Fighting in Ubaydi and Reconstruction in Western Iraq

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.

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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21 Comments

  • GK says:

    How many more days will Stell Curtain approximately last? How many mroe towns are we going to clear?
    Does this leave the jihadis permanently hammered down and subdued in this whole province? Or is this still just a stalemate?
    Why don’t we just station thousands of US troops along both river valleys on the Iraq-Syria border, so that no one can get either in or out of Iraq from these points? Jihadi’s couldn’t attack those border troops, as a small number of jihdis could just get picked off, and a larger ‘army’ could be destroyed by air power.
    Those jihadis already trapped in Iraq will then be gradually mopped up my the Iraqi army and police.
    Why can’t we just do that?

  • cjr says:

    Op Hunter, the overall Anbar campaign will last until at least Dec 15(That is what the Generals say in press conferences). Unclear how many towns need to be cleared because I would guess its classified.
    Its neither permanent or a stalemate. Its progress.
    There are not enough US troops to be able to do everything that needs to be done. That is why ISF are being trained. So, for the Syrian border, the plan is to build a large number of border forts, manned by Iraqi border guards. This will take until early next year.
    Trapping jihadis is the plan. However, the rate of progress equals the rate at which ISF can be trained and made avaiable for operations. ~300,000 is needed to close the noose and you cant train that many overnight.

  • Justin Capone says:

    Atlantic Monthly claims Iraq has no real security force and won’t for 5 to 10 years.
    //www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5015143
    where do they get this stuff

  • Jim, Mtn View, CA says:

    re: The Atlantic Monthly
    They have been consistently pessimistic on Iraq.
    I remember getting an issue (May 2005?) just after the first Iraq election and it contained 2 articles which basically said the US effort was doomed.
    It may have been these.
    //www.theatlantic.com/doc/prem/200505/langewiesche
    //www.theatlantic.com/doc/prem/200505/bryce
    I still recall the utter disconnect between the articles and what I could see happening on TV.

  • desert rat says:

    It has not been overnight. We have been in control of the country for almost three years. When I was Army, that was the normal enlistment.
    Enlist, trained, deployed, retrained, redeployed, Get out.
    The chjallenge is that for the first 18 months no one cared about training the Iraqis, the Army had somehow forgotten the winning formula since el Salvador

  • ricksamerican says:

    Justin
    They make it up. I subscribed when the great Michael Kelly was editor–kia in OIF–since his death I just drop it in the round file when it arrives in the mail. That’s good advice for anyone IMHO.

  • Justin Capone says:

    desert rat,
    You hit the nail on the head, the real problem wasn’t disbanding the Iraqi Army as much as it was not hitting the ground running and trying to rebuild the Iraqi Army and police. We didn’t actually get going until about the time Allawi came into office.

  • Jimbo says:

    Justin ….any info on the 5 Marines KIA.

  • hamidreza says:

    I say, quickly establish water, electricity, telephone, and mobile service in Husayba.
    If an IED goes off, then cut off ALL these services for 1 WEEK, stop the sale of gasoline and heating oil, and ban cars and establish curfew for the week. Let them all suffer collectively, until they understand that they have to be on the lookout for the bad guys.
    Also give huge rewards to children and townfolks that identify or turn in IEDs.

  • Rancher says:

    hamidreza
    Sounds to me that the townsfolk are really helping us and not them, so punishment would be counterproductive. Rewards are a good idea however.

  • Delta Dave says:

    I’ve gone back and forth over the issue of disbanding the Iraqi Army. In the end, I believe it was the only feasible alternative.

    Arab military culture is based on the Soviet model which is essentially devoid of enlisted level leadership and initiative; where command and control is tightly centralized and highly controlled. Where junior officers are discouraged from exercising personal leadership and initiative in the absence of direct orders.

    I am convienced we would have spend a lot longer time trying to convert the existing IA culture, the incumbent service members (both enlisted and officers), and the established relationships, practices and procedures to an effective fighting force in the mode of a western military establishment.

    Starting from a blank sheet seems to me to have been the only really viable option, and even this process has had its challenges in convincing former IA members that they need to adopt more of a western style culture of individual initiative and lower level responsibility and leadership.

    I think we are now seeing the payoff in IA performance. The longer we stay with them, the less likely they will revert to the old Soviet organizational mode.

