Air Assault in the Triangle of Death

The 101st strikes and establishes a battle position in Sadr-Yusufiyah

The region known as the “Triangle of Death,” delimited by the towns of Yusufiyah, Iskandariyah and Mahmudiyah has long been a haven of the insurgency, as it sits on the Coalition supply line directly south of Baghdad. Saddam’s ethnic cleansing program of pushing Sunni loyalists into this traditionally Shiite region has set the conditions for an entrenched insurgency, and Coalition forces have long been trying to pacify the Triangle of Death. After the fall of Fallujah in November of 2004, Coalition and Iraqi forces believed Zarqawi based a significant portion of his network in the region, and an assault was launched to disrupt al Qaeda in the Triangle of Death.

The Triangle of Death is currently the area of responsibility of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team of the 101st Airborne, along with a brigade of about 2,500 Iraqi soldiers. The Stars & Stripes’ Andrew Tilqhman is currently embeded in Mahmudiyah with the 101st Airborne, and reports a major air assault in the Triangle occurred late last week. Two battalions, the 1st and 2nd Battalions of the 502nd Infantry Regiment, conducted the operation. The decision to move in by air was made to avoid the threat from roadside bombs. Resistance was moderate, with small arms and mortar/artillery exchanges encountered.

The 101st will set up a Forward Operating Base in the town of Sadr-Yusufiyah and establish a permanent presence to patrol the region. Although it is not mentioned, Iraqi Army units will accompany the soldiers from the 101st at Yusufiyah. This tactic has been highly successful, particularly in the smaller cities and towns. The establishment of the patrol base is the major difference between operations in 2004 and today.

The day prior to the operation, Mr. Tilqhman published an article critical of the Iraqi Army units operating in the Triangle of Death. Their equipment is in poor condition, and their tactics and discipline leave much to be desired. It is likely this is an Army unit at ‘Level 3’ – a unit at the lowest level of operational capabilities yet are in the field conducting combat operations.

The Iraqi Army units are directly partnered with U.S. units to allow them time to develop into a competent fighting force. Not all units of the Iraqi Army are at the same level of readiness, and the Iraqi Army in the Triangle of Death appears to be one of the units with plenty of room for improvement. They’ll have every opportunity to prove themselves in the dangerous Triangle.

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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  • Neo-andertal says:

    Thanks for the stars and strips article.
    It’s about time. I hope they put plenty of resources into the Southern Baghdad area. They could use a few more troops on the east side of the Tigris, South East of Baghdad too.

  • Neo-andertal says:

    ‘Iraq’s Al-Jaafari Pressured to Stand Down’
    ABC article by Qassim Abdul-Zahra
    Very good summery of current political events in Iraq.
    A must read. Very detailed and well balanced article.
    Hat tip bg

  • peterboston says:

    OJT is a tough way to learn in that business.

  • hamidreza says:

    Bill, Star and Stripe’s indictment of the Iraqi army is extremely serious:
    [quote]”And there are other problems. An Iraqi colonel – who was a Sunni and well-respected by U.S. troops for bringing local Sunnis and Shiites together – was killed recently, found in a roadside canal with several bullet wounds in his head.
    U.S. troops believe that Shiite militias with ties to the local Iraqi army unit or rogue elements in the Iraqi unit itself may have played a role in the colonel’s death.”[/quote]
    This article just confirms the sectarian nature of the IA, and that it is an army within an army. The police force is even in a more serious condition, with police vehicles regularly displaying al-Sadr’s portraits.
    The US is putting too much faith in these religious parties. TIME FOR US TO MAKE A COUP. What happened to the America that would go and spend $300,000 to make a coup (Iran 1953)?
    Where are the damn CIA people to do this? All busy leaking documents to New York Times and Seymour Hersh? Looks like we need some good housecleaning at home.
    US with the help of Sistani and Kurds and Sunnis should pick up Sadr and take him to Gitmo. Then arrest and incarcerate anyone who dares to utter the words “Mahdi army”.
    This will serve as a good example for the rest of them – SCIRI – Badr army, and Dawa and Jaafari. If the 30 parliamentarians of Sadr are arrested, then the logjam of forming a government will automatically get resolved. There is no question that Sistani will back this move. Sadr is not only militarily challenging the other religious parties and causing other Shiites to create militias, but also he and his clerics are threatening the Hawza and the religious establishment itself. Most Sunnis will also back this move as they prefer a strong central government.
    Now is the best time to mount a coup. Before the government is formed. Right after the Askari mosque bombing. US should create a powerful non-sectarian Iraqi national intelligence service. US is losing this opportunity. Is the US prepared for this? And why not?

