The Baghdad Security Operation Order of Battle: March 19, 2007

The Baghdad Order Of Battle as of March 19, 2007. Click map to view.

By DJ Elliott, CJ Radin and Bill Roggio

The Baghdad Security Plan is now over one month old since its official announcement on February 14. While it is impossible to judge progress over the course of one month in a complex battlespace such as Baghdad, the initial signs are encouraging. Sectarian murders, the fuel for the potential Sunni – Shia civil war, have been dramatically reduced. Before the beginning of the operation, Scores of bodies were found executed daily, now the number is in the single digits. Massive car bomb attacks, which in the past have killed dozens and wounded hundreds, have been reduced.

While the number of car bombings have increased, their effectiveness has decreased. Over the past week only one significant suicide car bomb attack occurred inside Baghdad – an assassination attempt on the head of the Baghdad city council. Eight were killed in the explosion. The other attacks have been aimed at security forces and checkpoints, such at the roadside bombing that killed four U.S. troops patroling eastern Baghdad.

There have been few changes to the disposition of forces inside Baghdad over the past week. The 4th Brigade, 1st Infantry Division completed its deployment to Baghdad, and spread its four battalions into the Bayaa, Mansour and Doura districts. General David Petraeus announced an additional Combat Aviation Brigade will deploy to support operations. The deployment of the aviation brigade is being sped up by two months. Again, the U.S. Army still has an additional three combat brigades preparing to move into Iraq, and the deployment of the last brigade will not be complete until June.

One or more of these brigades may be deployed in the ‘outer belts’ of Baghdad – the surrounding regions where al Qaeda in Iraq is staging attacks into the capital. “Although the focus, the priority, clearly is Baghdad, anyone who knows about securing Baghdad knows that you must also secure the Baghdad belts, in other words, the areas that surround Baghdad,” General Petreaus said last week.

The Iraqi government and Coalition forces have stepped up the fight against al Qaeda in the restive province of Diyala. After the Baghdad Security Plan was announced, al Qaeda footsoldiers and commanders are believed to have fled Baghdad for Diyala. Up to 2,000 al Qaeda are believed to be operating from the region, and are conducting a commuter insurgency by surging car bombs into the capital. Al Qaeda has stepped up its campaign of intimidation and terror against the mixed Sunni and Shia tribes of Diyala.

Multinational Froces Iraq responded by redeploying a battalion of Strykers – about 700 soldiers and 100 of their Stryker combat vehicles from the 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division – from Baghdad to Baquba. The 5-20 Strykers met immediate resistance, and dozens of al Qaeda were killed, while one U.S. soldier was killed and 11 wounded during the initial day of fighting. Two Stryker combat vehicles were destroyed, one in a sophisticated roadside bomb attack and follow on ambush.

In Anbar province, al Qaeda in Iraq carried out one of its most despicable attacks to date. Al Qaeda launched three suicide truck bombers armed with chlorine gas and aimed them at civilian targets. The first chlorine bomber was stopped by Iraqi police at a checkpoint in Ramadi. He detonated his bomb, wounding a U.S. soldier and a civilian. The second struck at a neighborhood in Amiriya. Two police were killed and over 100 civilians were treated for Chlorine gas exposure. The third attack was aimed at a neighborhood in Fallujah. “Approximately 250 local civilians suffering from symptoms related to chlorine exposure,” according to the Multinational Forces Iraq press release.

The attacks were clearly an attempt by al Qaeda to terrorize the local population in Anbar province and decapitate the leadership of the Anbar Salvation Council, a grouping of tribes and former insurgents battling al Qaeda. “The second bomber [in Amiriya] targeted a tribal leader opposed to al Qaeda,” Reuters reported, while the Albu Issa tribe in Fallujah is supportive of the Anbar Salvation Front. Last week, General Petreaus and Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki visited Ramadi and met with Shiekh Abdul Sattar Abu Risha, the leader of the Anbar Salvation Council, and promised assistance to his organization.

