The Battle for Baghdad Continues

Sadr’s Mahdi Army and political party become targets of the Iraqi government

Baghdad and Operation Together Forward. Green is cleared, Yellow is ongoing operations, Red is untouched. Diamonds indicate locations of violence.

Operation Together Forward, the plan to secure Baghdad, is still in its second phase, with Iraqi and Coalition forces clearing and securing the most violent neighborhoods. As we mentioned earlier, the Iraqi government and Coalition are executing the operation of the course of months, not weeks. “This thing’s going to be conducted over many months, and the idea was to get into focused areas, reduce the level of violence initially in specific focus areas, bring down the levels of kidnappings, murders, death squad operations, and bring back some normalcy to those neighborhoods — specifically within Baghdad — that have experienced the greatest level of violence up till now,” said Major General Bill Caldwell during the latest press briefing on the situation in Baghdad.

While the outcome of Together Forward is by no means assured, the statistics since the major clearing operations began in early August are encouraging. The operations are having a positive effect in reducing the level of violence in Baghdad. “Attacks within the Baghdad province averaged about 23 attacks per day over the past week, which is lower than the monthly average for July. The average daily murder rate in Baghdad province has dropped 46 percent from July to August. And if you look to just the past few weeks, from the 7th through the 25th of August, the murder rate has dropped 50 percent over the daily rate for July,” said Maj. Gen. Caldwell.

The Iraqi Army is progressing in standing up its division and establishing independent divisional commands, and is working to transition complete operational control to the Ministry of Defense. The Iraqi National Police continue to be a concern, and the Coalition is working to improve the situation by embedding “five additional U.S. military police companies” along with 700 international police observers in police units in Baghdad, as well as in police stations.

But the repositioning of forces in Iraq has associated costs. Sean Naylor explains how the gains in the towns of Anah and Rawah, which sit on the western leg of the Euphrates River Valley, have been compromised because the Stryker Brigade set to relieve the region has been redirected to Baghdad. There are cold calculations being made, as the potential loss of Baghdad far out weighs a regional setback in the backwaters of Anbar province.

In the question and answer portion of Maj. Gen. Caldwell’s briefing, he was asked if Iraqi and Coalition forces would eventually moving into Sadr City, the bastion of radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

General, Ellen Knickmeyer with The Washington Post. Operation Together Forward has hit most of the trouble-spot neighborhoods of Baghdad, Dura and Amiriyah and Ghazalia and, I think, other neighborhoods. But one that it hasn’t gone into is Sadr City, where the Iraqi army says it finds many bodies every day from violence. Why — is there going to be — is Operation Together Forward going to go into Sadr City? And if not, what’s the rationale behind exempting it from the operation?

GEN. CALDWELL: As the prime minister laid out Operation Together Forward, the intent was — his intent is for Iraqi Security Forces to operate throughout the entire city of Baghdad, with focused initial efforts on specific portions. There are some other specific focus areas I know the prime minister’s still looking at, that will be taken on first. Wherever those are, he’ll announce those and give us the timetable for execution of those. There’s a lot of planning that’s going on already, and those areas are already being looked at.

But the prime minister has stated that this plan is for all of Baghdad City and that the intent is to in fact have Iraqi security forces, both police and Iraqi army forces, operating throughout the city of Baghdad.

Q So that Operation Together Forward will go into Sadr City?

GEN. CALDWELL: The — to answer that specifically, the prime minister stated that the operation will be conducted throughout the entire city of Baghdad. That is correct.

Sadr’s militia has been the focus of numerous Iraqi and Coalition operations in the past, and there are indications this will not abate. Sadr’s political power is now being targeted. The rumor in Baghdad is Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki is planning to reorganize the cabinet and Sadr’s ministers are on the chopping block.

The Iraqi Army has also directly engaged Sadr’s Mahdi Army in southern city of Diwaniyah. Over 50 of Sadr’s fighters have been killed, along with 20 Iraqi Army soldiers. “A senior police source in the town said Iraqi troops stormed an area known as a Mehdi Army stronghold, partly in response to a rocket attack on a nearby Polish military base on Saturday,” according to This fight occurred without the support of Coalition forces.

In the province of Maysan, the troops of the British Royal Hussars have left their base at Camp Abu Naji near Amara. They are now roaming the region along the Iraq-Iran border hunting for smugglers coming in from Iran, operating just as the “:Long Range Desert Group did in North Africa” during WWII. Sadr also has a strong presence in Maysan, and the British operation is very likely targeting Sadr’s supply lines from Iran. The U.S military and Ambassador Khalidzad have long accused Iran of providing “training, money and equipment to Shi’ite extremists and [fueling] their insurgency.”

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.



  • dj elliott says:

    – Mahdi Army is estimated at 10,000.
    (To be a power they need to inflict dispoportional losses on enemies.)
    – Reporting indicates they suffered 5 Mahdi for 2 IA.
    (Not good. That loss will not help their credibility.)
    – They took up positions in a residential area (read Human Shields).
    (That had to hurt their credibility in that region and the story will spread.)
    – The IA watched as Mahdi withdrew from positions before returning to barracks.
    (They gave them the opportunity to live in return for them not forcing a city fight thru a residential area and the resulting collateral damage.)
    This is a serious loss and does not help Sadr because:
    1. Poor showing of force. Will hurt recruiting and support.
    2. Use of human shields indicates weakness. Will hurt recruiting and support.
    3. They may have not formaly surrendered but, the IA supervising their withdraw says it all. They lost.
    4. And they made the point that they need to be suppressed. Political reaction will be interesting.
    Watch the atttacks on “Death Squads”, “Thugs”, “Kidnap Squads”, etc that happen to be Mahdi increase…

  • Scott says:

    Terrific information Bill. Thanks for the updates.

  • dj elliott says:

    The Mahdi army did not lose this fight to the US, to the Coalition or to Iraqi Forces with Coalition Advisors.
    The Mahdi army lost to the one Iraqi Division (8th) that no longer has advisors and is having its full independence cerimony on Friday.
    Bad move from a propaganda standpoint and even worse militarily…

  • Battle of Baghdad 23

    News Divvying up the loot: Iraq’s government has resolved a dispute over how to share oil revenues across the country but differences remain over who will hand out lucrative oil contracts. (Reuters) Aug 29, 2006 Opinion Mahdi Army becomes target:…

  • I concur with your analysis. There will be multiple ‘sides’ to the coming civil war and the opening salvos have been fired between the radical and the ‘moderate’ Shiites. I have also added you to my blogroll. A good site and I appreciate your work.

  • Google says:

    Good site Google d3debe8df0305db


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