The commencement of Operation Quick Strike raises the question of whether operations in Anbar have taken a radical departure from past operations, or whether Quick Strike is the beginning of a new phase of the Anbar Campaign. Chester argues Quick Strike should be viewed separately from the spring/summer operations as the establishment of a base at Rawah and the repositioning of a Stryker Brigade from the Mosul theater is a major departure from either operations.
I disagree, for three reasons.
First, the repositioning of a Stryker Brigade was not done in haste, but requires long term planning. The Los Angeles Times indicates 1,800 U.S. troops have been moved to Rawah, and this requires significant planning, training, logistic support, intelligence as well as the proper evaluation of the situation in Mosul to be successfully executed. The decision to move to Rawah was not made in haste, but carefully considered months in advance.
Second, the movement into Rawah is but a part of the Coalitions efforts to establish a presence in the area and should not be view in isolation. Wretchard concurs that the operations are but a piece of a greater plan to uproot the insurgency in the Euphrates basin; “Visit each of Roggio’s links in his enumeration of the river operations and it will be abundantly clear how every one is aimed at pruning the routes along the Euphrates and horizontally across Iraq towards the Tigris.”
Third, Rawah is not the first Coalition operation north of the Euphrates (it is however the most significant to date). During Matador and Dagger, Marines operated north of the Euphrates River. Also, Marines are based at the Haditha Dam. While it is not explicitly stated if the base is north or south of the Euphrates, it is reasonable to surmise they are operating at both sides (the Haditha Dam would be a strategic target for al Qaeda, its the destruction would cause havoc down river and further delegitimize the Iraqi and US governments).
Quick Strike must be viewed as part of the Anbar Campaign. It is likely the beginning of the second phase [of the military portion] of the Anbar Campaign, which can roughly be outlined as follows:
Phase 1 – Preparing the battlefield. A series of search & destroy and cordon and search operations designed to keep the insurgency off balance, disrupt the ratline along the Euphrates, deny the enemy complete freedom of movement and gather intelligence. Outposts were established in the cities of Hit, Haditha, Rawah, Qaim and others in preparation to support Phase 2. During Phase 1, there wasn’t much effort to fully secure cities, but to establish a presence until Iraqi troops can be brought to bear. The establishment of the base for the Stryker elements in Rawah is likely the end of Phase 1; however future bases are likely to be set up north of the river.
Phase 2 – Driving the insurgents from the towns and cities. This phase will consist of the main offensive operations designed to pressure the insurgency and systematically drive them from their bases along in the Euphrates River. The Los Angeles Times neatly summarizes Phase 2 (as well as Phase 3):
The battle plan calls for U.S. troops to launch a series of raids, secure the area and bring in Iraqi Security Forces. Iraqi Defense Minister Saadoun Dulaimi referred briefly to the operation after meeting Thursday with President Jalal Talabani.
“Our forces will start from the Syrian border till we reach Ramadi, then to Fallouja,” he said. “We have taken precise measures on the ground and acquired the president’s approval to start the operation.”
Defense Minister Dulaimi indicates the drive will start from Syria and push eastward, but the establishment of bases in Rawah, Haditha and elsewhere with the purpose of conducting offensive operations indicates the Euphrates is being segmented and the push can be conducted from multiple directions.
Phase 3 – The occupation of the Euphrates towns and cities. Iraqi forces are operating with US forces in Anbar, usually a company of Iraqi troops attached to a US battalion, but the main offensive push will come from US Marines and soldiers. The Iraqi forces will secure the towns and cities when appropriate, freeing up US forces to conduct further operations.
The availability of Iraqi troops for Phase 3 and the political will of the Iraqi government to use them are very likely the most important items that has held up the transition from Phase 1 [prepping the battlefield] to Phase 2 [the offensive]. If Chester, Wretchard and I are correct that the Coalition has begun to conduct major offensive operations in Anbar, then this means the Iraqi government has committed to the battle and Iraqi Army is coming close to [if not already] being able to contribute significant units [battalion strength or greater].
This is Zarqawi’s greatest nightmare, and he stated as such in his letter to Osama in 2004; “With the spread of the Army and police, our future is becoming frightening If god forbid, the government is successful and takes control of the country, we just have to pack up and go elsewhere else [sic] where we can raise the flag again or die, if god chooses.”
The onslaught is coming late this summer or early fall, if it hasn’t already begun. The domestic insurgents and Baathists have an out – they can lay down their arms and accept the rule of the elected Iraqi government. al Qaeda and the foreign Islamists can only fight or flee, and either option spells defeat.
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