A Fresh Offensive in Tal Afar

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.

34 Comments

  • Jamison1 says:

    What is this “final battle” that the z-man is talking about?

  • James says:

    This whole thing has been making me sad. The political sitution is [edited], the Constitution will only make matters worse, we have pro-Iranian parties running that like nothing better then to watch US forces bloodly themselves to a pulp against the Sunnis as they build their militias. Iran has dominion over good areas of Southern Iraq, al-Qaeda has dominion over large areas of western Iraq. We can’t even put 20,000 extra troops in for the elections because of a hurricane and support for the war is almost gone in the US.
    Insurgencies can go on for decades, and the Shia have shown very little interest in doing anything but build up their militias. If Jaafari and Harkim got their way I would worry they would disband the Iraqi Army tomorrow.

  • PeterArgus says:

    James:
    I think a number of your statements are inaccurate or downright false (like “al-Qaeda has dominion over large areas of western Iraq”) but understandable considering the absolutely relentless negativism coming from the media. The souring that has occured over the past 2 or 3 months is even trickling down to some of the war’s most stalwart supporters. See for example today’s Foxnews.com report on “Bush Supporters Question Iraq”. Read the article if you want an idea of the frustation coming from conservative quarters as well as some of the absurdly contradictory advice given (increase troop #s! No decrease troop #s! Establish timelines! etc). I admit I am a bit flummoxed by all of this. One year ago, the coalition had just beaten down a rebellion in the Shia provinces by Sadr, virtually all of the Sunni Triangle was a terrorist haven with Fallujah as its capital, and it seemed a pipedream to believe that Iraq would have a vote in 4 months. Now Fallujah is virtually free of terrorists (how do I know? Well if you aren’t getting any news from the MSM about it then it must be quiet), Mosul, which was the next insurgent haven, has turned the corner (please James, read Michael Yon’s posts – by far the best journalist in all of Iraq), the terrorists have been pushed to the border where they have been taking a terrible beating from our soldiers with significant help from the new Iraqi Army and some of the tribes, and Sunnis (!) are registering to vote in record #s.
    Much has been written about the Iraqi Constitution and much of it I don’t know how to evaluate. In fact I think that probably no one in this country can probably give a reasoned assessment. I think it is quite possible to interpret issues like the role of Islam in Iraqi governance, and the rights of women, from both the glass is half full and half empty perspectives. At this point I would consider it a very big victory if a large # of Iraqis vote on the constitution and continue to accept negotiated solutions to their problems rather than the age old Mid-East approach of violence and despotism.
    Yes, the Iranian influence is problematic. I can only hope that in the end a majority of Iraqis will reject their infiltration.
    Well I may be in that 40% or fewer who continue to support this war. And a million things can still go wrong but I still think we are on the right track.

  • Rookie says:

    I must say that I’m puzzled; yesterday all news agencies (mainly 1-2, AP-AlReuter, because if you look at MSM is the same news again and again, same phrases, same “alleged terrorists”) cited a military guy from Baghdad, something like “the enemy decided to bail out”; today, we find out that rat’s killing is still going on….
    1. The military guy did not know whats happening and maybe he can remain silent for a while.
    2. The agencies are batantly saying lies (no news here, but bias is one thing, lie is other)
    3. The terrorists went to the tunnels, got afraid of the dark and come back. Not funny, no?
    I mean one day and 40 killed (disregarding 20 “emirs” arested, there everyone who has a goat in his bedroom is an emir…) is huge succes, at this rate. But I’m taking this news with a grain of salt…

  • The threats and ridiculous claims of the terrorists (see link) underscore the beating they have received at Tal Afar. I am quite encouraged by the news out of this assault.

  • Soldier's Dad says:

    Rookie,
    “Terrorist bailing out”
    The fighting was confined to a single neighborhood in TalAfar yesterday. Today, the ISF and MNF are focusing on a different neighborhood. Pretty basic technique, encircle the whole city, divide it into sections, seal a section off, go house to house thru one section, move on to the next section.

  • coldoc says:

    The Taliban “spokesmen” really “talked a lot of TRASH” right before the boogied out of Afganistan. Recall Mullah Omar challanging President Bush to a duel with AK-47s, and daily briefings by their spokesman in Pakistan. The MSM ate it all up and presented this information as the gospel. Then the whole world was surprised when the Taliban ran for the hills.
    I see a similar thing happening in Iraq. The z-man’s minions are talking a LOT of Trash and the MSM is eating it up. Meanwhile the insurgency is “advancing to the rear”.. in the direction of Syria.

