The Fighting Moves to Karabilah

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.

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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  • exhelodrvr says:

    Bill, I know that you are gleaning the facts from her articles and not taking her context at fact value. But she is so typical of the negative press that covers this war for the MSM. She has a common theme to her articles. Anytime the U.S. military does not immediately run pell-mell in pursuit of the enemy, it is because they lack the firepower. (She said the same thing a few days ago.) Which sounds really ludicrous in light of the fact that the Marines took no casualties. Doesn’t she ever stop to think that there might be another reason, for instance minimizing U.S. casualties, minimizing Iraqi casualties, taking time to set up blocking positions to keep the enemy from escaping, etc.? No, she just has to run with the theme that there are not enough U.S. forces in Iraq.

  • Mixed Humor says:

    Maybe they can move a couple GMLRS into range of Karbilah.
    Do we know what the population of Karabilah is?

  • Bill Roggio says:

    I have no arguments with your take on Ms. Badhken’s narrative, or the media’s for that fact. In my opinion, most members of the media either do not understand the nature of military operations, cannot place current operations in the context of the larger campaign, or have other motivations to present their story of the war in a negative light.
    I am attempting to put these reports, which do contain useful information, into the proper context. The beauty of blogging is when all is said and done, we’ll get to see who was right and who was wrong.

  • Soldier's Dad says:

    your previous post,
    Strykernews has some references to ops on the North Side of the River in Anah and Reehana as well as Rawah.

  • Task Force Baghdad ‘Retires’ an IED Cell, Marines On the Move in Operation Iron Fist

    The Word Unheard out of Baghdad is that Task Force Baghdad has broken up an IED cell apparently run by a local arm of the Jihad Academia. (H/T Security Watchtower) A physics professor, allegedly working as a terror cell leader in west Baghdad, was one…

  • Bill Roggio says:

    That’s about 40 miles east of the current ops. We have a base in Rawah (as I know you know), and it looks like they are sending out civil affairs missions a bit westward.
    I’ve always wondered about what is occurring between Ubaydi and Rawah. The area doesn’t come up in the news, and AQ never claims to hav ethie Islamic republics set up there.

  • Old SF says:

    Any intel on Syrian Army mobilizations? That’s a lot of US and Iraq troops almost on the border. Bound to generate a reaction across the border

  • Kartik says:

    A question :
    36 terrorists killed while no Marine was killed. Is it because the Iraqi Army was on the front lines (and sustained casualties), or are the Marines just that super-duper (coupled with the terrorists being a rag-tag bunch)?
    I know the Marines are elite but 36-0 is quite something..

  • The Sunnis Begin to Face Reality

    One error most commentators make when discussing the Iraq theater of the war on Islamic fascism, is to treat Iraq as if it is surrounded by a semi-permeable membrane that can only be traversed in one direction. The learned commentators

  • Soldier's Dad says:

    from NYT, subscription required –
    “The United States Army is running daily patrols through the narrow, hilly streets of Rawa and westward to the Syrian border, along with 500 Iraqi soldiers who are based in an unfinished water treatment plant.”

  • goesh says:

    Why are journalists who mislead and slant reports allowed to continue? Can’t the Pentagon stop them from accompanying the units and replace them with someone else who can be more objective?
    Kartik – there are no real front lines in Iraq – there are relatively quiet areas but no distinct lines. Secondly, the US doesn’t use any forces as mere cannon fodder to absorb fire and pinpoint defensive positions. Regarding the death rate of the jihadis, I am not surprised. These fanatics are willing to die and I think believe they are being protected by allah. Remember during the invasion when cars would rush at tanks? It’s the same mentality at play.

  • Soldier's Dad says:

    “36 terrorists killed while no Marine was killed.”
    Between LRAS(Long Range Acquisition System), M1A1 tanks ,Counter Battery radar and Air Support, the effective “kill range” for a US Unit is something like 1000+ Meters.
    The effective “kill range” of the Jihadi’s is something like 100 meters.

  • Jamison1 says:

    Thanks for the sat map. It really helps!

