Steel Curtain Update

The 3,500 strong combined strike force of Operation Steel Curtain, comprised of 1,000 Iraqi Army, the local Desert Protection Force, and 2,500 Marines, Sailors and Soldiers of Regimental Combat Teem press the assault on the border city of Husaybah.

Reports indicate the strike team is moving through the city and has encountered light resistance, “mostly small arms fire and improvised explosive devices”. Coalition forces are wisely using the Desert Protection Force, which is comprised of local tribesmen from the region, to provide intelligence on al Qaeda’s activities; “Members of the Iraqi scout platoons, specially recruited soldiers from the Al Qa’im region, are embedded with U.S. and Iraqi infantry companies and are helping to identify insurgent strong points and areas known to contain these homemade bombs.”

There are no casualties reported among U.S. or Iraqi forces, and enemy casualties are as of yet unknown. Nine airstrikes have been directed at insurgent safe house, and six IEDs have been neutralized, along with a car bomb.

CNN‘s Arwa Damon is embedded with the RCT-2, and reports on the estimated size and nature of the enemy resistance; “Soldiers believe insurgents in Husayba — both foreign and home-grown — will be the type that will fight to the death. Hundreds of insurgents are suspected to be in the city. Husayba insurgents are believed to be smarter and more experienced, survivors of other battles that move in squads of 12 to 15.”

These are likely the remnants of al Qaeda that fled from locations such as Haditha, Sa’dah and other cities in Western Iraq during operations River Gate and Iron Fist in early October. The sheer size and firepower of the Coalition forces will render these squad sized units ineffective if they choose to fight using conventional tactics. Guerrilla tactics may yield Coalition casualties, but will not change the outcome of the battle.

al Qaeda and their local insurgent allies can either stand and fight to the death, which the U.S. and Iraqi forces will gladly oblige, or tuck tail and leave the strategic border crossing point under control of the Coalition. Heads the Coalition wins, tails al Qaeda loses.

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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24 Comments

  • Nick Rizzuto says:

    This will mark the first true test of the DPF. If sucessful, they might become the nail in the coffin for the Insurgency as well as al Qaeda in Iraq due to their knowledge of local terrain. This battle is going to be pivotal.

  • ikez78 says:

    Is this going to a Fallujah size fight? And does anyone know anything about this battle spiling all the way into Syria to some of the terror camps they have set up? I read that somewhere.

  • JAF says:

    Speaking of Iran…. Pardon me for getting off topic. Just came across this article: “Perceptions and Courses of Action with Iran.”
    I found it enlightening, even though I have some reservations about what he says.
    //usacac.leavenworth.army.mil/CAC/milreview/download/English/SEPOCT05/hart.pdf

  • TallDave says:

    Great coverage, thanks again.
    I think you meant “sheer” not “shear.” Homonyms are troublesome.
    The MSM has finally noticed the Baghdad airport road is safe; there’s a WAPO story on it today:
    Easy Sailing Along Once-Perilous Road To Baghdad Airport

    I have high hopes for 2006.

  • me says:

    I may be misunderstanding something (and if that is the case I apologize) or it might not even be important, but the story says, “It includes 3,000 U.S. Marines, soldiers and sailors and 550 Iraqi soldiers and is the latest in a series of operations this year in Anbar province and follows others such as Operation Fist and River Gate.” So the distribution of forces may be different than was given at the opening of the post.

  • Kartik says:

    Why are US casualties still jumping by leaps and bounds? 17 in November already.
    If the Iraqi army is growing in size and skill, the Iraqi economy is booming, and Syria is under more and more pressure, why isn’t the insurgency folding up? Something’s gotta give..
    No matter how well individual operations are going, Bush’s approval is at 40% due to his inability to outsmart media attacks against him.
    The US public will probably give the war until June 2006. If this is not a meaningful indication of drawdown/stability, all but the most diehard supporters will be fed up. Even Bill O’Reilly has indicated that his opinion is that if they can’t win by June 2006, then Iraqis just don’t want to fight for their own democracy. Plus, Republicans in congress will distance themselves from the war in order to not lose their elections – that is another reason that we must ‘win’ by June 2006.

  • Justin Capone says:

    Kartik,
    I have said it before I will say it 100 more time the enemy can kill us until the cows come home with IEDs and they can even do it at every increasing numbers, but it says little about their over all power as a gurrilla movement.
    But, that doesn’t mean the IEDs can lose us the PR war here at home.

