Day two of Operation River Gate, which is aimed at dislodging al Qaeda and insurgents from the towns of Haditha, Haqlaniyah and Barwana, has ended. Six al Qaeda have been reported killed, and over 110 suspected insurgents detained. Iraqi Soldiers secured Haditha General Hospital, which was used as a base of operations by terrorists last spring during Coalition search and destroy operations. Three IEDs were discovered and disabled.
Operation River Gate began yesterday with predawn air strikes on the Dulab, Haditha and Barwana bridges which span the Euphrates River. The strikes were carefully executed to disable the bridges and limit the insurgents’ ability to flee the cities.
The denial of bridges is an important piece of the Coalition strategy to deny freedom of movement to al Qaeda and the insurgency. The tactic of destroying bridges has been used in western Iraq. The Coalition is carefully funneling all traffic north and south of the river through Rawah, where it maintains a strong presence. Wretchard outlined the strategic significance of Rawah – it sits along the boundary of the steppe and desert to the west, where travel is not restricted to the roads, and riverene Iraq to the east, where roads are vital as a line of communications. Rawah has become the river gate of the Euphrates – those wishing to travel north, south, east or west of the river must now pass through Rawah.
Captain Jeffrey Pool admonishes the media for poor reporting on River Gate, much of which can be seen in littered throughout the news (this Washington Post story is a good example):
I have noticed some misreporting, especially concerning air strikes. The only bombs dropped by Coalition aircraft were those against the three bridges. There has also been no Coalition artillery used in Op River Gate. Reports of Iraqi and US Forces destroying homes and buildings in Haditha, Haqlaniyah and Barwana are false. Essential services such as electricity, water and access to medical care have not been disrupted by the ongoing operation.
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