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

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Mosul and Ramadi

(I bumped this up since another operation began in Ramadi yesterday)

(Another bump up since Operations Rams concluded Dec 7)

(Another bump since Operation Skinner concluded Dec 10)

In November 2004, the northern Iraqi city of Mosul was a lawless pit where terrorists roamed where they wished. Iraqi police fled their police stations when attacked. Several hundred of the Iraqi Security Forces were killed during this time when the terrorists had the upper hand.

But today, Mosul is a much quieter place. What happened? How did the Coalition Forces turn that city around?

Michael Yon's piece The Battle For Mosul IV from October 4 is a good summary of the tactics and strategies the US and Iraqi forces used to bring that city under control.

Yon, who spent a few months in Mosul with the Deuce Four, and who chronicled that time there so memorably in his blog, says that in the beginning:

Being tougher, smarter and more adaptable was our only chance of winning the battle for Mosul without simultaneously flattening the city.

The fight against the terrorists was at first a "kinetic" fight, i.e. a fight that "includes jets dropping bombs, helicopters launching missiles, tanks and artillery firing rounds, and lots of bullets: open warfare."

Yon says the tide began to turn when the Iraqi forces began to perform well.

Even as guns were firing, the Coalition was building a tougher breed of Iraqi police, to work along with a new Iraqi Army. By the time I arrived in Mosul, the Americans had, in just some months, recruited, trained, and started fighting along with the new Iraqi Police and Army, who were proving smarter and tougher than the enemy.

Later, Yon says:

The increasing competence of the police department in Mosul was pinching the insurgents. The better the police became, the more confidence local people had in their ability to maintain control. This confidence resulted in more tips against insurgents, more subsequent raids and arrests, the discovery of munitions caches and bomb factories, and an ever-diminishing capacity for large-scale attacks.

Yon's piece goes on to describe in detail how US and Iraqi forces worked together to beat down the threat in Mosul. Read all of it for a good understanding of how success stories like this can be repeated throughout Iraq. (You may recall this letter from an enemy leader to Abu Zarqawi describing how bad the situation had become in Mosul for the bad guys.)

Yon says at the end of the piece:

It bears repeating that the Coalition IS winning in Mosul. Here’s why: while the enemy commander Abu Zayd was hiding in and around Mosul, and complaining about his fellow terrorists squandering money on phones and cars, American and Iraqi commanders were physically fighting alongside their men, instilling confidence in the mission, sharing the risks.

I bring up the successes the Coalition has had in Mosul to point out that the same can be done in Ramadi. The city of Ramadi is the capital of the troublesome Al Anbar province, and as such, is a key to bringing the violent western province and Sunni Triangle under control. (Bill Roggio wrote here and here about the problem of Ramadi.)

How will the Coalition find success in Ramadi? The same way it did in Mosul. Superior military power combined with the much improved Iraqi forces, the two operating in tandem aided by strong personal relationships built over tea and shared experiences.

We have seen these tactics playing out in Ramadi throughout the month of November. A series of operations there have taken place, and with a glimpse between the lines of CentCom press releases, we can see these ingredients for success at work.

There have been seven operations to date, designed to disrupt terrorists in certain areas of Ramadi. They are:

* Operation Panthers - Around Nov 17, focused on eastern Ramadi.

CentCom said:

2 BCT successfully repelled a terrorist attack in which 32 terrorists were killed in downtown Ramadi. The caches found during Operation Panthers, along with the recent capture of three high-value terrorist targets, have been part of continuous disruption operations in the Ramadi area.

* Operation Bruins - Began Nov 19, and focused on northern Ramadi. It involved Approximately 150 Iraqi Army soldiers and 300 Marines and Soldiers from the 2nd Brigade Combat Team (2 BCT), 2nd Marine Division.

CentCom said:

The operation netted several weapons caches used by al-Qaeda in Iraq-led terrorists to conduct direct attacks on Iraqi Army, U.S. forces and Ramadi citizens and to build hundreds of roadside bombs. Twenty-one rocket launchers and 43 rounds of RPG ammunition were discovered along with 23 medium machine guns, three sniper rifles and thousands of rounds of ammunition. Thirty-two black ski masks were also found in this cache. Attacks against Iraqi and U.S. forces in the Ramadi area have decreased 60 percent in the last few weeks, as a result of these ongoing operations.

* Operation Lions - began Nov 22, and focused on southern Ramadi. It involved approximately 200 Iraqi Army Soldiers and 250 Soldiers from the 2nd Brigade Combat Team (2-BCT) attached to the 2nd Marine Division.

