Attack on a U.S. Combat Outpost is an old al Qaeda tactic
Monday’s suicide and subsequent conventional attack on a U.S. Army Combat Outpost (or COP) in the city of Tarmiyahclaimed the lives of two U.S. soldiers, and wounded another 17. The attack took place in broad daylight, and involved two to three suicide car bombers, followed up by a conventional assault on the compound. The ground assault was repelled, but it appears the last car bomber hit building and fuel supply, contributing to the U.S. casualties. This was most certainly an al Qaeda attack, as it matches their prior strikes. There is no word on the number of al Qaeda casualties taken during the assault.
The plan of attack is simple. The first two suicide car bombs are specifically designed to breach the perimeter, while the last is intended to enter the compound and conduct a mass casualty suicide attack. The terrorist hope to catch the remaining forces off balance or incapacitated from the explosion, and the final suicide attack is then followed by a conventional assault.
While the media has referred to this attack as “brazen,” “unusual,” “bold” and “notable for both its tactics and target,” this mode of attack is nothing new. al Qaeda in Iraq conducted several of these assaults against U.S. and Iraqi forces during 2005 and 2006. The most notable attacks were against Camp Gannon in Husaybah on the Syrian border, an outpost at Abu Ghraib, and an Iraqi police station and the Palestine Hotel in Baghdad. Each of these attacks failed after the remaining security force beat off the attack, jsustt as the soldiers in Tarmiyahdid on Monday.
The purpose of the attack is to completely overrun a U.S. or Iraqi position and to provide a propaganda victory for al Qaeda in Iraq, both within its ranks and in the outside Western world. The images of an overrun American base with dozens of dead American soldiers would make for excellent al Qaeda imagery – and make no mistake, they have filmed this assault. The attack on the Palestine Hotel in the summer of 2006 was specifically deigned to be caught on camera.
As Coalition forces push out from the large Forward Operating Bases into the Combat Outposts, the smaller sized units will become inviting targets for al Qaeda and the insurgency. The Military and Police Transition Teams, which are sized at anywhere from 15 to 30 men and are embedded in Iraqi Army or police will also make inviting targets. al Qaeda in Iraq is adjusting its tactics as the Iraqi government and Coalition forces ramp up security in the capital. Attacks in the provinces will rise if the Baghdad security plan is capable of reducing the suicide attacks in the capital.
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