The Battle of Baqubah I

The Baqubah egion. Click map to view.

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

The Diyala Campaign is underway. As part of major offensive operations throughout the belts regions of Baghdad, Iraqi and U.S. forces have launched a large scale operation in the city of Baqubah the provincial capital of Diyala. Dubbed Operation Arrowhead Ripper, the offensive is massive. This is a division sized operation of “approximately 10,000 Soldiers, with a full complement of attack helicopters, close air support, Strykers and Bradley Fighting Vehicles.” Over 30 al Qaeda operatives have been killed since the 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division kicked off the operation with a “quick-strike nighttime air assault.”

Elements of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, and the 25th Combat Aviation Brigade, are operating in Baqubah along with the 2nd Brigade of the 5th Iraqi Army Division. American forces are in the lead of the assault, with the Iraqi Army in support. The 2-5 Iraqi Army Brigade killed four al Qaeda after receiving sniper fire, and captured 2 others.

The New York Times, which incorrectly reported the operation as consisting of 2,000 U.S. troops, reported that the western portion of the city of Baqubah as been sealed off with ground and air units as troops pursue the 300 to 500 Qaeda believed to be operating in the area.

The 1920 Revolution Brigades, which turned on al Qaeda in Diyala and cleared the city of Buhriz with U.S. assistance, is actively working along side Iraqi Army units in Baqubah “The Iraqi forces were joined by some members of the 1920s Revolutionary Brigade, a Sunni Arab group with units that have recently repudiated a longstanding alliance with Al Qaeda, and witnesses said the two groups were welcomed by the residents,” note the Times.

Map of southern Diyala. Click map to view.

Back in May, we noted Diyala has become the main hub of al Qaeda’s operations. Al Qaeda in Iraq made Baqubah he capital of its rump Islamic State of Iraq last year. Since the inception of the Baghdad Security Plan in mid-February, the security situation, which was deteriorating after U.S. forces pulled back last fall, has markedly worsened. 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 fled Baghdad and are operating in Diyala. An American intelligence official and a U.S. military officer informed us that al Qaeda is operating along the lines of Hezbollah’s military structure in Lebanon. Al Qaeda attacks in the region proved this, as a series of assaults along the Iranian border and elsewhere in the province bore the hallmark of a well led, well trained fighting unit.

The fighting in Diyala will be hard. Al Qaeda is organized in small military units with infantry, mortars, anti-tank and anti-aircraft teams, as well as suicide and IED cells and the accompanying logistical nodes. Al Qaeda has been conducting a terror campaign to remove tribal leaders and others who oppose them, while waging a campaign of intimidation designed to cow the local population.

The Diyala Campaign has been a long time coming. The 10,000 U.S. troops and supporting Iraqi units won’t sit pat in Baqubah but will reach out to strike at other al Qaeda bases in the troubled province. These areas include Khalis, Muqdadiyah and a host of small towns up and down the Diyala River Valley and along the Iranian border where al Qaeda has established bases, training camps and logistical nodes.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.



  • Tony says:

    Bill, would you call this a major combat operation?

  • DJ Elliott says:

    From just below the title above: “Major offensive in al Qaeda’s so-called capital of the Islamic State of Iraq”
    Last I checked, offensives are combat operations.
    This is just the MND-D portion of the Battle of the Belts. MND-C and MNF-W have their own Major ops ongoing as well while MND-B is continuing clearing Baghdad. Prob the largest coordinated operations since May 2003. Four coordinated joint Division scale operations all concentrated within 35 miles of Baghdad.

  • ECH says:

    2000 Pehsmerga soldiers were moved about a week ago. I wonder if Diyala has its own ERUs yet? The combination of the tribes, Baathists, Peshmerga, and ISF will give our troops a much better chance to make this operation a success.
    I hope we have prepared for large numbers of al-Qaeda to suddenly appear in Saladin.


    BATTLE FOR BAQUBAH: Michael Yon emails: Baqubah is surrounded by our forces and there is sharp fighting. Apaches firing occasionally, artillery, air strikes and some loud rockets that flew in all the way from Fallujah. Casualties on both sides, but…

  • avidbuff says:

    Bill, I want to thank you for the incredible effort you are making to bring this news to us. An amazing effort!

  • joe says:

    I would expect the jihadists that are not killed or captured to flee to salahadin province or mosul. I recently read that mosul a city in some 2 million has only a small force of US troops presently. Theyll probably go there.