  • Annoy Mouse says:

    During the 90’s when the Marines were involved in training for Military Operations in Urbanized Terrain, I often wondered what might be the implications of this doctrine and the peculiarities of it’s practice. It seems that we are seeing those peculiarities in the flesh. It is difficult to maneuver a brigade in a city and keep up with threats and troops positions, I’d imagine that it is equally easy to get isolated from your unit so things have to go in a much more controlled manner. MOUT relies heavily on C4I, something that the Marines are coping with pretty well. The link to “Marines scour ‘Ghost town’ says that they are really getting up close and personal as the term ‘scour’ implies.
    “These operations are conducted to defeat an enemy that may be mixed in with civilians. Therefore, the rules of engagement (ROE) and use of combat power are more restrictive than in other conditions of combat.”

  • PeterArgus says:

    From cited Badhken article:
    “Marine snipers also discovered an elaborate trap made of five powerful roadside bombs wired together on one of Karabila’s major streets. They watched from a rooftop as children ran into the street, pointing out the Marine snipers’ position to someone hidden in an alley.”
    That would be a good reason not to rush in.
    With a little bit of experience you can build a very good mental filter to ignore all the unnecessary editorializing done by MSM journalists. What is left behind is often from pretty good information as Bill has been able to extract from Badhken’s articles. Keep up the good work. You have become the first place I go to find out what is going on in Iraq.

  • Hulk Hansen says:

    CNN had a similar report recently, accentuating the civilian casualties and slow progress. Just one defeat after another for the merkan soldiers, according to CNN.
    I suspect the forces are waiting on some crucial intel or negotiations with tribal sheikhs. The indigenous people are for sale at the right price. Never forget that.

  • Catching my eye: morning A through Z

    Here’s what’s caught my eye this morning:
    Guest blogger “Lola Candela” on Babalu Blog disapproved of the 60 Minutes segment on Elian Gonzales last night.
    Bird’s Eye View has a review of the world premier of John Ada…

  • ikez says:

    I wonder what happened to that Washington Post writer (Knickermeyer??) that was doing all those good reports? Or the UPI writer who was bringing us so much good stuff.

  • cjr says:

    Lt. Gen. David Petraeus speaks at Princeton.
    (He was in charge of training ISF until last month) From Tigerhawk bolg. Very interesting

  • Terry Gain says:

    You have become the first place I go to find out what is going on in Iraq.PeterArgus
    Me too. And my reaction to MSM coverage is the same as most here. I did notice however that CNN had some positive coverage this morning.
    Are we still holding Tal Afar?

  • Bill Roggio says:

    Tal Afar is still under Coalition control. Was something reported to the contrary?

  • Soldier's Dad says:

    “Are we still holding Tal Afar?”
    At least a battalion of 82nd Airborne and a battalion of 3rd Armored Cavalry are apparently still parked in TallAfar.

  • hamidreza says:

    I have written twice to Badkhen, and she is nice enough to reply immediately. She is Russian with only 1 year in the US. Either her English is great, or the editors have a lot of control. Eastern Europeans and those under communist or despotic regimes have generally understood the historical context behind US actions much better than home bred journalists.
    Frankly, I find her reporting a breath of fresh air. Which reporter is willing to spend the night camping out at Sada with the troops? Michael Yon would be the only other one.
    I was non-plussed with Ellen Knickermeyer (WaPo). Badkhen is superior in reporting the ground conditions. And that columnist (of the fifth variety) Jonathan Finer of WaPo who covered Talafar is another story altogether. I bet he will take the same route out of Iraq as Kevin Sites did and end up in Congo, once US protection is withdrawn from him.
    BTW, where is the promised IA? I have a theory for that.

  • Justin Capone says:

    Poll of hot Iraqi issues.
    Allawi and secular Shia are kicking ass. 78-22% support a secular Shia and Sunni allience headed by Allawi. 58% of Iraqis think Allawi should head the coming government.
    Also some other interesting numbers.

