Northern Exposure

Iraqi and U.S. forces in Tal Afar have switched from combat operations to reconstruction and security operations. According to Major General Abdel Aziz Mohammed Jassem, the assault on Tal Afar resulted in 157 insurgents killed and 683 captured. Iraqi Security Forces suffered 12 killed and 27 wounded, astonishingly low numbers for urban combat. The town has been largely freed of insurgents, and the neighborhoods are classified as either safe or relatively safe, with none deemed dangerous.

The Coalition continues to deliver food and other aid to the city, including $10,000,000 in immediate reconstruction funds (click map for details, courtesy of MNF-Iraq). Police recruitment among the local population has already begun, and about three hundred Sunnis have volunteered for training.

Brig. Gen. Kevin Bergner, the Deputy Commander of Multinational Force-Northwest, notes that al Qaeda has been dealt a setback in the region; “We are probably at the point of impacting about 80 percent of that network in terms of detaining, capturing, killing the leadership and disrupting their resources and disrupting their support bases and neutralizing their capability to conduct operations against the Iraqi people and against Iraqi Security Forces and our own forces.” al Qaeda’s leadership in the north has been hit hard; “Since January, we have captured or killed 80 senior leaders — and by that, I’d say mid- to senior-level leaders — that we know were part of the al Qaeda network in northern Iraq.” These include senior commanders such as Abu Talha, Abu Fatima, Abu Shaded and Dara Mohammed (of al Qaeda linked Ansar al-Sunnah).

Gen. Bergner also highlights the cooperation from the local population by way of tips on insurgents, and participation in government. Attendance at government meetings open to the public have increased by over 15 times. Over 100,000 new voters registered in the region, almost doubling the voter registration from the January election. Given that al Qaeda has threatened to kill all who remotely cooperate with the government, this tells much about al Qaeda’s reach and popularity in the north.

Gen. Bergner also discussed the state of the Iraqi Security Forces; “In terms of Iraqi security force effectiveness, many are capable of limited independent operations at the small unit level right now. Police are shooting back when they get shot at. They’re standing their ground more and more. They are offensively oriented. And they are increasingly able to develop their own intelligence and then conduct operations based on that intelligence.” The Iraqi 3rd Division is stationed in Tal Afar, and Gen. Bergner refutes the characterization the units are made up of Kurdish Peshmerga; “it’s largely made up of the 3rd Iraqi Army Division, which is a multi-ethnic, multi-religious force that was nationally recruited.”

The Washington Post‘s Jonathan Finer reports on the progress of the Iraqi Army and its actions in Tal Afar. There is much work to be done in the areas of logistics and junior leadership, but the soldiers’ willingness to fight cannot be denied. The Iraqi Army is slowing becoming a proficient fighting force, and its low casualties in Tal Afar demonstrate this. Pvt. Tarek Hazem, bloodstained after assisting his wounded brothers, summed up the spirit of the soldiers fighting in Tal Afar; “We were not afraid. We are here to protect our country  All we feel is motivated to kill terrorists.”

The Iraqi Security Forces are the linchpin to the success of the Anbar Campaign. The U.S. can provide the needed armor, artillery, air support, logistics and experience, but in the end the Iraqi infantry and police must provide for the security in the region.

Zarqawi admitted his greatest threat will be the establishment of Iraqi Security Forces, as it will pit him against the Iraqi people, not the Americans. His efforts to attack police and Army units are designed to discourage enlistment in the security forces. But Zarqawi is failing in deterring Iraqis from joining, and now al Qaeda is increasingly being boxed in to the heart of the Anbar province. And the Iraqi Security Forces, when ready and with the help of the U.S. military, will hunt him there.

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


  • GK says:

    Here is a question that has been bugging me for some time :
    If Afghanistan, they seem to have had successful elections and things appear to have been running rather well there for quite some time. The US has suffered only 200-300 casualties there, in 4 years. We do not appear to have trained an Afghan army, but that does not appear to be a problem either.
    But in Iraq, we have more US troops, more resources going in, and a full-fleged Iraqi army more than 40% constructed. How is it that we are having a much tougher time in Iraq than in Afghanistan? Iraq, if anything, was a more educated and economically advanced society than Afghanistan. Plus, both border Iran, and Afghanistan borders Pakistan (a much larger and more terrorist-infested country than Syria), yet Iraq is having more of a problem of foreign militants coming in.
    Why are we having a much tougher time In Iraq, when Afghanistan seems to have become a democracy with much little work from us?
    Or have we left Afghanistan with only the bare minimum? If so, is that not a very bad move, to leave it ‘unfinished’?