  • desert rat says:

    Delta Dave
    You’ll get no argument from me about the disbanding of Saddam’s Army. My own life experiences led me to be at the School of the Americas, in both the Canal Zone and later, Panama. Funny the buildings never moved, US interests did.
    Anyway, in the late ’70’s and early 80’s we trained Officers and troops from myriad of Central & South American nations. We inserted a minimal number of Uniformed Troops into Salvador, to both help stabalize the country and defeat the Communist insurgents.
    There were no massive deployments of US troops to defeat a well funded Insurgency, aided by bordering nation states.
    Local, indiginous forces are needed to defeat local insurgencies. While US troops were required to Liberate Iraq, their continued presence as a psuedo Iraqi National Police should not be required after the Elections. After closing the Syrian border to infiltration and a Clear and Hold operation in Ramadi, whom else, in Iraq, will we need to attack with our assualt troops?
    Iraqis must both secure and police their own country.
    If we or Iraq need US troops stationed there, they should be deployed to the airbases in the western deserts. We should have a long term embedding of Special Forces within the Iraqi Army.
    Iraq’s armored arm is reforming, they should begin to develop a close air support Air Wing, to support their Ground Ops.
    Iraq’s Military Logistical System needs to be addressed. Trucks, forklifts, fuel trucks and such.

  • Dave From Chicago says:

    Guys, it’s sure not looking good in the senate. It seems daily the cry’s for withdrawal become louder and louder. How much longer can we hold out? As much as I dislike the DEMS and MSM the average American is believing that Iraq is a lost cause and anothe Vietnam. What do you guys think?

  • Dave From Chicago says:

    It’s also ridiculous that Bush is busy traveling Asia in a critical period in the Iraq war. Doesn’t Bush realize his whole presidency rely’s on Iraq. If Iraq fails it will be a downhill snowball effect. Karl Rove has been a big failure as far as PRing the war as a whole. They’ve let the MSM define the war. I’m really starting to get nervous now.

  • Justin Capone says:

    desert rat,
    I agree that is the way it should be, but I can’t see the military or DOD doing that.
    They are far too stuck in their ways to make that kind of change even if it is required from the standpoint of the US public.

  • desert rat says:

    dave from chi town
    The Japansese, Koreans & Chinese are much more dependent upon ME oil than the US is. Most of our imports are from Mexico & Venezuala. The Japanese & Koreans are actively engaged in Iraq. Their exposure could, should be increased, should it not?
    The President has had plenty of time to convey his message, it seems like his team has lost the inititive, at least ’til now. The President & Vice President have come out swinging, but it seems to little to late,

  • Dave From Chicago says:

    desert rat, so how do you think Iraq will turn out? Is it gonna go down the tuvbe due to political reason now?

  • Soldier's Dad says:

    Dave,
    “Not looking good in the Senate”
    The original authorisation to use force was 77 yea votes.
    The most recent vote on the Iraqi subject,”Whether a significant portion of Iraqi security should be turned over to Iraqi’s in 2006?” had 79 yea’s.
    On January 30th 2005, there were 110 FOB’s in Iraq, 28 have been turned over. Another 4 are scheduled to be turned over in the next 100 days(17 Nov 2005 Baghdad press briefing).
    30% of bases closed in 1 year is substantial progress.

  • desert rat says:

    I think the War is all but over.
    As I said there will be no one else to attack, pretty soon. There will be no where for the Opponents to run. The local insurgency will morph into a criminal enterprise, if it has not already. The aQ element, mostly foreigners, are described by President Talabani(sp?)as “criminals” explicitly not as “resistence”. I believe him. Let his Police & Army, in conjuction with the Jordanians chase these criminals down.
    There is no US troop presence in Israel, Jordon, Lebenon, KSA, London, Madrid, Bali, Manila, Thailand, India or Pakistan despite Jihadist bomb attacks in all those locales. There needn’t be a major US military presence in Iraq much longer… to fight a war.
    There may be other reasons to have a force “stay behind”, but it should not be to “Patrol” Iraq.

  • The Colossus says:

    Compare and Contrast: Roggio vs. CNN

    Compare and contrast these two stories. The first, from milblogger Bill Roggio, on Operation Steel Curtain, in Ubaydi. What do we get from Mr. Roggio? First, a description of the fighting: The fighting in Ubaydi continues as Operation Steel Curtain com…

  • Matthew says:

    I think it’s important though, if the war is ‘over’ as you say, that the United States withdrawal has some sort of authority to it, and that it doesn’t look like they’re slinking away after being defeated.

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