  • hamidreza says:

    As per al-reuters (reporter Nuredeen)
    “Our patience is running out with Syria,” the
    U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad, told a news briefing at the U.S. State Department in Washington.
    “It simply must close the (guerrilla) training camps. It should not allow youngsters misguided by al Qaeda, from Saudi Arabia, from Yemen, from North Africa, to fly into Damascus international airport,” he said.
    I wonder why the US does not cruise missile a few of Syria’s electric power generation plants and hydro turbines, especially those feeding Damascus. This will cause minimal human casualties, but massive hardship for Syrians. Assymetric warfare works both ways. Once they are repaird, bomb them again. Also a few cruise missiles sent to Assad the optician’s palaces.
    In the meanwhile the US should feed video evidence regarding Islamofascists infiltration via Syria to the MSM.

  • hamidreza says:

    On December 7, 2001 the MSM interviewed one-eyed Molla Omar – supreme ruler of Afghanistan, who said “my biggest regret is that the US is not landing the Marines, so we can battle them one-on-one.”
    On December 14, 2001, Molla Omar was spotted fleeing on a one-cylinder Honda motorbike. He has never been heard from since.
    hehehehhhhe

  • Justin Capone says:

    hamidreza,
    The Syrian government is close to the brink of collapse, many people think that even a medium level attack on mostly terrorist training camps could cause the government to collapse and Syria to become a failed state. So, anything we do with Syria is a gamble.
    I do think al-Qadea in Iraq is hurting right now and hurting badly, but I also think Iran is stronger then ever and is kill British soldiers each week almost with their shaped charges.
    Iran wants us gone so it can bring tens of thousands of troops into southern Iraq and take over. Right now we are simply helping Iran, by fighting their enemy and weakening them and ourselves. Once Iran feels it is strong enough it is going to try to force us from Iraq. I suspect they will try to pull of a Beirut against US forces. If I were US war planners I would be very worried about that.
    If the Sunnis chose to vote in December in high numbers it would go further then anything to solving all these problems. But, if they don’t we are in trouble, how much remains to be seen.

  • leaddog2 says:

    Actually, I thought Mullah Omar was on a putt-putt! A Mini-scooter, you know, top speed… maybe 60 MPH!

  • hamidreza says:

    Rookie, some Islamofascists managed to escape the Sarayi neighborhood through tunnels into mainland Talafar. However, they are surrounded by troops, and are being arrested at checkpoints if they attempt to flee the 90% vacated city.
    Meanwhile the remnants are trying to hide in meighborhoods that are Iraqi-friendly, and are having a hard time at that. The Iraqi army is picking them off.

  • leaddog2 says:

    Hamidreza,
    I understand your concerns, but Iran WILL NOT survive their people’s wrath much longer. Sure, they “Look Strong”, but so did the Soviet Union.
    The Iranian Mullahs will most likely be exterminated and probably by their own people. I am NOT BEING an optimist, but I really do not think we will have to do much with Iran in terms of warfare. It should not be necessary.

  • hamidreza says:

    I stand corrected. The supreme Islamic leader of Afghanistan who last week was going to take on the entire US Marine force, was spotted fleeing on a putt-putt.
    hehehehhe

  • Justin Capone says:

    I wish we could unleash shock and awe on the terrorists in Iraq like we were able to in Afghanistan. From the very beginning of the war we tied are hands around our back, especially when it comes to the willingness to use widescale bombing.

  • danielle says:

    One thing the msm doesn’t cover is that this primarily a turkmen city and many, perhaps most of the Iraqi forces being used are Kurds. There is a political subtext going on here which may mean trouble.
    Personally I would take reports from the Iraqi forces of how many they’ve killed and captured with a bit of salt.
    Someone remarked that they hoped that the Iraqi people in the south would reject the Shiite militias? I’m not sure how. These people are dumping their victims on the street. I doubt if they have much use for elections.
    Anyway we’ve been hearing about the imminent defeat of the terrorists for 2 years now. Quite frankly I will take them more seriously when they are hemmed with qualifications instead of this absolute certainty. We’ve had victory 3 or 4 times this year alone.