The use of chemical weapons, no matter how crude, is a blatent violation of the Geneva Conventions. Al Qaeda targeted civilian neighborhoods and understood that hundreds of civilians could be killed or maimed in the resultant attack. This is the sixth such chlorine gas attack by al Qaeda since January.

This past week also saw an interesting development on the Sadr – Mahdi Army front. Muqtada al Sadr, the leader of the radical Mahdi Army militia who is in self exile in Iran, issued a statement that raises questions about the prospects of the U.S. maintaining a peaceful presence inside Sadr City.

During last Friday prayers, one of Sadr’s clerics read a statement urging the people of Sadr City to oppose the U.S. presence inside the neighborhood. “I trust that you have taken them as your enemies, for the enemies of God are your enemies, inevitably… unity against your enemy and shout ‘No, No, America! No, No Israel!, No, No Satan!'” The statement also called for his followers to reject sectarianism.

After prayers, a crowd of Sadr’s supporters, estimated at “more than a thousand,” turned out into the streets, repeating Sadr’s mantra of “No, no to America. No, no to Israel. No, no to Satan.” Sadr City has an estimated 2,000,000 residents, so the turnout was relatively small.

The U.S. has been in serious negotiations with elements of Sadr’s Mahdi Army, which has been behind much of sectarian murders in Baghdad and beyond. With Sadr and his senior lieutenants either in Iran or Syria, or going to ground outside of Baghdad, Sadr has lost significant command and control of his militia. The negotiations seriously threaten Sadr’s power base in Baghdad and the south. An assassination attempt on Rahim al-Darraji, the mayor of Sadr City, who has welcomed the U.S. presence inside Sadr City, is believed to have been conducted by Sadr’s supporters.

The events in Sadr city and Muqtada al Sadr’s influence bears close watching over the next month, as does the situations in Diyala and Anbar. The Baghdad Security Operation has shown guarded signs of progress the past month largely because the Mahdi Army has gone to ground. If the Mahdi Army emerges as an active foe in Baghdad, the ability to chase down al Qaeda in the provinces will be severely restricted.

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

  • crosspatch says:

    “Sectarian murders, the fuel for the potential Sunni – Shia civil war, have been dramatically reduced.”
    I don’t know … maybe … but I am not seeing that:
    – Police found 30 dead bodies throughout Baghdad. Two dead bodies were found on the eastern side of the city (Risafa) and 28 dead bodies were found on the western side (Karkh). The following is the number of dead bodies per neighborhood.
    1 in Sileikh, 1 in Bunouk, 7 in Dora, 3 in Jihad, 2 in Adil, 1 in Risala, 5 in Shuala, 1 Yarmouk, 2 in Amil, 5 in Ghazaliyah, 1 in Kadhmiya and 1 in ???
    From this report
    Sure looks like “business as usual”.

  • Bill Roggio says:

    crosspatch:
    Baghdad is a city of over 6 million. Were they murdered? Tortured? Shot? Victims of crime? Even if they were all killed in sectarian violence [highly unlikely], the numbers of sectarian murders are down, with the latest estimates by well over 50%. If you looked yesterday, the number was 19. Saturday, 9. [Google Factbox & Iraq] Last year, 50 to 100 a day were turning up dead in Baghdad with obvious signs of torture.
    Again, its too soon to know if this will succeed, as this operation is only a month old. But it certainly isn’t business as usual in Baghdad.

