Iraqi military prepares for offensives in Diyala, Babil

Map of Iraq. Click to view.

Iraqi security forces are massing more than 30,000 soldiers and police for an upcoming operation against al Qaeda and the Mahdi Army in the eastern province of Diyala, according to police and military officials.

The operation, which was expected to be launched this week, has been scheduled to kick off on August 1, an anonymous senior Iraqi military officer told AFP. “The operation is aimed at cleansing the region of insurgents, al Qaeda and militias who are still there,” the officer said.

Like other offensives against al Qaeda and the Mahdi Army, the Diyala operation will be planned and led by the Iraqi military. “It will be an operation led by the Iraqi army,” an anonymous US military officer told AFP. “The US army will probably only watch. … If they need help, we’ll help them. If not, we will not do anything.”

The US currently has a brigade based in Diyala. The 3rd Squadron, 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment is operating in northeastern Diyala and has been conducting operations against al Qaeda strongholds along the Iranian border.

The Iraqi command has shown the ability to move and mass troops for large-scale operations this year. While this is not confirmed, elements from the 1st Iraqi Army Division — redesignated the 1st Quick Reaction Force — along with the 9th Iraqi Army Division (Mechanized), and several Emergency Response Brigades will likely join the 5th Iraqi Army Division based in Diyala. The 1st, 9th, and the Emergency Response Brigades have been used to conduct operations against the Mahdi Army in Baghdad and throughout the South.

Iraqi and US forces have conducted several operations in Diyala province since the surge was announced in January 2007. Last summer and fall, operations focused on clearing Baqubah, the Diyala River Valley north of Baqubah, and surrounding districts of the influence of al Qaeda and Mahdi Army. In January 2008, an operation was launched in the Miqdadiyah region, where al Qaeda was building a safe haven.

Al Qaeda still maintains a stronghold in the Hamrin Mountains, which span Diyala, Salahadin, and Tamin provinces. This area is a major fallback position for al Qaeda in Iraq and allied insurgent groups. The Miqdadiyah region was reported to be an al Qaeda stronghold earlier this year. The Mahdi Army operates along the fault lines in the eastern and southern areas of the province.

More Iraqis are currently being killed in Diyala province per day per capita than in any other province in Iraq, according to numbers compiled by Chris Radin of The Long War Journal. Diyala has 2.62 Iraqis killed per day per million inhabitants, compared to Ninewa (1.4) and Baghdad (0.6), the second and third most violent provinces.

Operations in Babil and Wasit provinces loom

Iraqi forces are also preparing for a security operation in Babil province, just south of Baghdad. An operation may also take place in Wasit province as the Diyala security operation take place.

In Babil, a curfew has been imposed in the provincial capital of Hillah as Iraqi security forces, backed by US troops, launched a search operation. The operation is taking place in northern Babil, an anonymous source told Voices of Iraq.

The operation is taking place where elements from the newly formed 17th Iraqi Army Division are based. This operation is likely smaller in scope than the planned Diyala offensive or prior operations in Basrah, Sadr City, Maysan, and Mosul.

The Babil operation is likely a precursor to an operation in Wasit province, which may be launched in conjunction with the Diyala offensive. Wasit sits on the eastern border of Babil and the southern border of Diyala.

Wasit is the only central-southern province that has not been a focus of major combat operations. The Iraqi military started its rolling offensive in Basrah in March, and then proceeded to tackle the provinces of Dhi Qhar, Qadisiyah, Maysan, and now Babil. All of these provinces are major areas of operations for the Iranian-backed Shia terror groups.

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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  • C. Jordan says:

    Go Iraq!
    Its more then great to see the Iraqi’s stand up and mature as a fighting force for peace. They are truly gaining the upper hand on the murders and criminals.

  • Batman says:

    Could anyone address the relationship between holding the local/provincial elections, with resulting governments with popular mandates, and turning over more areas to PIC?
    It looks to me like they would be very much related, with stronger provincial govs leading to faster PIC, leading to faster drawdowns by U.S. troops.

  • KaneKaizer says:

    The Iraqis are on a roll! There was even a report that al-Masri himself is in a Diyala village, and that the Iraqis plan to take him out.

