From The Jawa Report: U.S. soldiers capture flag of al Qaeda’s Islamic State of Iraq in village in Diyala. Click image to view.
Terror group is striking hard at military targets prior to the onset of the Diyala Campaign
As Iraqi and Coalition forces build their forces to strike al Qaeda in their base in Diyala, the terror group is hitting hard at existing combat outposts in the violence-racked province. Over the past several days, al Qaeda in Iraq has conducted several suicide strikes at U.S. and Iraqi combat outposts, police stations and Army checkpoints throughout the province.
The latest attack occurred today in the city of Khalis. A suicide bomber rammed his car into an Iraqi Army checkpoint. Ten Iraqi Soldiers were killed in the strike. This attack was preceded by a suicide strike on an Iraqi police station in Balad Ruz on Wednesday, April 25. Four police were killed and 16 wounded in the bombing. On Monday, April 23, al Qaeda in Iraq conducted a complex suicide attack on a patrol base in patrol base in As Sadah, which was followed by an small ground assault. Nine U.S. soldiers were killed and 20 wounded after the suicide bomb collapsed a building. Fifteen of the wounded soldiers later returned to duty.
As we noted yesterday, the As Sadah attack fits the mold of past al Qaeda assaults in Iraq. Al aeda started the attack with a small arms assault, then used two suicide vehicles to attempt to penetrate the outer security wall. Had the wall been breached, al Qaeda would have tried to push through with infantry. The U.S. soldiers destroyed the suicide vehicles before they could reach the perimeter of the patrol base. However “the explosive blast from the second truck ruptured the wall of the patrol base building, collapsing the second floor and, causing the majority of the Soldier casualties.
Al Qaeda in Iraq have carried out similar attacks over the past several years against Coalition and Iraqi outposts in Tarmyia, Husaybah, Abu Ghraib, Baghdad and the Palestine Hotel.
Al Qaeda has two goals in conducting such strikes. First, the terrorists wish to overrun a U.S./Iraqi outpost to create a propaganda victory. Al Qaeda no doubt had video crews available to film the strike, and the destruction of a combat outpost would play to two markets. Al Qaeda hopes to destroy the will of the U.S. public with such graphic images, as well as boost the morale of its own fighters and provide material for its recruiting campaign.
Second, al Qaeda in Iraq hopes to demoralize the Iraqi soldiers and police fighting in Diyala. Al Qaeda has established its base of operations in the province, and is seeking to keep the Iraqi police and Army from establishing a further foothold prior to the onset of the Diyala Campaign.
The fighting in Diyala will only intensify as the U.S. and Iraqi forces build up the capacity to conduct the Diyala Campaign later this spring. Al Qaeda has prepared fighting positions, supply bases, IED traps, bomb rigged buildings, and training camps in the province. Over 2,000 hardened al Qaeda fighters are operating in Diyala, and an American intelligence official and a U.S. military officer informs us al Qaeda is operating along the lines of Hezbollah’s military structure in Lebanon. Al Qaeda is organized in small military units with infantry, anti-tank teams, suicide and IED cells, and logistical nodes. The assault on the As Sadah outpost demonstrated the capacity has been built in Diyala.
U.S. and Iraqi forces have not been sitting on their hands in Diyala as al Qaeda reinforces for the upcoming strike. U.S. and Iraqi forces have been conducting shaping operations in the province – a series of clearing operations, targeted raids and air strikes to prepare the battlefield and keep al Qaeda from massing its strength. U.S. and Iraqi forces are also establishing a series of patrol bases in Balad Ruz, Baqubah and the Diyala River Valley north of Baqubah Prior to the onset of the Diyala Campaign, Iraqi and Coalition forces will attempt to cordon the province to prevent al Qaeda from escaping the assault.
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.