News reports from Operation Quick Strike are sparse. According to the Washington Post, the strke force consists of “180 Iraqi soldiers and 900 members of the 2nd Marine Division, backed by M1-A1 Abrams tanks, helicopters and jets.” This equates to about a company of Iraqi forces attached to a marine battalion. A car bomb factory containing six vehicles was uncovered in Haqlaniyah. According to the Kuwait News Agency, the Coalition is in control of the region targeted by Quick Strike, and operations are intensifying in Haditha:
The joint US-Iraqi forces tightened their grip on Haditha town and Al-Khafajiya village after having total control on the towns of Al-Haqlaniay, Barwana and Al-Hawaija Eyewitnesses told Kuwait News Agency (KUNA) today that MNF [Multi National Forces Iraq] wrecked Barwana Bridge over the Euphrates to isolate the gunmen in Haditha. American warplanes, the eyewitnesses added, intensely bombarded the gunmen’s locations in Al-Khafajiya village, which has been cut of power and water for three days.
The destruction of the bridge is suspect, as the US would want to maintain lines of communication across the Euphrates in order to conduct operations north. KUNA’s report also conflicts with a report from Tom Lasseter, which states Haditha was basically abandoned by the insurgents. Likely, the Marines are encountering insurgents left behind to engage the Marines while the core of the fighters escape. Colonel Bob Chase explains the movements of the insurgents along the Euphrates.
“When we did operations out west, the insurgents moved to the Haditha-Haqlaniyah area That area is a geographic crossroads where they can get north to Mosul and east to Ramadi and Baghdad. It has good urban terrain for them to melt into. And we are well aware there are still plenty of ammunition supplies from the Saddam Hussein era for them to make use of.”
The problem of insurgents picking up and moving as Coalition forces direct their attention at an area is a real source of frustration. This is clearly seen in the comments of Iraqi Army Sgt. Ahmed Waheed with respect to the insurgency in Haditha; “Back in the Iraqi formation, Waheed said he didn’t know where the insurgents were, but he was certain of one thing: “When we leave, they will come back.” ”
The limited operations currently being conducted on the Euphrates River do serve the purpose of the first phase of the Anbar Campaign, “to keep the insurgency off balance, disrupt the ratline along the Euphrates, deny the enemy complete freedom of movement and gather intelligence.” The enemy does not benefit by having to constantly remain on the move, wasting resources on finding a new home and abandoning established bases, weapons factories and depots.
The situation along the Euphrates will get mighty interesting when the Coalition decides it is time not to leave the dusty towns along the Euphrates. The insurgents and al Qaeda will be force to stand and fight or abandon their positions and move on to other locales, which will increasingly become occupied by Coalition forces. There will be nowhere to run.
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