  • hamidreza says:

    That GMLRS thing is awesome! Thanks Mixed Humor.
    They can target a single house from up to 45 miles away, with minimal collateral damage. All they have to do is to station one of these things on the hills of Sada, and no terrorist will be safe in the greater Qaim area.
    Imagine once a terrorist is located, he has about 60 seconds to get out of there. Otherwise, he is history.
    A future version of the GMLRS will have a range of 190 miles. You could station one of these in Baghdad and cover each and every house in the Euphrates river valley up to Qaim! Much faster and more efficient than sending an F18 up there.
    In Matador, it took half a day to clear one particular bad terrorist dugout in Ubaydi, with 3 US casualties. With the GMLRS, this can be reduced in seconds.

  • Terry Gain says:

    Thanks Bill and SD.
    I did not hear anything to the contrary but I just wanted to be reassured that the plan of clear and hold is working. Perhaps what I had in mind was excerpts like the following from the report you cited:
    “Fayad said many Karabila residents smuggle sheep and fuel into Syria, and insurgents have used the smugglers’ trucks to travel into Iraq.
    He said he doubted that Operation Iron Fist would keep the fighters out of the area for good.
    “When you come to the town they go away, but when you return to your base they come back,” Fayad said.”
    These kind of comments seem to be appearing in about every MSM report. It seems as if they have programmed a macro for this insertion.

  • Marine_Uncle says:

    Hi Bill,
    Thank you for your continued analysis on the state of military effectiveness in Iraq. I am a Freeper (Free Repubic) member and reference folks to your site to get a balanced view.
    I have a question regarding where you found the sat imagery in the article at top. Did you purchase a package such as seems to be referenced in the picture, e.g. DigitalGlobe/EarthSat, or do you just go to some given site that allows one to search by GPS, dd/mm/ss, then download the image to your system as a jpeg or other formatted pic?
    If it is the latter, I would appreciate a URL reference as to where I can go to do similiar.
    Thanks if you can help out.

  • Bill Roggio says:

    Marine Uncle,
    Thanks for the kind words (this goes for everyone else who has been kind and I failed to respond to).
    I use Google Earth. It’s free, just as long as it isn’t for commercial use:
    Best Wishes,

  • Marine_Uncle says:

    Thank you Bill.
    Looks like I will not be able to obtain the end product. I only have a 1gb/56k dial-up and use ME on that PC. Which clearly appears to not be the minimum requirements for this package. But I just might try to see if I can install the free version anyway just to see what happens. I have a nephew who just returned this past saturday from Iraq. He is with the 2nd LAR Bn that was out at Korean Village 2 klicks NE of H3 off the main E/W road some 60 miles south of the Syrian border some sixty miles east of the Jordanian border. Yea, they pulled off operation Cyclone just before they departed this round. He is in H&S Intel. So I have a rather investted interest in this WOT as pertains to Iraq. This was his second tour in the pit.
    Perhaps I shall get some accurate after action reports once I get to see him in a few weeks. KV FOB is about 30 miles due west of Ar Rutbah.
    Take care, and keep up the great analysis.

  • Mike says:

    Do any of y’all have an opinion on the following hypothesis:
    The unfavorable / antagonistic media coverage fulfills Sun Tzu’s dictum: “Appear weak where you are strong, and appear strong where you are weak…”
    My support:
    Portrayals of our (and NIA troops) as incompetent, slow, etc. embolden the thugs, so that they act more aggressively than is wise. This occurs on the tactical, operational, and strategic levels.
    Note that I am NOT suggesting that the various news organizations are actively cooperating with the military. I consider most of these reporters (of all media) as sanctimonious, carping, traitorous bast*rds. I DO think it is more a matter of our military leadership turning an anticipated vulnerability into an advantage.

  • Operation Iron Fist – Day Three

    Operation Iron Fist has expanded from Sa’dah to the nearby towns of Karabilah and Rumana, as U.S. forces continue efforts to root out insurgents and foreign terrorists in the region. U.S. Marines killed eight insurgents in a firefight in Karabilah, wit…

  • Matthew says:

    “They watched from a rooftop as children ran into the street, pointing out the Marine snipers’ position to someone hidden in an alley.”
    Is a non-combatant acting as a spotter for one of the belligerents still a non-combatant, regardless of age? Would the Marines be justified in eliminating this threat, if they were spotting for jihadis and not simply, say, telling their families were the combat was?


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