Assault on Camp Gannon Repelled; and River Gate Continues

Last spring, al Qaeda unwisely assaulted Camp Gannon, the U.S. Marine outpost located in Husaybah on the Syrian border. While the attack was championed in the press as proof of the strength and staying power of al Qaeda, the terrorists suffered an awful defeat when attempting to attack the Marines en masse. Estimates put the enemy casualties anywhere from 35 to 85%, depending on the size of the assault force, stunning losses no matter which figure is used.

Yesterday, insurgents took another stab at Camp Gannon, with identical results as last spring. The attack was repelled and twelve insurgents are believed to have been killed, with zero Marine casualties. The bloody lesson of last spring has not filtered through the ranks, and the insurgency sacrifices its troops needlessly, much like the recently deceased terrorists in and around Ramadi yesterday.

In the nearby town of Karabilah, Coalition forces used local intelligence to conduct a raid on a safe house. Five terrorists were killed in the initial firefight, and five others were killed as well when attempting to set up a mortar position to engage the Coalition forces. Karabilah sits just west of Sa’dah, where U.S. forces have established outposts to secure the town, interdict the insurgent’s ratlines and strike out at insurgents and al Qaeda massing in the area.

The attack on Camp Gannon should be viewed as an act of desperation by the insurgents, as Karabilah now sits between Camp Gannon in Husaybah and the outposts in and around Sa’dah. The insurgents must press to eject the Marines before their strength is consolidated and their ability to operate in the region diminishes.

In Haqlaniyah, Marine forward observers spot three terrorists plan a roadside bomb, then track them to a nearby cave. The Marines killed the terrorists, and subsequently discovered a small weapons cache containing “bomb-making tools and equipment, black uniforms and ski masks.”

Combined with Coalition attacks in Ramadi that killed over seventy insurgents, the enemy suffered over one hundred killed in action in the course of 24 hours. For an insurgency estimated in the tens of thousands, these casualties cannot be sustained indefinitely, particularly when significant numbers of the sympathetic Sunni population are considering entering the political process.

Coalition forces are cashing in on the efforts behind Operations Iron Fist and River Gate, as they have now set themselves up in a position to keep the insurgents and al Qaeda from operating in the open, thereby improving their intelligence capabilities and their ability to conduct offensive operations.

These operations have also created an environment where the Sunnis can consider dropping their support for the insurgency and continue the fight on the political front. There are two months until the next election for the Iraqi Assembly, which will cement the constitution and create the laws of the land. The Sunni fence-sitters will need to decide if they wish to continue down the path of violence with little hope of success, or take the best deal possible and enter the government.

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

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  • Jamison1 says:

    How large of a force attacked the camp? Last spring it was “company size”, I gather that was about 100.

  • Jamie Irons says:

    Thanks again for your invaluable reporting and analysis. I depend on your site, and never miss a post.
    Jamie Irons

  • hamidreza says:

    Could the US use round the clock drones to guard a radius around its FOBs, or the streets of a town like Karabila, against IED planting? If planters are discovered, then dispatch a GMLRS which should pick them off in a minute or two.
    Or alternately, follow the planters back to their safe houses. This should be within the means of today’s technology.

  • goesh says:

    Jihadis can commandeer homes and cars and supplies from either willing participants or by force and threats. Drones really don’t work so well in villages/urban environments. I could prep a car, drive it to the next village, park it, go into a home, tell the people to keep silent, sit for a while, go out the back door, walk a half block away, commandeer that home and wait for a patrol and detonate the car. Grunts on the ground will always be needed, coupled with local intelligence.

  • Dawn Patrol

    Welcome to the Dawn Patrol, our daily roundup of information on the War on Terror and other topics – from the MilBlogs, other blogs, and the mainstream media. If you’re a blogger, you can join the conversation. If you link…

  • desert rat says:

    Thanks again, Bill, for the great work. Hope our cussin’ cousins can remain civil. I’d hate to lose Soldier Dad’s and Justin’s input due to a shut down of your comments section.
    The tactical information, available here, is outstanding, again, thanks.

  • Jamison1 says:

    October 18, 2005: In Anbar Province, the large desert region in the western part of the country that borders Syria, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia, the government has apparently reached an agreement with several of the Sunni tribes to form a “Desert Protection Force.”

  • Bill Roggio says:

    No word ont eh assault force size, I think it it is a good guess to estimate 50-100 depending on the size of the support element.
    Jamie, d/r,
    I appreciate the kind words.
    Just an FYI:
    I won’t shut the comments down because of some transient popping off, but will do so if the regulars cannot check their fire. I also greatly value the views and information contained in the comments, and loath to shut them down. I don’t comment often as I know folks like Soldier’s Dad and others answer the questions, and well (see goesh’s reply today for an example).