  • DJ Elliott says:

    The reason we have such a small presence in Ninawa is that 2nd and 3rd IA Divs are among the four best IA Divisions.
    Also, the two Bdes of 2nd IA Div (HQ Mosul) that were on vacation to Baghdad have returned to home areas.
    – One of the new forming Divisions is being formed by spliting 4th IA Div (Sulmaniyah/Kirkuk/Salahadin) and adding to it. Elements are already there.
    – Taji has been augmented with 1st INP Mech Bde and elements of new forming 4-9 Mot Bde.
    If they run north, we win…
    If they run south, we win…
    If they run west, we win…
    The only direction that is not augmented is east (Iran). Escape to the Persians.
    Considering Iraqi Nationalism, that means:
    We win…
    That is what the surge is about. Providing enough forces to deny them an escape route…

  • INTEL DUMP says:

    U.S. forces launch major assault in Diyala

    The New York Times and Washington Post both report today on a massive ne…

  • Andrew R. says:


    My biggest worry is whether those IA and IP units that have shown themselves capable of operating with minimal adult supervision are able to hold up if they’re faced with AQ in concentrated numbers. If they are, then we win (in the sense of leaving behind an Iraq that’s a unitary state and not run by the Ba’ath party or Al Qaeda). If, though, they’re not (a la Diyala in 2005-2006), then Iraq is in even more serious trouble than it currently is.

  • anand says:

    To add on to DJ’s comments, Ninevah has 18,000 IP (including at least 3 QRF combat battalions or “ERU’s” if you like with a 4th one being trained). This is in addition to more than 20,000 3rd and 2nd IAD soldiers. (They had 20,000 before the 2nd IAD brigades returned from Baghdad. Note that parts of 2nd IAD might still be in Diyala.)
    Aside from growing IED attacks on the ISF (maybe civilian targets as well?), most trends in Ninevah (including other types of attacks) are positive.
    Going to Ninevah is like Moths to the flame.
    9th IAD’s 3rd tank brigade, 4th motorized brigade, and IA 4-4 are waiting for Diyala spillover in Salahadin. (2-9 Tank brigade is also listed as in Diyala, but with its FMC BSB, it could be redeployed anywhere in Iraq fairly quickly, and it might be part of the current offensive with OPSEC.) This is IA 4-4’s first live fire exercise . . . and we are going to find out how good they are. In addition, the Salahadin provincial and local police, as well as the provincial government, are far better than in Diyala, and most of Baghdad. Probably better than their counterparts in al Basrah.
    The weakest part of offensive are the ISF in Diyala (they are supposed to be augmented by parts of 2nd and 4th IAD), but that is why there are over 2 US brigades in the fight there. There are reports that the local and provincial Diyala police do “NOT”

  • More good news in Iraq, including the Good News

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    Then, this morning I heard the following stories, on NPR, which I like t…

  • Tony says:

    Thanks DJ. I just wanted to know whether this offensive was classified as a “major” combat operation.
    For the last few years the MSM has been undermining morale on the home front for The Long War by telling us that major combat operations in Iraq have ended.
    We need to understand that this is indeed a Long War and that major combat operations are continuing and in my judgment will need to continue for a very long time, as part of this Long War.
    We need to prepare for the long haul here. This fight against al Qaeda could obviously take decades but it is my view it is more likely to take centuries before they disappear from the face of the earth.
    And the MSM needs to stop telling us that major combat operations are over in Iraq and start preparing us for the Long War. We will all need to make huge sacrifices, not just the brave young men and women in uniform.

  • Mark says:

    Interesting. If these sorts of offensives are maintained for a few months, in combination with the new alliance of tribes and Sunnis, it should probably have an even stronger effect than past operations.
    I’ll keep checking in for updates.
    Nice piece as usual Bill.