  • MG says:

    #7:
    I have no TV, so I have no visibility on the chattering class.
    I agree that the President has been (at best) flat-footed in strategic communications, although I have reason to believe that this is a calculation on his part.
    History is helpful here, though. After the Vietcong got decimated in 1968’s Tet Offensive, the media in the US persisted in calling it a defeat of the US. The North Vietnamese leadership recognized an opportunity, and sent their soldiers in Vietcong uniforms to provide Western media imagery that supported a belief that the Vietcong had NOT been decimated, and that the US was lying.
    The thugs of this “insurgency” are trying to work from that very script. By sustaining spectacular events in Iraq, they manipulate media coverage in the West (their only real hope), and that prolongs the belief among us that things are going nowhere.
    In reality, as long as the media run on the 11 o’clock news principles, the thugs can sustain headlines forever. On the ground, they control less and less of the Iraqi population, and exert progressively less influence over the course of politics. Notice that reports of combat are near the Syrian border instead of in Baghdad? That is VERY significant. Not even “our” MSM will fabricate stories about events that clearly haven’t occurred.
    The Iraqi Army has made impressive strides in the past 12 months, and by June of 2006, will be much more capable than now. By then, the Iraqi parliamentary elections of December will be long done, the negotiations over constitutional amendments will be complete, and a self-selected, legitimate, democratic republic will be born. It will yet be weak and vulnerable, but much less so than now.
    As for public support and polling data — it matters not for the conduct of this war. As long as Bush maintains his will, and has the votes for a few tens of billions next October (for FY 2007), the polls won’t matter.
    -MG

  • ricksamerican says:

    Kartik
    1) Hamidreza posted this on another thread earlier today:
    Iraqi and US casualties for the month of October:
    Number of Iraqi civilian deaths has DROPPED 20% compared to September, mainly due to reduction in the quantity of Islamist suicide murderer attacks.
    Number of Iraqi army and policemen deaths also DECLINED by about 10 – 20% compared to previous months.
    US hostile deaths were essentially flat, even though the number of operations in insurgent infested areas were a record. 75% of the casualty was due to IEDs, up from 50% from previous months. Therefore the number of deaths due to hostile fire has DECLINED considerably.
    //www.icasualties.com
    2)Bush’s poll numbers are down because of egregiously corrupt sampling by the media. Check out the internals of the last three polls. They are polling 27-32% Republicans and 73-68% Dems and so-called “moderates.”
    3)Nothing the Israelis have done have totally eliminated terrorism, and Justin is right, there may be IED attacks for some time to come, although I am much more optimistic than he is. But if you have been paying attention here, you know that the AQ leadership is taking a terrible beating and the insurgency as a real force in the political situation on the ground is at this point entirely ineffective. That bodes well. I think GWB has until Jan. 2009

  • cjr says:

    #7
    I think the answer would be similar if the question was asked in December 1944: If Germany is being defeated, how is it that the US is suffering such high casualites in the Ardenes? It must indicate that we have made no progress in the war.
    The reason coalition is sustaining casualites is because it is on the offensive. It it has been since Aug2004. Coalition has been moving offensive operations from one provence to the next, defeating the insurgency one provence at a time.
    As soon as the coaliton defeats the insurgents in one provence, it moves offensive operations on to the next hostile provence. Hence, casualties remains constant. Casualites will be what they are up until the moment it defeat insurgency in the last provence. Then casualites will suddenly plummet.
    When will that be? In August2004, coalition was sustaining casualties in 9 provences (which contain 60% of the the Iraqi population): Najaf, Babil, Diyala, Tamim, east Bagdad, west Bagdad, Ninawah, Anbar, Saladin. Today almost all Coalition casualies(>85%) occur in just 3 provences (which contain about 20% of Iraqi population): Anbar, Saladin and west Bagdad. 60% of causalites are occuring in Anbar alone.
    If operations are successful in Anbar over the next few months, then only 2 provinces with 15% of Iraqi population will be left…… From their to 0 provences and 0% population is not far.

  • GJ says:

    History is helpful here, though. After the Vietcong got decimated in 1968’s Tet Offensive, the media in the US persisted in calling it a defeat of the US. The North Vietnamese leadership recognized an opportunity, and sent their soldiers in Vietcong uniforms to provide Western media imagery that supported a belief that the Vietcong had NOT been decimated, and that the US was lying.
    How true. If one looks at the timeline of when the insurgency started it seemed to me it started with Al Sadr and the remarks of Ted Kennedy. It’s been a slow progression from there. It’s my contention the Left wants desperately to turn this into another Vietnam. They would actually prefer This country to lose. I recall listening to a public radio station just after the statue of Saddam fell and the people on the radio were in dismay. They REALLY lamented the fact we accomplished what we did. Fast forward to today and you can see what we’re up against, not only the murdererous thugs but also a home grown ‘insurgency’.

