“Our goal right now, we feel we’ve broken their back and their spirit, is to keep the heat on them.” Lieutenant General John F. Sattler, Commanding General, I Marine Expeditionary Force
Coalition forces are in the mop-up phase in Fallujah. Pockets of resistance are still being encountered, mainly in Jolan in the northeast and in Shuhada in the southeast (map). The insurgents’ attempts to break out of the cordon around the city have failed, and the enemy is beginning to surrender. Coalition forces are pressing the attack in the south to finish them off.
US Secretary of State Colin Powell, speaking to Arabic satellite television Al Arabiya, said US-led forces wanted to complete the operation quickly then move swiftly to rebuild the city. “Right behind those coalition forces are reconstruction teams, are hospital teams, and ambulances, and food, and humanitarian equipment and supplies to help the people of Fallujah.”
Violence has flared up in Mosul, and a Stryker battalion is being diverted from Fallujah to the northern city. Four battalions of the Iraqi National Guard, which were patrolling the Syrian and Iranian borders, have also been dispatched to Mosul to restore order. The commander of the local police has been relieved from duty and the chief of the anti-crime unit was assassinated.
The move of the Stryker battalion from Fallujah to Mosul indicates the Coalition is confident in the situation in Fallujah. Fallujah is a high priority and a significant amount of time, planning and resources has been devoted to success. The move, along with the redeployment of the four Iraqi National Guard battalions from the borders, also underscores a lack of resources in Iraq. There does not appear to be a strategic reserve of troops available to conduct an operation the size of Fallujah without pinching units from other areas. This problem will subside as additional Iraq Army and National Guard units come on line, but the current operations being conducted in the Sunni Triangle will expose this weakness.
The insurgents are attacking in areas such as Mosul in an attempt to draw resources from Fallujah and demonstrate their movement still has teeth. Zarqawi has issued a tape urging fighters in Fallujah to continue the struggle and is claiming victory is assured in Fallujah (it looks like Zarqawi has joined the “reality based community”). Zarqawi’s al Qaeda in Iraq organization is teaming up with two other terror groups.
Also Friday, another well-known Iraqi militant group, Ansar al-Sunnah Army, claimed in a statement on its Web site to have joined forces with al-Zarqawi’s group and the Islamic Army in Iraq, which claimed responsibility for kidnapping two French journalists who remain missing.
While the cooperation between the groups will expand their resources and make them more formidable, this will expose the groups to infiltration. Terrorist groups maintain operational security by operating in small groups, or cells, with limited knowledge and contact between cells. The larger a terror network becomes, the greater chance a high-ranking member with detailed knowledge of the organization is captured or flipped. The merger may also be occurring for practical reasons. Large numbers of terrorists are being chewed up in Fallujah, and there may be manpower problems for al Qaeda in Iraq.
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