The Diyala Campaign

U.S. and Iraqi forces are preparing the battlefield in Diyala province

Soldiers from the 5/20 Strykers conduct operations in Buhriz on March 20, 2007. U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Stacy L. Pearsall. Click to view.

The Battle of Diyala has been taking shape since about 700 soldiers and 100 of their Stryker combat vehicles from the 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division moved into Baqubah from Baghdad in mid March, and fought pitched battles against al Qaeda in the city. Iraqi and Coalition forces have conducted several operations, including an air assault, against al Qaeda targets and their puppet Islamic State of Iraq in an attempt to dislodge the terror group from Diyala. Over 2,000 plus al Qaeda are thought to have fled to the province since the inception of the Baghdad Security Plan in mid February, and the security situation has markedly decreased since then. Al Qaeda has been conducting a terror campaign to remove leader who oppose them, intimidate the local population and keep the tribes from supporting the government.

U.S. and Iraqi forces have now refocused on Diyala as the Baghdad Security Plan takes shape. We’ve estimated that at least an additional U.S. combat brigade may be moved into Diyala to tackle al Qaeda’s safe havens. The Iraqi government recently announced it was moving an additional brigade into Diyala. Until enforce forces are available and in place, the U.S. and Iraqi Security Forces are ‘shaping’ the battlefield by conducting clearing operations and targeted raids to keep al Qaeda off balance. This is much like the ‘Anbar Campaign, where U.S. Marines conducted search and destroy operations, raids and air strikes during the spring and summer of 2005 prior to conducting Operation Rivergate in the Haditha region and Operation Steel Curtain in the Qaim region on the Syrian border. U.S. and Iraqi forces are also establishing new patrol bases, such as one established in Qubbah on March 24.

The Baqubah egion and recent operations [yellow]. Click map to view.

The Diyala Campaign is currently underway. On March 28, a joint U.S. and Iraqi Army operation targeted “an Islamic State of Iraq power base in the Diyala River Valley.” The operation resulted in 25 al Qaeda killed and 15 captured, along with the discovery of a significant weapons cache, which included “more than 60 grenades, rocket-propelled munitions, improvised explosive device-making material and other terrorist equipment.”

On April 2, the U.S. 73rd Cavalry Regiment, attached to the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, partnered with the elements of the 5th Iraqi Army Division raided an “extremist training camp” in Zaganiyah while conducting clearing operations

in the Diyala River Valley. The camp was empty, but the raiders found “a fortified underground bunker with three exit points, four prepared fighting positions and a training camp building.” Five large weapons caches were found, which contained “more than 100 rocket-propelled grenade rounds, more than five RPG launchers, approximately 70 mortar rounds, bomb-making materials, home made explosives and terrorist planning and training materials.” Over 100 insurgents are believed to live in and around Zaganiyah, according to U.S. intelligence officers.

Soldiers search for insurgents and weapons in the palm groves of Qubbah, Iraq, March 25. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Armando Monroig. Click to view.

On March 24, soldiers from the U.S. 2nd Battalion, 35th Infantry Regiment conducted an air assault on the village of Qubbah, just north of Baqubah During the 3 day clearing operation, 28 insurgents were killed or captured, and eight weapons caches were discovered. The soldiers established a permanent patrol base in the Qubbah area. “There had been a lot of reporting indicating that this had been a safe haven for al Qaeda elements,” said 1st Lt. Eric Booth, assistant intelligence officer for the 5th Squadron, 73rd Cavalry Regiment Reconnaissance, which led the operation. “These (insurgents) were influencing operations down in Baqubah ”

Operations of this nature will continue for some time. The Diyala Campaign will not kick into full gear until the full compliment of U.S. forces are deployed into Iraq (this should be completed by late May or early June of 2007). Until then, the Iraqi government and Multinational Forces Iraq are working to lay the groundwork for local support by fostering the creation of a Diyala Salvation Front.

Map of southern Diyala. Click map to view.

Citizens in Diyala are asking the Iraqi government to fight al Qaeda and prevent the province from “turning Diyala cities [into the next] Taliban emirate,” notes Al Saabah. “Citizens said that the situation in the cities of Baqubah Muqdadyia, Khalis and Bald Ruz are turning into a major humanity disaster, especially after al Qaeda issued a list of all forbidden activities including] working at governmental offices, ownership of satellite and Internet sets, as well as the destruction of mobile phone towers.” [Quote paraphrased for English translation.] We have noted for some time the ‘Diyala Salvation Council’ will be formed shortly, and all signs point to this development. The U.S. military is ahead of the game in Diyala, and learned a valuable lesson from Marine operations in Anbar province.

The Diyala Campaign:

February 22, 2007

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

March 15, 2007

The Battle of Diyala

Strykers engage in heavy urban combat in Baqubah s the Diyala front becomes very hot

April 4, 2007

The Diyala Campaign

U.S. and Iraqi forces are preparing the battlefield in Diyala province

April 17, 2007

Reinforcing Baghdad’s Outer Belts

Marines, Army building Combat Outposts in the regions surrounding Baghdad

April 26, 2007

Al Qaeda in Iraq’s Diyala Campaign

Terror group is striking hard at military targets prior to the onset of the Diyala Campaign

May 10, 2007

The Diyala Salvation Front

Tribal leaders in the troubled province organize against al Qaeda

May 20, 2007

Diyala on the horizon

Al Qaeda strikes in Baqubah nd along the Iranian border; 5th Division general relieved of command; the campaign looms

June 12, 2007

1920 Revolution Brigades turns on al Qaeda in Diyala

Group is aligned to the the Anbar Salvation Council; developments in the Diyala Campaign

June 18, 2007

The Battle of the Belts

“Major Operations” underway in the regions surrounding Baghdad

June 19, 2007

The Battle of Baqubah I

Major offensive in al Qaeda’s so-called capital of the Islamic State of Iraq

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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  • ECH says:

    Diyala could use at least one US combat brigade, but I think it might be a mistake to rob the Baghdad of one of the planned combat brigades in order to put it in Diyala.

