The Anbar Campaign Revisited

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.

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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  • Justin Capone says:

    How long do you think the third phase of operations will take?

  • Pete Paraschos says:

    Chester actually said, “Things are about to change dramatically in Anbar province.”
    That said, I think Chester and Bill are both right in their respective assessments of the situation in western Iraq.
    The establishment of the base at Rawah is a continuation–or better yet, an evolution–of the strategy that Bill has detailed brilliantly in recent months.
    And as Chester indicated, this base, in conjunction with ongoing operations, should lead to a dramatic change, or improvement, in the results of our counter-insurgency campaign in the Anbar province.
    Though it’s probably obvious in an in-between-the-lines kind-of-way, the dispatch of the Stryker unit from Mosul indicates that Iraqi government forces there must be performing well enough to enable the redployment of the Stryker unit in the first place.

  • Bill Roggio says:

    He also said “…we have the new Campaign for Western Anbar.”
    I viewed his post as indicating Quick Strike is a departure from the past and wanted to clarify that Quick Strike is merely the natural progression of the Anbar Campaign. I don’t think Chester and I disagree all that much, if at all. It may just be a matter of semantics. We’ve communicated in email prior to this post and he agreed with my take.
    Need to see how Phase 2 progresses, but think in terms of months or greater. Phase 3 will be a long process, perhaps the most difficult for the Iraqis.

  • ricksamerican says:

    Excellent post, as usual, Bill. I pray for the success of our troops, the Iraqi army, and the fulfillment of Zarqawi’s worst nightmare.
    I think you are right to be concerned about the media’s failure to portray the successes of the U.S. effort, but I can’t imagine any scenario in which public opinion polls (accurate or not) will effect the determination of George W. Bush to see this through. I just don’t see that happening. So, we have at least until Nov. 2008 to put finis to make Zarqawi’s nightmare a reality. I don’t think we should worry excessively about the negative press.

  • Patrick says:

    I tend to think we are seriously looking at a significant drawdown of troopers in late 2006 myself.
    My co-worker who is in Diyala Province with a Tennessee NG regiment,says they will NOT be replaced with American troopers when they depart in October,2005.
    According to this scenario,we have largely decided Mosul is in the hands of the IA and IP if the Stryker brigade has moved to Rawah. Remember the last time we moved the Stryker brigade? Mosul blew up like a bomb with terrorists,I have to trust General Casey and intell that the IA can secure that town now.
    Michael Yon is with the 1-24 there,I will watch for any views he has about Strykers moving south.

  • Dan tdaxp says:

    Very informative post. Thank you.

  • Justin Capone says:

    I worry because the media directly influences US recruitment and many other things quite important for keeping the war going. I also worry because public opinion polls in the US are one of the few things keeping the ex-Baathists going and something they can use to try to convince members of their community not to vote or join the political process is US support for the war evaporating. It also makes Syria and Iran a lot more willing to support the insurgency, because they can clearly see there isn’t political will in the US to do anything about it.
    I heard on NBC today that the Pentagon is drawing up plans the worst case scenario in which US troops would be kept at 139,000 for three years and that is very good news about the willingness to do what needs to be done in the worst case sitution. However, it will be very hard without public support and recruitment falling greatly.

  • ricksamerican says:

    You make good points. I agree this is an issue of concern, especially the possibilty that public opinion and recruitment are linked. But we are not going to change the mindset of the MSM, and they have consitently proven to be less influential and to have less power over our society than they (and some of us) imagine. With regard to recruitment, remember also that recruitment goals were raised for 2005, and that our armed services have not before faced the task of recruiting a volunteer force during wartime. If the Pentagon regards the worst case scenario as genuinely feasible, then things may not be so bad.
    If, in fact, “public opinion polls in the US are one of the few things keeping the ex-Baathists going” and “[what] makes Syria and Iran a lot more willing to support the insurgency,” then they are seriously misunderestimating George Bush, and operating under an illusion. Good. Let them think we are weaker than we are–that would be another weapon in our arsenal. Public opinion is notoriously fickle. GHWB had a 91 percent approval rating after Desert Storm–where did it go?
    It may be to our longterm advantage to have the Baathist diehards fighing now in the open rather than lying in wait to destablilize the country after some sort of exit has occured.
    Likewise, let Syria and Iran play their hands–there is little chance of them doing otherwise, anyway–better in Iraq now than elsewhere later. Flypaper.
    If Bill and others are right about the nature of the Anbar offensive, and if we are right about the efficiency and effeciveness of the American military, it will work to our advantage if the Jihadi take encouragement from unfavorable opinon polls in this country. Today’s capture of the IED factory and IEDs suggest that Quick Strike is likely to be as effective as the assault on Fallujah.

  • Mixed Humor says:

    Excellent analysis Bill…always appreciate a more detailed description than what the media offers, and you manage to accomplish that while preserving the broader context and perspective. Good read.

  • leaddog2 says:

    I agree that Bill does a great job. I just wish someone could see what we plan to do about Syria’s Terrorist bases and biological weapons as well as Iran’s coming nuclear weapons.
    The Demoncratic traitors inside the CIA say Iran will have nukes in 10 years. Since those same people lied about North Korea and Libya’s programs, their statement PROBABLY MEANS Iran will have a Nuclear weapon by Christmas of 2005 or definitely in 2006.
    If so, what do we do?

  • Justin Capone says:

    Eleven foreign fighters killed, hundreds arrested
    US and Iraqi forces have killed 11 foreign fighters and arrested 805 others throughout Iraq last week, a statement by the Multinational Force said Monday.
    The statement said joint US-Iraqi forces launched 182 operations in the week ending August 5th in different parts of Iraq. Some 109 explosive charge devices and 22 arms caches were seized.
    According to the statement, the joint force demolished a house laden with explosives in the town of Haklaniya west of Baghdad.
    In the city of Sadr near Baghdad, security forces arrested a 10-member terrorist cell. No further details were available.
    That is alot of foreigners.

  • Mixed Humor says:

    What estimates are out there on the actually number of foreign fighters in Iraq. The Brookings Institute has consistently placed this figure at 750-1,000. Some time back one of the Iraqi officials said he thought Zarqawi’s network (which is likely the majority of the foreign fighters) numbered between 1,000 and 2,000. I haven’t really seen any other attempts to assess the actual number of foreign fighters in Iraq.

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