  • ECH says:

    I agree hamidreza the US needs to act or it will lose Iraq to Iran forever.

  • Neo-andertal says:

    Sorry guys, nobody in Iraq is going to support a US lead coup at this time. Bad idea. The best way forward is a coalition government, strengthen the army, and slowly get more Kurdish representation in the army without making too many waves.
    The other problem is they are trying to get a big Iraqi army too fast. Obviously, this is so we can draw down US troops to satisfy voters. Frankly, I think the big Iraqi army is too unwieldy. Their needs to be an increasing emphasis of quality over quantity to shore up what is already there.

  • Bill Roggio says:

    I couldn’t disagree with you more. It confirms an incident, and it is not evidence of a wide prblen. What you describe (factionalized army, etc.) does not match my observation while on the ground, and nore does it match what military officers I speak to tell me.

  • Hamidreza,
    “This article just confirms the sectarian nature of the IA, and that it is an army within an army.”
    7 US Soldiers in Iraq have been murdered by other US Soldiers. The US Military has spent years “weeding out” the bad apples.
    The New Iraqi Army is new. The weeding out process has really just begun.
    I noticed a couple of weeks ago, a completely new Iraqi Army battalion showed up in Baiji. No word on what happened to the previous battalion.
    I suspect their has been a shift from “Quantity” to “Quality”

  • ECH says:

    Sorry guys, nobody in Iraq is going to support a US lead coup at this time. Bad idea. The best way forward is a coalition government, strengthen the army, and slowly get more Kurdish representation in the army without making too many waves.
    Do you really believe the UIA has any plans for a democratic unitied government in Iraq? I see Harkim and Sadr as totally power hungry and every bit as ruthless as Saddam and totally willing to use violence if they aren’t given everything they want.
    I wish I could be more optimistic, but it seems like the main leaders of the UIA might as well be Iranian plants. There are some decient ones, but the pro-Iranian extremists have risen to the top.

  • ECH,
    The nomination of Jafari by the UIA, by a 64-63 vote, would indicate that even within the UIA, there is a split. The UIA speaks for 48% of the population. So a slim majority, within a large minority, is not exactly the “Will of the People”.
    The UIA is not unified within itself. So the idea that they could “consolidate” power, at least for me, is less than convincing.
    Sistani has been clear all along, an “Iranian Style” government won’t work in Iraq, because the population is too fragmented.(It doesn’t work in Iran either…but the Mullah’s in Iran think it does)

  • ECH says:

    Harkim and Sadr may disagree with who should be PM. But, they both agree how Iraq should be run Soldier’s Dad.
    And, that is as a pro-Iranian terrorist state.

  • blert says:

    The mullahs will frustrate democratic ambitions forever. Period.
    They have the bankroll and the connections.
    As it stands, Iran has us fighting their proxies in Iraq: cheap for them, costly for us.
    Their strategy is simply chaos today… nukes tomorrow.
    Why negotiate? Everything is going perfectly. The europeans appear to have already caved. The mullahs have China in their pocket and Putin is putty.
    And with all of this gaming… Crude prices surge ever higher while Iraq’s exports are lamely flat.
    Our work in Iraq is infact almost done… The Iraqi Army is coming of age. Soon it will be able to pick off the militias serially.
    Perfecting Iraqi society is NOT in the mission.
    The grip of Iran is not just upon Iraq but the greater Gulf.
    We must have the cure, be it by wishful prayer or willful power.

  • Ender says:

    Although it is not mentioned, there has been a FOB in Yusifiyah for some time. The American side of the FOB recently burned to the ground, reportedly due to an electrical fire. The FOB at Mahmudiyah suffered a similar fate last July.
    Sadr Yusifiyah is a different town from Yusifiyah, and that may be part of the confusion. The “Russian” power plant, as it is called, is closer to the former. Another Army unit conductd a similar air assault on the plant back in August or September. They didn’t find much. I wonder if the “Chickens”, as the locals call them, fared any better.
    As for the local IA, give them time, gentlemen. They are doing better than anyone thinks. Last year, the IA in that area (2-4 IA) conducted air assaults with the Americans. It’s a start.

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