  • hamidreza says:

    Justin, leaddog2 – yes the fighting between the Sunnis and the Americans plays to the hand of the Iranians. That is why it has been reported that Iran is manufacturing car bombs and IEDs and supplying them to the Sunni Islamists and al-Qaeda men.
    When are the Sunni nationalists, Baathists, seculars and opportunists realize that their best friend is the Americans, and they should turn in the al-Qaeda men?
    Have you recently been frequenting any Sunni blogs? The first indication of such a change of heart will be reflected in these blogs. When I last read them about a month ago, I sensed a bit of fencesitting and equivocating.
    However, do not underestimate the imbecility of the average “Arab identity” person, and their oh so honorable and dignified desire to cut the nose to spite the face.
    Unfortunately Iran is a lot more stable than it were at the start of the invasion of Iraq. The insurgency in Iraq has resulted in a tailwind to the mollas. On top of that, the mollas have bought-off the right-wing, nationalist and secular-fascist elements of Iranian polity by promising them the atomic bomb. This was a coup for the mollas and has consolidated their position. These right wing Iranians know that if the mollas were to go, the atomic bomb will be ditched – and therefore are backing the mollas. The Iranian left wing has always been sympathetic to the mollas, because of the collectivist nature of Islam.
    Aside from the US assisting Iranian Kurds, ethnic tribes, Sunnis, Baluchis and Azaris – to an armed revolt, I really do not see a viable solution for Iran. Note that this worked very well in Iraq.

  • Patrick says:

    We have refrained from arming Iranian and Syrian Kurds. It seems to me we might have to do this.
    Yes,the Iraqi Sunni ought to understand Iran benefits during the chaos.

  • Did “many insurgents” escape Tal Afar?

    According to the Associated Press they did, running a headline in an article on Monday stating “Many insurgents escape U.S.-Iraqi sweeps.” What is noticeably absent in the article is any kind of deeper explanation or facts supporting the claim made in …

  • hamidreza says:

    Danielle: “There is a political subtext going on where the mostly Kurdish Iraqi Army is fighting the Turkmen.”
    Your choice of language is interesting and revealing. Are you implying that the US is trying to fan ethnic tensions by throwing the Kurds at the Turkmens? This despite hard evidence that US is trying to bring all ethnicities and all sects together in a liberal-democratic constitutional setting.
    Or are you simply implying that for the Iraqi Army to succeed in the liberation of Talafar from the clutches of the Islamists, the Kurds can be more effective for this job?
    Finding mal intentions in the operations of the US military and ascribing imaginary and nefarious ulterior motives is a time honored tradition of anti-American fascists and the western reactionary left.

  • Jamison1 says:

    danielle,
    Who said they were Kurds?

  • Soldier's Dad says:

    All the Sunni,Shiite,Kurd,Turkomen political subtexts are just a heap of stinking sh*t heaped on the “multiculturalists”. There is substantial inter-marriage in Iraq.
    The ethnic tension is about “jobs,jobs,jobs and jobs”. Every politician on the face of the earth understands “bringing home the bacon for the constituents”. The “turkomen” leader managed to get a promise of 1,000 police jobs for his voters. It is just plain good old fashion precinct politics.

  • hamidreza says:

    Excellent points Soldier’s Dad.
    Those who wish to divide by telling us how different we are from one another, how our cultures are different and incompatible – but absolutely equal at the same time !?!??!!, and why we should emphasize differences (presumably so our cultures wont die – so what, let it die) – have a lot of explaining to do.
    How can they call themselves “pacifists” and anti-war, when they constantly stress how people should preserve their cultures and differences, and harbor historic grievences, political memories and entitlements, even at the cost of war and ethnic/sectarian conflicts and tension?
    Danielle, did you know that from one culture to another, the human genome differs even less than 1 in 10,000? We are 99.99% similar. Now if you wish to emphasize the .01% of difference, then I have reason to unabashedly and without reservation or without subtlety in subtexts (what silly language), accuse you of mal intentions and nefarious motivations.
    gilliam1, there was one early report that the IA consists mostly of Kurd battalion by one of the MSM reporters – but has not been repeated hence. Looks like Danielle wants to resurrect this idea.
    Furthermore the fact that Jaafari, and the interior and defence ministers, none of them Kurds were so gung-ho about the operation and took so much pride in them, works against the theory that Kurds were thrown at the Turkomens.

  • herostratus says:

    Excuse me for butting in, but I just happened across this site, and… sheesh, talk about re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.
    It’s over. OVER. You can’t continue a war that isn’t supported. Since “War for no particular reason” is not a good sell, why ARE we in this war?
    1) Connection to 9/11? Any connection was as tenuous as the Oort cloud. To his credit, President Bush said so early, plainly, and on the record. So its not that.
    2) WMD? Obviously, there were no WMD, and the administration, as we now know, knew this all along. So its not that.
    3) Establish a democractic Arab state? WTF — where did THAT come frome? I don’t recall anybody voting for that. I don’t recall that in any pre-war debate. I don’t recall the Senate voting on that. I do recall President Bush speaking with disdain about nation-building. So if it IS that, excuse me, but, um, I don’t recall the American people signing up for that. Maybe they WOULD have, maybe, if it had been put to them. But now? It’s kind of like if I order item X and you deliver item Y; I’m gonna take a lot of convincing that item Y is what I really needed all along.
    4) We can’t bug out now, because that would leave a failed state? Oh yeah? Wanna bet? A tip: don’t try tell the American electorate what they can and can’t do.
    5) I don’t know… what else can they come up with? “Saddam tried to kill my dad” is probably not gonna fly at this late date, you think?
    What a clusterf**k. I’m awstruck by this adminsitration, I really am. Sure the Spanish-American war didn’t really have a good reason, but, um, at least we, you know, WON that one?
    Well, Lincoln said you can’t fool all of the people all of the time. They didn’t have Fox News then so maybe that doesn’t apply anymore. But I wouldn’t count on it.

  • Enigma says:

    I think it’s important to keep in mind that influence between Iran and Iraq is a two-way street. While Iranian influence in Iraq is a serious concern, let’s not forget the influence a democratic Iraq can have on Iran. That is, of course, a key element in the larger strategy in the GWOT.

  • hamidreza says:

    herostratus,
    1- All Arab countries are al-Qaeda infested. Saddam had decisively moved towards bringing Islamists into his rule and even put the Islamist battle cry on Iraq’s flag. Ansar al-Sunna, an al-Qaeda outfit, had a base and chemical manufacturing laboratory inside Iraq, close to Iran. The US bombed the hell out of this laboratory.
    2- al-Qaeda claims to be manufacturing WMDs in Iraq. Guess where the knowhow comes from? Besides, the issue was not so much WMD, but the potentiality of Saddam embarking on WMD production – a potentiality that he never renounced. How would it feel if Saddam, taking his ques from Iran, was now purifying Uranium in hidden domestically built centrifuges? Would that make you sleep any better at night?
    3- Bush to his credit continuously, including in 2002, stressed that the democratization of the Middle East was top priority. I guess since you from your writing seem to be a bit ignorant about historical developments, never honed on this aspect of the GWOT. Democratization of Iraq and the M.E. was constantly put forth, alongside all the other arguments, including WMD, by Bush and his people.
    Today, this argument is even more pertinent. A lot of progress has happened in Lebanon, Egypt, Libya, Palestine, because of this goal, since the invasion.

  • Enigma says:

    Excuse me for butting in, but I just happened across this site, and… sheesh, talk about re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.
    Here we troll again…
    It’s over. OVER. You can’t continue a war that isn’t supported. Since “War for no particular reason” is not a good sell, why ARE we in this war?
    Well, we did have an election, and despite the paranoid rantings coming from some on the left, Bush did in fact win that election. So, unless Congress either wants to cut funding for the troops (bad move politically), or impeach and convict Bush (not likely to happen), it will remain the decision of the Bush administration whether to continue the war, at least until January 2009.
    1) Connection to 9/11? Any connection was as tenuous as the Oort cloud. To his credit, President Bush said so early, plainly, and on the record. So its not that.
    No, it couldn’t possibly be that. So why bring it up?
    2) WMD? Obviously, there were no WMD, and the administration, as we now know, knew this all along. So its not that.
    Of course Bush knew there were no WMDs, just like Bill Clinton, Ted Kennedy, our European allies, the UN, and our Arab allies knew that there were no WMDs. The thing I can’t figure out is how Bush got everyone to lie for him, even before he was elected President.
    3) Establish a democractic Arab state? WTF — where did THAT come frome?
    2004 State of the Union address
    I don’t recall anybody voting for that.
    November 2, 2004
    I don’t recall that in any pre-war debate.
    Iraq Liberation Act of 1998
    2003 State of the Union Address
    And in the post-war, pre-election era:
    First Bush-Kerry debate
    Second Bush-Kerry debate
    Third Bush-Kerry debate
    Cheney-Edwards debate
    I don’t recall the Senate voting on that.
    Joint Resolution to Authorize the Use of United States Armed Forces Against Iraq
    I do recall President Bush speaking with disdain about nation-building. So if it IS that, excuse me, but, um, I don’t recall the American people signing up for that. Maybe they WOULD have, maybe, if it had been put to them. But now? It’s kind of like if I order item X and you deliver item Y; I’m gonna take a lot of convincing that item Y is what I really needed all along.
    I love strawman arguments.
    4) We can’t bug out now, because that would leave a failed state? Oh yeah? Wanna bet? A tip: don’t try tell the American electorate what they can and can’t do.
    Why not? Politicians, both Democrats and Republicans, do that all the time.
    5) I don’t know… what else can they come up with? “Saddam tried to kill my dad” is probably not gonna fly at this late date, you think?
    I think sarcasam is not your strong point.
    What a clusterf**k. I’m awstruck by this adminsitration, I really am. Sure the Spanish-American war didn’t really have a good reason, but, um, at least we, you know, WON that one?
    True, we did win that one. And then after we won it, we fought a 3 year guerilla war in the philipines where over 4,000 US servicemen were killed. But we eventually won that, too. But we’re going to lose the current war because it’s lasted too long (over 2 years) and it’s killed too many US troops (nearly 1,900).
    Well, Lincoln said you can’t fool all of the people all of the time. They didn’t have Fox News then so maybe that doesn’t apply anymore. But I wouldn’t count on it.
    The people are perfectly free to watch CNN/ABC/NBC/CBS if they wish. And if the US media is not good enough, we can always choose from an outstanding selection of foreign media from the BBC to al Jazeera.

