The fight in Western Iraq has moved to the outskirts of the town of Karabilah, after the town of Sada was cleared by Marines. Press reports indicate 36 terrorists have been killed so far, with no Marine casualties. Al Qaeda has claimed to have taken two Marines as prisoners, but Major Neil Murphy denies this; “Claims on an Islamic militant website that two Marines were kidnapped in western Iraq are patently false. All Marines and service members attached to Multi-National Force – Iraq are accounted for.”
Like the claims of airstrikes on Rumana, excessive civilian casualties and the cutting of water and power to towns reported throughout the media, the claim of captured Marines is part of al Qaeda’s sophisticated information warfare campaign. Qaeda is stepping up its propaganda efforts to portray Iron Fist as a failure, anger the Muslim world and sap support for the war effort in the United States.
Anna Badkhen, an embedded reporter with the Marines of the 3rd Battalion, 6th Regiment leads the day’s reporting with a portrayal of Marines losing the initiative after reaching the outskirts of Karabilah. The article is titled Foreign fighters in western town stymie Marine bid to sweep out area.
The 1,000 or so Marines didn’t have the firepower or manpower to immediately silence the attacks, so they lost the precious momentum Operation Iron Fist had gained the day before, said Capt. Richard Pitchford, commander of the Lima Company of the 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment attached to the 2nd Regimental Combat Team. “We had them on the run, and we didn’t exploit it,” Pitchford said.
However the real explanation for not rushing into the town with reckless abandon is given several paragraphs below. The headline is wildly misleading.
Several Marine companies entered Karabila from different directions when they encountered strong resistance. “We should have pounced on them, but … we had to be very methodical about cleaning houses When an opportunity like this comes up to pounce on somebody you can’t just drop everything and go after them, because you leave places uncleared. … But I think we pretty much cornered them.”
What is likely occurring is the Marines are cordoning the town while preparing to enter it in force. Firepower or manpower is not the issue. The Marines could easily reduce the town to rubble with air power, artillery and armor, to reduce the threat of enemy pillboxes and explosive devices placed in homes and other locations. This would play into al Qaeda’s propaganda machine, and the media would eagerly report the “leveling of Karabilah” . It would also poison the local population towards the efforts to eject al Qaeda from the region.
Because the Coalition is taking great pains – greater than any military in history – to keep civilian casualties and the destruction of private property to a minimum, cities and towns that are the objective of operations must be entered cautiously. Ms. Badhken documented the various traps laid for Marines in Sada, and Karabilah will be no different.
Karabilah is the home of the Karabilah tribe, which has supported al Qaeda’s presence in the region, and has fought against the Coalition and the local pro-government Albu Mahal tribe. If the insurgents and terrorist decide to stand and fight, expect the combat to be intense.
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