The US military has released a statement that Operation Matador is over:
“Marines, sailors and soldiers from Regimental Combat Team-2, 2nd Marine Division successfully completed Operation Matador today, concluding a seven-day operation securing objectives in and around the Euphrates River cities of Karabilah, Ramana and Ubaydi, near the Syrian border,” a statement said.
The curious portion of this statement is that there is no mention of operations in the city of Qaim, even though heavy fighting has occurred there. It is unlikely the fighting is over. Matador has moved from the offensive stage of the operation (positioning and maneuvering the attack force) to the mop up phase.
The Hindustan Times backs up the assertion that there was a conflict between al Qaeda and the local tribes:
According to witnesses and the US military, the offensive triggered intense clashes in the town of Al-Qaim between fighters loyal to Zarqawi, Al-Qaeda’s frontman in Iraq and the most wanted militant in the country, and a rival Sunni tribe in the border city.
It must be remembered the local leaders in Qaim requested US intervention. It is possible the price to be paid was a commitment by the locals to fight the jihadis themselves. The tactics used in Qaim may be much like those used against the Taliban in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom: local fighters acting as the infantry while the US provides backup by cordoning the city and inserting Special Forces teams to coordinate air, artillery and other forms of support. This can explain why US forces have not entered the city.
Arthur Chrenkoff picks upon an item I noticed in my readings. “BBC destroying a town in order to save its spin.”
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I’ve mentioned elsewhere the buildup of Syrian troops on the border opposite Qaim. I thought it in response to the fighting but the English daily I quoted from Qatar said that the Syrians have been building up for 2 months.
And that they’re buidling up at Qaim where the Marines haven’t even actually entered the city.
Interesting. That coupled with the Marines meeting better equiped combatants with body armor and such, the Syrians may have built up in that area just so their resupply efforst wouldn’t be as obvious. This would jive with the inter-faction fighting taking place in Qaim; otherwise, the Syrians would have built up where the Marines were more active.
Interesting point, Ray. The Syrians are playing with some serious fire if they believe they can shield the support for the insurgents by deploying on the Qaim border. They take a serious risk of being burned resupplying the insugents using Syrian military units, as this is an overt act of support by the Syrian government. Very dangerous. For the Syrians.
Yesterday I had the pleasure of meeting and thanking my neighbors son who has just returned from Iraq and whose companies, outside of being redeployed for the Fallujah operation, primary area of operations was this specific area of the Syrian border.
To summarize our conversation: Syria is not only allowing terrorist personnel free access and movement across the border but they were also engaged in smuggling – in what he described as – ‘incredible’ amounts of arms and materials into Iraq. While charged with the interdiction of ‘smugglers’ .U.S. efforts were hampered to the point of futility, so swift moving and knowledgeable of the terrain were the ‘smugglers.’
Syrian tanks and armor have also been amassed along this area of the border and while U.S. forces could hear quite a bit of small-arms fire being issued from the Syrian side, the Syrian’s, themselves, were being extremely careful not to shoot across the expanse.
While U.S. forces, the administration and President Bush’s strategies, tactic’s and policies have been very effective to-date, I think both Iraq President’s Talbani & Bush need to send loud concerted and clear messages to Assad – along with a similar expressions to both Tehran and Riyadh.
My speculation on the Syrians is running more towards a canary in the mine than a force designed to actualy stop the Marines.
If any of our troops were to pursue a band of terrorists into Syria, inadvertently or otherwise, or if any of our aircraft were to fly over; they would have this force there. There might be a small conflict or, hopefully from the Syrians’ point of view, no conflict, just visual contact. Then the whole “international incident” ploy etc etc, all the while they continue to shiled for fighters coming and going.
Operation Matador in Northern Iraq
As most of you know, allied forces are sweeping through the north of Iraq near the Syrian border, and finding it surprisingly well fortified as they chew through their objectives. We have the roundup.