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Thread: Iraq, Baquba, Arrowhead Ripper, and the Real Elements of Victory

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    Default G.I.’s in Iraq Open Major Offensive Against Al Qaeda

    17 June NY Times - G.I.’s in Iraq Open Major Offensive Against Al Qaeda by Thom Shanker and Michael Gordon.

    With the influx of tens of thousands of additional combat troops into Iraq now complete, American forces have begun a wide offensive against Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia on the outskirts of Baghdad, the top American commander in Iraq said Saturday.

    The commander, Gen. David H. Petraeus, in a news conference in Baghdad along with Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, said the operation was intended to take the fight to Al Qaeda’s hide-outs in order to cut down the group’s devastating campaign of car bombings.

    The comments by General Petraeus were a signal that the United States military had yet again entered a new phase in Iraq, four months after the start of the so-called troop surge and a security plan focused on dampening sectarian violence within Baghdad. They reflected an acknowledgment that more has to be done beyond the city’s bounds to halt a relentless wave of insurgent attacks that have undercut attempts at political reconciliation...

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    Council Member T. Jefferson's Avatar
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    The limiting factor on any military success will be the degree of political reconciliation achieved.


    Mr. Gates arrived in Iraq to express Washington’s disappointment with the pace of political reconciliation under Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, and to urge accelerated efforts to reach a series of political benchmarks to lower tensions among Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds.

    Mr. Gates also met with the American ambassador, Ryan C. Crocker, who said that no outside power could compel the Iraqis to reach accommodation.

    “These have to be Iraqi decisions and Iraqi compromises if they are really going to take effect,” Ambassador Crocker said. “We can’t come up with solutions as the United States and expect to impose them or impose timelines and say, ‘You’ve got to do this for the future of your country.’ ”

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    Default 10,000 US Troops Launch Iraq Offensive

    19 June AP - 10,000 US Troops Launch Iraq Offensive by Lauren Frayer.

    About 10,000 U.S. soldiers using heavily armored Stryker and Bradley fighting vehicles fought their way in an al-Qaida sanctuary northeast of Baghdad early Tuesday. American and Iraqi forces, under cover of attack helicopters, killed at least 22 insurgents, the military said.

    The raids, dubbed "Operation Arrowhead Ripper," took place in Baqouba, the capital of Diyala province northeast of the capital, and involved air assaults under the cover of darkness, the military said in a statement. The operation was still in its opening stages, it said...
    19 June NY Times - Military Strikes Insurgents’ Positions East of Baghdad by Michael Gordon and Damien Cave.

    The American military began a major attack against Sunni insurgent positions here in the capital of Diyala Province overnight, part of a larger operation aimed at blunting the persistent car and suicide bombings that have terrorized Iraqis and thwarted political reconciliation.

    The assault — by more than 2,000 American troops in Baquba and more than 10,000 in the overall operation — is unusual in its scope and ambition, representing a more aggressive strategy of attacking several insurgent strongholds simultaneously to tamp down violence throughout the country...
    18 June - The Battle of the Belts by DJ Elliot and Bill Roggio (The Fourth Rail Blog).

    With the last U.S. combat brigade to hit the ground over the last two weeks as part of the surge, Multinational Forces Iraq has declared the beginning of “major combat operations” in the belts regions surrounding Baghdad. The Baghdad Belts, which included Eastern Anbar, northern Babil, and southern Salahadin and Diyala provinces, has long been a staging area for al Qaeda and insurgent operations into Baghdad, and a key part of the Baghdad Security Plan is denying these regions to the enemy.

    In the June 16 briefing given by Defense Robert Gates, General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker, General Petraeus explained that the past four months have set the stage for the "large, coordinated offensive operations" which kicked off over the weekend. The combat, logistics and intelligence pieces have been "put in place over the past several months," while a clear intelligence picture was developed of the regions surrounding Baghdad. "We have been doing what we might call shaping operations in a lot of these different areas [in the belts], feeling the edges, conducting intelligence gathering, putting in special operators."...

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    Default Offensive Targets Al-Qaeda In Iraq

    20 June Washington Post - Offensive Targets Al-Qaeda In Iraq by John Ward Anderson and Salih Dehima.

    Thousands of U.S. troops waged a new offensive against al-Qaeda in Iraq north of the capital Tuesday, focusing in particular on the extremist group's bombmaking facilities, while at least 60 people were killed and more than 85 wounded in a massive suicide truck blast at a Baghdad mosque, U.S. and Iraqi officials said.

    American officials have said that the majority of car and truck bombs are built outside the capital by members of al-Qaeda in Iraq, the Sunni-dominated insurgent group. But a preliminary investigation showed that the truck used in Tuesday's blast was rigged with TNT a little less than a mile from where it exploded, near the Shiite al-Khilani mosque

    If that proves to be the case, it would mean that al-Qaeda in Iraq has shifted strategies once again, this time in reaction to increased security efforts meant to control access to Baghdad...
    20 June NY Times - U.S. Seeks to Block Exits for Iraq Insurgents by Michael Gordon.

