Military operations continue along the Euphrates River basin as Coalition forces look to consolidate their gains after Operations Iron Fist and River Strike. Several terrorists were killed and a large weapons cache was uncovered during raids on safe houses in the city of Hit.
Coalition forces struck a safe house in the town of Ushsh in the vicinity of Qaim. It is believed another al Qaeda leader, Abu Dua was killed in the attack. According to Coalition intelligence, Dua was the “emir of Rawah” who was a facilitator of foreign fighters entering from Syria and Saudi Arabia. He also was responsible for running Taliban-like courts to terrorize the local population; “Dua held religious courts to try local citizens charged with supporting the Iraqi government and coalition forces. He would kidnap individuals or entire families, accuse them, pronounce sentence and then publicly execute them.”
Three separate reports appeared about snipers in western Iraq, both about the 3rd Regiment, 6th Marine Battalion. The snipers are positioned to intercept al Qaeda and insurgents slipping across the Syrian border. Battalion commander Lt. Col. Julian reports on the nature of the enemy on the border and their tactics; “There is a good mix of both insurgents and foreign fighters… They infiltrate at night and fire at us.” Col. Stephen Davis, commander of Regimental Combat Team – 2 reports the enemy has taken heavy casualties in the region; “We kill an average of 10 a day for the last 20 days. But they keep coming and keep doing the same stupid things.” The Marines report that intelligence has increased “from residents who have gradually become convinced that the U.S. troops and their Iraqi counterparts are in town to stay.”
In Ramadi, Marine Snipers take up positions during a cordon and search operation at the Malaab Soccer Stadium in the eastern part of the city, and kill three insurgents in the process. This is the same stadium that was the focus of fighting towards the end of September. From Ramadi out to the border, the Marines are learning the lay of the land and positioning their sniper teams well.
Also noted is the increase in the presence of Iraqi Security Forces. According to the Arab News, “Checkpoints guard the road southeast from Al-Qaim toward the insurgent strongholds of Ramadi and Fallujah, and are manned by Marines, and soldiers of the First Iraqi Brigade.” Antonio Castaneda reports from the city of Haditha, where two companies of Iraqi troops are operating with the Marines to restore order and conduct patrols. Mr. Castaneda is negative about the prospects of the Iraqi troops, but he fails to understand these are currently “Level 3” troops, which units that are paired up with U.S. Forces and are not yet able to operate independently.
The Iraqi units currently west of Hit appear to be made up of inexperienced troops who are receiving on-the-job-training. The Marines and soldiers in Anbar province are compensating by maintaining pressure on al Qaeda and the insurgency, with round raids, air strikes and well placed sniper teams until the Iraqi soldiers improve their combat proficiency and more troops are moved into the region. al Qaeda and the insurgency are on the defensive already, and will be further on their heels once the Iraqi troops gets up to snuff.