Ramadi remains a focus of insurgent attacks and Coalition efforts to suppress them. Elections turnout during Saturday’s referendum on the constitution was light in Ramadi, with an estimated 2,000 votes cast of a city of over 400,000, and five U.S. and two Iraqi soldiers were killed by a roadside bomb on Election Day.
Operation Mountaineers was launched on October 4, and was a cordon and search operation designed to disrupt insurgent activity in the southern neighborhoods and secure a bridge used to transport enemy arms and fighters. On October 14, the day prior to the referendum, Coalition forces conducted raids near the city and killed twelve insurgents and captured twenty four. On October 16, Coalition forces conducted a series of air strikes in outlying towns, and insurgents attacked within the city.
The first airstrike occurred east of Ramadi, when an F-15 on patrol detected four vehicles at the site of the roadside bomb attack on Saturday. The terrorists were emplacing a new IED, and the F-15 struck, killing twenty.
The second series of airstrikes occurred north of Ramadi (in Albu Faraj) where insurgents attacks have been both frequent and deadly. A Huey and a Cobra helicopter paired on combat patrol discovered insurgents gathering at a safe house. The insurgents attack the helicopters with their rifles, and the helicopters returned fire, killing ten. Twenty minutes later, a pair of F/A-18s entered the fray, and attacked a group of insurgents, estimated at about forty in strength, loading weapons to move to a new location. A total of fifty insurgents are believed to have been killed in the strikes.
In the city of Ramadi, insurgents attacked Coalition forces guarding the Government Center. Coalition forces called in an airstrike then proceeded to engage the enemy with shoulder-fired weapons. One to three insurgents are believed to have been killed.
The insurgent’s massing in strength in the first two events displays a level of ignorance of the combat power they face from U.S. air assets. The lessons of the repeated targeting and slaughtering of terrorists along the Euphrates prior to recent operations along the Euphrates has either never reached them the insurgents in and around Ramadi, or are being ignored. If the lessons have not reached them, there is a communications problem. If the lessons are being ignored, the massing of troops under the certainty of deadly fire from above smacks of desperation.
The attacks outside of Ramadi are reminiscent of the operations that preceded the assault on Tal Afar, where Coalition forces secured the surrounding towns in an effort to strangle the insurgency’s lifelines to the city. The Coalition may be in the earlier stages of laying the groundwork for such an operation. The Iraqi Army will be instrumental in securing the city and its surroundings, and rooting out the local insurgents and foreign terrorists. The people of Ramadi would be wise to renounce the terrorists and insurgents lest they meet the same fate as Fallujah and Tal Afar.
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