The situation in Ramadi is still unclear. Coalition and media reports are sparse on the subject of Ramdi, but it does appear operations are occurring, accompanied by an up tick in violence. Last week, we discussed an operation in the northeast of the city, where Marines airlifted equipment into a stadium and fighting soon broke out in the industrial district directly north. In the past few days, six Marines have been killed in combat. All six were killed “conducting combat operations” .
Matthew D. LaPlante, a reporter with the Salt Lake Tribune who is embedding with Utah National Guard units stationed in Iraq, describes Ramadi as a chaotic city. According to Mr. LaPlante, Marines, along with an Iraqi police force are stationed in the city, a city council has been established, tribal leaders meet with councilmen and Coalition commanders on a weekly basis, reconstruction projects are carried out and police stations are being rebuilt. But the police are often confined to their stations, the majority of the local policing is done by Marines or local tribal units, and recruiting for the Iraqi Army in Anbar has fell far short of its goals.
The question of who is exactly is in control in Ramadi is raised by Mr. LaPlante. Ma’amoun al-Awani, the governor of Anbar province states the police do not have the freedom to act in the city. Col. John Gronski, commander of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, is emphatic that the Coalition controls the city; “We are in control I can have any piece of land in this city, any time I want.” Based on the reports, perhaps it is fair to say the city is not secure but the balance of power is shifting to the Coalition in Ramadi. The Marine’s ability to project power within the city, and the establishment of a police force, a city council and other government institutions indicates a measure of control. Iraqi Army and police battalions are training to take responsibility within the city. The city has yet to meet its full security potential.
But it is clear the city not fully secured. Local groups of insurgents are operating in the city, intimidating neighborhoods at times, employing IEDs, setting up ambushes and sniping at Marine and Iraqi police forces. This does not constitute control of the city. Al Qaeda does not have a secure foothold in Ramadi; this is the city where al Qaeda was attacked by the predominantly Sunni Dulaimi tribe when they threatened to murder Shiites who did not leave the city. The organization is stalked by Coalition forces, as the recent arrests of four key members of the Nu’man Brigade, including the leader, demonstrates. Al Qaeda and the insurgency certainly are not in control of Ramadi.
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.