine VBIED attacks across Iraq
§ Regional leader, responsible for AQI personnel and operations, as well as coordinating foreign fighters and suicide attacks (Arab Jabour)
§ Emir (Western Mosul)
§ Military Emir (Mosul)

Network/Cell/Facilitator Leaders (Tier III)

§ VBIED cell leader in charge of approximately 40-50 men (Baghdad)
§ VBIED cell leader (Taji)
§ Leader of five cells (Mosul)

At least 2486 captured. Those captured includes the following leadership:

Emirs/Regional Leaders (Tier II)

§ Emir whose organization includes a VBIED cell (Baghdad)
§ Regional Emir of Hay al-Jamah area of Baghdad (Baghdad)
§ Two Emirs (Baghdad)
§ Military Emir of Rusafa and former VBIED cell leader (Baghdad)
§ Financial Emir (Tarmiyah)
§ Security Emir (Arab Jabour)
§ Media Emir (Karmah)
§ Emir and his replacement (Eastern Mosul)
§ Emir of Ansar al-Sunna (Mosul)
§ Recruiting Emir of Ansar al-Sunna (Mosul)
§ Military Emir (Hit)

Network/Cell/Facilitator Leaders (Tier III)

§ Battalion commander (Baghdad)
§ Gatekeeper to the Emir of Baghdad with links to mass casualty VBIED attacks (Baghdad)
§ Two SVBIED ring/cell leaders (No. 1 & 2) of prominent car bomb producing network in the Adhamiyah Security district (Baghdad)
§ Head of the Rusafa car bomb network (Baghdad)
§ Key leader in the Rusafa VBIED network (Baghdad)
§ Senior leader who oversees AQI operations (Baghdad)
§ SVBIED coordinator (Baghdad)
§ Senior VBIED cell leader (Baghdad)
§ VBIED cell leader/supplier of IED components (Baghdad)
§ VBIED cell leader (Baghdad)
§ VBIED cell leader/foreign fighter facilitator (Baghdad)
§ Two VBIED/assassination cell leaders (Baghdad)
§ Leader promoted to replace a senior leader Coalition Forces detained in an operation May 29 (Baghdad)
§ Two cell leaders (South of Baghdad)
§ Foreign terrorist facilitation network leader (Abu Ghurayb)
§ Facility manager who operates a safe house (Tarmiyah)
§ Cell Leader (Tarmiyah)
§ Kidnapping cell leader (Salman Pak)
§ IED/sniper cell networks leader (Ramadi)
§ Senior foreign fighter facilitator (Habbaniyah)
§ VBIED cell leader (Amiriyah)
§ Senior-level courier (Karmah)
§ Cell Leader (Karmah)
§ Foreign fighter facilitator leader (Karmah)
§ Two individuals allegedly associated with the command network (Baqubah)
§ Cell leader (Muqdadiyah)
§ Leader of an al-Qaeda affiliate group (Salah Din Province)
§ Senior leader whose group supplies VBIEDs, also responsible for indirect fire and IED attacks on Iraqi and Coalition Forces (Taji)
§ Religious leader (Taji)
§ Mid-level leader responsible for flow of foreign fighters in northern Iraq from Syria (Fadiliyah, Nineveh Province)
§ Senior leader enforcing religious punishments and operating a smuggling ring transporting weapons and cargo (Mosul)
§ Key leader responsible for constructing both VBIED & IED devices that contain chlorine gas and assisting in the movement of insurgents from Syria into Iraq (Mosul)
§ Saddam Fedayeen leader involved in setting up training camps in Syria for Iraqi and foreign fighters (Mosul)
§ Senior level leader in bombing network (Mosul)
§ Two senior cell leaders (Mosul)
§ Two IED cell leaders (Mosul)
§ Five cell leaders (Mosul)
§ Media cell leader (Mosul)
§ Leader of an al-Qaeda group (Mosul)
§ Key AQI member who coordinated attacks on Iraqi and Coalition forces (Mosul)
§ Two cell leaders (Hawijah)
§ Senior foreign fighter facilitator/cell leader and close associate (Hawijah)
§ Two cell leaders (Mashat Village, Northern Iraq)
§ Two leaders who conduct multiple assassinations and IED attacks (Mashat Village, Northern Iraq)
§ Senior leader who replaced another senior leader who fled the area (Hit)
§ Two cell leaders (Al Qaim region; Karabilah)
§ Two senior level foreign fighter facilitators (Al Qaim region)
§ Leader in AQI network (al-Hillah)

Posted by Paul at June 28, 2007 10:02 PM ET:

Thanks all. I'll continue to tell others about this site.

Posted by Neo-andertal at June 28, 2007 11:04 PM ET:

Bill's roundup reminded that we have passed a major milestone in the last few days without really noticing.

Al Qaeda's Baghdad Offensive is over. Totally over!