  • GINA COBB says:

    Major Assault Underway in Iraq; May The Troops Prevail

    A gripping report from Michael Yon on big developments in the war in Iraq. A major U.S. assault is underway in the city of Baqubah and other regions. Read Yon’s report for the full context, but refill your coffee cup first — it’ll take a

  • Richard1 says:

    Al-Qa’ida Leader Arrested in Muqdadiya
    Diyala under Curfew as Large-Scale Operation Targets Province
    Muqdadiya, June 19, (VOI)- A joint force of Iraqi and U.S. forces arrested on Tuesday the leader of al-Qaeda armed group in Muqdadiya, Diyala province, where a curfew imposed as a large-scale security operation started to hunt down armed groups, a police source said.
    “A joint force of Iraqi and U.S. forces waged on Tuesday afternoon a security crackdown north of Muqdadiya after receiving reports that asserted the presence of al-Qaeda group leader, Mohammad Khaled al-Haron , in the district,” the source told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI).
    “Al-Haron was responsible for many attacks, in the district in addition to issuing Fatwas (religious edicts) asserting that Muslims in Diala are infidels,” he also said. “The operation ended also with the confiscation of amounts of weapons,” the source noted.

  • Firght4TheRight says:

    Great, great reporting here by all of you, thank you! This offensive has been so anticipated, and to see it finally happening, is great to see. I, for one, have complete faith in the plan and the execution by our troops and I think as the offensive gains momentum, and results become more and more obvious, you will see the Iraqi troops step up and show they can more than hold their own.
    It’s stated that over 30 Al Qaeda have been killed so far. That leaves 1970 or so and I hope we get every single one of them. My hope is we get them before they cross into Iran – it’s my belief that given the fact they are being pursued by American troops, the Iranians will let them in and give them a “pass.”

  • Barry S. Hauser says:

    Thanks for the update. I am just glad to see that the US and Iraqs are starting to fight this as a war.

  • The Battle of Diyala:

    Bill Roggio has more on the Iraq offensive into Baqubah, al-Qaeda’s capital in Diyala province. “Dubbed Operation Arrowhead Ripper, the offensive is massive.” (Bill Roggio)…

  • diana says:

    Amazing reporting, thankyou.

  • Rubin says:

    Tony, “For the last few years the MSM has been undermining morale on the home front for The Long War by telling us that major combat operations in Iraq have ended.”
    Yes, thank you. A sadly pathetic but most important dynamic to remind everyone about..
    The MSM, the current crop of rapporteurs express their contempt for the current mission in A-stan and Iraq every day.
    That’s Right, sometimes subtlety but usually overtly, they express Contempt for the mission, Contempt for the job that the Best of us Americans are performing every single day. How could you ask for more courage when they already sacrifice life and limb. These truly are the most magnificent Americans.
    This new crop of media are the fruit of their anti-Military fathers from the Vietnam era, who were the shallowest generation of news men and women ever.
    Just in case you weren’t alive back during the war in Vietnam, the elite Media back then from editor to correspondent were packed full of themselves [hubris] and envy.
    They pretended to know better because than our courageous men and women [military] because they had bull-shitted themselves into believing that they were SUPERIOR than the American Marines, Soldiers, Airman, Coast Guardsmen, and Navy.
    There wasn’t a Ernie Pile, Bill Roggio or Michael Yon or Pat Dollard amongst the lot of them. [except Galloway]
    Today the “rapporteurs’ and editors come up with the most slanted articles and Headlines…..
    “The Powerful Islamic Courts..”
    “The Deadly Spring Offensive..”
    You’ve seen them.. an article that calls the Coalition “invaders” and yet calls the Paki terrorist in A-stan, “the insurgents”.
    media Cliches on top of Stereotypes.
    They are possessed by an evil that is tireless and will keep on trying to demoralize us, and we must never forget that *OUR* job to defend liberty and freedom is a battle never finished.
    what do you call an old antique Media whore that no one pays attention to anymore…?

  • Luke Willen says:

    The BBC are just as biased. If there is yet another car bombing in Baghdfdad or Kabul then it was committed by the “Insurgents.”
    Call it what it is – TERRORISM
    It would be a different matter if the enemy confined their attacks to purely military targets. Then they might deserve to be called “Insurgents” However, as we all know on the media’s own evidence, this is most certainly not the case.
    At least we have people like Bill Roggio who are prepared to stand up and tell us the other side of the story.
    What is needed is more sites like this one and more of an effort made to educate the rest of the public about what is really going on and why.
    At least that way intelligent people can make up their own minds rather than simply being spoon fed by our so called “independant” media.

  • RHYNO says:

    i am pretty sure i read somewhere that Baqubah is surrounded by coalition forces. is this true? if so, we are looking at a fight similar to Fallujah. they got nowhere to go, they either surrender, or die. i would like to know more about the 2nd ID’s air-assault. the 2nd is a versatile formation, i know coz i spent a year with the 506 PIR. these guys are top notch, and this op. sounds like overwhelming force is being used. we have momentum, keep it going, there is still a chance for the overall mission to succeed.

