November 30, 2005

A Month In the Life

Hatched by Sachi

Bill Roggio from the Fourth Rail is now in Iraq (and now blogging at ThreatsWatch, as Dafydd mentioned). He linked up with the 1st Platoon of Lima Company of the 3rd Marines, 6th Battalion, call sign Jackal 1. Roggio reports an uneventful patrol and having tea with local sheikhs in Husaybah. Yep! You heard me right, in Husaybah.

Both Lieutenant Oren and Corporal Hall explained the successful patrol in Husaybah this afternoon would have been unheard of just three weeks ago prior to Operation Steel Curtain. “Over three weeks ago, we wouldn’t have gotten 200 feet into this city without taking fire”, said Cpl Hall.

Let's flash-back a few weeks to the Battle of Husaybah, courtesy of -- well, of Bill Roggio in a different incarnation:

Saturday, November 5th (Guy Fawkes Day): Operation Steel Curtain in Husaybah

Steel Curtain is directed at the town of Husaybah, and the objectives are to "restore security along the Iraqi-Syrian border and destroy the Al Qaeda in Iraq terrorist network" on the Syrian border. Steel Curtain is a subordinate operation to Hunter, whose objective is to bolster the U.S. and Iraqi presence in the western Anbar region from Qaim to Haditha and deny al Qaeda in Iraq the ability to establish safe havens in the region....

In a recent interview, Maj.Gen. Richard A. Huck, the commanding general of the 2d Marine Division discussed Operation Hunter and the importance of involving the Iraqi Security forces in the fight.

“The Marines and Soldiers assigned to the 2nd Marine Division understand that we won’t be the ones who win this counter-insurgency, it will be the Iraqi soldiers... We do this by partnering our battalions with Iraqi battalions. This is the way we’re going to win. By partnering with Iraqi Security Forces we are gaining a lot of insights previously denied to us... We could walk down the same street ten times and not notice anything out of place, but an Iraqi soldier will notice something his first time on the street. It is not uncommon for them to stop a patrol and say ‘those men over there have Syrian accents’ or ‘that graffiti is anti-government propaganda’. Having the ISF out with us is truly a force multiplier.”

Later That Night: Steel Curtain Update

Coalition forces are wisely using the Desert Protection Force, which is comprised of local tribesmen from the region, to provide intelligence on al Qaeda's activities; "Members of the Iraqi scout platoons, specially recruited soldiers from the Al Qa’im region, are embedded with U.S. and Iraqi infantry companies and are helping to identify insurgent strong points and areas known to contain these homemade bombs."

There are no casualties reported among U.S. or Iraqi forces, and enemy casualties are as of yet unknown. Nine airstrikes have been directed at insurgent safe house, and six IEDs have been neutralized, along with a car bomb.

CNN's Arwa Damon is embedded with the RCT-2, and reports on the estimated size and nature of the enemy resistance; "Soldiers believe insurgents in Husayba -- both foreign and home-grown -- will be the type that will fight to the death. Hundreds of insurgents are suspected to be in the city. Husayba insurgents are believed to be smarter and more experienced, survivors of other battles that move in squads of 12 to 15."

Sunday, November 6th: Steel Curtain and the Anbar Campaign

Day one of Operation Steel Curtain, which is aimed at dislodging al Qaeda from the border town of Husaybah and estabishing a permanent presence of Iraqi troops, has ended....

The street fighting has been reported to have been intense in the center and southwest corner of the city. Over thirty roadside bombs and booby trapped homes have been uncovered, along with two car bombs. "Dozens" of insurgent have been reported to have been killed. No Coalition deaths have been reported....

The avenues to the cities along the Euphrates have been closed, or made vastly more difficult and dangerous to travel with Coalition troops now permanently stationed in Husaybah, Sadah, Qaim, Rawah, Haditha, Haqlaniyah, Barwana, Khan Al Baghdadi, Hit, Ramadi, Habbaniyah, and Fallujah. This is the Anbar Campaign.

Today; now; a new Husaybah, and let's try this again:

Roggio reports an uneventful patrol and having tea with local sheikhs in Husaybah.

Without context, the savage magnitude of the Anbar Campaign is void of meaning. This is what the mainstream media does to truth, squeezes it dry of all context and content and reduces the war to an insipid "one American soldier was killed by an IED today" level. The sky is falling, the sky is falling!

But Roggio is in a Husaybah so calm that patrols are "uneventful" and he can sit and drink tea (was it sweet mint tea, I wonder?) with sheikhs that just a few weeks ago might have been on the other side, for all we know. That's progress!

Roggio also glows about how professional the Iraqi troops were:

They understood and responded to hand signals, maintained their intervals and guarded intersections during crossings. All the while talking to the residents of Husaybah. Other than their uniforms, they were virtually indistinguishable from their Marine counterparts - no small feat.

