The Battle for the Border continues. On the heels of last Friday and this Tuesday’s air strikes and tribal fighting, Marine attack aircraft pound a train station being used as an al Qaeda weapons storage depot and headquarters last evening. Marine Captain Jack Pool emails “Over the past two days, numerous reliable sources have observed approximately 50 Al Qaeda (AQIZ) terrorists staging weapons at a train station to be used in continued attacks against local Iraqis and coalition forces.” According to the military press release, “Marine F/A-18 jets dropped precision-guided 500 pound bombs on the target after “numerous reliable sources” saw about 50 al-Qaida-linked insurgents using the facility.”
It is clear the U.S. military is working very closely with the Albu Mahal tribe, is gaining good intelligence, both human and electronic, and there is an ongoing offensive taking place to target al Qaeda fighters in the region.
The use of precision-guided munitions indicates a certain degree of sophistication with air and ground teams. The 500 pound bombs are either laser (GBU-12) or GPS (JDAM GBU-30) guided weapons. Due to the nature of urban combat and the media fallout from civilian casualties, it is highly likely U.S ground teams are working directly in conjunction with the Albu Mahal tribe in gathering intelligence, identifying the safe houses, and directing the weapons on target, much in the manner U.S. Special Forces operated with anti-Taliban fighters in Afghanistan.
The air strikes and tribal combat in Qaim and Husaybah is another operation in the Anbar Campaign (details), except this unnamed operation has a twist. The Albu Mahal tribe is acting as the ground forces, which by nature are permanently stationed in the area. If the Coalition is careful in its approach, and provides combat support, follow up reconstruction aid, and government support, the Qaim region can be the first instance of a clear and hold operation on the Syrian border – without the need for U.S. Marines to provide for the main brunt of the combat power.
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