Update on Operation Swarmer

Joint U.S. and Iraqi cordon & search operation enters day 2

Iraqi troops from the 4th Division dismount from a Chinook during Operation Swarmer. Image courtesy of U.S. Navy/mate 3rd class Shawn Hussong.

As day two of Operation Swarmer near completion, further details about the raid are unearthed. Bloomberg provides an excellent summary of the scope and progression of the operation. The area of operations is a 100 square mile region northeast of Samarra, which is concentrating on the towns of Jillam, Mamlaha, Banat Hassan and Bukaddou. Some have incorrectly reported the assault was directly on Samarra proper and included intense air-to-ground fire. The fact is Swarmer is directed at the outlying areas of Samarra and no airstrikes were conducts. An Air Assault is the insertion of troops via air, and may or may not involve air strikes.

Salahaddin’s Governor, Abdallah Hussein, states the target of the strike is “a mix of local nationals and foreign fighters” and believes “about 200 insurgents were active in the area, including members of the Sunni extremist group Jaish Muhammad [Army of Muhammad].” U.S. intelligence believes about 40 insurgents are in the region. At this point, fifty suspected insurgents have been detained, and thirty have been held for further questions. Six weapons caches have been uncovered, and no Iraqi or Coalition casualties have been reported at this time.

In December of 2005, we reported that due to the successful operation in Anbar province, “the core of the insurgency has moved back to the central environs of Iraq. Terrorist attacks continue in the capital of Baghdad. The cities and towns on the Tigris River directly north and west of Baghdad are a bastion of the Baathist insurgency.” Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari echoes this sentiment, “After some of the operations that were carried out successfully in the Euphrates Valley, or near the Syrian border, many of these insurgency groups moved to other parts of the country, to Diyala, to Samarra, to some other parts around Baghdad.”

The main focus of operations has clearly shifted to the regions around Baghdad, and a brigade-size air assault such as Swarmer is an indication of this.

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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  • cjr says:

    Hum. There were reports over the last several weeks that Zarquawi had moved to this area. Could this have been a possible “capture Zarquawi” operation?

  • MarcoBlogo says:

    I hope I’m wrong about this, but this is looking more and more like a pick-me-up operation.
    1. A brigade size air assault to capture a platoon sized insurgent force (40 guys)?
    2. No casualties reported on either side?
    I’m sure they wil gain some intel out of this operation, but – based on the media reports that I’ve read – I think it’s more of a dog and pony show.

  • Marlin says:

    The following paragraph appears in the Washington Post’s summary of yesterday’s events in Iraq. It appears at odds with the Bloomberg report. I am not quite sure what to make of the discrepancy, though I’m inclined to trust the American sources more than Iraqi ones.
    “We have taken scores of detainees, including some of Arab nationality, and we found several cars rigged with explosives to be used as car bombs,” said Lt. Nouri Ghaled of the Iraqi National Guard’s 1st Emergency Battalion. “There are dead on both sides, and there is strong resistance from the insurgents.”
    Washington Post: Iraqi Parliament Opens, With a Warning
    Cori Dauber at Rantingprofs has an interesting take on this WaPo article that is well worth reading.
    Rantingprofs: Don’t Let This Moment Pass
    Cori also wonders why the MSM became so enthralled over Operation Swarmer when they ignored other, similar operations.
    Rantingprofs: Operation Swarmer

  • Rubin says:

    Operation Swarmer and Sudden Iran-US Talks on Iraq: Connection?
    Yesterday, two major unexpected events took place: Operation Swarmer commenced to clear the Samarra area of insurgents and terrorists in the largest single operation since early in the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and just as suddenly, Iran asked for and the United States agreed to face-to-face talks on the situation in Iraq.