  • Mixed Humor says:

    “Establish a democractic Arab state? WTF — where did THAT come frome? I don’t recall anybody voting for that. I don’t recall that in any pre-war debate. I don’t recall the Senate voting on that.”
    The Senate did vote on that…in 1998 in the Iraqi Liberation Act, which had overwhelming support from Democrats as well. Replacing the Hussein regime with a democracy was part of the pre-war debate, you probably opted not to listen.
    //63.247.134.60/~pobbs/archives/000982promoting_democracy_in_iraq_is_not_a_new_concept.html

  • Rookie says:

    herostratus :
    “It’s over. OVER. You can’t continue a war that isn’t supported. Since “War for no particular reason” is not a good sell, why ARE we in this war?”
    Because I understand that you’re an American citizen, and I’m not, of course you have the upper hand in deciding where your country troops are going and where not.
    But let me say that you don’t have a clue.
    War IS supported, but what you see in American media? blah,blah, quagmire, bla, bla – poll – 80% support … hmmm….blah,blah, abu graib, bla, bla – poll – 70% support … hmmm….blah,blah, newsweek fake flush coran, english faked soldier abuse bla, bla – poll …. made by AP, by the way…
    The fact that no large caches of WMD were not found does not mean that they don’t exist, or that it was not the intention to produce them. Just stay confy over there and think that Iranians will not use nuclear bomb… or sell it to their jihadi friends…

  • Rookie says:

    Talabani suggests 50,000 troops pullout
    //news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20050913/wl_mideast_afp/usiraqtalabaniforces_050913100208;_ylt=Ak8HVvPF0_EH6Xwj1mxuTiUUewgF;_ylu=X3oDMTA2ZGZwam4yBHNlYwNmYw–
    Not now… maybe next year. Election time at the end of the year will trigger more violence, which must be pacified…

  • leaddog2 says:

    herostratus,
    Are you a Democratic Underground refugee? You sound sick, confused and whiny?
    That is O.K….. you can recover your sanity with us. Just listen and learn the real story. You will NEVER find any truth about anything at DU, Kos, or Moveon or from Screaming Dean. They are beyond help.

  • Soldier's Dad says:

    Rookie,
    “Talabani suggests 50,000 troops pullout”
    The generals will want to move slow. The “Fallujah Brigade” that was supposed to be a major step in the drawdown of US troops in early 2004 didn’t work out so well. Ended up requiring an increase in troops as a result of being overly optimistic.
    IMHO There won’t be a “drawdown” per se, it will be more like units stop getting replaced. Figure 90-180 days between the time the decision has been taken to send a unit, and the unit actually arriving(urban warfare refresher courses, shipping things on boats etc).

  • GJ says:

    herostratus
    Apparently you and many, many others are unaware of the reach of AlQaeda. That group began with the Muslim Brotherhood, which started in the 20’s. There are purported to be 7 million in this group. Starting in Egypt they fanned out, over time, All Over the world. They’re virtually in every country now, even U.S. To know the Muslim Brotherhood is to know AlQaeda. They started out as a terrorist organization and have continued to this day. Their tactics have become more severe over the years. More of the common theories of Islamic terrorism started with Syed Qut’b. Bin Laden, Al Zawahira, Mohammed Atta were all part of this Brotherhood.
    So you really have a lot to learn before spouting off of that which you evidently you know little of.

  • Super 6 says:

    “No WMDs”
    How soon many forget the tons of yellowcake removed from Iraq. I guess the yellowcake was a lie also…….

Iraq

Islamic state

Syria

Aqap

Al shabaab

Boko Haram

Isis