The Matador’s Sword

Click this link to see the map of the area of operations. This map highlights (in pink) the towns where fighting was reported and was shamelessly copied from Belmont Club.

Operation Matador is being carried out by three companies of Marines with an attached armored company, making it an armored battalion (Chester has more on the Marine units). This battalion will be supported by Air Force, Army and Marine aviation units consisting of Cobra and Apache helicopters, C-130 Spectre gunships, fighter-bombers such as F-18s and F-16s, and a host of unmanned aerial vehicles such as the new ScanEagle man-portable drones. A Marine battalion is already positioned in Qaim (Qusaybah on the map) and a recon platoon has been deployed to Rabit to act as a blocking force for fighters that may flee to the Syrian border.

The area of operations appears to be within a narrow corridor along the banks of the Euphrates River, surrounded by desert to the north and south, and the Syrian border to the west. According to reports from the Los Angeles Times, the Marine battalion crossed the Euphrates River from the south to strike in the town of Ubaydi and are prepared to sweep west, driving the terrorists towards the Syrian border and the American blocking force positioned in al Qaim (south of the Euphrates) and Rabit (north of the Euphrates).

There may be some confusion in the reporting, however. New indicates the entire battalion has moved across the river, but the Guardian reports heavy resistance was encountered in “villages on the southern side of the Euphrates.” The Marines would need to be south of the river to engage them in the towns of Karibilah, Jaramil, Khutaylah, Balujah and Ushsh, unless this “heavy resistance” is really in the form of harassing mortar, rocket and sniper fire. As these towns sit along the main road to Syria, it is likely the Marines are pressing west to drive the enemy towards Qaim. Reports indicate intelligence believed the insurgents were positioned north of the river, so elements may have moved back south across the Euphrates to engage the enemy.

According to the New York Times, the operation has been in the planning stage for some time, but the impetus for action came from local intelligence and information gleaned from the arrest of Zarqawi’s lieutenants; “American officials said that the offensive had been a long time coming but that it was spurred by a fresh batch of intelligence gleaned from Iraqis who live in the area as well as interrogations of newly captured aides to Mr. Zarqawi, the most wanted terrorist in Iraq.” Cascading effects from the arrests of terrorists are seen in Iraq as well.

Col. Stephen Davis states; “The insurgents we’re fighting today are not the guys getting $50 to put [a roadside bomb] on the side of the road  These are the professional fighters who have come from all over the Middle East. These are people who have received training and are very well-armed.” The insurgents are fighting to the death from bunkers, basements and other concealed positions that do not provide for easy escape. Similar tactics were used by dead-enders in Fallujah, and similar results – the enemy’s defeat – will occur during Operation Matador, dealing yet another blow to al Qaeda’s jihad in Iraq.

Also Read:

Donald Sensing reports that Operation Matador may help assist with fracturing the fragile Islamists – Baathists alliance.

Blackfive (with a new and sharply designed site) has video and images of Iraqi and Coalition forces discovering an IED as well as other equipment netted in raids.

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


  • Ryan says:

    Does this operation really matter that much Bill? You’ve posted details on here about dozens of operations against insurgents and the insurgency continued after each one of them. I’m sure the military has great equipment and performs very well. Our soldiers are courageous, brilliantly trained and perform admirably under pressure.
    But every time it seems like hundreds of fighters are killed and the insurgency continues the same way it was before. It seems like they are all being replaced. According to General Myers, they are not gaining strength but not losing it either. This month has had the highest casualty rate so far of any month since the election and most of them have been killed in the standard places like Baghdad, Fallujah, Samarra, etc. where operations to root out fighters have already been conducted. It seems to be the case that the Sunni population is still harboring them. Otherwise, they would all be turned in. The foreign terrorists would not be able to exist in Iraq without being harbored and supported somewhere in the country. It seems like they are the reinforcements that the Sunnis are bringing in to further their sectarian conflict against the Shiites and Kurds. It has not proven to be the case over the last 2 years that the flow of fighters was ending so why would it be the case over the next 10.
    The United States is not going to stick around forever. There will not be the public support for it. Eventually, the security forces are going to have to do the bulk of the work. Whether there will be a Civil conflict is still up in the air but, unfortunately for the people of Iraq, it appears to be a strong possibility since there appears to have been no change at all in the situation in the Sunni triangle over the past 2 years. Syria, Iran and Al Qaeda are also meddling as well as the old Baathists who are still present. Iraq is going to have a really tough time making itself secure for a VERY long time. I wish them luck but they may need nothing short of a miracle.