  • Marlin says:

    On Friday, US and Iraqi troops could be seen purposefully moving through fields sown with winter wheat, searching isolated farm buildings US officials say may harbor scores of insurgents, including foreign fighters linked to Al-Qaeda.
    But the deputy governor of Salaheddin province, Abdullah Hussein, suggested at least one key insurgent leader, whom he named as Jaish Mohammed, had been apprehended.
    “The rebels in the area are a mix of local nationals and foreign fighters,” Hussein added. “We have their voices recorded along with their names and pictures.”
    “We don’t have any insurgents around here,” said Rana Saleh, a mother of seven baking bread in a clay oven outside her farm house, surrounded by armored humvees as Iraqi and US soldiers combed the area.
    “This is the first time I’ve ever had my place searched, but they were very respectful,” she said.
    She admitted that she also never saw Iraqi police or army around, supporting claims by US and Iraqi officials that insurgents could operate unimpeded in this area.
    US and Iraqi officials expect the operation to last at least one more day.
    By Friday, the number of troops involved had dropped to 900, as Iraqi commandos who took part in the initial phase of the operation returned to Samarra, and 17 of the people detained were released.
    Iraqi General Abdel Jabbar, commander of the Iraqi 1st Brigade of the 4th Division involved in the attack, said they were “acting on intelligence generated by the Iraqi ministry of defense and ministry of interior”.
    Other Iraqi officers hinted that detained suspects gave information about the bombing of a Shiite shrine in nearby Samarra three weeks ago that unleashed a wave of sectarian killings in the country, but would not elaborate.
    al Dawr (via BakuTODAY): US-Iraqi assault seeks out rural rebels, but finds few

  • dj elliott says:

    I have some problems with Washington Posts claimed source. ING was disestablished and units consolodated into regular army last summer. Unit designations do not fit.
    Think they are being played?
    “We have taken scores of detainees, including some of Arab nationality, and we found several cars rigged with explosives to be used as car bombs,” said Lt. Nouri Ghaled of the Iraqi National Guard’s 1st Emergency Battalion. “There are dead on both sides, and there is strong resistance from the insurgents.”

  • cjr says:

    #6 DJ elliott:
    I would guess that it was just a translation error. The “1st Emergency Battalion” is probably the “Emergency Response Unit” of the MOI. Was the National Guard part of the MOI before they were deestablish?

  • dj elliott says:

    The National Guard was under MOD.
    The Special Police Commando Brigade is under MOI.
    MOI: Special Police Commandos, Public Order Police, Border Guards, Police Mechanized Bde, Highway Patrol, Emergency Response Unit.

  • dj elliott says:

    1. This is the 4th joint US-Iraqi AAslt op in the last 6mo.
    2. AAslt is what the 101 does. This is normal ops.
    3. Original press releases from Centcom and subordinates was no different in details or amount than previous reports.
    4. My best guess is that it was a slow news day and the MSM needed a lead. So they hyped an operation after having ignored the previous ones. And now that it is becoming apparent that they are overhyping it, they will start the blame game.

  • dj elliott says:

    1. Look at the latest Battle Space Assumption map.
    2. Plot where Samara is.
    3. Plot where the clearing ops by Iraqi/USMC are.
    – Do you notice that Samara is between three zones that the Iraqis own? And adjacent to I MEF zone.
    – Do you think we turned those areas over without making sure the threat was managable first?
    – Where do you think the terrs moved to under that presure?
    – And what chunk of realestate do you think we plan to turn over next? “75% of Iraq turned over by end of summer.”
    Samara will be turned over to Iraqi Army control within next 3 months (probably sooner).
    We are doing the house cleaning prior to hand over and introducing the new tennants (Iraqi Army and MOI’s Special Police Commandos) to the local residents.

  • marine dad says:

    It might very well be a dog and pony show, but for who’s benefit?
    I have a theory and I offer it in the hope of some thoughtful response.
    what if the intended audience for this operations wasn’t the US or even the Iraqis? What if the intended audience was the Iranian military?
    I’m thinking that we subdued a 100 square mile area in fairly short order. We demonstrated an ability to plan and execute.
    Was it overkill for the intended target? Perhaps, but if it really was theatre, what if the audience included the Iranians?
    so I wonder what might go through the mind of an Iranian general who’s area of responsibility includes a sensitive and vulnerable nuclear site.
    what might he be thinking as he watches this unfold?
    My theory explains the press hype. We are in a massive war of words with Iran right now. A little demonstration of our growing prowess couldn’t hurt, could it?
    Including Iraqi forces in this operation doesn’t mean that we would carry them into Iran if we (God forbid) must go there, but it clearly shows that they are getting better rapidly and we’re as “bogged down” as the naysayers would have us believe.
    any comments?

