Another Ratline

Operation Matador has yielded little new information in the past 24 hours (Chester provides a roundup of some available news). The Washington Post rehashes the fierce fight in between Marines and terrorists in Ubaydi. This story has repeatedly made the rounds, and with a title of “Demise of a Hard-Fighting Squad” and a byline of “Marines Who Survived Ambush Are Killed, Wounded in Blast” one wonders if the purpose is to project defeat or weakness.

Zarqawi has reportedly released a new statement calling the assault on al Qaeda strongholds in Western Iraq “good news” but a full translation is not available at this time. In Northern Iraq, Coalition forces are conducting a series of raids and search operations northern Iraq. The operation is made up of Iraqi and American forces and is conducted along the Mosul – Tal Afar axis, another ratline from Syria:


Iraqi Security Forces and Multi-National Forces from 1st Brigade, 25th Infantry Division (Stryker Brigade Combat Team), detained 17 suspected terrorists during operations in northern Iraq May 10 and May 11.

Troops from the 22nd Battalion, 6th Brigade Iraqi Intervention Force alongside Soldiers from 1st Battalion, 24th Infantry Regiment, detained four individuals suspected of terrorist activity during a cordon and search operation in western Mosul. Iraqi Police arrested two curfew violators while patrolling in southern Mosul. Troops from the 3rd Division Iraqi Army detained an individual suspected of terrorist activity during a cordon and search operation northeast of Tal Afar. Suspects are in custody with no ISF or MNF injuries reported.

Soldiers from 2nd Squadron, 14th Cavalry Regiment, detained four individuals suspected of terrorist activity during a cordon and search operation southwest of Tal Afar. Multi-National Force Soldiers detained four individuals suspected of terrorist activity during a cordon and search operation west of Tal Afar. Soldiers from the 1-24th detained two individuals suspected of terrorist activity during cordon and search operations in western Mosul. Suspects are in custody with no MNF injuries reported.

There is no indication this operation is anything on the scale of Operation Matador, but this is an area that deserves close watching in the near future. Another area that deserves a watchful eye is the region east of Baghdad bordering Iran. Operation Cobweb was also launched last week in the Wasit Province (see a detailed Iraq map here). It was conducted by a joint Iraqi, American and Polish task force:

Soldiers from Multi-National Divison Central-South conducted Operation COBWEB to find and capture anti-Iraqi forces in the north part of Wasit province from May 6 – 10.

Soldiers from the 1st Polish Brigade Combat Team, the 8th Iraqi Division and the 19th Iraqi Brigade participated in this operation.

Twenty-nine terrorists have been detained, forty kinds of guns have been confiscated and explosive materials have been found. Clockwork time fuses, propaganda materials, including films that show executions of some Iraqi Internal Ministry officials, and other materials concerning anti-coalition and anti-Iraqi administration activities were also found.

Along with detainees, some uniforms which were used during executions, were found.

The tempo of American operations has been steady and deliberate since the offensive was reinitiated last summer. We have witnessed the methodical advance from Najaf in the South, Fallujah and the Sunni Triangle in the center, Mosul in the North, then back to the Triangle of Death south of Baghdad and along the Euphrates River west of Baghdad, and now in Western Iraq in Qaim. As the Kurdish areas in the north are relatively stable and policed by the Kurdish peshmerga, there are now two areas that have not encountered a significant operation designed to pressure the insurgency – the region around Tal Afar in the northwest, and the region northeast of Baghdad on the Iranian border, another area thought to be a conduit of supplies and manpower for the insurgency, compliments of the Islamic Republic of Iran (pages 18-19).

The Coalition’s strategic progression in Iraq has allowed them to husband their forces, gather actionable intelligence, and wait until the political situation is viable. US force limitations, the delays building the Iraqi Army, and local Iraqi political considerations no doubt all play a major factor in the design of the Coalition strategy to defeat the insurgency. But every military operation has its limitations, as there is never an unlimited supply of resources to draw upon. The ratlines in northwestern and eastern Iraq will be addressed when the military force, political will and intelligence is available to conduct the operation.

Click on the map for a larger image.

Note: This post has been corrected. Initially I mislabeled the operation in the north as Cobweb, when in fact Cobweb was the operation in the Wasit province.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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  • Soldier's Dad says:

    “Operation Cob Web”
    Operation Cob Web is in Wasit Province(MNF-South Central), Operation Fruit Brute is in Ninevah Province(Strykers),Operation Matador in in Western Al Anbar(Marines).
    No word on any TF Baghdahd or TF Liberty ops.

  • Marlin says:

    Solomon Moore’s article from the LA TImes today provides further confirmation that the locals in the Al Qaim area do not like the Al Qaeda types that have taken over their neighborhood recently.
    “You know this is the main road. From here the terrorists come from Syria, and they can go all the way to Mosul,” said Mohammed Salah Sulayman, a retired professor who was also being detained. “The terrorists, they move into our houses in the night. We can’t do anything. Most of these people here came to my house because they can’t go to their own homes.”
    Other residents also described, in halting English, how foreign fighters intimidated the community.
    “Most people here are like me,” Rashash said. “You can’t love these people who come in your house, in your garden. Who would want this? We are glad the Americans are here.”

  • Bill Roggio says:

    In progress, Marlin. I am ahead of you for once.

  • Bill Roggio says:

    Soldier’s Dad, see my note on the correction to Cobweb and this post. Thanks for the heads up.

  • Joshua Chamberlain says:

    1/24 Infantry is the unit Michael Yon is embedded with and his blog’s about.


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