  • MG says:

    “the enemy can kill us until the cows come home with IEDs and they can even do it at every increasing numbers”
    Well, technically speaking, yes. Since noone killed can become alive again, the numbers of IED dead will inexorably increase. The RATE of deaths will decrease. As we run out of areas of Iraq that have lacked Iraqi government forces controlling the area, the RATE of deaths from all causes will decrease.
    The homefront is a problem of sorts, but will not affect Iraqi operations. It may restrict Bush’s domestic agenda, but that is a far different matter.
    MG

  • Tom W. says:

    #7 Kartik
    My unsolicited advice is to turn off Bill O’Reilly. He’s not “looking out for you,” he’s looking out for Bill O’Reilly. He’s done more to undermine the mission in Iraq than any other cable-news blabbermouth, starting with his announcement last year that the Iraqis weren’t grateful for their liberation. He also consistently uses as analysts alarmist old men who were in the military decades ago and who all have books to sell. Nothing racks up book sales like moaning “WE ARE DOOMED!”
    O’Reilly is typical of the ignorant blowhard class, who understand nothing about the military and other cultures but who “opine” about them anyway. He expects the Iraqis to instantly throw off not only thirty years of dictatorship but also our own history of betraying them, our history of cutting and running, millenia of tribal loyaties, 1400 years of Islam, and the pressures of Arab nationalism.
    It’s a very hard thing we’re asking the Iraqis to do, and although they’re doing it, they need time. Setting an artificial deadline is the stupidest thing we can do, so it doesn’t surprise me that O’Reily the lover of loofas would do just that.

  • DMO says:

    Coalition forces are wisely using the Desert Protection Force, which is comprised of local tribesmen from the region, to provide intelligence on al Qaeda’s activities

    Someone has finally remembered how the Indian Wars were won. Use friendly tribes against the hostile tribes.

  • Nick Rizzuto says:

    I found a great and heartening article about Iraqi’s celebration of Eid:
    “Residents of the Iraqi capital celebrated the end of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan on Thursday by doing something noticeably unusual: They hung out on sidewalks, eating ice cream and lifting their faces to the cool fall breeze. After 2 1/2 years of war, suicide bombings, power shortages and barricades, Saad Salman took his five children out for a sugar rush. The family sat on benches outside an ice cream shop in Baghdad’s Karrada neighborhood-a normal scene in any other part of the Muslim world during the festival of Eid al-Fitr but not in Iraq, where the threat of violence often keeps residents tucked inside their homes unless they absolutely must go out.”
    You can read the rest here: //www.indianexpress.com/full_story.php?content_id=81429
    This is what it’s all about, keep the faith.

  • GJ says:

    #14
    And I thought I was the only one who felt that way about O’Reilly, especially on his radio show. Most of the time I turn it off pretty quick, because I get aggravated at his remarks.

  • serurier says:

    Coalition send more troops to danger area like Qaim and Ramadi ,so US casualties still jumping . Because we attack so terrorists lose Mosul and Kiuk , Qaim , now is all of Anber !

  • Kartik says:

    Justin Capone wrote :
    ‘I have said it before I will say it 100 more time the enemy can kill us until the cows come home with IEDs and they can even do it at every increasing numbers, but it says little about their over all power as a gurrilla movement.
    But, that doesn’t mean the IEDs can lose us the PR war here at home.’
    Justin,
    While that may technically be true, it doesn’t mean much as far as political support for the war. The US public sees no sign of the casualty rate declining, the GOP congressmen have an election in 12 months, and Bush’s approval rating is 40%. Even if some of the polls are rigged, not all of them are. At most, he is at 45%.
    What war supporters don’t realize is that Operation this and Operation that, with 6 terrorists killed today and 5 killed on Tuesday, doesn’t reach the general public one bit, and can’t move the needle. That is literally only half the battle won. The other half is to manage public perception and support, and fight off all the treasonous leftists and the MSM.
    Bush and the GOP have shown no ability to do this. I doubt they will know how to gain political capital even from the Dec. 15 Iraq election. Those in the GOP up for election will distance themselves from this issue if the casualty rate in 11 months is still the same as it is today. Things MUST get better, BY THE LIMITED BENCHMARKS THAT THE PUBLIC SWAYS BY (casualties, cost), by mid-2006.
    We may not want this to be true, but it is. Being blind to this reality of the fickle American public is to allow our cause to be undermined.

  • serurier says:

    If Kartik worry terrorists , then you can hide in U.S. and anti-war .

  • Justin Capone says:

    Kartik,
    If you have read posts from me, you would know that I actually feel the same way you do. I actually mis-wrote I was trying to say ‘can’t”, I agree with you totally when it comes to the PR issues with the war.
    But, at the same time I don’t see very many ways the WH could turn around the sagging poll numbers.
    One thing he absolutely must do is go to Iraq a couple days after the December election, which will force the media to turn the story from a three day story into a week long story.

  • ikez78 says:

    Does anyone know who the guy is that Bush appointed recently to help the media be more aware of progress and good news from Iraq?

  • Mac says:

    Good progress reports found here:
    //www.state.gov/p/nea/rls/rpt/iraqstatus/2005/c15442.htm
    I have no idea why these aren’t more widely publicized and read.

  • Big Lizards says:

    A Month In the Life

    Bill Roggio from the Fourth Rail is now in Iraq (and now blogging at ThreatsWatch, as Dafydd mentioned). He linked up with the 1st Platoon of Lima Company of the 3rd Marines, 6th Battalion, call sign Jackal 1. Roggio reports…

Iraq

Islamic state

Syria

Aqap

Al shabaab

Boko Haram

Isis