Continuing Ops In Tal Afar and Anbar

Coalition forces continue mop-up operations in Tal Afar. General Casey reports the city is nearly cleared of insurgents after recent operations, and that up to eighty percent of the foreign fighters (otherwise known as al Qaeda) and insurgents killed or captured have been accounted for (see this comment for correction). About 20,000 of the city’s population fled during the fighting, contrary to the stories of a mass exodus of civilians. Reconstruction efforts have been taking place in the city in conjunction with the fighting, with local Iraqis participating in the efforts to provide for jobs and ownership.

Coalition forces captured Abu Fatima al Qaeda’s latest commander of Mosul, as well as Abu Shahed, one of the organizations commanders during a meeting. Fatima was the organizations’ leader for only 12 days prior to his capture. The Emir of Mosul for al Qaeda has been a tough position to hold.

In the town of Ubaydi, near Qaim, Coalition forces raid two al Qaeda safe houses, killing one terrorist and destroying weapons caches and two car bombs. In Samarra three terrorists are arrested and two more car bombs are taken out of action. The operations in Mosul, Ubaydi and Samarra all indicate a high level of intelligence and the means to exploit it exists in each town. While Ubaydi may not be under government control, U.S. forces have the capacity to execute missions at will.

While the pressure on al Qaeda in Anbar and the north continues, al Qaeda loses support among the Sunni population.

Sheik Mahmud al-Sumaidaei, a leading Sunni cleric whose group is linked to the country’s insurgency, criticized militants for targeting civilians. He called for Iraq’s religious and ethnic groups to take a stand against further bloodshed.

“I call for a meeting … of all the country’s religious and political leaders to take a stand against the bloodshed,” al-Sumaidaei said during his sermon at Baghdad’s Um al Qura Sunni mosque.

“We don’t need others to come across the border and kill us in the name of defending us,” he declared, a reference to foreign fighters who have joined the insurgency under the banner of al-Qaida. “We reject the killing of any Iraqi.”

al Qaeda’s predicament is as follows: It cannot take and hold territory, thus it is unable to project real power. To remain relevant in Iraq and to erode the will of the American public, it must conduct mass casualty attacks. But these attacks increasing alienate the Iraqi citizens, even sympathetic Sunnis and members of the insurgency. That the media cannot or will not recognize al Qaeda’s dilemma is stunning, to say the least.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.


  • John Brown says:,13190,SS_091505_Chems.html

    “Still, the Iraqi security forces are not yet able to conduct operations on their own, and coalition forces do not have enough troops to secure Tal Afar, [CO of the 3rd ACR, US Army Col. H.R.] McMaster said.”

    Doesn’t sound like we’re going to adopt an effective Oil Spot/Ink Blot strategy in Tal Afar. If the ING isn’t ready to go it alone and US forces won’t be around the Iraqi police are dog meat. I suspect the impediment to Iraqi independent operations is twofold: an issue of logistics in a kleptocracy and a lack of armor and CAS assets due to the American fear of having it used against them in future. The Shia Turkomen who have thrown their lot in with the Kurdish occupation force do present an opportunity to set up an effective Phoenix program, though — they don’t need armor or CAS for that. I’m sure the Revolutionary Guards agents currently training the Mahdi Army could hook the Mukhbarat up if the American military proves too squeamish.

  • hamidreza says:

    The new report that only 20,000 (10 – 15%) of Talafar evacuated the city is different from that reported earlier by the press that 90% had evacuated. It also agrees better with the ICRC reporting only 5,000 families leaving Talafar. Most likely, the press meant to say, in their usual clumsy, delinquent, and inattention to detail way, that only the targeted neighborhoods were 90% evacuated (and not the city).
    This would beg us to see the Talafar situation in a different light. What it means is that the infested and targeted neighborhoods were empty, while the friendly or fencesitting neighborhoods almost did not evacuate. Also the refugee problem is not as large as the press makes it to be.
    Therefor, any terrorist that escaped Sarai and other infested neighborhood into US friendly territory did not stand a chance to remain undetected. This explains the speed by which the IA and the US forces cleared the rest of the city and brought the city under control. It also means that it would be doubly difficult for the terrorists to come back and re-establish, as there is an even larger population hostile to them or indifferent to them, compared to before.
    Therefor, as compared to Fallujah, this is the better of the two scenarios, even though it may mean that there are ways for the terrorists to hide in Talafar, but their scope of action would be tremendously curtailed. My lay opinion would be that a couple of IA battalions backed by one US battalion, coupled with a large local police force, would be sufficient to hold the city and its surrounding areas.