  • dj elliott says:

    re: 11
    That makes sense. As we draw down, Iran will be tempted…

  • hamidreza says:

    The areas north of Samarra was always an insurgency hotbed, and recently saw influx of al-Qaeda and Sunni Islamists escaping the Euphrates rat lines. It was necessary to subdue this area and allow for free movement of IA and IP.
    As suggested, this also sends a message to Shiite militia leaders that US can dispatch 1,500 highly trained Iraqi troops backed by US soldiers with short notice. Those militias in the south and east of Iraq who receive backing from Iran and who have designs over Baghdad, may have to think twice and hard. A Sunni staffed and well trained IA backed with the US is their worst nightmare. This operation gives a major boost to the parliamentary authorities. It was probably opposed by Jaafari and Hakim, and welcomed by the Sunni tribes and Kurds.
    Now its time to clean up Baquba/Diyala and push al-Qaeda further into Iran, or into the bosom of Kurdish Pishmargs.
    The Islamic riot in Halabja that torched the memorial museum is very significant. The last reports are that Talebani has unleashed his PUK militia into Halabja. There were reports there that Islamists had formed their own militia. If Talebani has any smarts, he would have all of them arrested and brought to public and open trial, and make that an indictment of Islamism, and committed them to prison, and put an end to Islamist movements in Kurdestan. They should disallow religious parties from participating in the government and elections. That is what a secular state is required to do. Ataturk knew this back in the 1920s.
    The spectre of Kurdish Islamism in the southeatern parts of Kurdistan bordering Iran is very real, and is being fed by the Iranians and al-Qaeda. Talebani will have to cut his lovefest with the Iranians and take this bull by the horns.

  • hamidreza,
    “Now its time to clean up Baquba/Diyala”
    Most of Diyala is already in ISF hands.
    dj elliot,
    “And what chunk of realestate do you think we plan to turn over next? “75% of Iraq turned over
    by end of summer.”
    75% of Iraqi Brigades will own battlespace by the end of Summer. 80% of Divisions by fall.
    Getting to 75% of Landmass would require everything plus portions of AlAnbar.

  • cjr says:

    “Now its time to clean up Baquba/Diyala and push al-Qaeda further into Iran, or into the bosom of Kurdish Pishmargs.”
    Baquba/Diyala is pretty much already cleaned up. ISF (5th division) has already assumed responsibility for the whole provide.
    After Saladdin province, I dont think there is any place else to go in Iraq.

  • Tom W. says:

    marine dad:
    I think you may be on to something. I also remember that before OIF Phase I, we were told that even though the Iraqis hated Saddam, they would fight like tigers against us because they were proud nationalists who would not submit to the humiliation of a foreign occupation.
    These days we’re being told the same thing about Iran, that they hate the mullahs but will fight us. Maybe the mullahs have realized that if it comes to war with the U.S., the majority of their military will do what the Iraqis did and simply walk away.

  • Marine Dad,
    The disposition of the 101st is somewhat murky at the moment. In good time, our glorious leaders will inform us. IMHO, a fair portion isn’t where we would be lead to believe they are.
    The fact that a small portion of the 101st was able to do the “Largest” Air Assault since 2003, is cause for pause.

