Coalition forces continue to press operations in the heart of the Sunni Triangle. The towns of Haditha and Karabilah are the latest targets. Haditha, which has been inaccurately referred to the Zarqawi’s “Islamic Republic of Haditha” , was the focus of a raid by ground forces, followed by airstrikes. A terrorist complex was uncovered, and weapons caches and a VBIED (car bomb) factory were destroyed. Some of the car bombs were ready to use, others were close to completion. According to CENTCOM, the residents of the “Islamic Republic” provided the intelligence to conduct the operation.
In Karabilah, near Qaim, nine terrorists were killed when the school they are using to store weapons and fire mortars is destroyed in an airstrike. The terrorists continue to use building such as schools and mosques in an attempt to preclude Coalition action against these buildings.
There are reports that residents of Qaim are leaving the city in expectation of an upcoming offensive. This mirrors the reaction of some residents in Ramadi, where clashes are occurring between U.S. and insurgent forces, and an all out assault is feared.
While the Coalition continues to attempt to keep the terrorists off balance in Anbar, al Qaeda continues to offset their losses by conducting vicious assaults on soft civilian targets. A Shiite mosque 130 miles north of Baghdad was attacked by a suicide bomber, killing ten worshippers and wounding over twenty. Yesterday over twenty police were killed in separate bombings.
Al Qaeda likely has several reasons for the spate of attacks in Baghdad and elsewhere. There is no doubt that this is an attempt to overshadow recent successes in Tal Afar and Mosul, as well as around Qaim. Reuters reports “over 500 insurgents killed or detained in Tal Afar 226 had been killed and 757 detained in recent operations in Mosul with 45 more detained in Rutba.” Well over 1,500 terrorists have been removed from the battlefield, and Tal Afar, their main base of operations in northern Iraq, has been lost. This is a significant degradation of their power and influence, which al Qaeda can only compensate for by conducting a media-terror campaign. Blood sells, particularly the blood of pro-government Iraqis and American soldiers.
The other reason al Qaeda is lashing out is that the recent Coalition operations have garnered intelligence that very likely have exposed some of its network. The recent success in targeted airstrikes along the Euphrates would certainly give this impression to al Qaeda. al Qaeda is very likely worried it has been compromised, and as it cannot determine exactly where the faults lie, it is in a situation where it must ‘use-it-or-lose-it’, meaning they must expend caches and fighters now or risk having them captured or destroyed.
If this is the case, it will be interesting to see if al Qaeda has enough resources to conduct it’s planned “Ramadan offensive.” While al Qaeda has been degraded by recent operations, they have proven to be resourceful in the past. For this reason, the Coalition must press forward with their offensive in along the Euphrates River in order to deny al Qaeda the ability to recoup their losses.
Security Watchtower has a graphic of the recent operations in Iraq.
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