  • Justin Capone says:

    I have been supported for awhile moderate Sunni parties be allowed start building paramilitary forces. That would make life much harder on the insurgents.
    I am against large militas, but moderate to small sized ones that work as police forces until we get more Iraqi police are helpful.

  • desert rat says:

    Why not create the Police Force, from the get go. I fail to see the reasoning for the intermediate step. As Jamison noted, we can bring former foes into the fold. Call it bribery, call it what they will, tribute or payroll. There is a long history of buying Allies, as exampled by the Romans and British, each in their turn.

  • TallDave says:

    It seems like the terrorism in Iraq has been down considerably starting a couple days before the referendum and continuing after. I’m wondering if that doesn’t have a lot to do with the pressure being put on them by the Anbar offensive.
    Hopefully the strikes in Ramadi mean a major operation there is imminent.

  • Justin, Desert Rat,

    We’ve been working with certain Sunnis/ex-Ba’athists for a while now. After all, the Interior Ministry’s special police unit is almost entirely made of of ex-Ba’athists. Likewise, you can see examples like in Qabr Abed in northwestern Iraq in which a collection of local Sunnis have come in on our side.

    What most stands out about these two examples, though, is that in both cases, the Sunnis basically approached us and offered to help. If we were more proactive on this front, we could probably find more people in Anbar, Salah ad Din, and the Baghdad exurbs who’d be willing to work on our behalf.

  • leaddog2 says:

    “If we were more proactive on this front, we could probably find more people in Anbar, Salah ad Din, and the Baghdad exurbs who’d be willing to work on our behalf”.
    Andrew, From what I have seen, we are! We can always do more, of course!

  • C-Low says:

    I dont see why we dont do what occupiers all through history have done with great success. Play on the occupied dislike for eachother. Sunni police should be sent to the Shia areas Shia police sent to the Sunni areas. The result would be that the police would stand their ground, melting into the city would be suicide, better to stay enmass and fight waiting for backup US. When the police feel more loyalty to the locals than to the far away gov those guys are going to be hard pressed to stand and fight local insurgents. Not to mention will they choose the gov or local loyalty when the time comes? Every nation that occupied other nations have used this process Britian, Romans, hell even Saddam played tribe against tribe in the Sunni area’s and Sunnis over eveyone else. Human emotion says you are unlikly to kill your brother but some stranger far from anyone you know or care for thats trying to kill you or your buddy next to you, ehhh thats no brainer.

  • desert rat says:

    exactly, more Government Forces, less private armies.

  • cjr says:

    #13: C-Low
    What you suggest is actually occuring.
    There is a problem using local forces. However, the problem is not so much loyalty. It turns out the problem is that that local forces are more suseptable to threats to their families. Hence, the failure of the first ISF set up in Anbar(60th brigade, which had to be disbanded in April). Now, a new force has been has been set up with people from outside of Anbar (the new 7th division).

  • westhawk says:

    We discussed this weekend’s engagements in Al-Anbar at our blog in the posting:
    Iraq’s insurgents have black days too.
    Our conclusion is that is seems very possible that persistant USMC operations in Al-Anbar have decimated experienced leadership in the insurgent’s ranks. The losses the insurgents suffered on Sunday reflect incompetence, inexperience, and their inability to pass on “lessons learned”. We may see remaining resistance collapse sooner than many expect.

  • vuc says:

    “These operations have also created an environment where the Sunnis can consider dropping their support for the insurgency and continue the fight on the political front.”
    How exactly do you conclude this? These operations have angered moderate Sunnis. The operation in Tal Afar helped to squash the aspirations of the Sunnis by making it harder for Turkomen who side with the Sunnis to vote against the constitution. Questionnable vote counts now are making Sunnis feel even more disenfranchised and making them feel that what the majority of them think means nothing. If the constitution is not amended quickly to distribute the oil wealth more evenly, moderate Sunnis (Turkomen and Christians also) are going to feel like they have absolutely no political voice and turn towards the insurgency. Unfortunately, my expectation is for violence to increase until a political solution that is appealing to all 3 groups (actually all 5 groups) in the country is found.

  • TallDave says:

    These operations have angered moderate Sunnis.
    How exactly do you conclude this? Some moderate Sunnis actually endorsed the Constitution, and Sunnis in Diyala appear to have voted for it.
    Questionable vote counts are being reviewed (democratic safeguards in action).
    Sunnis as a whole (not just the moderates) give every indication they will vote in the December parliamentary elections.
    I agree the oil revenue sharing should be looked at again, which is another reason why the Dec 15 elections are of paramount importance.