    In more than four years in Iraq, American forces have been confounded by insurgents who have often slipped away only to fight another day. The war in Iraq has been likened to the arcade game of whack-a-mole, where as soon as you knock down one mole another pops up.

    Taking the fight to insurgents from Al Qaeda did not so much destroy them in Anbar Province as dislodge them, prompting the fighters to build up their strength elsewhere, including Baquba, the capital of Diyala Province.

    So the planners of this latest operation are attempting to plug the holes that have allowed the insurgents to escape in the past. The goal is not merely to reclaim western Baquba from insurgent control, but to capture or kill the estimated 300 fighters to 500 fighters who are believed to be based in that part of the city...

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    Default 21 June

    Washington Post - Dozens of Insurgents Killed in Iraq Offensive by John Ward Anderson.

    U.S. and Iraqi forces continued targeting Sunni insurgents in the city of Baqubah north of Baghdad on Wednesday, the second day of a major new offensive aimed at stamping out the Sunni extremist group al-Qaeda in Iraq.

    About 10,000 U.S. and Iraqi troops are participating in the new offensive, called Arrowhead Ripper, which began early Tuesday in Diyala province, a mixed Sunni-Shiite-Kurdish province north and east of Baghdad that, in recent months, has become a stronghold of al-Qaeda in Iraq and the most violent area in the country outside of the capital. Forty-one insurgents and one American soldier were killed in two days of fighting, the U.S. military said Wednesday...
    NY Times - Heavy Fighting as U.S. Troops Squeeze Insurgents in Iraq City by Michael Gordon and Alissa Rubin.

    Fighting was heavy in parts of Baquba on Wednesday as American troops continued to squeeze a large section of the city in an effort to rid it of insurgents believed to be part of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia.

    Soldiers moved block by block through the city, the capital of Diyala Province, clearing houses and removing roadside bombs. As they pressed in, American troops discovered a medical aid station for insurgents — another sign that the Qaeda fighters had prepared for an intense fight. The hospital, uncovered by troops from the Fifth Battalion, 20th Infantry, was equipped with oxygen tanks, defibrillators, generators and surgical equipment, as well as pieces of insurgent propaganda...
    The Fourth Rail - Battle of Iraq 2007 by Bill Roggio.

    A look at the largest offensive operation in Iraq since 2003

    Four days after the announcement of major offensive combat operations against al Qaeda in Iraq and its allies, the picture becomes clearer on the size and scope of the operation. In today's press briefing, Rear Admiral Mark noted that the ongoing operation is a corps directed and coordinated offensive operation. This is the largest offensive operation since the first phase of Operation Iraqi Freedom ended in the spring of 2003.

    The corps level operation is being conducted in three zones in the Baghdad Belts -- Diyala/southern Salahadin, northern Babil province, and eastern Anbar province --- as well as inside Baghdad proper, where clearing operations continue in Sadr City and the Rashid district. Iraqi and Coalition forces are now moving into areas which were ignored in the past and served as safe havens for al Qaeda and Sunni insurgent groups. As the corps level operation is ongoing, Coalition and Iraqi forces are striking at the rogue Iranian backed elements of Muqtada al Sadr's Mahdi Army and continuing the daily intelligence driven raids against al Qaeda's network nationwide...
    NY Times - Shiite Rivalries Slash at a Once Calm Iraqi City by Alissa Rubin.

    The Shiite heartland of southern Iraq has generally been an oasis of calm in contrast to Baghdad and the central part of the country, but now violence is convulsing this city. Shiites are killing and kidnapping other Shiites, the police force is made up of competing militias and the inner city is a web of impoverished streets where idealized portraits of young men, killed in recent gun battles with Iraqi and American troops, hang from signposts above empty lots.

    The unrest in Diwaniya, mirrored in Nasiriya to the south, reflects the emergence of a poisonous political landscape in which competing Shiite groups no longer look to the political system to allocate power. The government’s authority appears to have broken down, with the governor calling this spring for Iraqi Army units, backed by American troops, to restore order. Civilians, not sure where to look for protection, are caught in the deepening fear and uncertainty...

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    Default 22 June

    Washington Post - Troops Pushing South Through Insurgent Area by Joshua Partlow and John Ward Anderson.

    More than 1,200 American soldiers are pushing south along the Tigris River through a Sunni insurgent haven known as Arab Jubour, a formidable operation that is part of an overall U.S. strategy to take control of the terrain encircling the capital.

    In Baqubah, north of Baghdad, Americans are fighting in city streets to detain insurgents and destroy their bomb-making facilities. In Arab Jubour, south of the capital, they are moving amid dense palm groves and along dusty canal roads in a grinding door-to-door search that began Saturday.