  • Bill Roggio says:

    I guess standing pat is a better strategy? You prefer to allow them to have a free run across the boarder? This brings us closer to victory how?
    Yes it does matter. Najaf and Fallujah are pretty silent these days, and Mosul is relatively quite as well. When was the last time you heard about “the Traingle of Death” or the Sunni Triangle being called a “NoGo Zone”?
    The insurgents can always detonate car bombs, but they no longer control these areas. We are finally getting to the roots of the insurgency, the regions of Western Iraq (not the Sunni Triangle) that provide the lines of communication to the insurgents. The war is now being fought on their own home turf, and they cannot stand up to us on the battlefield. But they are still trying, to our advantage. The Sunnis need to make a decision soon. Either they will resist the other 80% of the population, or they will eject the foreign fighters and begin to cooperate with the government. We are seeing many examples of the latter.

  • Ryan says:

    Najaf is quiet. Sadr isn’t causing any more problems for now because he wields some influence within the United Iraqi Alliance. Fallujah isn’t quiet. It was for a while but troubling is starting there again. 3 troops have been killed in the outskirts of Fallujah this month. The Triangle of Death is still very dangerous as is most of the Sunni Triangle.
    No, standing pat is probably not a very good option. But offensive operations don’t seem to be working well either. It seems like nothing really works.
    This a key point in this conflict. The way the Sunnis turn is going to determine what happens. If they start turning the foreigners in, rejecting their brutality and stop cooperating with the old Baathists, slow progress can be made. But it still isn’t guaranteed to bring the insurgency to a close. There have been a couple positive examples of this but not nearly enough.
    The worst case scenario is that the Shiites start responding to the massacres of their civilians by killing Sunnis and creating a Civil War scenario. This hasn’t happened yet except for 1 instance and there’s a good chance it won’t.
    Unfortunately, probably the most likely scenario is that violence will persist in the same areas. It may be reduced a bit like the last 2 months but probably not signifantly. The Iraqi security forces will then have to try to handle is burden against better trained Baathist forces.
    This is the whole reason I think this war was a mistake and I didn’t want to go in. Couldn’t the administration have anticipated Sunni opposition? Couldn’t they have anticipated that provinces that were benefitting from Saddam would still be loyal to him? Couldn’t they have anticipated that 150,000 troops was not enough for a country this size? Or that disbanding the old army was a bad idea? It wasn’t though. Before the war, rose-colored glasses dominated and the belief that everything would be perfect after the invasion was promoted fervently by the Neo-Cons. Realism is not evident anywhere in this administration and this sobering mistake has not changed this fact at all.

  • Ryan says:

    Conservative commentator Donald Sensing, in his column, actually debunks the conservative myth of the Al Qaeda relationship with the Baath Party before the War, stating that they are enemies and do not share common goals and that they simply share a relationship of convenience for this conflict. If they would “turn on each other” after the war as Donald Sensing claims, then it is unlikely that they were friends that never turned on each during the years of Saddam Hussein being in power.
    “One happy outcome of this operation, besides simply reducing the number of terrorists (100 reported killed just now on news) and diminishing their havens, is that it may drive the Baathist insurgents, known as FREs (for “former regime elements”), away from their alliance of convenience with the Islamist terrorists. The Baathists are secular-oriented socialists with little truck for the strict religious fundamentalism of al Qaeda. They have been working together only because they each hate America and democracy, but at bottom they hate each other, too. In fact, were they to succeed in dislodging the United States from Iraq (ain’t gonna happen) at some time thereafter they would turn on one another.”

