With simultaneous offensives occurring in Qaim, Tal Afar, and Rabiah, Coalition forces launch Operation Cyclone in the southern town of Rutbah, which sits astride roads at the southern-most border crossing with Syria and the northern-most border crossing with Jordan. Cyclone is a cordon and search, there is no word on the composition of the force or whether Coalition forces intend to fully occupy the town at this time, as is being done in Tal Afar.
The Iraqi government states Iraqi Security Forces took the lead in the fight in Tal Afar. While the media reports on the size of the Coalition force operating in Tal Afar vary, the average number being reported is about 4,000 U.S. troops and 6,000 Iraqi troops. This would make for about 8-9 Iraqi and 5-6 U.S. battalions involved in the fight. This is a significant commitment of resources, and indicates the Iraqi Security Forces are improving their ability to operate at the battalion level and greater. The Iraqi government outlines the plan to secure Tal Afar when the assault is completed:
The offensive was led by the Iraqi Army’s Third Division, officials said, but was supported by other brigades and by police commando units that are part of a special Interior Ministry counterinsurgency force. After the operation is complete, the police commandos will maintain control of the city temporarily, then eventually cede authority to a new police force of 1,700 officers, including 1,000 recruited from Tal Afar, said Mr. Jabr, the interior minister.
Reports indicate the assault on Tal Afar has ended, with 156 insurgents killed and 246 captured. Some terrorists may have fled using underground tunnels as escape routes.
Iraqi Defense Minister Dulaimi openly lays out the sequence of planned operations; ”After the Tal Afar operation ends, we will move on Rabiyah and Sinjar and then go down to the Euphrates valley.” There is little the terrorists can do to stop the coming onslaught.
The border closing in Rabiah, the assault on Tal Afar, the systematic airstikes in Qaim and the operation in Rutbah show the Coalition is methodically targeting the main points of entry of the insurgency and al Qaeda. A recently discovered ratline manual from a known al Qaeda facilitator stated these three entry points were the main areas of crossing, with the crossing at Qaim being the preferred point of entry due to tribal advantages, terrain and other considerations.
The Coalition may be focusing efforts in Tal Afar to the north and Rutbah to the south because these crossings are easier to secure. The effect of this will be the funneling of terrorists and material to the Qaim region, increasing the likelihood of more violent clashes along the Euphrates ratline. The Coalition is compensating for this by taking advantage of new-gained intelligence in the area to conduct precision raids to kill al Qaeda en masse.
Yesterday, Iraqi Defense Minister Dulaimi made the following declaration; “We tell our people in Ramadi, Samarra, Rawah and Qaim that we are coming.” The facts is that U.S. units have forward operating bases in each of these cities. The “we” he is referring to is the Iraqi Security Forces. Operations in Tal Afar, Qaim, Husaybah, Rabiah and Rutbah are setting the table for the impending arrival of Iraqi Security Forces to assert control in these trouble areas of the Anbar province. This would be Phase III of the Anbar Campaign.
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