  • hamidreza says:

    This from the Dallas Morning News. IMO it is not right to dismiss some of these reports as “the usual moonbats barking”. It is well advised to listen to people like Newton. He is saying that lack of a central state will be a victory for the Islamist radicals, and they will take over Iraq. First assure a central state, then worry about “women’s rights, democracy and all of that stuff”. Believe it or not, many moonbats and poststructuralists I have talked to say the same thing. As long as the intelligence police and the boot state is run by Iraqis and it appears to be less “occupation”, they don’t seem to mind if the new Iraqi state rules with the iron fist. Some of these poststructuralists are Islamist at heart (such as Juan Cole). But most of them are not.
    “”The State Department’s coordinator for Iraq policy, James Jeffrey, expressed “full confidence”

  • Neo-andertal says:

    While we a speculating on what other purposes such a large operation could serve, other than just a large cordon and search mission, or a big PR mission, I’ll point out one other obvious possibility.
    Such a large mission could conceivably be needed to quell an outbreak of unrest if it were to happen somewhere in the next several weeks. If there were a sudden outbrake of unrest somewhere in Iraq a large group of soldiers could quickly fly to the outskirts of the area, disembark and move into the area quickly. Since this group of solders has now learned how to do a similar activity it would be that much easier to quickly move into an area of unrest if called on.
    I would say this group of soldiers would be your top candidate for that contingency.

  • blert says:

    Newborns are not really that pretty. But they grow on you.
    We’ve got Will and Buckley pulling a Chronkite.
    Al Qaeda in Iraq is off the rails and heading for Iran.
    Various other Iranian front operations are being labeled Al Qaeda constantly.
    The MSM is as credulous as a rube on 42nd Street watching a salt and pepper team demonstrate three-card maji.
    True success occurs when the unlawful combatants are arrested without battle.
    The Iraqi Army is now ready to flood the Tigris and Baghdad. This is the heartland.
    The Syrian connection is ruined. Time to fall back on Iran.
    The contra-band uniforms will make for great media in Baghdad.
    As predicted here in autumn of 2005, this will be the last significant American combat season. In seventy-five days the baton should be passed. American only combat sweeps after that date will be unusual, down from about one out of four today.
    Friendly militias will become recruitment pools very shortly.
    The biggest persistent headache: oil drilling and exports. Plainly, Iran has been able to get Iraqi politicians to stall on this essential activity. Each barrel pumped by Iraq must displace a barrel of Iranian crude. They are so alike and so proximate. Iraq is producing half of what she did a generation ago with the second largest reserves in the world. Her typical well spews out 1,000 bbl per day. They only take two months to punch. The fields are on flat land so close to the Gulf. She has field after field that has been discovered all over the country that have never been tapped. She is flaring enough natural gas to power her electric grid right now. ( Ditto for Iran, BTW ) What is not wrong with this picture?
    After winning the battle of the heartland – currently under way – Iraq needs to saturate the oil infrastructure with security. This must start in the south.
    It’s time for the British and others to leave. They’re a hopelessly weak link since British politics prohibits her Army from performing the mission.
    Penetration agents from Iran are running wild all over the land under various covers. A number of agents have been caught and they do sing like canaries. This is directly linked to the failure of Iraq to get its economic house in order. This must be addressed. Summer would be the best season.
    Expect a steady erosion of Sunni Arabs do to emigration, starting with those who had been relocated into Kurdish lands by Saddam. For those able, France never looked so good.
    Where civility has been restored, the economy is cranking along. It can’t be too long when all but Al Anbar is building like crazy. The obvious imperative: catch up with Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. A super boom is surely just around the corner; and without a Marshall Plan. Iraq has oil like they do AND water. That’s no small thing. The water, terrain, oil will make Iraq the dominant power, not Iran. A booming economy will solve the population disparity in a few generations. An American alliance will relieve Iraq of its Iranian defense burden.
    Is it any wonder Iraqi-Americans want to get invested back home?

  • dj elliott says:

    Re: 20
    I have seen reporting in Jan/Feb that 14 “Stategic Infrastructure” Battalions are planned, 3400 already trained in first group and second group training.
    I have also seen reporting of 5th SI Brigade, 3rd SI Bn and 5th SI Bn operational in the field (patroling the oil pipelines) in press releases.
    One of the mil Briefs (I think w/Col Snow) mentioned that these Battalions were above and beyond previously announced plans.
    I suspect that oilfield security is already improving…

  • pedestrian says:

    The cities and towns on the Tigris River directly north and west of Baghdad are a bastion of the Baathist insurgency.

