The fighting in Ubaydi continues as Operation Steel Curtain completes its eleventh day. Sixteen terrorists and five Marines are killed during a heavy firefight in the town. Members of the locally recruited Desert Protection Force arrested an al Qaeda terrorist at the New Ubaydi Hospital, while twenty-one insurgents are detained inside a civilian camp established for non-combatants. Residents of Ubaydi contacted the Iraqi Army and provided the information on the insurgent’s whereabouts.
The Coalition has confirmed the identity of Abu Ahmed, the former “Emir of Sadah” , who was captured among several other terrorists after a raid on his “safe house” on day three of Steel Curtain. He described himself as the “one of the five senior al Qaeda in Iraq terrorist leaders in the al Qaim region” who was responsible for numerous attacks in the region.
In western Iraq, Coalition forces are quickly following combat operations with civil affairs missions, beginning in Husaybah. The latest Multinational Forces – West press release details how the Civil-Military Operations Center (CMOC) operates:
Iraqi Army soldiers and Marines with Regimental Combat Team -2 have established the Husaybah Civil-Military Operations Center (CMOC), where meetings have begun between the Iraqi Army, Coalition Forces and local and regional leaders to coordinate the rebuilding of the city and the reconstitution of the city council. The CMOC will also serve as the primary meeting place for city leaders who are seeking assistance with regard to basic necessities such as food, water, electricity, phone services, waste management, and security.
This coincides with news that Provincial Reconstruction Teams, which were used in Afghanistan with great success, are now being assembled in Iraq. The first unit began operating in Mosul last week, and the rest should be in place by the summer of 2006.
Andrew Tilghman, who is an embedded reporter in Western Iraq, highlights the challenges of reconstruction projects in western Iraq. First and foremost, the Coalition is attempting to “create a civil government where none has previously existed.” Saddam, despite his ruthlessness, never exerted his rule this far west.
Mr. Tilghman also reports some insurgents may be attempting to move back into Husaybah, and describes the situation in the town as a “turning point – a window of time when military combat begins to resemble police work, when direct assaults give way to routine patrols, and when killing insurgents seems easy when compared to simply finding them.” The Iraqi soldiers and Marines are constructing two permanent bases in Husaybah and are now patrolling the city.
Col Steven Davis, the commander of Regimental Combat Team – 2, often states the situation in Western Iraq is “a situation to be managed, not a problem to be solved.” The establishment of a permanent Iraqi security presence, along with the offer of economic aid is two very important ways of managing the problem in western Iraq.
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