  • Bill Roggio says:

    Ryan, some of us supected things would be that easy. including many neo-cons. You don’t take on a project like Iraq without paying a cost. I actually was shocked the ground war was won so easily. The problem was that we never had a chance to clean out the Western areas during OIF.
    Concerning Donald Sensing’s remarks, he does nothing of the sort. He is referring to the current relatioship between FREs and al Qaeda/jihadis. However he did not mention the FREs such as al-Douri, who have sworn aligiance to Zarqawi. There is another element that you missed. Dan Darling has docuemnted this well.

  • Ryan says:

    If the Northern front from Turkey had been allowed to be used, the army might have been able to clean out more of the Fedayeen in the Sunni triangle than it did. They may also have disappeared and blended in the same way though. You never know. But I do have a feeling that we’d be in a much better position today if there had been a Northern front.
    No northern front and also the fact that the Iraqi army was immediately disbanded and the old soldiers were forced to do something for money were the 2 factors that led to the beginning of the insurgent movement. What happened after that was constant with other revolutionary movements of the past. Once it had begun, other people started taking up the cause. Recently, like with other insurgent movements, it is being hijakced by the most extreme element of it that never really had a part in its founding. The problem is that, once the ball is already running, it is very difficult to stop it.

  • Avi says:

    “Does this operation really matter that much Bill?” asks Ryam
    Yes, Ryan, it really does. It matters a lot and I really appreciate the analysis Bill provides.
    Ryan: you do not have the visibility of our commanders in the theatre, and neither do I. All we can do is make inferences, and Bill does a splendid job here. But even with my limited visibility, based on Bills and Belmont Club, I can see a strategy unfolding and an insurgency in retreat. First, we limited their action to the “Sunni Triangle” from the whole Iraq. This gave us a clearly delimited area of operation, instead of the “whole country”.
    Next, we took over their “bases”: Fallujah, Ramadi, Samarra, Mosul, etc. They were the big cities “owned” by the insurgents, where they were really running the city affairs and provided an industrial base (factories, workshops) to the insurgency car bomb, artillery, repairs, etc. As well they were a recruiting and training camp. They are no more these things.
    And this latest operation is about interdicting “supply” rat lines from Syria, to what was supplied before by the cities.
    It is all a single pincher movement strategy, where we collapse their area of operation and possibilities, slowly but surely.
    So, it matters – yes it does if you take the effort to analyse and infer the big picture – and filter out the noise from the MSM.
    And in

  • Tinker says:

    When we marched through Germany, you could have made the same argument – yeah, we’re wiping out tons of Nazis, but they just seem to keep on coming, so what’s the point? The point here is that we’re finally striking at the Syrian border, smacking them in their “safe” staging areas, and anti-jihadi intelligence info is pouring through the new Iraqi “Drop-A-Dime-On-A-Local-Child-Murdering-Foreign-Jihadist” Program probably faster than we can process the info.
    No wars or battles progress in an orderly fashion according to some master game-plan. Wars are a series of catastrophes leading to victory. Did the general who ordered the (casualty-free) bombardment of Fort Sumpter have any idea that 5 years later 600,000 Americans would be dead and a million wounded or crippled? When Japan hit us at Pearl Harbor, and Germany declared war in response, do you think they had even an inkling of what their cities, including Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Tokyo, Berlin or Dresden, would look like 5 years later?
    We’re in a fight with religious fanatics that would make the followers of Nazi, Bushido or communist doctrine look like a bunch of panty-waists. We’re in an alley knife fight with someone who simply wants us dead or living as their slaves. No negotiations accepted, no compromises sought. All or nothing for one side or the other.
    So what’s it going to be for you, for us?

