The River War Continues

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.jpg

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.”

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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5 Comments

  • starling says:

    Bill,
    thanks, as always, for the informative post. I am left to wonder one thing: what took so long. Or put another way, why has there not been a projection of power in this area in the past. This is not a criticism, per se. I just wonder why this wasn’t or couldn’t have been done sooner.
    starling

  • Soldier's Dad says:

    “What took so long”
    IMHO, Mosul was a “model of success” up until November 2004. The proverbial “two steps foward”…retaking the seat of the insurgency Fallujah…came at a cost of 1 step back…temporarily losing control of Mosul..thereby shifting strykers from border patrol to city patrol.
    Once the elections took place, the Iraqi government made the conscious decision to focus on Baghdad(25% of the population and votes).
    The Iraqi minister of defense is also from a prominent tribe in the Al Anbar region. The quality of the intelligience on where Zarqawi’s crew might be hanging out has also probably improved.

  • leaddog2 says:

    The overall military strategy is working. It will lead to a Free and Stable Iraq. What is needed now is a strategy to eliminate the al-Queda Terrorist’s strongest political supporters. Emasculation would also be nice.
    Unfortunately, no-one has yet discovered how to safely eliminate Senators Durbin, Kennedy, Boxer, Shumer, Harkin and Kerry (other than elections)along with the likes of Dean & Moore.

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