  • Daniel says:

    No I completely disagree. Looks to me like AQ ran from Bagdad to avoid imminent destruction and latched onto Diyala as their most promising refugee. (It is very significant, given the progress in Anbar that they did not attempt to regroup there–AQ is running out of safe havens.).
    As we have (thanks to the surge) a growing superiority of forces, (and maybe a small window to use them, thanks to Congress), now is the time to confront AQ (and all other Sunni insurgents who cannot be coopted). So move into Diyala and give it the Petreaus treatment that seems to be working in Bagdad.
    I really think we can clearly and definitively “win” in Iraq (ie end the ability of insurgents to launch any signifnicant numbef of attached and so to destabilize the country.)

  • ECH says:

    Daniel, I didn’t say that we shouldn’t deal with Diyala.
    I said It would be best if we could find troops elsewhere without taking troops from Baghdad or Anbar for that matter.
    We could ask the Peshmerga to help us by moving down their forces into Mosul and several other parts of Ninawa province for several months, which would free up US troops for Diyala.

  • ECH says:

    U.S.: ‘Terrorist training camp’ found in Diyala province
    American and Iraqi troops uncovered what they described as a “terrorist training camp”

  • Drazen Gemic says:

    So, far as I understand, Diyala could be the place where Al-Qaeda Iraq is about to make their last stand ? I hope they will fight to the last man, and that last man will be killed with the rest of them, as well.
    What was the factor that made it all posible ? Is it the fact that Iraqi Army is good enough, and have strength to hold the areas that has been liberated ?

  • Andrew R. says:

    I wonder… If they manage to clear and hold Diyala, it seems to me at least somewhat likely that AQI will pull up stakes and relocate to Salah ad Din.

    Actually, for those of you who have been following this more closely than I, does anyone know the breakdown of Al Qaeda/Ba’ath makeup of the insurgency in Salah ad Din?

  • DJ Elliott says:

    MND-N has already thinned down all areas outside of Diyala as far as would be acceptable until the new forming 11th IA Div is operational. Former-Peshmerga that joint the IA and go thru their training is a significant percentage of this new Division…
    All of the Bdes for the so-called “surge” were never intended for Baghdad exclusively.
    Over half were always intended for the “outer-belt” and Diyala/Babil/Saladin/Anbar are the adjacent Provinces (outer-belt).
    The first two were all that Baghdad proper was to get in Augmentation.
    Rest is “Outer-Belt”.

  • Patrick says:

    I’m surprised they are making a play in Diyala,only 1/3 of it are Sunni Muslims.
    I would have thought Salludin if not Baghdad or Anbar. My co-worker spent 1 year in Diyala,back when it was fairly stable in 2005. His info didn’t lead me to imagine it would be a good choice for the nuts.

  • JSG says:

    Does anyone know what they do with the AQI that we capture.I would hope after they are interrogated and used up that the Iraqis dispose of them like vermin.

  • Patrick says:

    Generally release them,it’s a big reason we’re losing this war.

  • Neo-andertal says:

    About Diyala province.
    Unfortunately, we have never had a large enough security presence on the east side of the Tigris. The troops were always needed somewhere else. The towns along the east bank got to be rougher and rougher through late 2005 and 2006. The Sunni populous seems to have to go through it’s resistance phase too. Until they discover that the AQ folks are nuts and kill indiscriminately. The roads north and south on the east side of the Tigris aren’t patrolled enough either. That’s just another problem to solve.

  • crosspatch says:

    I have been hearing reports of more courts being installed in areas outside Baghdad resulting in more convictions. Don’t want to put too much of an optimistic spin on it, though, because politicians still seem to have quite a bit of pull in getting people of their tribe out of a jam.
    After hearing about more Sunnis joining the police in December and January, the news seems to have gone silent on that subject. I am wondering if the Sunnis are still signing up. Also, I heard they were signing up for the police but have they been joining the regular army? Aside from the paramilitary units the tribes have formed, I have heard little about Sunni recruitment in the regular army.

  • David M says:

    Trackbacked by The Thunder Run – Web Reconnaissance for 04/05/2007
    A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention.

  • Kenneth says:

    The main reason the terrorists moved into Diyala province is because it borders on Iran, from where they get most of their support. This is the same region where the Iranians attempted to kidnap US troops in September.

  • GK says:

    Can’t we just pick them off in raids, and airstrikes, while they are entering Diyala and have not yet blended into the general public?

  • crosspatch says:

    “have not yet blended into the general public?”
    It probably takes them 17.5 seconds to “blend in with the general public”. These guys aren’t in uniform and the average MNF-I troop can’t tell the difference between Iraqi Arabic and Syrian Arabic just by listening to it.

  • HaiducNC says:

    Violence was on the rise in Diyala long before the present Baghdad surge. Shaker, the Iraqi general in charge of the 5th Division in Diyala, was running anti-Sunni death squads and detaining/torturing Sunnis without proper packets or evidence starting shortly after his arrival in July 2006. He is still there. This may have forced many of the more moderate Sunni into the insurgents’ camp simply to protect themselves.

  • kiwiruss says:

    We need to keep all we hae in Bagdad and put more in there to make it safe and secure. Once bagdad is stable, maybe we can move a little of the forces to other locations, but we cant risk a pullout of large units incase bagdad reverts.


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