In Context: Day Two of Steel Curtain in Husaybah and the Anbar Campaign

Cpmbat operation continue in and around Husaybah as day two of Operation Steel Curtain completes. Fighting has been reported as both sporadic and alternatively intense. Marine Lt.Col. Dale Alford, commander of the 3rd, Battalion, 6th Regiment reported Coalition forces encountered “pockets of resistance throughout the day.” Insurgents attempted to attack a Marine company providing security for the assault force, but were repelled.

About 50 suspected insurgents have been captured, with seventeen confirmed killed, and many more believed killed in the day’s fighting. Three Marines and a cameraman from the Army Times received minor wounds during a sniper attack.

The Army Times concisely explains how prior operations along the border set the stage for Steel Curtain. The establishment of bases in and around Sa’dah laid the groundwork for the current offensive.

Troops from 3rd Battalion, 6th Marines, had anticipated a march on Husaybah since the end of Operation Iron Fist last month. That operation halted along a dry creek bed in Karabilah, a farming village just east of Husaybah. That left insurgents in a pocket in Husaybah and western Karabilah, sandwiched between Camp Gannon to the west, and to the east by a series of fortified hilltops occupied by small groups of Marines and Iraqi soldiers.

CNN provides video of combat in Husaybah, as well as the training of Iraqi troops. Finally, the media provides context to Steel Curtain, and CNN explains the current operations are but a piece of the Anbar Campaign.

When looked at in isolation, individual operations in Anbar province may be interpreted as a futile game of whack-a-mole, with the Coalition blindly striking at the latest insurgent hot spot against an elusive enemy that will rematerialize elsewhere. But a careful look at the past year’s operations and efforts to train and deploy the Iraqi Army westward shows the Coalition has a plan, and is executing it.

Steel Curtain will not be the last operation in western Iraq. There will be more. The current operation will set the stage for the next, just as prior operations did so for Steel Curtain

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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  • hamidreza says:

    Bill – thanks for the wonderful analysis.
    Is it possible to get a sense of scale for this map? What is the distance from Sadah to Husaybah?

  • Mac says:

    Supposedly, Sadah is approximately 12 km from the Syrian border. Thus, the distance from Husaybah to Sadah is some 10 – 12 km. or 6 – 7 miles. Please correct me if I’m wrong.

  • Justin Capone says:

    Interesting article.
    The new U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad, appears to be enthusiastic about this counterinsurgency approach. U.S. commanders are now working with Sunni tribal leaders in Anbar province to create a new force known as the “Desert Protectors,” as well as a new Sunni-led army division there. Khalilzad has brought from his previous post in Afghanistan a plan for Provincial Reconstruction Teams that could combine military, economic, legal and other tools to provide jobs, social welfare and eventually stability. That plan is eerily reminiscent of some of Colby’s ideas about pacification.
    The trick is to move from “clear” to “hold.” A senior administration official tells me the U.S. is now managing precisely that transition in Mosul, Kirkuk and parts of the Euphrates Valley – bringing in well-trained Iraqi police to fill the vacuum once the insurgents are pushed out. The next big project is for U.S. and Iraqi forces jointly to try to stabilize the Baghdad area. “Clear, hold and build” will fail if it’s seen as an exit strategy, this official argues. It must be seen as a strategy for victory, much as Abrams saw his earlier version.

  • Paltike says:

    American politicians such as Kerry and Kennedy are projecting a “tail between the legs”, “bugout”, approach to the war on terror in Iraq. Bin Laden’s biggest boast was that the americans would run away at the first loss of blood, as in Clinton’s escape from Somalia.
    Senator Kerry and Senator Kennedy along with Rep. Pelosi, are trying to prove Bin Laden right.

  • ikez78 says:

    In regards to enemy body counts, what do you guys know about al Qaeda dragging away its dead and injured at the end of gunfights?

  • FrauBudgie says:

    The broader context of the operation is much appreciated.
    And, yes, Paltike — Meanwhile, US Democrats, abetted by various leftist groups and the major media, bewail the “lack of a plan.”
    And, the soldiers who receive horrific wounds there stand a good chance of being sent to Walter Reed — where they can observe Code Pink protest the war every Friday night…

  • Soldier's Dad says:

    “In regards to enemy body counts, what do you guys know about al Qaeda dragging away its dead and injured at the end of gunfights?”
    It is a practice that is as old as warfare itself. Denying ones enemy a measure of effectiveness, as expressed in casualties is a fundamental component of operations security.
    Fortunately/Unforunately, the US is an open society. The information flows to the families, the local news outlets track it, it then becomes impossible to keep it classified. In the earlier phases of the war, the Marines reported all casualties as Al Anbar in an effort to deny the enemy specific information on which attacks were effective.
    The only thing left “semi-secret” is evacuation statistics, which are delayed 90 days.

  • ikez78 says:

    Thanks Soldiers Dad. I caught a few episodes of SHOOTOUT on History Channel yesterday. Great show. Lots of analysis and perspective on battles in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

  • Nick Rizzuto says:

    Also caught Shootout last night. Really great program.

  • Cheryl says:

    Mr. Roggio,
    Thank you so much for the analysis on “Steel Curtain”. I hadn’t had a chance to get on the ‘net this weekend. Thanks for the CNN video link. I sent that to my nephew. Hope all is going well with your donation campaign. For those of you out there that haven’t donated yet, every little bit helps.

  • cjr says:

    Quote from DoD:
    “After clearing Husaybah, Iraqi Army units will partner with Marines from Regimental Combat Team 2 to provide a joint presence in the city .Previous operations between Iraqi Army units integrated with Marines and soldiers assigned to the 2nd Marine Division have established a persistent joint presence recently in the cities of Hit, Hadithah, Barwana, Haqlaniyah, Sadah, Rawah, Amiriyah and Ferris. ”

  • James says:

    Al-Qaeda threatens Iraq mayhem unless US-led assault halted
    Militants loyal to Al-Qaeda in Iraq threatened to sharply intensify their campaign of violence unless government and US forces end a major offensive near the Syrian border, in an Internet statement posted Monday.
    “The organisation has decided to give the apostate government and itsmaster 24 hours to end their campaign against the Sunni people. After that they will only see from us the worst and something that’s going to make the earth tremble under their feet,” warned the statement signed in the name of spokesman Abu Maisara al-Iraqi.
    al-Qaeda in Iraq sounds angry.

  • ikez78 says:

    James, how is that threat supposed to be any different from their status quo?

  • Matthew says:

    A schoolyard bully would be angry too, if a Marine-wanna-be was opening cans of [email protected]$$ just for him every day.

  • Grinder says:

    “al-Qaeda in Iraq sounds angry.”
    Because we are hitting them where it hurts. The idiots just showed their hand (meaning that we are hurting them). Another example of how this war is not like Vietnam, where our enemy was smart enough not to reveal his hand.

  • ikez78 says:

    Yahoo and Centcom are reporting two al Qaeda bigshots were killed in the current mission.

  • Soldier's Dad says:

    DOD Announces OIF V troop rotations –
    92,000 Troops – 5 Army Brigades, 1 National Guard Brigade, 1 Division HQ and 13th COSCOM, plus 2 Marine Regiments.
    On the ISF Front –
    “One Iraqi army division, four brigades and 23 battalions currently have the operational lead in their areas, Venable said. Another division, nine brigades and about 50 battalions are expected to be ready to assume lead responsibility by January.”


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