  • anand says:

    Bill’s right. Dead bodies in Baghdad down from 50-100 bodies (horrendous) a day last year to 5-20 bodies (bad) a day now.
    Crosspatch, you are right that the base from which improvement is being measured is low.
    The improvement isn’t only in Baghdad; its in Diyala too, although there has been some retrenchment in Diyala this year:
    //www.defenselink.mil/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=32490
    “Sectarian violence in Diyala province, as measured by the number of murders and
    kidnappings, has decreased 70 percent in the period between July 2006 and
    February, Sutherland noted. However, attacks on U.S. and Iraqi security forces
    in the province have gone up, the colonel said.”
    The surge is not only taking place in Baghdad, but also in Baghdad’s “suburb,” Diyala province:
    “Sutherland said his five-battalion force was recently reinforced by the 5th
    Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, which is equipped with Stryker vehicles.
    American soldiers in Diyala province work alongside Iraqi 5th Division-troops
    and 10,000 Iraqi police, he said.”
    Diyala has a population of about 1.1 to 1.2 million (or 4 to 4 1/2% of Iraq’s total). Per capita it has a lot of ISF (5th IAD has about 12,000 if you include SIBs + 10,000 police + 4,000 GIs). Diyala also has more GIs than any other province in Iraq after Baghdad and Al Anbar. Ninewa has 3 combat battalions. Salahadin has about 4 (maybe 3 1/2) combat battalions.

  • Kafir says:

    The use of chemical weapons, no matter how crude, is a blatant violation of the Geneva Conventions.

    Well, the left has been beating GWB over the head with the GC for years now about Gitmo. Will we hear a peep out of them about AQ, now? Oh, I know. They’ll say that if we hadn’t gone into Iraq for WMDs that weren’t there, AQ would never have gone into Iraq and gotten these WMDs.

  • crosspatch says:

    I guess that is what sucks being here in the states, it is almost impossible to get an accurate picture of what is going on. I will say that so far this month the number of dead civilians reported from all media sources is down significantly. I also have no way to judge if reports are fabricated, or if there are more cases that are unreported, or if any particular report is accurate.
    The saddest testament to the Iraq war is that this is the war that killed the news reporter and the journalism trade as having any degree of honesty and objectivity, at least as far as the professional media are concerned.

  • The Geneva Conventions were an attempt by Industrial Age nation-states to codify the laws of civilized warfare.
    They have been overtaken by events, and now serve primarily to hinder the efforts of defenders of Western Civilization. Lawfare is only effective on regimes whose legitimacy rests on respect for law and treaties.
    The Main Stream Media coverage of the war in Iraq is as it is because of the personality types and ideological persuasions of the journos they send and their editors, and the enemy’s extraordinarily cunning exploitation of shared short-term objectives in co-opting them as conduits for perception management and pyschological operations.
    Terror sells advertising.

  • anand says:

    //www.defenselink.mil/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=32522
    Army Maj. Gen. Michael D. Barbero, the Joint Staff’s deputy director for regional operations, told reporters at a Pentagon news conference on 3.20.07 that:
    -“Iraqi and U.S. governments launched Operation Law and Order in mid-February to stem insurgent violence in Baghdad and Anbar province. “Overall violence has declined in Baghdad or remains slightly below pre-operation levels,” Barbero said”
    -“Violence directed against Baghdad’s citizens has dropped by about a third since Operation Law and Order began, Barbero said, noting murders have decreased by about 50 percent.
    He acknowledged that car bombings and suicide attacks continue to occur in and around Baghdad. However, the effectiveness of these high-profile attacks has dropped, he noted”
    -The Iraqi government has completed the deployment of three additional Iraqi army brigades to the capital, Army Maj. Gen. Michael D. Barbero, the Joint Staff’s deputy director for regional operations, told reporters at a Pentagon news conference. . . The additional Iraqi units are joining nine Iraqi national police brigades and seven other Iraqi army brigades already in the Baghdad area, Barbero said.”
    -Iraqi government leaders have given the green light for U.S. and Iraqi troops to operate everywhere in and around the capital city, the general said. “Now, Iraqi and U.S. troops are operating in all (Baghdad) neighborhoods, even those where operations were once restricted,” the two-star general said
    -About half of the planned 33 joint security stations have been established in neighborhoods across Baghdad, Barbero said, while four of 10 planned combat outposts have been completed. “So, in terms of arrival of forces and rules of operations, progress has been made, and these forces are starting to have an initial effect,” the general said.

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