Outside Baghdad and the Iraq Security Plan

As the Baghdad pieces of the puzzle are being put in place, operations are underway in the provinces

Iraq. Click map to view.

While the major focus of the Iraq security plan is the capital of Baghdad, Iraqi and Coalition forces have stepped up operations in the provinces. The intent is obvious: while Baghdad is in the process of being secured and troops continue to deploy into the city, the weapons, suicide bombers and foreign fighters must be interdicted before they reach the city limits. The Iraqi government and Coalition are pressing the insurgency both inside Baghdad, and on the peripheries. Three provinces have seen significant operations to press the insurgents and al Qaeda in the past few days: Anbar (west of Baghdad), Diyala (northeast) and Babil (south). Operations are also being conducted south of Baghdad as well. These regions serve as the ratlines and staging areas for the terrorists, and the Iraqi and Coalition must degrade the enemy’s capabilities in these regions to take the pressure off of Baghdad.

The operations over the past five days have netted significant numbers of al Qaeda fighters – both native Iraqis and foreigners, Sunni insurgents and weapons caches.

Anbar Province

Anbar has long served as an al Qaeda base of operations. Portions of the provincial capital of Ramadi are al Qaeda havens. Iraqi and U.S. Army and Marine battalions, along with the tribal levies of the Thuwra Al-Anbar, led by Sheikh Abdul Sattar Abu Risha, are battling al Qaeda inside the city and in the suburbs. The Euphrates River Valley has long served as an al Qaeda ratline from Syria into the heart of Iraq.

On February 20, the 7th Iraqi Army Division, along with Coalition forces, captured 4 members of an insurgent cell “believed responsible for facilitating the movement of foreign fighters and weapons into Iraq ” in Ramana, which is just miles from the Syrian border. Further east, in the city of Hit, Iraqi police, Army and U.S. Marines conducted a multi-battalion sweep. The operation resulted in the capture of “13 known terrorists” and uncovered a significant weapons cache. The Iraqi police also “began construction of two new police stations to meet the demands of the growing department.” Operations also netted 13 members of IED cells in Fallujah and Ramadi on February 21.

Diyala

Diyala province has seen a spike in activity over the past few months. al Qaeda in Iraq has based out of Diyala, and is operating out of the town of Diyala, according to a U.S. military intelligence source. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was killed in an airstrike in Baqubah the provincial capital, last year. al Qaeda in Iraq is receiving support, weapons and sanctuary from across the border in Iran, the same military intelligence source indicated. Just last fall, a major operation in Diyala netted hundreds of al Qaeda fighters.

Baqubah as become “one of the most lethal [cities] in Iraq for U.S. troops,” according to the Washington Post, as nine soldiers have been killed in the city just over the past month. On the 20th, The 2nd Brigade, 5th Iraqi Army, and the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division conducted operations in the Buhriz section of Baqubah /a>, and captured 8 insurgents “responsible for the emplacement of improvised explosive devices, murders and kidnappings,” and uncovered a weapons cache. Also, a senior police chief in Baqubah as arrested for “involvement in the murder, torture, kidnapping and sectarian violence of Iraqi citizens in Diyala Province.”

Also, just north of Baghdad, in the the village of Ibrahim Bin Ali, U.S. forces conduct a two day sweep of the largely Sunni region where al Qaeda is attempting to establish a foothold to attack Baghdad.

al Qaeda struck back with a multiple suicide carbomb attack on a U.S. Army outpost in Tarmyia, killing 2 and wounding 17.

Babil

Coalition forces are also maintaining pressure on an al Qaeda and insurgent hotbed near the city of Yusufiyah. Babil, which hosts the “Triangle of Death”, a region where Sunni terrorists have staged numerous attacks on Coalition forces, has been the seen of multiple Coalition operations. During the hunt for Zarqawi last year, he was almost captured in Yusufiyah. Several U.S. helicopters were downed in the area, and hundreds of al Qaeda were killed and captured in intense fightinng with Task Force 145 and U.S. and Iraqi Army forces in the region.

During a two day operation in Yusufiyah on February 16 and 17, Coalition forces captured over 49 insurgents during sweeps in Quarghuli Village. Three IEDs were also found during the operation.

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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8 Comments

  • Northern Babil has been a problem since I was there in 2003-2004. The Marines put together a special task force in June 2003 directed at subduing this area since this was the only significant Sunni dominated area in their sector. The task force was expected to last a few weeks but the job was bigger than they expected.
    When the Polish Multinational Division (MND) replaced the First Marine Expeditionary Force in Sept 2003 northern Babil was deliberately removed from the MND’s area of operations and assigned to the First Armored Division out of Baghdad.
    This area was directly between our Camp at Babylon and Baghdad but the area was so dangerous that we went around it during our frequent trips to the capital.