  • Kenneth says:

    Interesting question GK. The biggest difference between Iraq & Afghanistan: Iraq had 20 years of Saddam’s dictatorship, & lots of oil revenue to buy tons of weapons. Meanwhile, Afghanistan had 20 years of war first with the Russians, then between the various warlords & Talibans. The US showed up near the end. Afghanistan is much poorer, with fewer weapons around, aside from every male owning a rifle. Also, the Pakistani gov’t is on side with the US and helps block the flow of fighters, although not as much as they could. Iraq is easier to get to. Iraq is not just a religious jihad, but an ethnic (ie Arab) struggle, so it attracts more “brothers” from across the Arab world. Saddam exploited ethnic diferences to maintain his rule, these tensions now threaten to explode. Afghanis are fed up from 20+ years of war.

  • Soldier's Dad says:

    “difference between Iraq & Afghanistan”
    Afghanistan is mountainous, Iraq is flat. It is one thing for the Jihadi’s to have to climb over a 12 ft berm to cross the Syrian border into Iraq, it is a whole different thing to have to climb over a 12,000 ft mountain.
    Saddam dispersing 500,000 tons of munitions prior to invasion didn’t help matters in Iraq either.

  • Patrick says:

    The Afghans had their factions for years fighting,so there was a group of potential NCO’s sort of in waiting there. It is an error to remotely imagine the Afghans “have no Army”.
    Most the fighting in Afghanistan is by Afghans against Taliban,not by Americans. They’re whipping their asses,too,but not without casualties. Incidentally,Afghanistan is hotter now combat wise than early 2002.
    All NCO type males in Iraq that were ever given any opportunity were in the IA that we had to disband,those within the 80% of the population harrassed by Hussein never got cultivated like the Afghans did fighting the Soviets then themselves.
    One more thing,Iraq being so difficult also shows why everyone is wrong about pre invasion Iraq,it was NOT a secular anti terrorist state as some claim,not at all,it was and is full of jihadis.
    Speaking of tons or ordnance,one US private firm alone has destroyed over 400 TONS of Iraqi ornance.

  • hamidreza says:

    (sorry, got posted in the wrong thread)
    That WaPo article by moonbat Jonathan Finer is such a lousy article.
    He has used all the tricks in the book to portray a victory as a defeat. This guy is a 5th column mole. Why do they let him embed?
    Its one thing to be sceptical but keep an open mind and try to enlighten the reader on the realities, good or bad.
    It is another thing to take quotes and events out of context to weave a negative and critical story which borders on propaganda.
    For example, when the soldiers go back into the building and kill 2 terrorists, Finer makes it appear as if the force was a US army force. However, it later on becomes clear that it was an Iraqi force, led by a US Special Force commander.
    Finer should be shipped out of Iraq, and arrested when he lands in Washington for aiding and abetting the enemy.

  • cjr says:

    One thing that should be noted about Mosul and Anbar campaign. At least 3 brigades(1st, 2nd and 4th) of the 1st Iraqi Intervention Force Division(IIF, Iraqi army’s best trained division) was moved from Mosul to Anbar province sometime this summer. I assume this happened because the Mosul situation had improved enough to allow the 2nd IA division to take over. So part of the explaination for progress in Anbar is that now least 3 brigades of the best Iraqi troops are operating in Anbar.
    PS: Not sure where 3rd bde / 1st IIF is right now. Last I read, it was in Bagdad, but that was a while ago. It could be in Anbar now also.

  • Mixed Humor says:

    Despite the higher level of violence in Iraq, there are still security and defense officials more worried about the long term prospects of Afghanistan, than Iraq. Some of the reasons were cited in GK’s comment. If memory serves me correct, just last week, Clinton was expounding this very belief as well.