  • hamidreza says:

    John Brown, there is no evidence of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards training the Mahdi Army. Did you mean to say the Badr and Dawa militias?
    Sadr (Mahdi) has generally been hostile to Iran, and there is no reason to believe that they have changed their position.
    And why would the US forces “not be around”?
    And what is this “Kurdish occupation force”? The IA in Talafar, as per the pictures I have seen, are Arabs and not Kurds. Looks like there is a meme floating around about “IA Kurdish forces”.

  • Soldier's Dad says:

    John Brown,
    With all due respect to Col McMasters, the 82nd AirBorne is in TalAfar.

  • Jamison1 says:

    “Still, the Iraqi security forces are not yet able to conduct operations on their own, and coalition forces do not have enough troops to secure Tal Afar, [CO of the 3rd ACR, US Army Col. H.R.] McMaster said.”
    Put at the end of the article like a thow away line. I would like to know more.

  • Soldier's Dad says:

    Fundamentals of Policeing for 101
    In London there are 3 policemen/1000 residents.
    In the New York City, it is 5 policeman/1000 residents.
    In Northern Ireland, it is 8 policeman/1000 residents.
    To suppress an all insurrection requires 20 soldiers/1000.
    TalAfar has a population of roughly 200,000.
    Comparing it to Northern Ireland, places the number of police required at 1,600.
    There are 1,700 Iraq Special Police, 3,300 Iraqi Army and at last estimate 3,500 US Army, for a grand total of more than 40 Soldiers-police/1000 residents.
    If in fact, Col McMasters is correct, then the US needs 1.4 Million soldiers in Iraq.(Basically 50% of the Chinese Army or twice the size of the US Army).
    The fact that conditions have improved substantially in Mosul(population 2 Million) with roughly 6,000 US Soldiers(3 US Soldiers/1000 residents) should be an indicator.

  • Lorenzo says:

    I read this war, the battles taking place here are simply and strategically on the job training for Iraq’s new army. How long does it take an officer to graduate West Point? Training the basics to battalions of enlisted is merely the first step in creating a respectable army in our technical age of warfare. The history of Saddams Army if I recall was frought with desertion and surrender at first sight of battle, difficult at best to un-train.
    As I read the tea-leaves of this war in Iraq, patience will be our calming virtue as the newest/finest Army in the middle east will be from Iraq, save Israel, a mighty force indeed! Syria, Iran, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and any other neighboring lands will think twice before taking on the bravery instilled in this unique free-mans force. Thanks GW!

  • Jack Black says:

    Lorenzo makes an excellent point. Second only to Israel’s IDF, Iraq’s new security forces will be the best trained, equipped, and most battle-hardened troops in the entire middle east. There will be no Iranian tail wagging the Iraqi dog. There will be no Syrian or Jordanian demonstrations of disrespect that go unanswered. These idiot neighbors of Iraq had best learn to play nice. The consequences of continuing to be nasty boys will not be fun for them.

  • newc says:

    Damn right Jack Black.
    Bless this Sunni’s Heart.

  • jim says:

    I think your post mis-represented one important fact in your cited sources. Specifically, you posted that:
    “General Casey reports the city is nearly cleared of insurgents after recent operations, and that up to eighty percent of the terrorist killed or captured are foreign fights – otherwise known as al Qaeda.”
    What the DoD article actually said was:
    “The combined force killed about 150 insurgents and captured roughly 350 more. Casey said officials estimate this accounted for about 75 percent to 80 percent of the foreign fighters and other insurgents they believed were in the city.”
    The difference is significant. Casey’s statement was that the elimination of the 150 + 350 included 75 – 80% of the foreign fighters present, but NOT that all those WERE foreign fighters.
    For an extreme example that demonstrates the math error, let us postulate that there were only 5 foreign fighters present in the area. Now, if they had captured/killed 4 of those 5, along with 496 local fighters, the statement by Casey would still be true.
    In other words, one canNOT deduce from the source (Casey statement) how many of the 150 + 350 were foreign fighters and how many were not. Casey just stated that those 500 included within them 75% – 80% of the foreign fighters present in the area.
    Is there another source that provides different data?

  • Bill Roggio says:

    Duly noted, Jim, and corrected. Many thanks for pointing this out.

  • jim says:

    YAQW! 😉
    I enjoy visiting your site. I had hoped, actually, that you had another source somewhere up your sleeve that might have quantified the number of foreign fighters within the 150 and 350 figures Casey provided.


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