  • Anand says:

    Regarding Babil-
    Babil SWAT is highly cabable force with excellent officer corp and cadre. The Iraqi government (or US taxpayers if they don’t) should provide enough funds to double the size of Babil SWAT to 1600.
    With quality officers and cadre, its relatively easy and quick to increase the size of the force.
    Babil has a well functioning provincial government (secular, nationalist and pretty free from militia and sectarian influences), that can manage Babil SWAT and assume IPC.
    The reason this hasn’t happen is probably funding. When will we start becoming less penny wise and pound foolish?
    One IA mech (don’t need armored) battalion should also be given the battlespace of North Babil as soon as one becomes available (probably after the Baghdad plan starts demonstrating some success 3-6 months from now).
    One newly forming IA SOF company should be transfered to North Babil with US advisors ASAP. It should stay in North Babil indefinitely.
    COIN is about expanding spheres of stability, and Babil is probably easier to add the the sphere of stability than most other hotspots thanks to the rest of Babil and Babil SWAT.
    regarding Diyala-
    Things are getting worse, with no easy, quick or sure solutions. Maliki and Sadr and the rest of the Shiite block should allow new provincial elections ASAP. Is there any indication when this might occur?
    8th IAD needs a new commander who is regarded as fair by sunni arabs (the current one is frequently accused of being one of Muqtada’s boys.)
    I would add one mechanized combat battalion, SOF company and one non-combat support battalion to each brigade headquarters in 8th IAD. I would also add one SOF battalion, one armored battalion (strategic reserve) and two noncombat support battalions to the 8th IAD Headquarters.
    All battalions in 5th IAD should be overstrenght (one thousand per battalions). Hopefully this will intimidate some militants and give the 8th IA the courage and tools to take them on.
    Al Anbar –
    remains an economy of force operation and will remain one until Baghdad cools down, allowing a redeployment of forces from Baghdad to Al Anbar. Although Al Anbar has 4% of Iraq’s 28 million population, close to half of our GIs who died in Iraq last year died in Al Anbar. This won’t change anytime soon, despite modest progress in recent months. But I think MNF-W has a great strategy for bringing the province under control when they get the resources they need.

  • Marlin says:

    The Associated Press has a very interesting, and I believe fair, article today on how Iraqi and Coalition forces are faring in Buhriz, a town just outside of Baqubah.
    Associated Press: AP IMPACT: Iraq’s ‘Three-Block War’

  • serurier says:

    Anbar still is a terrorists base but first coalition must control Baghdad .

  • GK says:

    Semi-OT,
    Does anyone have the latest data on how the Iraqi economy is doing? I am specifically look for the 2006 GDP growth, and 2007 projected GDP growth.
    The Brookings Report used to publish this, but now does not include this in their weekly report.
    Does anyone have this? This is also a key component of making the country peaceful – if economic opportunities make violence less attractive.

  • Anand says:

    GK,
    I have been looking for reliable statistics from the Iraqi government. But to my knowledge, their data collection is not comprehensive . . . and they don’t disseminate what they have very well. All we have is estimates.
    The IMF took a stab at it in August 2006. I hope this helps:
    //www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/scr/2006/cr06301.pdf
    Wikipedia has compiled some information:
    //en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economy_of_Iraq
    This article compiles some different estimates of Iraqi GDP:
    //www.msnbc.msn.com/id/16241340/site/newsweek/
    Another estimate:
    //www.upi.com/InternationalIntelligence/view.php?StoryID=20070220-124612-2143r
    I have seen no good estimates for GDP growth in Iraq last year (2006). But conventional wisdom is 3%.
    I would await the next IMF or World Bank report on Iraq.

  • GK says:

    That is definitely a disappointment, and a sign that the insurgency has succeeding in choking the economy.
    In 2005, people thought 2006-07 would be above 7% GDP growth easily. Both Iran and Pakistan grow in this range.

  • Anand says:

    GK,
    The Iraqi economy is disappointing. Especially because it comes after $38 billion in grants from US taxpayers to Iraq and $60 oil. If you exclude US aid and oil, the rest of the economy is operating under potential . . . and much of the problem is supply side. Because of security (and its drag on business, international trade, investment and insurance rates), just spending more money would increase the inflation rate (which has already increased to 50%). The current construction boom in Iraq, by driving up the cost of construction components and equipment, has depressed private sector construction in Iraq. A lot of Iraqi and US government spending is driving up prices in Iraq and crowding out the non-oil private sector rather than generating real economic and income growth.
    That’s why its very important to spend government money as efficiently as possible (generate real assets and services without driving up inflation too much).
    Many of these problems are related to security and to a lesser degree corruption. Many of them can only be solved by Iraqis. Its their responsibility to solve these problems, not ours (though it is our interests that they solve them). Our objective should be to help the Iraqis improve security (which would help Iraqis boost aggregate supply in the economy).
    To change the topic, has anyone heard anything regarding IPC for provinces.
    I think that Wasit, Karbala and Al-Qadisiyah( ﺔﻴﺳدﺎﻘﻟا) have IPC by the end of April. Maysan( نﺎﺴﻴﻣ) in May (there appears to have been a delay here). Babil and the three Kurdish states (there appears to be a political hang-up to their going IPC rather than a conditions-based one) by the end of June. In order, I think the remaining states go IPC-
    12 – Ninevah
    13 – Salahad Din( ﻦﻳﺪﻟا حﻼﺻ)
    14 – Basrah
    15 – At Tamin
    16 – Diyala (early December)
    17&18 – Baghdad and Al Anbar (end December)
    Of course, this is all conjecture.

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