  • Terry Gain says:

    Your daily reports are filling a tragic and troubling void created by the incompetence (and worse) of MSM. Thank you.
    You state Iraq security forces suffered 12 killed and 27 wounded. Remind me again how many soldiers did we lose in the battle for Tal Afar?

  • GK says:

    Yes, but :
    1) Why are we not needed to create an Afghan Army, like we are creating an Iraqi army? in Iraq, this is taking 2-3 years. But do we not need the same in Afghanistan? Why not?
    2) Afghanistan does have many different ethnic groups, like Pashtuns, Uzbeks, Balochis, etc. It also borders Iran just like Iraq does, so is subject to meddling in the same way.

  • Bill Roggio says:

    But we are training the Afghan Army….
    Thank you. I don’t recall the exact number but it may have been zero.

  • GK says:

    How many troops are in the Afghan army? What percentage of the final desired strength is already reached?
    Bush could make everything a lot easier by simply highlighting how close we are to our objectives in Afghanistan, how Iraq is similar, and that Iraq can expect the same in a 12-24 month lag.
    Also, can you address some of the other points in my first message (about casualties, difficulty, etc(.

  • Marlin says:

    Terry –
    There was 1 soldier killed on September 5 via Iraq Coaliton Casulaties

  • leaddog2 says:

    One American killed in Tal Afar from what I read.

  • leaddog2 says:

    Your post was not there when I posted. Sorry!

  • Bill Roggio says:

    I felt others answered the question on Afghanistan vs Iraq quite well. Just an FYI (and don’t take this the wrong way). I tend to see if others can field questions as:
    1) I like the comments section to be a place for everyone to discuss. I get my chance on the post.
    2) Researching and writing takes an inordinate amount of time, and comments has to come second.
    There are knowledgable readers here so I rely on them and enjoy the discussions.
    Global Security has a pretty good primer on the composition of Afghanistan’s Army and its training. I think it ends in 2003 but it still give you a picture of the training that went on. “Afghan president Hamid Karzai had set a goal of an army of 70,000 men by 2009 and hoped to acheive a “central core” of 9,000 to 12,000 personnel by the summer of 2005.”
    The DoD holds press briefing on this all the time. I know because I read them. and President Bush does mention this as well.

  • M says:

    We are probably at the point of impacting about 80 percent of that network in terms of detaining, capturing, killing the leadership and disrupting their resources and disrupting their support bases and neutralizing their capability to conduct operations against the Iraqi people and against Iraqi security forces and our own forces.”

  • Bill Roggio says:

    Several things: He was referring to Northern Iraq, in the Mosul-Tal Afar region. The 80% isn’t just men killed or captured, he was referring to the entire network. The was a lot of questions on this in the press conference, if you didn’t read the whoel thing I suggest you do.
    If you have information to the contrary I’d love to hear it.

  • michael ledeen says:

    On the difference between Iraq and Afghanistan, we should remember that there was a year and a half between the two liberations. During that time the Iraqis, Iranians, Saudis and Syrians planned the terror war that would take place once we went into Iraq. They knew that if we succeeded in creating a relatively peaceful and democratic Iraq, democratic revolution would spread like Topsy into their own countries. So they had to go all-out to try to defeat us in Iraq.
    It’s an existential war for the terror masters.
    Iran does support terrorists in Afghanistan, especially those led by Gulbadin Hekhmatiar, and some of the Pakistani intel people probably do the same, but they don’t have multiple borders to hide behind, and the distances are greater, and, as has been pointed out by several posts, the terrain is more challenging.

  • Kartik says:

    Michael Ledeen,
    Ther terrain did not prevent a large number of Taliban from escaping into Pakistan, in late 2001. Also, there are cave networks with entries on both sides of aht Afghan-Pak border.
    It is true that a peaceful Iraq would generate democracies in neighboring countries, but would not a peaceful, democratic Afghanistan achieve the same, to at least 50% of the effect? Afghanistan also borders Iran, as we know.

  • leaddog2 says:

    You protested this:
    “We are probably at the point of impacting about 80 percent of that network in terms of detaining, capturing, killing the leadership and disrupting their resources and disrupting their support”

  • Ryan Rhodes says:

    I found a more current status report on the Afghan National Army at wikipedia here:

  • Task Force Freedom stays on the offensive

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