Coalition forces have encountered two hard days of fighting in the city of Rawah, located on the Euphrates River about 50 miles west of Qusaybah, which is situated on the Syrian border. Soldiers from the 1st Brigade, 25th Infantry Division’s Stryker Brigade Combat Team have moved into the city to interdict the ratline and establish a presence.
Elements of the battalion arrived here late Saturday night to set up a permanent combat outpost here. The move is part of an effort, involving Army, Marine, Air Force and special operations forces to prevent what is believed to be a strong presence of foreign terrorists from crossing the Syrian border into Iraq.
“We are here to project combat power into an area where there hasn’t been much in the past,” said Lt. Col. Mark Davis, commander of 2-14’s taskforce.
Marines with the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, who have clashed with insurgent forces over the past few months, will continue to operate south of the Euphrates. Davis’s task force will now be responsible for the area north of the Euphrates River along the border.
Rawah sits at a Strategic location along the Euphrates River. Numerous roads pass through this city: a major highway from Syria in the east to Baghdad in the west, and several roads running north to Mosul and the Kurdish provinces. The city also sits on a bend of the Euphrates River, and provides for the monitoring of river traffic. [Click map for larger image.]
The Stryker units are encountering resistance, including fighting positions, sniper fire and suicide car-bomb attacks (VBIEDs). Air strikes have been called in on enemy positions, a rarity these days.
The operation to establish a Coalition presence in Rawah is a continuation of what Wretchard referred to last fall as The River War. Since the fall of Fallujah in Novemebr of 2004, the Coalition has executed a serious of operations: Mosul, River Blitz, Matador, Cobweb, New Market, Thunder, Lightning, Spear, Dagger, Veterans Forward, White Shield, and Sword & Scimitar; all designed to push the battle into the heartland of the insurgency.
The violence generated by the insurgency is a direct reflection of this push. As the battle is brought to enemy territory, the battle is engaged. Casualties, suicide bombs and other “shows of force” by the insurgency are not the real news from Iraq. The real story is the steady movement of Coalition forces into the insurgency’s rear area – as COL Davis states, “project[ing] combat power into an area where there hasn’t been much in the past.”