  • blert says:

    It is pathetic that the whole of this society is mesmerized by oil revenue dependency.
    As it stands their economy — if you can call it that — consists of oil wealth subsidizing electric power, all motor fuels and the basic foodstufts.
    The failure to get the economic progress ball rolling must be addressed. Start with metering electric power to commercial enterprises. Follow up with step wise increases in the price of motor fuels.
    Use these savings towards direct support of the poor. Lord knows Iraq has no end of child victims.
    The failure to increase oil exports at a time of advantage is painful to witness.
    We are witnessing an unsustainable military victory provided gratis by the US. Once we reduce our security subsidy the economic bankruptcy of the nation will undermine their security forces.
    The Iraqi government is still runnning the show on a credit card. Time is short.

  • hamidreza says:

    vuc: The operation in Tal Afar helped to squash the aspirations of the Sunnis by making it harder for Turkomen who side with the Sunnis to vote against the constitution.
    Obviously your are talking out of ideology and not out of knowledge. Talafar was taken over by insurgents, similar to lets say Ramadi. They WOULD NOT allow any referendum to take place in that city. So there would have been no NO vote, just like in Ramadi where nobody voted.
    By the US and IA liberating Talafar, the Sunni Turkomen were able to vote NO to the Constitution, and they voted in droves.
    Just exactly opposite of what you are saying.
    You are implying that the authorities in Talafar are forcing people to vote YES. Care to back up this fantastic claim?
    Regarding oil, the Constitution expressly says that the wealth should be divided equally among the citizens. Also Salahedding and Ninawa have a lot of oil fields, so it is not exactly that Sunnis have no oil. A map I have seen suggests that Sunnis have more oil fields in their areas than their proportion in the population (25%).

  • blert says:

    This is a decent oil field map.
    The astonishing thing is just how much oil Iraq is figured to have – vs – their rate of extraction.
    All success to date can be unwound if the Iraqi economy can’t get in gear.
    The sweet as sugar deals that Saddam cooked up immediately prior to the invasion are still having their toxic effects. Putin & Co have convinced themselves that these were straight up business deals and that the current government owes them.
    Iraqi exploitation costs are as low as Q8 and KSA in many of their fields. Priority must now be given to tapping fresh un-injured fields ASAP. Iraq needs to lock down these transient high prices.
    BTW, current crude prices are very nearly the inflation adjusted peak. The drop in recreational use is already severe here in California. Current prices are killing demand and must be grabbed before they fade away.
    IMO the Iraqis figure that the current trend is ever upward, and that there is no urgency. Well OPEC has been down that road before. BTW we ought to pressure them to drop out of OPEC. In a globally tight market with KSA now lost as a swing producer its time is past. OPEC was merely a front for KSA anyway.

  • The Progress In Iraq

    Bill Roggio brings up the fact that the recent attack on a Marine Base by the terrorists that failed miserably
    In the Al Qa’im region Oct. 16, an estimated 12 insurgents were killed in a failed attack against Marines at Camp Gannon located in the …

  • hamidreza says:

    Nice map Blert, and thanks.
    It appears that there is even oil in Qaim, on the Syrian border. The 6 provinces, that either have Sunni majority or substantial minority such as Baghdad, Kirkuk, and Diyala – these Sunni provinces are loaded with oil fields. In light of this, the Sunni complaint that they are being short changed on oil rings hollow.
    Yes I also think that crude oil prices are at a peak and are bound to settle – probably at the $50 level and production should be expanded dramatically.
    The Sunnis are not complaining about their fair share. They are complaining about loss of control over 100% of the oil revenue. I wish the MSM would stop repeating the untruth that the Sunnis are being cheated because the oil is only in the south and on the Kurdish line. It is not. Maybe the existing wells are concentrated in these two areas, but the fields are distributed rather fairly.

  • Keneth says:

    The current oil maps of Iraq are based on older surveys. It will be interesting to see where new fields will be found, asuming security will improve to the point where extensive exploration can proceed. Hamidreza is correct, the Sunni Arabs are complaining about the loss of power and total control. They are also worried about revenge & retribution from their former victims, the Shiite & Kurds.

  • Marlin says:

    For those who may have read the MSM accounts that ‘civilians’ were killed in Ramadi during the air attacks, please read the following blog entry from a soldier in theater.
    Insurgents Died Last Night…Plain And Simple


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