River Gates

The operations along the stretch of the Euphrates River from Qaim to Baghdad will not abate any time soon. Major General Rick Lynch has stated, “We’re going to fight our way to the [October 15] referendum, and we’re going to fight our way to the [December 15] election.” According to MG Lynch, there are over 4,800 U.S. forces and 4,200 Iraqi troops in the fight, and the purpose of the operations are threefold; “That we deny terrorists and foreign fighters the Euphrates river valley as an avenue of approach into Iraq; that we deny any safe havens to the insurgency along the Euphrates river valley; and we … allow the Iraqi government to re-establish control over their border with Syria.”

MG Lynch also verifies what we discussed yesterday – the Coalition is carefully funneling access across the Euphrates to specific locations. We identified Rawah as one location. MG Lynch explains the tactic; “There were 12 bridges from the Syrian border to Ramadi. Were is the operative term. There are now four. Those four that remain are under the control of the Iraqi Security Forces and coalition forces.”

The breakdown of the bridges from Qaim to Ramadi is as follows (from west to east, data obtained via visual scan on Google Earth. I was only able to confirm 11 bridges visually.)

Location Number of Bridges
Ubaydi 2
Rawah 1
Haditha 3
Khan al Baghdadi 1
Hit 1
Ramadi 3

There are also two bridges in Habbaniyah and two in Fallujah. A look at the map will show the Coalition maintains a strong presence at each and every crossing point. This is no accident. The Coalition has chosen to segment the Euphrates River at cities and towns that possess bridges across the river, and will be on hand to control the crossing points when the time comes to reopen the bridges.

We know the three bridges in and around Haditha have been severed, as well as the bridges out west in Ubaydi. The likelihood is the crossings at Khan al Baghdadi and Hit have been disabled as well, leaving a crossing open in Rawah to the west and Ramadi to the East (note that a goal of Operation Mountaineers was securing a railroad bridge in the south of the city). The Coalition now effectively controls traffic across the Euphrates River. Insurgents and terrorists wishing to transverse the river must now run the river gates established Rawah and Ramadi.

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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11 Comments

  • Matthew says:

    Bill,
    Just curious, how wide and deep is the Euphrates between the Syrian border and Fallujah? Is it a river that can be forded in some places? I’m sure the coalition is taking that into account and
    I’m sure that it is hard for enemy forces to set up a river crossing supplying operation without being spotted from the air. I know what the Mississippi looks like in St. Louis, the Ohio in Louisville, and the Hudson near Albany New York, but I have no idea what kind of a river is the Euphrates.
    Thanks for your reporting.

  • leaddog2 says:

    Think Missouri River size… Big and Deep, but not the size of the largest on Earth … the Amazon, Ganges, Nile, Mississippi, etc. etc. are orders of magnitude larger!
    However, they are UNLIKELY to swim the Euphrates (or the Tigris) with Troops, etc.

  • C-Low says:

    I dont remember if it was at this site or other there was Riverine Marine/river assualt troops. I hope they got these guys running up and down the river through the choke point hitting any small boats or the such trying to ferry some guys or equipment across. If nothing else they can draw fire and then direct counter fire on shore targets of opportunity. Otherwise every fisherman or such is making some damm good money right now with littl or no risk.

  • hamidreza says:

    Blowing up the bridges is a good political tactic as well. The average insurgent sympathizer, farmer, trader, etc. in Anbar is under the impression that if not outright winning the war, that they have at least checked the sole global superpower into a stalemate. heh heh – They tend to believe their own propaganda.
    Now they are getting hurt in their wallet. Everytime they want to cross the river to do their work, they have to row a boat. To get a vehicle across, they have to find a ferry.
    This should have deep psychological impact. What is the point of stalemating the world sole superpower, if you can’t even tend to your fields or get supplies from the shop across the river?
    Those sympathizers who support the insurgency will realize that just jumping up and down in the streets and firing klashnikovs in the air does not mean you have won the insurgency or that you have control over your territory. If you can’t secure the most basic things like bridges in your cities, then that is not a victory, but a defeat.

  • hamidreza says:

    It will also teach the sympathizers on the Tigris that if they don’t behave, they will meet the same fate. If they lose their bridge, then they will have to beg the Shia government for money to repair them.
    I bet the popularity of those oh so brave and heroic black masked klashnikov wielding 17 year olds who control some of the areas along the Tigris and Euphrates, but were unable to save the bridges, has now dropped a notch.

  • Cruiser says:

    Re blowing the bridges: Lets hope it dawns on the sympathizers that they are allying themselves with people who could never rebuild the bridges, only destroy things and people.

  • cjr says:

    A little more resolution on the troops at Haddithya: 2000 are US and 350 are Iraqi
    //www.defenselink.mil/news/Oct2005/20051006_2955.html

  • hamidreza says:

    CJR – thanks for the info on IA-L4.
    These 350 IA in Haditha must be L3.
    WaPo once claimed that of “a 2,500 troops in ORG half are IA”. But nobody else backed that up. Looks like WaPo can err on both sides – and their last concern is accuracy on critical matters, which they don’t even seem to understand.
    On the other hand the correspondents in the Petraeus briefing had very good questions IMO. It shows that people who can understand dont have access to the MSM, and the editors are deliberately sending ideologically tainted semi-literates to Baghdad.
    That looks like one heckova Surface-to-Surface missile in the picture. Saddam just gave away his full armory to the insurgents.

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  • Cacciaguida says:

    To C-Low, comment #3: Yes, the Marines are operating SURC (small unit riverine craft) patrols along the Euphrates.
    The reason I know this — and the reason I visit Fourth Rail many times a day and link to it on my blog — is that my son is a Lance Corporal with the 2nd Amphibious Assault Bn., Dam Security Unit, based at the Haditha Dam, about ten miles north of Haditha. He is the aft-gunner on one of the SURCs, manning an RPG gun and assisting with cryptography.

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