  • GK says:

    New militants are recruited to Al-Waeda continuously. Every now and then we need to destroy them, and wait for more.
    Eventually, the twin forces of democracy in Iraq, a booming economy in Iraq, and our increasing efficiency in killing Al-Qaedans will exhaust the supply.

  • Ryan says:

    Comparing Iraq to World War II is not a very good comparison at all. If you want to compare it to an American victory that is a bit similar, compare it to the campaign against the Aguinaldo’s insurgency in the Philippines at the beginning of the century.
    It’s very possible that that will be the case eventually. Family revenge is very common in the Middle East though and killing one jihadi in Iraq may lead to him being replaced by a brother or cousin who is trying to avenge his death. This isn’t Vietnam though. The insurgency doesn’t have the popular support or manpower like Vietnam. This one is probably winnable because the enemy is limited but the progress over the last 2 years has been very disappointing. 80% of the population has produced few or no insurgents at all. If the Shiites and Kurds were fighting too, it would be a totally different story.

  • Ryan says:

    In this article about something negative, something positive is shown. It speaks of a Sunni governor being kidnapped and then says that Al Zarqawi’s group is requesting a release of his followers that were held by this man’s tribe. This shows that at least this Sunni tribe isn’t too happy with having Al Zarqawi’s men around.

  • Bill Roggio says:

    The Viet Cong didn’t win in Vietnam, North Vietnam did. The VC was crushed during Tet, never to emerge as a force in South Vietnam again.
    And every Iraqi that dies in a car bomb, etc. has a brother and cousin….it cuts both ways.
    Tinker’s point is valid, he is discussing the phases of operations that lead to ultimate victory.

  • ricksamerican says:

    “. . . and the insurgency continues the same way it was before.”–Ryan
    There is definitely a pattern here. Bill posts a brilliant commentary, and Ryan is first up, eager to go “oh, yeah.” There is no possible way that anyone who has been paying attention, could think the insurgency has gone on unchanged by its contact with the incomparably effective American miltary. Can you imagine Ryan’s commentary on Grant’s campaign against Lee. If he had been around–and listened to–the Stars and Bars would be flying proudly over the capitol in Richmond tonight. I for one admit to growing tired of everyone expending so much time and energy playing this game–because it really has started to show all the signs of a game–as in Games People Play–unproductive behavior that serves only to keep the star player happy because he’s getting attention and feeling powerful.
    Bill’s posts are some of the most informative and interesting in the blogosphere, and most of the commentors add a great deal to the discussion, but I am tired of untangling the messes that Ryan weaves into the comments. It takes too much time.
    He has found a home here, and I am sorry if he’s lonely, but life is too short to indulge him endlessly.

  • GK says:

    Agreed. He never did explain his drive-by statement that Eason Jordan deserves to get his job back.
    I usually only reply to Ryan if Bill does.

  • Ryan says:

    I’m telling the unfortunate reality of how it is ricksamerican. After a lull in casualties over the past 2 months, they are now back up to their average levels of over 2 per day.
    I’m not trying to ruin anybody’s brilliant commentary. I’m just posting an opinion supported by quantitative facts and looking critically at a very complicated and difficult situation. You can bask in ideological illusion that the insurgency is being crushed if you want but the numbers do not show that right now. General Myers also does not believe that to be the case.
    I do nothing to feel “powerful”. I only choose to express my opinion. I am not playing any game but am active on this board simply because it is intellectually stimulating and a learning experience for me. It is unfortunate that my opinions have garnered such disrespect.
    It is apparent that I am unwelcome here so I will not continue to post.
    Bill, your research has been very insightful. Good luck with the board in the future.

