Peace Like A River

It was a wide river, mistakable for a lake or even an ocean unless you'd been wading and knew its current. Somehow I'd crossed it... Now I saw the stream regrouped below, flowing on through what might've been vineyards, pastures, orhards... It flowed between and alongside the rivers of people; from here it was no more than a silver wire winding toward the city. - Leif Enger, Peace Like A River

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Operations in western Iraq

As mentioned previously, Operation Sayaid (Hunter) commenced in western Iraq about two weeks ago.

U.S. and Iraqi commanders have begun bolstering forces in western Iraq's Euphrates River valley, hoping to choke the flow of foreign fighters along what intelligence officers say has become the primary infiltration route from Syria toward Baghdad.

The buildup, called Operation Sayaid, is aimed at securing the border area around the restive town of Qaim and suppressing other insurgent activity in the villages that hug the winding banks of the Euphrates west of Baghdad.

(For a map and a good overall view, see this post at the Belmont Club. Bill Roggio also has a good map here.)

As part of that larger operation, two operations have recently begun. Operation Iron Fist began Oct 1 in the town of Sadah, and spread to Karabilah.

Iron Fist involves about a thousand troops.

The second day of Operation Kabda Bil Hadid, or "Iron Fist," resulted in successful engagements against terrorists in and around Sadah, about 12 kilometers east of the Syrian border, Multinational Force Iraq officials reported Oct. 2.

The effort continues with a force of about 1,000 Marines, soldiers and sailors from Regimental Combat Team 2. That force engaged seven terrorists west of Sadah with Marine aircraft at about 11:45 a.m., officials said.

(See Bill Roggio's excellent updates here, here, here, here, here and here.)

Operation River Gate began today, and is going after the cities of Haditha, Haqlaniyah and Barwana.

River Gate involves about 2,500 troops.

Approximately 2,500 Marines, Soldiers and Sailors from Regimental Combat Team – 2 and Iraqi Security force soldiers are participating in the operation, making it the largest operation in the al Anbar province this year.

The operation’s goal is to deny al Qaeda in Iraq the ability to operate in the three Euphrates River Valley cities and to free the local citizens from the terrorists’ campaign of murder and intimidation of innocent women, children and men.

Haditha is an important crossroads for al Qaeda in Iraq’s smuggling activities from the Syrian border. Once in Haditha, smugglers can go north to Mosul or continue on to ar Ramadi, Fallujah or Baghdad. The city is home to approximately 75,000 Iraqis, a vital hydro-electric power plant, and 28 schools.

This area is where 20 Marines were killed in August.

(Bill Roggio's update is here.)

A slightly smaller operation, Operation Hiba, began today.

The purpose of Operation Hiba (Mountaineers), which consists of 400 ISF soldiers and 500 U.S. service members, is to disrupt insurgents in southern Ramadi who are transporting weapons and munitions into the city. Additionally, ISF and Coalition Forces will establish an Entry Control Point at the Railroad Bridge in order to restrict the insurgents’ freedom of movement.

Security Watchtower reports the following:

U.S. planes and helicopter gunships conducted airstrikes in Haqlaniyah, Barwanah and Hadithah, knocking out power in some sections of Haqlaniyah and destroying several bridges insurgents were using to move back and forth across the Euphrates.

Dozens of roadside bombs were encountered on the main arteries into the towns as U.S. troops moved in, Marine commanders said.

We have seen this before, where bridges are destroyed to funnel terrorists into areas where they can be more easily managed. It does also point out the scarcity of troops in western Iraq, that Coalition forces can't simply hold the ground on the other side of the river.

(Bill Roggio's update is here.)

You may recall I had mentioned the fighting in Ramadi a few days ago. It is evident the fighting will continue there for at least the immediate future, as Coalition forces work to suppress terrorist acivity there.

You may also recall that the important crossroads city of Haditha is where a senior terrorist was killed on Sept 18.

The Marines 2nd Division, II MEF, is responsible for a lot of the fighting in these operations. The reports above mention the 2nd Regimental Combat team, attached to the 2nd Division, as taking part in the action.

Also among the units involved are the 3rd Battalion, 6th Marines, who arrived in Iraq not too long ago. (This is unit is attached to the 6th Marine Regiment, 2nd Division.)

(This unit, as do many US military units, has a proud history. Its nickname, Teufelhunden, which means Devil Dogs in German, came from the unit's determined fighting at Belleau Wood in WWI. The unit was on Guadalcanal, and also participated in the battle of Tarawa in WWII, a bloody fight for the Marines. Later actions include Beirut, Panama and Desert Storm.)

While this fighting is going on, some elements of the 2nd Division have rotated home. Yesterday, Vice President Dick Cheney was on hand at Camp Lejeune to welcome them home.

A couple years ago, I drove by Camp Lejeune. The fences along the main road going by the Camp were lined with bedsheets and other homemade signs welcoming home some other units at the time. I'm sure there is a similar scene today, where loved ones welcome home their soldiers. Sadly, the Marines have seen heavy fighting in western Iraq, and not all the Marines came home.

In the Sept 30 issue of the Eagle and Crescent (available here in PDF) the commanding general of the II MEF, Major General S.T. Johnson, wrote this:

Noted historian and former librarian of Congress, Daniel J Boorstin, once wrote: "In our world of big names, curiously, our true heroes tend to be anonymous. In this life of illusion and quasi-illusion, the person of solid virtues who can be admired for something more substantial than his well-knownness often proves to be the unsung hero: the teacher, the nurse, the mother, the honest cop, the hard worker at lonely, underpaid, unglamorous, unpublicized jobs.

Boorstin’s words apply here twenty-four hours a day – and no more so than in two weeks when the people of Iraq vote to ratify their new constitution. On the October 15th constitutional referendum, many people in Iraq will vote for the first time in their lives. While Iraqis exercise their right to vote, they face intimidation and murder and they are the "unsung heroes."

Let's make sure our soldier heroes don't go unremembered in anonymity, and don't forget the struggle of the Iraqi people, as they work to build a free country, a freedom that would not be possible without the help of the United States.


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