Independent Iraqi operation in the Haditha Triad, U.S. operation in Ramadi and an update on Swarmer & north-central Iraq
Operation Swarmer: A soldier in Troop A, 2nd of the 9th Cavalry, shields his face from the fly dust and debris the Blackhawk kicks up during lift off. Image courtesy of Bill Putnam/Zuma
The fight against the insurgency is increasingly focused in the provinces of Saladhadin, Baghdad and the eastern portion of Anbar province. Some of the recent operations have been executed by Iraqi troops alone, some by joint U.S. and Iraqi troops, and some by U.S. troops alone.
In Anbar province, two recent counterinsurgency operations were conducted in the Haditha Triad region and Ramadi. As part of Operation Raging Bull, the Iraqi Army’s 2nd Battalion, 2nd Brigade, 7th Division “conducted a day-long, fully independent counterinsurgency operation in the towns of Albu Hayatt and Khaffajiah to disrupt insurgent activity and to search for weapons caches.” The operation was conceived, planned and executed by the Iraqi Army, with the only assistance being provided by U.S. forces being the Military Transition Team, which consists of officers and enlisted Marines embedded with the Iraqi unit to provide advice and logistical assistance. This is the third fully independent operation conducted by the Iraqi Army in Anbar province, with Moonlight on the Syrian border at the end of December, and Final Strike at the end of January in the Jazerra region north of Ramadi.
In Ramadi, the U.S. Army’s 1st Battalion, 506th Regimental Combat Team, part of the 2/28 Brigade Combat Team (Pennsylvania Army National Guard) launched Operation Normandy in the Julayba area, and according to the 2-BCT “Insurgents in the Julayba area are linked to the Al Qaida in Iraq (AQIZ) cell in the Al Anbar Province.” Three insurgents were killed, seventeen were arrested and weapons, equipment to manufacture IEDs were discovered. There is a brigade and headquarters of Iraqi Army, along with several separate Iraqi Army battalions, and an armored company, but none of these units appear to be involved in the operation. The Wolf Brigade Police commandos [now called the Freedom Brigade] recently departed Ramadi. [note: the disposition of Iraqi forces has been corrected]
The bulk of the heavy lifting is being done in Baghdad and north-central Iraq. Iraqi police claim to have arrested the (unnamed) leader of Jamaat Al-Tawhid w’al-Jihad (Unity and Jihad Group), which is Zarqawi’s origninal terrorist group and predecessor to al Qaeda in Iraq. Several of Al-Tawhid w’al-Jihad’s leaders have been killed in the past in northern Iraq, including Abu Azzam al-Iraqi and Suleiman Khalid Darwish. The Interior Ministry also reports it has recently arrested 21 members of the insurgency throughout Iraq. The Iraqi Army detained thirteen more insurgents after receiving a tip from a “known al Qaeda member who had turned himself in to authorities.”
North of Samarra, Operation Swarmer continues for its fifth day. A total of sixteen caches have been uncovered and over 60 suspected insurgents have been detained, with about half of them being released. Pamela Hess provides an update from Samarra and background on the insurgency in the troubled city, and states “the attack on the Golden Mosque has tipped public sympathy in the favor of Iraqi government forces.” Swarmer “was meant to go after reports of terrorist training camps in the outlying areas.” Bill Putnam is embedded with the 101st for Swarmer and provides more pictures of the operation.
In Kirkuk and Hawijah “two battalions of the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, detained 46 suspected insurgents during numerous cordon and search missions” over the course of a week. Among those captured were four insurgents who were in the process of planting roadside bombs. In Tal Afar, a local resident provided a tip to the Iraqi Army that lead to the discovery of a large weapons cache. And near Mosul, “Sixteen insurgents were detained in a raid conducted by 172nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team Soldiers” and the Iraqi Army discovered and destroyed a weapons cache was discovered.
But the insurgency has not remained silent, and has pulled off a highly successful operation of its own. Seventeen Iraqi police were killed and seven wounded in Muqdadiyah after an insurgent assault on an Iraqi police station, and two more police were killed in a roadside bomb when they attempted to reinforce the beleaguered police station. Over thirty prisoners were freed from the prison during the attack, including “the son of a Rasheed Taam, a Baathist official in the western city of Ramadi… the father is a fugitive sought by both American and Iraqi authorities.” This assault was likely carried out by the Baathist elements of the insurgency, and Muqdadiyah is a known Baathist stronghold.
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