Operation Moonlight, with a Twist

KUWAIT CITY: On the evening of my departure from Iraq, I had the pleasure to have dinner and a long conversation with Lieutenant Colonel Christopher Starling, the operations officer of Regimental Combat Team – 2. As the operations officer, Lt. Col. Starling is the architect of the slew of operations which culminated with Steel Curtain, the big push to establish a permanent joint Coalition and Iraqi presence in the Western Euphrates River Valley.

Western IraqLt. Col. Starling explained the importance of the shift from large scale combat operations to reconstruction efforts, and the push for Iraqi Army to take greater responsibility in providing from the planning and execution of missions in their battlespace. This was stressed in a recent meeting with the operations officer of the 2d Brigade, 7th Division, which operates in Western Iraq in the Baghdadi, Hit, the Hadithah Triad, and Rawah region.

As if on queue, the 1st Brigade, 1st Iraqi Army Division, which is operating further west in the Al Qaim region, has launched Operation Moonlight. Captain Jeffery Pool, from the 2nd Marine Division, states “From the gathering of intelligence to the writing of operational order this is an Iraqi operation.” This is a multi-battalion operation, made up of 3 companies of Iraqi troops and a company from the Teufelhunden of 3rd Battalion, 6th Marines, and supporting aircraft from the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing.

Moonlight is occurring just east of Ubaydi on both sides of the river, based on intelligence gathered by the Iraqi Army. The operation is “cordon and knock” , which is designed to prevent insurgents from re-establishing a presence. While the region has been quiet since Steel Curtain, roadside bombs are still being discovered and it is believed foreign fighters may be trying to infiltrate the region.

The independent planning and execution is a key to the success of the Iraqi Army and the greater security of Iraq. As is the willingness to take the initiative.

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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