Mop up operations continue in Fallujah, and the extent of the foreign jihadis’ involvement in the city comes to light. Iraq has attracted martyrs to al Qaeda’s cause, and American and Iraqi forces are helping them on their way to martyrdom.
Allawi said up to 400 insurgents have been captured, including fighters from Syria, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, and Morocco, but he gave no figures.
The First Infantry Division’s Task Force 2-2 has captured five foreign fighters and killed five, officers said, adding that many foreign fighters appeared to be fleeing. A group of men in Afghan dress were seen running away, the officers said. ”They’re leaving the native Fallujans to die in place,” Natonski said. The detainees included Palestinians, Jordanians, and Saudi Arabians.
The insurgents and terrorists that have fled Fallujah appear to be gathering in Ramadi, a town thirty miles west of Fallujah. General Natonski explains how denying Fallujah to the insurgency and the flight of fighters from the city exposes them to Coalition attacks, ”When they’re moving they’re vulnerable… They no longer have the sanctuary they used to have in Fallujah, where they could rest, refit, resupply, and go back out.” Unlike Fallujah, the jihadis will no longer have established fighting positions and months to prepare their defenses. Not that they were much help in Fallujah anyway.
Elements of the 2nd Infantry Division are occupying Ramadi, but the situation in the city is by no means secure. Coalition forces are able to conduct operations in the city to ferret out suspected insurgent strongholds, but the city will need to be cleared to dislodge them. Terrorists continue to use mosques as bases of operations, in violation of international law.
“Ramadi is really out of control, and they needed another infantry battalion in the city,” said Lt. Col. Justin Gubler, commander of the First Battalion, 503rd Infantry, at Combat Outpost. Up to 150 foreign fighters are in the city, he said. “We’ve seen an increase in their proficiency and their will to fight.”
Increasingly, troops are coming under fire from gunmen who either shoot from mosques or use them to hide after attacks, Colonel Gubler said. Under orders, soldiers cannot raid the mosques unless they are being used by insurgents for hostile purposes. But in the past 10 days, his troops have raided five mosques: Three were found to have been storing weapons, he said.
One mosque contained 50 sticks of TNT, 51 pounds of black powder, 88 mortar rounds, 30 artillery rounds, five rockets, and several machine guns. Inside another, troops found wires connected to a transceiver and running outside the building and into a youth center next door, attached to high explosives. That bomb was defused, and commanders suspect insurgents planned to destroy the building and blame a supposedly mistargeted American airstrike.
As was the case with residents in Fallujah, the insurgents are beginning to wear out their welcome with the locals in Ramadi.
While acknowledging the ferocity of the insurgents, Colonel Gubler draws optimism from some local residents who say they are growing weary of the foreign fighters who take over their homes. “We’re going to win the war,” he said. “It’s just a matter of time.”
Operations are being conducted in Mosul. Elements of an Iraqi Brigade and the Stryker Brigade are retaking police stations overrun by insurgents and conducting operations in neighborhoods where insurgents have been most active.
Baghdad, Baiji, Samarra, Baqubah Tal Afar, Lutafiyah and other towns are reporting an up tick in violence since the assault on Fallujah began. Coalition forces remain in control of the cities but assaults on police stations, Coalition forces and civilians are increasing. Military commanders believe this is an attempt to relieve pressure on the insurgents in Fallujah and create the perception of the power of the insurgency among the Iraqi people. At best, the attacks succeed in occupying police stations and murdering policemen and civilians, but the insurgents are quickly driven out and are alienating the local populations in the process.
The Washington Post reports an example of the brutality of the insurgents. The Iraqis security forces have shouldered a great deal of the casualties in an attempt to rid the nation of terrorists, and are a specific target as the insurgents recognize the Iraqi Security Forces are the real threat to their cause.
Interior Minister Falah Naqib grew emotional during a news conference in Baghdad while describing the killing of a Mosul police officer. “Yesterday in Mosul, they abducted a wounded member of the police from the hospital,” Naqib said. “They dismembered him.
“He was wounded,” he repeated. “They dismembered him, and then his remains were hanged in a public square until his fellow policemen were able to secure his body.
Close to 1,000 members of the interim government’s security forces have died in the insurgency. Intimidation of those who remain is a prime goal of the guerrillas. Naqib said that threats are directed not at recruits but at their family members. Kidnappings of recruits are also on the rise.
We are now witnessing the conquest of the Sunni Triangle, an event long overdue twenty months after the fall of Saddam’s regime. Wretchard refers to this operation as The River War, as the cities where insurgents are active are situated along the major rivers of Iraq. These cities sit astride the “rat lines” that provide a logistical chain from Syria and Iran to the insurgents in the heart of the Sunni Triangle. The map below will illustrate Wretchard’s point; his labeling of the conflict as The River War is apt.
The Sunni Triangle region of Iraq was supposed to be the operational area of the 4th Infantry Division during Operation Iraqi Freedom, but the division was denied permission to deploy from Turkey in the north and sat out the initial invasion. Regime loyalists, criminals and Saddam sponsored terrorists melted away from the battlefield during OIF and sought refuge in the Sunni Triangle.
Political solutions to the problems in the Sunni Triangle were sought by the Iraqi Governing council and the Interim government, but these attempts have failed. The Coalition and Iraqi government have demonstrated to the Iraqi people that the political options have been exhausted and have assembled Iraqi Security Forces able to participate in operations to establish government control. While the delayed timing of the pacification has fueled the resolve of insurgents, it has allowed the efforts to crush the insurgents to take on an Iraqi face. The Iraqis are committing to restoring order to their nation and have a stake in the outcome. While there is little doubt more American troops would have helped with restoring order sooner, it is beneficial in the long run with having the Iraqis actively participating in the restoration of order and their own liberation from the brutal coalition of terrorists and Saddam loyalists.
(Note: the map used in this post has been copied from Global Security. The cities and towns when insurgent activity and Coalition responses have been reported are marked by a red dot.)
Click on the map for a larger image.
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