  • Cordell says:

    Sad but true, Baghdad at 0.6 homicides/day/million is now safer than Oakland, California, at 1.0 homicides/day/million. East Oakland by itself would rival Diyala by this same measure of danger. The city’s beleaguered residents would likely welcome a military surge there as well.
    As for this major offensive in Diyala, what prevents al Qaeda from fleeing elsewhere to other havens such as Iran or elsewhere in Iraq and operating from there like the Taliban in Pakistan? The Hamrin mountains provided Ansar al Sunna a very effective haven from Saddam’s armies. Have UAVs and the reconnaissance they provide changed the military landscape on this front? And has Iraq significantly improved security along the central and northern sections of its border with Iran?

  • Colin says:

    Can I get a reference on your homicide statistics? I have some people I would love to use this on but they will challenge me for a reference.

  • Alex says:

    Well this is almost it then. Diyala has been one of the last remaining hot-spots. And to think that a bit over year ago today, this province had the capitol city of the so-called “Islamic State of Iraq”.

  • andrew says:

    To Chris Radin of LWJ, how did you get your numbers of murders / city ? You label Baghdad as 0.6 deaths / million / day. How were you able to get this number? Thanks in advanced.
    Colin, he got those numbers based on FBI crime reports indicated here
    If Baghdad’s 0.6 holds up, Baghdad is as safe as Atlanta, Georgia, and safer than Detroit, Balitmore, New Orleans, Newark, St. Louis, Oakland, D.C, Cincinatti, Philly, Buffalo, and Kansas City.

  • Liberterian says:

    Could someone pl. compare the way the Iraqi Military is preparing for this offensive versus the Basrah offensive? what were the lessons learned and applied?
    After Diyala and Babil, what comes next?

  • Alex says:

    It seems that for one, IA is using the 1st QRF which has been a tried and proven combat unit. In Basrah, the first unit that went in was the very green 14th Division, about 5 weeks out of boot camp, much less any kind of intensive urban warfare training or just general time for enlistedmen to bond with officers.
    After Diyala and Babil…seems like that’s about it. ISF can focus more time and resources on training and developing its support structure like logistics (better but still needs work, only 3 C-17 cargo planes), a military judicial system, artillery, helicopter and air support (better but still a skeleton force ATM, hopefully will have Brazilian EMB-314 light attack planes by the end of the year), and improving the Iraqi Police. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if Petraeus announced a significant drawdown at the next briefing to Congress.

  • cjr says:

    Count the number of deaths in Bagdad reported here:
    Then divide by population of Bagdad, ~6.6m

  • anand says:

    Andrew, they are also using 14th Bde, 4th IAD in Basrah, 17th Bde, 4th IAD, in Maysan, 26th Bde, 7th IAD, in Basrah, and possibly even another bde in 7th IAD.
    16th Bde, 4th IAD might be used in Diyala.
    The QRF divisions in the IA are 1st, 9th, and perhaps 4th IAD. All are good quality. So are the 2nd, 3rd, 7th, 8th IADs.
    All of these divisions are high quality and proven.
    6th IAD is OK (with many parts of it very good quality.) 11th and 14th are green. 12th is still forming. 17th is very early stage (more than a year away.) 10th IAD has had challenges, which the IA is trying to fix. The 5th IAD had severe challenges, but appears to be improving.
    With respect to Diyala:
    There don’t appear to be many attacks on the ISF (and to a lesser degree MND-N) inside Diyala. However, there have been some successful terrorist attacks. Hence the large number of civilian violent deaths.

  • DJ Elliott says:

    Your data is obsolete.
    The only possible augment in Basrah is 26/7 and it has probably redeployed.
    Maysan is back to the 38/10 and 41/10 only.
    1st Div is not in Maysan.
    Also, there is a buildup of Bdes at Taji…

  • Cordell says:

    The web site you cited as the source for your Iraq homicide statistics explicitly states that its tally is low: “Actual totals for Iraqi deaths are much higher than the numbers recorded on this site.” Is there another, more accurate source available? Thanks.
    Just to correct an error in my earlier comment, it is West Oakland, not East Oakland, that one should avoid. With a population of about 150,000, it recorded its 74th homicide little more than halfway through this year, giving it a homicide rate of about 2.7 per day per million. Eastern Oakland is a relatively safe and well-to-do area up in the hills overlooking SF Bay. The area was extensively burned by wild fires back in the early 1990’s, though. My thinking was affected by nearby East Palo Alto, the former murder capital of the U.S. two decades ago.


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