But of course, Roggio is just one man. His impression alone, informed as it is, is not "best evidence" of the Iraqi troops' competence. But Roggio is not alone. His observation is backed up by the Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's discussion during a recent press conference, and by President Bush himself. First Secretary Rumsfeld:

On Tuesday, Rumsfeld gave a preview of the administration's argument that Iraqi security forces are improving. He said about 29 military bases have been turned over to Iraqi control; the Iraqi army has seven division and 31 brigade headquarters in operation, compared with none 16 months ago; the number of Iraqi army battalions "in the fight" is now 95, compared with five 15 months ago, and there are now over 212,000 trained and equipped security forces, compared with 96,000 last year.

Secretary Rumsfeld was not just talking through his hat. The president just delivered a major speech to the midshipmen at the U.S. Naval Academy at Anapolis this morning, and he echoed Rumsfeld's point (and gave more backing to Bill Roggio's on-the-ground assessment):

At this time last year, there were only a handful of Iraqi battalions ready for combat. Now, there are over 120 Iraqi Army and Police combat battalions in the fight against the terrorists -- typically comprised of between 350 and 800 Iraqi forces. Of these, about 80 Iraqi battalions are fighting side-by-side with coalition forces, and about 40 others are taking the lead in the fight. Most of these 40 battalions are controlling their own battle space, and conducting their own operations against the terrorists with some coalition support....

At this moment, over 30 Iraqi Army battalions have assumed primary control of their own areas of responsibility. In Baghdad, Iraqi battalions have taken over major sectors of the capital -- including some of the city's toughest neighborhoods....

Our coalition has handed over roughly 90 square miles of Baghdad province to Iraqi security forces. Iraqi battalions have taken over responsibility for areas in South-Central Iraq, sectors of Southeast Iraq, sectors of Western Iraq, and sectors of North-Central Iraq. As Iraqi forces take responsibility for more of their own territory, coalition forces can concentrate on training Iraqis and hunting down high-value targets, like the terrorist Zarqawi and his associates.

We're also transferring forward operating bases to Iraqi control. Over a dozen bases in Iraq have been handed over to the Iraqi government -- including Saddam Hussein's former palace in Tikrit, which has served as the coalition headquarters in one of Iraq's most dangerous regions. From many of these bases, the Iraqi security forces are planning and executing operations against the terrorists -- and bringing security and pride to the Iraqi people.

The reason we started to hear from the Pentagon and Condoleezza Rice's State Department about an "event" table (with some projected times attached) -- not a time table -- for US troops' partial withdrawal is the readiness of the Iraqi troops themselves. The military has always had an event-driven victory strategy with projected times; but until now, they kept it private, because it has to be flexible, not certain. Events and milestones are more important than dates.

But the general public -- and more important, the terrorists -- don't always understand the flexible nature of such plans, and they might have taken any announced "time table" as carved in stone. What President Bush just said to the middies at Anapolis about a time table for withdrawal (as Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-CA, now advocates) applies to any date certain by which we promise to be gone:

Some are calling for a deadline for withdrawal. Many advocating an artificial timetable for withdrawing our troops are sincere -- but I believe they're sincerely wrong. Pulling our troops out before they've achieved their purpose is not a plan for victory. As Democratic Senator Joe Lieberman said recently, setting an artificial timetable would "discourage our troops because it seems to be heading for the door. It will encourage the terrorists, it will confuse the Iraqi people."

Senator Lieberman is right. Setting an artificial deadline to withdraw would send a message across the world that America is a weak and an unreliable ally. Setting an artificial deadline to withdraw would send a signal to our enemies -- that if they wait long enough, America will cut and run and abandon its friends. And setting an artificial deadline to withdraw would vindicate the terrorists' tactics of beheadings and suicide bombings and mass murder -- and invite new attacks on America. To all who wear the uniform, I make you this pledge: America will not run in the face of car bombers and assassins so long as I am your Commander-in-Chief.

To allow cabinet members and top generals to openly discuss how we will be withdrawning some of our forces over the next year, the White house must be very confident that the Iraqi Army can handle the terrorists even after the US have left. It is not like the terrorists are holding back; what more could they do, even if they knew we were leaving? Evidently, the president has decided we're doing so well that there is no longer any danger in talking about a responsible, event-driven withdrawal... not the cut-and-run that the Democrats in Congress (including the Minority Leader in the House) are calling for, but a true phased, milestone-driven draw-down.

Of course, this has been the plan all along, which President Bush announced more than two years ago -- to anyone who was actually listening!

Hatched by Sachi on this day, November 30, 2005, at the time of 2:47 PM

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A decade or so ago -- oh wait, it was only last Friday; how flime ties -- I somehow accidentally came up with an idea I think is pretty good: the "Afghanistan Effect." One earmark that I may be onto... [Read More]

Tracked on November 30, 2005 3:43 PM


The following hissed in response by: Alexandra von Maltzan

All Things Beautiful TrackBack 'The Enemy Within':

"...someone is going to have to finally topple the Mullah's regime, and quickly; I see no greater threat to the world right now. Iranian long-range missiles can already reach Europe, and after they have obtained nuclear weapons and destroyed Israel, as President Ahmedinejad so kindly informed us a few weeks ago that he plans to do, he will then turn his attention, for instance, toward United States troops in the Muslim world: the Arabian peninsula, Afghanistan, Iraq..."

The above hissed in response by: Alexandra von Maltzan [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 3, 2005 3:27 AM

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