The Scattering

iraq_matador_and_mosul.gifThe fallout of Operation Matador rains down in Northwestern Iraq along Mosul – Tal Afar axis, another ratline that most be severed in order to defeat the foreign support for the insurgency. After completing operations in the area on May 10, further efforts are made to uproot terrorists and interdict fighters fleeing from Qaim. Joint American and Iraqi units made 18 arrests from May 12 -13 during cordon and search operations in Mosul and Tal Afar, and 21 more were arrested in Mosul on May 15. Today, heavy fighting has been reported in Mosul:

U.S. troops and militants clashed in this northern city on Tuesday, with heavy exchanges of machine gun fire being heard, according to an Associated Press reporter at the scene.

U.S. forces were seen advancing into the eastern neighborhood of Dhubbat, a known insurgent stronghold in Mosul, 225 miles northwest of Baghdad.

Heavy machine gun exchanges were taking place in the area between militants and U.S. forces, said the AP reporter who witnessed the clashes from the rooftop of a nearby home. American helicopters were also seen circling overhead.

There is some confusion over the impact of the operation, as an American spokesman states no casualties were found. An Iraqi police commander in Mosul later stated the enemy took heavy casualties and were terrorists from Qaim:

Lt. Gen. Ahmad Mohammed Khalaf, commander of Mosul’s police forces, told a press conference later that U.S. aircraft destroyed two homes where the militants were holed up, killing 20.

He said U.S. soldiers fought 80 militants who had fled to Mosul from Qaim, a town near the Syrian border that was the scene of a recent weeklong American military operation aimed at destroying supporters of Jordanian-born militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

The arrival of fighters from the Qaim region tells us several things:

· Operation Matador has been successful in dislodging significant elements of al Qaeda from the region and disrupting their operations and supply lines.

· The local tribes in the Qaim region, with the assistance of US forces, have likely gained the upper hand against the foreign terrorists and have the capability to deny them the space to operate freely.

· Al Qaeda does not have the confidence to remain in the Qaim region in force; by fleeing they no longer view the area secure enough for basing their operation. Those on the run are subject to exposure to Coalition, as they are vulnerable while on the move and establishing new contacts.

· US forces are in pursuit mode, and are waiting for fighters to enter Mosul, as the recent arrests and operations suggest. As areas to the east along the Euphrates River and in the Sunni Triangle are under constant watch and often under attack, these areas are not secure enough for al Qaeda to establish bases. The Coalition has secured the Shiite areas to the Southeast and the Kurdish areas in the North. The Tal Afar – Mosul axis in the northwest is one of the few areas left for al Qaeda to run to.

Stars & Stripes discusses the efforts of the 1/25 Styker Brigade to patrol insurgent crossing points along the Tigris river in Northern Iraq. Only recently have the border patrols begun and there are no boat units to navigate the river (serious mistakes in my estimation, but ones that can and are being rectified).

Based on the past progression of military operations in Iraq, the attention being paid to securing the river crossing points and increased activities in Mosul, the Mosul – Tal Afar axis access will likely be the focus of a campaign to uproot al Qaeda’s infrastructure in the near future.

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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  • GK says:

    This pertains to the Newsweek topic :
    It appears that The Nation is defending Newsweek and Isikoff.
    At the same time, a search through their whole archives does not present one article that even condemns the 9/11 hijackers.
    This is treason and sedition. It is time the blogosphere took them on..

  • Soldier's Dad says:

    “The Nation Magazine”
    The nation has a paid circulation of 170,000. Which puts it on par with “Model Railroader” and “Petersons Bow Hunting”.(source //
    Having now done this research, I am encouraged that there are more Bow Hunters than Nation Readers. I wonder if the loonie left realizes it is outnumbered by Bow Hunters?

  • GK says:

    That is good to know. But they truly are treasonous and seditious. They are NOT just a view of the ‘other side’.

  • TCO says:

    I like reading your analysis (and am gung ho anti-insurgent, etc.), but have following questions:
    1. To what extent was the operation of insurgents in control of Qaim a step back from earlier stages of control (similar to Fallujah).
    2. This new “rat line” seems to be well north of the no fly zone and within Kurdish control, no? Why are the insurgents able to operate there?
    3. If you had some metric to describe “level of US control”, and you graphed it, what would you see? Have we consistently been going up since the invasion or have we had setbacks. Where are we now compared to previously?

  • TCO says:

    More questions:
    1. PBS/WaPO interview implies that we didn’t really catch that many insurgents. How serious is that? Won’t they just come back when the coordinated force is gone?
    2. (related) To what extent did the delay in river crossing, hurt the operation?
    3. (more related) Did we seal of the area? Surround it? Try to stop people from getting back into Syria?
    4. Strictly from a tactical sense, would there be some usefullenss in slipping accross the border in terms of operating around there? Do the Syrians have forces to stop us from doing that? (Ignoring the outcry, I’m asking if they could or likely would engage us militarily?
    5. What do you advise in terms of river boats and why?