  • Avi says:

    “After a lull in casualties over the past 2 months, they are now back up to their average levels of over 2 per day…You can bask in ideological illusion that the insurgency is being crushed if you want but the numbers do not show that right now” – says Ryan
    Ryan, just so that you get something out of your visit to this site: Your view of the fight as static, based on casualty numbers, constitutes a huge anlytical fallacy.
    You are looking at a multidimensional war and you see and measure just one dimension – casualties. In WWII, the highest american casualties numbers were at the very end, at the Battle of the Bulge. If you were to analyze that, you would have concluded we lost.
    Here is what else you should look at and measure: How close are the insurgents from acheving their goals of total control over Iraq? How much territory do they control now as opposed to last summer? How much stronger is the Iraqi govnmt now as oposed to last summer?
    Measure in a multidimensional space and read this blog to help you get a more accurate view of the big picture.

  • Moqui says:

    Bill, a question: If the strategy is to drive the insurgents ever westward, then what of Syria? Is this strategy ultimately aimed at the other Baath party? It seems that Syria will finally have to quit playing footsy and finally declare a side. Will they allow the insurgents to flee into their country unhindered, or will they stop them? And, if they do not stop them, will the Marines offer hot pursuit?

  • M. Simon says:

    Typically these types of wars are not won with one blow.
    Even against regular forces no single defeat ends resistance until the last defeat.
    It is always a contest of wills. The enemy will keep scraping up forces until there are no more forces to scrape.
    Think of the Indian Wars in North America.
    It looks like we have figured out a war winning strategy. Clear out opposition. Train a local army. Install democracy. Hold on until the democrats and the army are well established.
    Give hope to all the democratic oppositions around the world to encourage more Rose and Orange Revolution.
    All we have to do to win is to stick to our game.
    Perseverance furthers.

  • eriqbre says:

    i think the main problem that people lose sight of is that this war on terrorism is not one with clearly definable battles, battlefields, rules or anything else that traditionally defines a military conflict. it’s a completely asynchronous battle and while from time to time it may seem that we never make any headway in the war on terror we have to understand that this will be a long drawn out fight that isn’t going to end in a few months or even a few years. additionally, it will be fought on so many different levels that we may not even be aware of.
    given all that, the current battle in iraq seems to be doing a very effective job of keeping the terrorists off balance and that’s a good thing. no, it won’t end the fight but it does deny a previously safe haven from which they will need to first try and recover before mounting effective offensive operations again. remember, you can’t go on offense if your enemy is in your backfield

  • Bill Roggio says:

    Syria is being pressed. Remember Lebanon, and put this into perspective. Assad now has hard choices to make, particularly since this administration has shown the resolve to follow through on its threats.
    The Marines can cross into Syria in hot pursuit, this is legal based on my understanding of war. Syria in no uncertain way wants this to happen.
    M. Simon, Well said.

  • 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.

  • Post-EMP Blogging Lessons from Pundita

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  • socialism_is_error says:

    I believe it would be a shame if Ryan abandoned this site.
    He may or may not be conscious in his method, but he provides an excellent example of the most challenging style of argument (and thus, the most frustrating, as ricksamerican reveals): the fighting retreat. This technique, in my view, forces us to practice patience and flexibility of response, although I can certainly understand one’s occasional fatigue.
    As he is desperately trying to salvage his original tenet of the utterly and quickly doomed U.S. effort in Iraq, an attentive reader can see that, as the progress of the mission continues and deepens, Ryan is steadily reaching for increasingly improbable “what ifs” to maintain his position.
    Although he is, as he said, learning from this experience, this learning may ultimately exceed his expectations and lead in unexpected directions. So, cheer up! As the little girls said for Shake and Bake, “…and we he’ped!”

  • says:

    Stuff from the war

    A few links to some interesting war related stuff, from Fallujah to today.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment returns from Anbar

    The 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment began arriving back at Camp Lejeune on 16 September, after a seven month deployment in Anbar province, Iraq. In February the unit was deployed to the Iraqi-Syrian border, where they took part in three major comba…


Islamic state



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