    Bulls Eye

  • dj elliott says:

    Puting the pieces together:
    1. Two Iraqi Divisions currently certified and six more expected to be certified by end of summer (8 of 10 total).
    (This was announced a Weekly Baghdad Brief just prior to the dome bombing.)
    2. 75 percent of Iraq to be under Iraqi control by end of summer.
    (Not the begining as some are reporting, LTG clairified his statement later in the brief.)
    3. The two Iraqi Divisions least likely to be certified and thus ready to take over their areas by end of summer are:
    – 7th Division in western Al Anbar.
    (Newest formed; still forming Battalions; none of its Brigade HQs are certified;
    Battalions working/training with USMC).
    – 9th Mechanized Division based in Taji. (Not assigned independent battlespace; 1st Brigade is only one certified-
    currently working with 4th Division; 2nd Brigade and its subordinate Battalions only formed in Dec when they
    received T72/BMPs from Hungary, training interupted and deployed to Baghdad after Samara bombing- still on loan
    to 6th Division; 3rd Brigade and subordinate Battalions not yet formed.)
    4. Put those together and you have the following:
    We are turning over all of Iraq except western Al Anbar Province by the end of summer.
    (Al Anbar is one of the least populated areas of Iraq.)
    5. Bottom line: 85-90 PERCENT of the population of Iraq will be in Iraqi controlled territory by end of summer.

  • John says:

    It’s a little hard not to laugh reading some of these postings by would be von Moltke’s. This operation was 1500 Americans and Iraqis running around in about two hundred square miles of desert that was home to about 1500 people plus goats and camels. According to Time this morning we arrested about 40 people but have now released half of them. No word on the number of camels under arrest. We have also uncovered arms caches which based on tv pic seem to be a few Kalashnikovs and RPG’s. Having been to Iraq several times I can attest to the fact that nearly every home in the country has a Kalash. There was also a report this morning that a couple of our guys got whacked, the mysteriousness surrounding it probably means it was friendly fire. At the end of the day this and a few blown up hovels, forget the hearts and minds, are probably going to be the net result of this. Guys we are starting to drown in our own hype.

  • dj elliott says:

    A. Von Moltke failed.
    B. He was German.
    C. He was Army.
    As a retired Squid (22 years, US Navy Intelligence Specialist, too much of it in the mid-east), I object to that characterization.
    Look up the other ops going on in the adjacent districts. This is just a part of a larger, long-term, in-progress operation…

  • Mike E says:

    Johns post had a lot of holes.
    However a recent mnfi press release(//www.mnf-iraq.com/Releases/Mar/060319a.html)says:
    – More than 350 mortar rounds of varying sizes
    – 88 rocket propelled grenade rounds
    – Nearly 2,000 rounds of armor-piercing rifle ammunition
    – More than 15 rockets of varying sizes
    – Over 60 hand grenades
    – SA-7 surface-to-air missile components, including launcher tubes and batteries
    – 30 machine guns and assault rifles
    The following items were among the IED-making materials discovered since the operation began:
    – More than 500 feet of explosive detonating cord;
    – 50 explosive blasting caps;
    – 25 130 mm artillery rounds packed with plastic explosive
    John said:>
    He forgets that basically every major operation in Iraqincludes a humanitarian/rebuilding component.
    John said>
    No idea about camels but the mnfi press release says:
    A total of 11 caches have been discovered and more than 60 suspected insurgents detained as Operation Swarmer continued for a third day March 18.
    John says>
    Really? Because the mnfi press release says:
    As of 6 p.m., Iraqi time, March 18, there had been no Iraqi or Coalition casualties directly associated with Operation Swarmer.
    Guess this goes to show there are all kinds of “hype”.


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