  • Bill Roggio says:

    I will attempt to answer your questions.
    1. I do not understand your question, can you clarify? Are you asking if Qaim was under insurgent control and is no longer?
    2. The no fly zone no longer exists. I am going off of memory here, but I do believe the Mosul region was under control of Saddam, not the Kurds. Saddam still operated in the no fly zones with ground forces. It limited his capabilities.
    3. I think #3 is related to #1 some how. If you are asking about Iraq as a whole, whe have shrunk the areas insurgents could freely operate in the past six months. See my post “Brining It On” for more details. I do not judge success by # of attacks/carbombs, but by public support for the insurgency and the loss of area for insurgents to freely operate. Both of these have been positive for us. Int he reconstruction area we have had less success but the progress has gone forward.
    Second round of questions:
    1. I don’t put much stock in PBS/WaPO analysis, which is why I do my own. reports indicate 125 killed, 39 captured, but I suspect this is way low.
    2. I think it did hurt to some extent. Hard for me to know how much, however, but the reports from the MArines say it was significant.
    3. From my readings it appears we blocked known/obvious escape routes, and progressed westward, cordoning towns as we went. No area can be completely sealed.
    4. Of course, but ths has diplomatic problems. I have read reports where the Syrian Army had deployed to the area in force, making operations difficult from our perspective.
    5. I would have assumed we would have been patroling the river to some extent to keep the infiltrators heads down, inspect boats, prevent men and material from being run on the river, etc.

  • Mike says:

    In response to Gk…
    Whoever, when the United States is at war, shall willfully make or convey false reports or false statements with intent to interfere with the operation or success of the military or naval forces of the United States, or to promote the success of its enemies, or shall willfully make or convey false reports, or false statements, . . . or incite insubordination, disloyalty, mutiny, or refusal of duty, in the military or naval forces of the United States, or shall willfully obstruct . . . the recruiting or enlistment service of the United States
    under the World War 1 sedition act GK would be right in saying the actions of news sources such as NewsWeek and The nation could be considered seditious and therefore acts of treason.
    however, the United States of America has not yet actively declared war against Iraq, more to the point the war was declared “over more than a year ago” under this interpertation of the Sedition Act,the act is null and void as we are not currently at war, and therefore the writing of news sources are still protected under their first amendment rights: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” Which, for the record the sedition act is in direct violation of.
    –if you accuse someone of sedition you yourself are guilty of treason, you are violating the very first ammendment to the U.S. constitution–

  • TCO says:

    1-3 that were all confused: look, I know that you are saying that things are improving over the last 6 months. But is that a constant line of improvement or did they deteriorate earlier? (If so) did you post about and analyze that deterioration?

  • Mixed Humor says:

    Good writeup Bill, enjoyed the informative read. Michael Knights had an article back in February that discussed some of the ethnic problems faced in Mosul. I don’t necessarily agree with all of his conclusions, but he makes some good points and raises some valid concerns.

  • Bill Roggio says:

    Again, I do not understand the question; “did they deteriorate earlier” than what? My opinion is the situation in Iraq has improved markedly since operations in Najaf last summer (10 months). What “deterioration” are you referring to?
    Mixed Humor,
    Good article. This seems to as support to my theory that Mosul – Tal Afar will be the next area of operations.

  • TCO says:

    I mean over the course of the entire time since we took over the country. Since spring 2003. I’m trying to look at the big picture. Not just recent events. Is this thing a sin wave? A line?

  • Bill Roggio says:

    What is “this thing’? The insurgency? Iraq’s path to independence? The progress against al Qaeda? Reconstruction? The entire picture?
    I don’t think you can look at the situation in Iraq as a plot on a chart, there ar etoo many variables to look at it so simply.
    I’ve been blogging since March 2004 and did not write about events prior to this. I have discussed issues such as disbanding the Iraqi Army and feel there were positives and negatives. Perhaps you may want to read my Iraq catagory from the bottom up to get a feel for it. When I started in 2004, this was probably a low point in Iraq, as Sadr and Fallujah I flaired up. But as I reported then, action against Sadr and Fallujah had to be deferred for political reasons: the interim govt may likely have collapsed had we addressed at that time. So waiting to address Sadr/Fallujah had some positive effects as well. Again, I see the overall effort as improving steadily. The gains have clearly out weighed any setbacks.

  • TCO says:

    If “things” are getting better (basically insurgency) for the last 6 months, I want to understand how they get worse as well. For instance, it would be interesting to get your take on the 2003-2004 deterioration if you are saying, that happened.

  • Bill Roggio says:

    No offense, but you are making my brain hurt. You are speaking in riddles. What “2003-2004 deterioration” are you referring to? 2003- to Spring of 2004 was a pretty calm time. The rest I have mentioned. already.

  • TCO says:

    So 2003-spring2004 was quiet and similar (not getting worse or better). Last 6 months have gotten better. What happened spring 2004 to end 2004?

  • Bill Roggio says:

    Are you playing coy with me? Here are the major events from March to December:
    Fallujah I
    Sadr uprising
    Transition to Interim Government
    Crush Sadr rebellion
    Crush Fallujah
    Again, as I stated before, I discussed these in detail at the time. I strongly suggest you read my Iraq archives and start from the bottom. I cannot rehash this all for you right now. The information is a mouseclick away, go for it.
    Are you sure you ar enot Robert M. in disguse?

  • 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.

  • TCO says:

    Oh chill, I’ve got more time in than you and am still subject to recall in the reserves–my question is intellectual. I want to understand what makes things get better or makes them get worse and have the entire context.

  • Bill Roggio says:

    When I repeatedly ask for clarification on your questions, it is best you provide it, or I shall become annoyed. And I’m not sure what anyone’s time in service has anything to do with this. You mentioning this doesn’t impress me in the least.

  • TCO says:

    I mentioned it in response to your Robert M. gibe.

  • Squeeze Play

    Further offensive operations continue in Iraq as Iraqi Security Forces play a larger role in provided for their nation’s security.

  • Operation Spear in Anbar Province

    Operation Spear comences on the Syrian border, while the Coalition continues to make progress on the political front.


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