Coalition and Iraqi forces continue to plug away against the insurgency in Ramadi. The latest operation, Spider Web, was directed at the Jazerra region north of Ramadi, and was designed to clear the region and establish a “permanent overwatch, in the form of a combat outpost and tactical strong points.” The operation was conducted by two battalions of Iraqi troops from the 1st and 2nd Battalions, 3rd Brigade, 1st Division.
Operation Spider Web is the latest in a series of operations that began in October with Mountaineers, and continued over the next three months with Panthers, Bruins, Lions, Tigers, Shank, Rams, and Skinner. As Major General Richard A. Huck, the Commanding General of the 2nd Marine Division indicated, the preference is to increase the security presence in Ramadi without launching a full scale assault on the city, but this option still exists.
A direct result of the operations can be seen in the successful detention of two insurgents and the uncovering of a weapons cache. The latest caches seized in Ramadi included “multiple mortars and artillery rounds ranging from 105 mm-155 mm, mortar fuses, rockets, rocket propelled grenades, several kegs of gun powder, a Draganov sniper rifle, small arms rifles and ammunition, hand grenades, anti-personal mines, blasting caps and bomb-making equipment.”
A military officer in Ramadi explains the impact of recent arrests, “Today at 11 am 3/7 Marines and Iraqi soldiers from 3/1 Public Order Battalion manning a checkpoint in Ramadi detained two men driving a grey BMW. The driver came up in the computer as a smuggler and ex convict. A thorough search of the car revealed a hidden compartment with $40,000 USD.”
Maj. Gen. Huck and various other officers have stated al Qaeda’s most effective weapon in western Iraq is cash. A military officer in Anbar province states “In my time here we’ve only found large sums of USD, no other currency.” American money is widely desired and accepted in Iraq, and the fact that large quantities of it are being found indicates the money is coming from outside the country, likely via al Qaeda networks. This money is funneled to pay criminals and part-time jihadis to plant roadside bombs.
One effective tactic used to deter those planting roadside bombs in Ramadi is the employment of sniper teams. The Telegraph’s Toby Harnden reports on the US Army’s Shadow sniper team of Task Force 2/69, which operates in northern and eastern Ramadi, along the war torn “Route Michigan” , the central artery of the city.
The leader of the Shadow sniper team is Staff Sergeant Jim Gilliland, who has an estimated 55 to 65 kills in less than five months. His prized kill was from over 1250 meters, which exceeds the accuracy limitations of the rifle scope by 250 meters. He placed his crosshairs 12 feet above the target to adjust for windage. The Shadow sniper team as a whole has killed over 200 insurgents in Ramadi. While in Ramadi, I witnessed the results of the snipers’ handiwork, and was told the insurgent who was killed on Route Michigan was shot from over 800 meters.
The military operations in Ramadi are not the ultimate solution to the insurgency in the city; that will come when community leaders decide to step up and accept responsibility for security, and re-establish the Ramadi police department, for starters. In the mean time the Coalition and Iraqi Security Forces continue to chip away at the insurgency, and reduce their strength, neighborhood by neighborhood.
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The Sons of al Anbar
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