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.
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