Coalition and Iraqi security forces have launched Operation Iron Harvest, the latest offensive against al Qaeda in Iraq in Diyala province. “Operations are now being concentrated in Miqdadiyah,” according to a press release from Multinational Division Iraq.
Al Qaeda in Iraq has established a new “haven” in the region northeast of Miqdadiyah, and has used this base to launch suicide attacks in Baqubah and Baghdad.
Over two brigades of US forces along with an unspecified number of Iraqi troops are involved in the Miqdadiyah operation. “Seven American battalions, accompanied by Iraqi Army units, pushed into a 110-square-mile area in the fertile northern Diyala River Valley in search of 200 insurgents with Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia,” The New York Times reported. US and Iraqi forces launched a series of feints in Diyala to confuse al Qaeda’s leadership, while most Iraq security forces were intentionally left in the dark on the operation to preserve operational security.
Both Iron Harvest and Phantom Phoenix “are seeing less resistance than expected,” Multinational Forces Iraq reported. “There are expectations that the decrease in resistance can be due to leaks in the [Iraqi security forces] or extremists might have seen an increase in helicopters in their areas prior to the operation.” US and Iraqi forces have killed or captured over 20 al Qaeda emirs during the first two days of the operation.
Al Qaeda in Iraq safe havens before the surge up until November 2007. Map from The Institute for the Study of War. Click to view.
Operation Iron Harvest is subordinate to Phantom Phoenix. Operation Phantom Phoenix is occurring in the area of operations for Multinational Division North, which spans the provinces of Diyala, Salahadin, Ninewa, and Tamin (Kirkuk). There are over 50,000 Iraqi Army soldiers, 80,000 Iraqi Police, 24,000 US soldiers, and 14,094 members of the Concerned Local Citizens functioning in Multinational Division North’s area of operations.
The operations were launched to “pursue and neutralize remaining al Qaeda in Iraq and other extremist elements,” said Major General Kevin Bergner, the spokesman for Multinational Forces Iraq. “This effort has been launched to disrupt terrorist support zones and enemy command and control, and is being carried out across Iraq.”