As stated a few hours ago, the attacks in Baghdad would likely cause the Coalition to reassess the need to push forward with plans for operations along the Euphrates River. Reuters claims, based on a statements made by Major General Rick Lynch, that “U.S. forces are ready to launch air strikes on towns in western Iraq as they search for Iraq’s al Qaeda leader ”
However, Reuters has the story wrong. First, the U.S. has been conducting airstrikes in the region of Qaim for weeks. Second, MG Lynch was very specific about the type of operation they plan to conduct in Qaim and Haditha.
We’ve got great intelligence which tells us where he (Zarqawi) is moving to and where he’s trying to establish safe havens. People focus on the Euphrates river valley because that’s where we believe he’s coming through Towns close to the Euphrates river valley, including Qaim and Haditha, are towns that we focus on. And as soon as we see him trying to establish a safe haven there, we will conduct operations just like we did in Tal Afar.” [emphasis mine]
Tal Afar was not a series of airstrikes, but a concerted push by about 10,000 Iraqi and U.S. troops to clear and hold the city and its suburbs. MG Lynch implies the necessary forces are available to do the same in Qaim and Haditha once the conditions are right. Tal Afar shows us the political will to confront the insurgency head on exists. The attacks on Baghdad will merely reinforce this.
MG Lynch’s statements cannot be dismissed as posturing, as there is support from this assertion in the Iraqi government. Iraqi Defense Minister Dulaimi stated during the height of operations in Tal Afar; “We tell our people in Ramadi, Samarra, Rawah and Qaim that we are coming.” Mr. Dulaimi accurately described the current operations on the border well over a month ago, which gives good reason to take his words to heart.
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