Al Qaeda's highly successful campaign started immediately after the November elections late in 2005, heated up early in 2006, than broke with full force following the Samarra shrine bombing in late February 2006. Over the next full year Al Qaeda succeeded in turning Baghdad into an all out war zone, fully discredited the new Iraqi government, it fully discredited the Bush administrations war policy, caused the Shiite population to retaliate, and brought Iraq to the brink of civil war.

We are nowhere near getting over the after effects of the last year, but for now Al Qaeda's offensive has been shut down and scattered. Yes, they are still alive and well as a terrorist organization but they no longer are in the position to overtake Baghdad's Sunni neighborhoods and run amok with sizable operations, constant mass killings, ceaseless bombing, and threatening whom ever when they please whenever they please. They've been run to ground or chased out of both Baghdad and the belts. There will still be plenty of bombings, killings, and assassinations but they can't carry out city wide large scale operations like they had been able to do for the last year and a half. Now, they have now lost the last of the major strongholds and staging areas in Baquba.

The war today may not look a lot different than a month ago. Al Quad is still a potent terrorist organization, but unless they are given a chance for a comeback their days as any sort of standing fighting force are over. They aren't even particularly effective at overrunning command posts and checkpoints anymore. When was the last time they successfully overran a police station or government building. The current course is fairly quickly eroding Al Qaeda's capabilities. Look where we were last December as the first Iraqi units were moved into the capitol. Al Qaeda's only recourse now is to survive and bleed us in the hope that we quit.

It will take a few months for all the metrics measuring the carnage to catch up. Indiscriminant killing of civilians with high explosives is terribly easy. Real progress on that front requires a major change in the Sunni communities willingness to cooperate and harbor terrorists and a trained police force to back it up. There are signs that may be changing too.

As for those who say this plan is merely an extension of the Bush administrations old plan. Anyone who thinks so hasn't been paying attention. This is the first attempt at really securing the population of central Iraq and the most colossal undertaking since the invasion itself. This is going to play out over the summer and much of the fall. So stay tuned for more. Before this the plan always was to draw down as quickly as possible while the Iraqi army stood up. The alternative to this plan is a vague Democratic plan to draw down regardless of whether the Iraqi army stands up. A plan which in execution looks very similar to the Rumsfeld-Bush plan we threw out the window last fall. But who ever said that Republicans and Democrats were really ever all that far apart in their thinking.

Something to think about indeed!

Posted by JohnD at June 29, 2007 12:00 AM ET:

I'm not sure that this site is read very much in Iran, but with the riots over gas-rationing going on there, they have to know that their "leaders" are wasting their resources in Iraq against those who are not the enemy of the Iranian people.

Posted by the nailgun at June 29, 2007 5:04 AM ET:

Does anyone know if there is a site showing say a map of where all the salvation councils and US/ISF supervised neighbourhood watch groups have been established perhaps 6 months ago and now? Be interesting to see how far and fast this spirit of cooperation is spreading.

The other thing I'd like to know, if someone is brave enough to venture an opinion, is how big a portion of the Insurgency was the 1920's Rev. Brigade? I'd imagine that it will have to be an educated guess and no more but would still be interested in the regular posters on this site views

Posted by DJ Elliott at June 29, 2007 5:47 AM ET:

the nailgun

I find myself having to make my own charts since few unclas releases (except MNC-I briefs) include a force plot.

1920s are one of the larger groups but, estimates/claims vary as to how large...

Posted by Don Vandervelde at June 29, 2007 5:59 AM ET:

What a site for sore eyes (sorry!), from a newcomer. Tnx, 4th Rail (Roggio?), you're a gem. It's great when you stick in maps for us uninitiated; you can't do enuf for some folks. Anyway, keep on keepin' on. Cheers & excelsior, Don V.

Posted by RHYNO327 at June 29, 2007 9:15 AM ET:

conducting ops. in darkness is a Strykers stregnth. it is also our preference to work at nite. the reason the US casualty list is low maybe due to the co-operation of Sunni forces. they are a great source of intel. dismounts moving at nite are harder to hit than any vehicle. we won't need the heavy stuff until they HAVE to make a stand, so we just keep cordon and search going until that time. i read in this article about Sadr. his intentions all along was power. a major engagement is imperative if we are to put the Mahdi to rest. [or death?] it would be "tragic" if fat boy took a round to that big, fat, black turban. if we did things right earlier.....

Posted by Neo at June 29, 2007 10:30 AM ET:

Sadr's July 5th march to the Samarra shrine has been postponed. That's a big mess nobody needs.

Posted by RHYNO327 at June 30, 2007 11:48 AM ET:

how can a legit Iraqi Gov. survive and protect its people when you have armed militias roaming the streets and settling old scores by killing? the Mahdi MUST go. Destroyed. as for thier fat slob leader, my anger and hatred of this man may cloud my judgement. i want him DEAD. repercussions? thats the fear. will it cause the shia population to rise up and fight? or will it be only a fraction that will riot and kill? the Shia are Iranian proxies, the Mahdi and Sadr in paricular. wat do we do with him? his militia must be destroyed, but wat about him?