Reports of the end of the Tal Afar offensive are greatly exaggerated. Reuters states an Iraqi brigade has launched a new operation in the city, “killing 40 insurgents and arresting 21 “terrorist emirs,” or senior insurgent leaders.” The Kuwait News Agency reports that eighty percent of the city is now under Coalition control, so there is still some heavy lifting to be done. The city was deemed safe enough that Iraqi Prime Minister Jaafari arrived to inspect the operations.
Initial estimates of the strength of the insurgency were around 350 to 500 fighters total. The best guestimate available on enemy casualties is now around 200 killed and 220 captured. Many of Sunday’s news accounts intimated the majority of the terrorists fled the city, but the high number of killed/captured in Tal Afar shows this is not the case. The Coalition estimate of insurgency strength may have been low, but the enemy has certainly taken a beating in Tal Afar.
Coalition commanders reiterated that Tal Afar is but the beginning of operations to restore order in the untamed regions of Iraq. According to Gen. Rick Lynch, “Tal Afar is just one piece of an overarching operation. We are not going to tolerate a safe haven anywhere in Iraq.” Iraqi Defense Minister Dulaimi has issued yet another warning to Syria; “The Syrians have to stop sending destruction to Iraq. We know the terrorists have no other gateway into Iraq but Syria.”
Pamela Hess reports on the success in Fallujah, and how it is a lesson for the Coalition; “The how-not-to-do-it part [of counterinsurgency warfare] is by now military lore: don’t allow insurgents to gain control of a city, and if they get it, don’t let them keep it. The safe harbor gives them status, legitimacy, operational command and control and a reach well beyond the city’s borders.” The key for the Coalition is to maintain momentum and continue the push into the heart of the Sunni Triangle along the Euphrates River, while conducting harassment attacks in as of yet unreachable regions such as Qaim. The terrorists must not be given the opportunity to reestablish bases of operations as has been done in Fallujah in the past or Tal Afar until recently.
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.