CentCom said:

As a result of Lions, 20 suspected terrorists were detained by Iraqi Army Soldiers and 2-BCT Soldiers.

* Operation Tigers - began Nov 26, and focused on eastern Ramadi. It involved approximately 550 Iraqi Army soldiers and U.S. Soldiers from the 2nd Brigade Combat Team attached to the 2nd Marine Division.

CentCom said:

[The operation has] netted several caches, including two that were found along a railroad track used by local citizens.

The caches found consisted of numerous artillery and mortar rounds, rocket-propelled grenades, high explosives, small arms weapons, small arms ammunition, bulletproof vests and bomb making equipment.

The Iraqi Army spearheaded the operation by providing security, identifying cache sites and gathering important information through their interaction with the local citizens.

"These actions prove the Iraqi Army is truly making very rapid advances. With time, we will be able to secure all of Ramadi and remove all of the hidden enemy weapons cache points," said Lt. Col. Abdul Majeed, commander of the 3-2-1 Iraqi Army.

Additionally, several suspected insurgents, to include Imad Salih Al-Fahdawi, a known insurgent linked to the Abu Khattab-al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) terrorist cell, were detained during the operation. Imad Salih was involved in attacks against government officials and imams.

* Operation Shank - began Dec 2, and focused on an area of Ramadi used by a terrorist group for its base for attacks on local Ramadi citizens. The operation involves Approximately 200 Iraqi Army soldiers from 1st Brigade, 7th Division and 300 Marines from 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, assigned to the 2nd Brigade Combat Team.

CentCom said:

Iraqi Army Soldiers and U.S. Forces began the operation in the early morning hours by conducting targeted raids on suspected terrorist safe houses in central Ramadi resulting in the discovery of bomb making material.
The operation was carefully planned by using information and intelligence gathered by Iraqi and U.S. Forces operating in the city on a daily basis. There is no correlation between Operation Shank and the erroneous reports which were circulated by a terrorist propagandist.

* Operation Rams - began Dec 4 in Ramadi, and involves approximately 100 Iraqi Army Soldiers from 3rd Battalion, 3rd Brigade, 1st Iraqi Division and 400 Soldiers from the 2/28 Brigade Combat Team.

CentCom said:

Altogether, the forces have discovered four weapons caches and four improvised explosive devices during this operation. One of the caches was significant in size and contained the following items: dozens of mortar rounds, approximately 100 rocket propelled grenades and RPG launchers, approximately 150 hand grenades, anti-armor missiles and rockets, a rocket launcher, dozens of small arms weapons and AK-47s, plastic explosives, bomb-making material and body armor.

Iraqi and Coalition Forces also detained five suspected al Qaeda in Iraq terrorists during the operation. The detainees are currently being held for questioning.

This operation concluded Dec 7.

Operation Rams, the sixth in a series of disruption operations in Ramadi, began in the Western Sufia district of the city Dec. 4. The operation focused on neutralizing the terrorism and setting the conditions for a successful Dec. 15 election in the al Anbar provincial capital.

Altogether, Iraqi and Coalition Forces seized and destroyed 13 weapons caches and a total of six improvised explosive devices. Two of the caches were significant in size and a 1,000 pound bomb was discovered and detonated by explosive ordnance disposal technicians.

Iraqi and Coalition Forces also detained eight suspected al Qaeda in Iraq terrorists during the operation. The detainees are currently being held for questioning.

* Operation Skinner - ended Dec 10 in central Ramadi, and involved Iraqi Army Soldiers, U.S. Marines and Army Soldiers from 2nd Brigade Combat Team (28th Infantry Division).

CentCom said:

The operation netted four weapons caches and several detainees and also two command-initiated rocket systems designed to ambush passing convoys in central Ramadi. The combined forces also discovered a roadside bomb that the terrorists planned to use in the rocket attack.

Iraqi and U.S. Forces also disrupted terrorist plans when they discovered a terrorist bomb-making factory in the center of the Ramadi shopping district. Artillery and mortar rounds, timers and remote detonators were found in the bomb making facility.

Bill Roggio talked about Operation Rams here.

You can see it. The same close cooperation between Iraqi and US troops. One of the prior quotes said it, they are operating in the city on a "daily basis". The military will keep up the pressure, and with the key involvement of the Iraqis themselves, Ramadi will soon be a different place, just as Mosul is. You can bet the same kinds of things Yon wrote about are taking place now in Ramadi.


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