  • DJ Elliott says:

    5-20 Inf/3-2SBCT did a nightime AAslt with IA Scouts to kickoff the Baqubah part of this offensive.
    As RAdm Fox said this morning, MNF-I is doing Corps Level Coordinated Offensive Operations.
    The press did not seem to comprehend the scale he was refering to.
    In MND-N: I count 2 US and 1 IA Bde in direct action at Baqubah. 1 US and 4 (poss 6) IA/INP Bdes are in blocking positions in the area.
    In MND-C: I count 2 US and 1 IA Bde in offensive operations south of Baghdad (Triangle of Death). 1 US and 2 INP Bdes are in blocking positions in that area.
    In MNF-W: RCT6, 13MEU and 3-6 IA Bde appear to be the teeth while elements of 1st IA Div are blocking.
    In MND-B: Clearing continues in Rasheed and Sadr City.
    In MND-SC and SE: So far it is raids against JAM.

  • The massive assault on al Qaida

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  • Anti-Herman says:

    Casualties seem to be down considerably. Is this just a lag in reporting or is this the result of pacification?

  • Ammo Guy says:

    In terms of what constitutes a “major operation”, the Joint Publication 1-02, Department of Defense Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms, defines it as follows: “A series of tactical actions (battles, engagements, strikes) conducted by combat forces of a single or several Services, coordinated in time and place, to achieve strategic or operational objectives in an operational area. These actions are conducted simultaneously or sequentially in accordance with a common plan and are controlled by a single commander. For noncombat operations, a reference to the relative size and scope of a military operation.”
    You can draw your own conclusions as to how big a force should be to reach this threshold, but the Joint Pub also defines a “major combat element” as follows: “Those organizations and units described in the Joint Strategic
    Capabilities Plan that directly produce combat capability. The size of the element varies by
    Service, force capability, and the total number of such elements available. Examples are
    Army divisions and separate brigades, Air Force squadrons, Navy task forces, and Marine
    expeditionary forces.”
    So, my take (for what it’s worth) would be a division or so, though a souped-up brigade might also qualify.

  • DJ Elliott says:

    Ammo Guy
    Don’t you just love those official definitions? Nothing dryer than a military publication. Great for insomnia…
    “MNF-I is doing Corps Level Coordinated Offensive Operations.”
    Corps Level is well past the definition line.
    Baqubah (Ripper Arrowhead) has four US and three ISF Bdes directly involved and rates that definition on its own.
    There are three other operations ongoing under MNC-I’s overall “Phantom Thunder”.
    – Marne Torch
    – Commando Eagle
    – Fardh al-Qanoon
    Plus whatever the MNF-W op will be called…

  • RHYNO327 says:

    thanx for the info DJ. sounds like Baqubah is surrounded. thats wat i read somewhere. DJ, where is our heavy armor being used? and in wat role? haven’t heard much about the 101st, even though they have 3 out of 4 regiments deployed. can you, if possible, give me an answer to these 2 questions? i think ur doing a REMARKABLE job. hearing that the 327, 101st is part of this and doing well would mean alot. my thoughts and prayers to all who fight this evil. who would think a form of religion would be the biggest threat to world order…keep up the outstanding work DJ & Bill

  • DJ Elliott says:

    The 1st, 2nd and 3rd BCTs of the 101st do not deploy to Iraq until this fall.
    As to the armor, the symbology on the map is accurate and the legend is bottom left…

  • anand says:

    101st Airborne will be a great asset, and QRF when they arrive. I suspect that in addition to their strategic oversight functions, they will also be tasked with a lot of “3D” ops, such as civil affairs, training, advising, governance etc. The 101st are very good at relief operations etc.
    The current opp will probably be the last great offensive opp in Iraq by our GIs. The mission is shifting to civil affairs, and enabling Iraqis.

  • RHYNO327 says:

    DJ, thanx for clarifying that for me, since i thought they were already in theater. ANand, thanks to you also for pointing out the versatility of this formation. they will be performing all ops mentioned above, God willing, when they get there. the fall is 8 weeks or so away, so i bet thier days are well spent, and they will be READY. Godspeed 101st..


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