    The operations, involving thousands of additional U.S. troops, came as the military announced the deaths of 14 soldiers and Marines in five attacks since Tuesday, bringing the total for that period to 15. Nine of the soldiers were killed by two large roadside bombs in Baghdad. Two died near Arab Jubour when explosives buried under a dirt road destroyed their Bradley Fighting Vehicle on Tuesday.

    In the first week of the southern offensive, known as Marne Torch, five suspected insurgents have been killed and more than 60 others detained. Another U.S. soldier involved in the operation was killed Monday...
    NY Times - In Sweep of Iraqi Town, Sectarian Fears Percolate by Michael Gordon.

    After two days of clawing their way toward insurgent strongholds in western Baquba, American troops on Thursday began one of the most delicate phases of the operation: reintroducing the city’s residents to their own army.

    For the first time since the assault began, Iraqi soldiers joined the operation in significant numbers. What made the task especially complex was that many of the Sunni residents had little trust for the Shiite-dominated army, a message that became clear during Company A’s sweep through the northwestern part of the city.

    The Sunnis have bad recent experiences with the Iraqi Army. The commander of Iraq’s Fifth Division, a Shiite, was replaced by the government this year after American officers accused him of pursuing an overtly sectarian agenda by arresting and harassing Sunnis...

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    " U.S. general: Al-Qaida fighting to death in Iraq
    ‘It is house to house, block to block, street to street, sewer to sewer’ "

    Echoes of Hue: 1/5 & 2/5, 7th and 12th Cav
    142 KIA
    roughly 1100 WIA
    Last edited by goesh; 06-22-2007 at 01:57 PM. Reason: historical perspective

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    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Yeah, city fights are like that

    Romans had the same problem in Carthage, Sixth Army had it in Manila and 2/5 had it in Seoul 18 years before they had it in Hue...

    And someone will have it in another city in the future.

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    Great piece by Michael Yon
    Surrender or Die
    On the scene of Arrowhead Ripper.


    The combat in Baqubah should soon reach a peak. Al Qaeda seems to have been effectively isolated. The initial attack on 19 June achieved enough surprise that al Qaeda was caught off guard and trapped. They have been beaten back mostly into pockets and are surrounded and will be dealt with. Part of this is actually due to the capability of Strykers. We were able to “attack from the march.” In other words, a huge force drove in from places like Baghdad and quickly locked down Baqubah.

    Our guys are winning. Al Qaeda is about to be strangled and pummeled to death in this town, but the local Iraqi leadership is severely wanting.

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    Council Member Stu-6's Avatar
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    Has a major offensive like this every really worked in a counter-insurgency, strategically? I mean on a tactical level I am sure it is great and we can control whatever piece of ground but is this really going to serve our long term strategy? A big operation means big collateral damage which means good recruiting for guerillas. A big America presence further delegitimizes the Iraqi government, which of course aids rebellion against it. The only way we seem to have of putting an Iraqi face on it is by empower militias which of course does little to gain legitimacy for the government. All of this of course means a weak government in Baghdad and an on going guerrilla war.

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    Actions after Tet 68 resulted in the Viet-Cong no longer being a viable fighting force. From that point on they relied very heavy on support from the NVA. You think that was a VC you killed but it was probably an NVA soldier sent south. But it didn't help in the long run. The Tet Offensive was depicted as a major setback for the United States and RVN and that depiction stuck for a long time. Just long enough. There wasn't much of a fallout from collateral damage. Hue is a good example of trying not destroy the culture and the culture saying to hell with it and get those NVA out of town one way or the other. If the electronic information platforms we enjoy today were in place in 1968 we would have seen a different public opinion and dissemination of information.
    Last edited by Culpeper; 06-22-2007 at 07:47 PM.
    "But suppose everybody on our side felt that way?"
    "Then I'd certainly be a damned fool to feel any other way. Wouldn't I?"


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    Default 23 June

    NY Times - Militants Said to Flee Before U.S. Offensive by John Burns.

    The operational commander of troops battling to drive fighters with Al Qaeda from Baquba said Friday that 80 percent of the top Qaeda leaders in the city fled before the American-led offensive began earlier this week. He compared their flight with the escape of Qaeda leaders from Falluja ahead of an American offensive that recaptured that city in 2004.

    In an otherwise upbeat assessment, Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, the second-ranking American commander in Iraq, told reporters that leaders of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia had been alerted to the Baquba offensive by widespread public discussion of the American plan to clear the city before the attack began. He portrayed the Qaeda leaders’ escape as cowardice, saying that “when the fight comes, they leave,” abandoning “midlevel” Qaeda leaders and fighters to face the might of American troops — just, he said, as they did in Falluja.

    Some American officers in Baquba have placed blame for the Qaeda leaders’ flight on public remarks about the offensive in the days before it began by top American commanders, including Gen. David H. Petraeus, the overall commander in Iraq. But General Odierno cast the issue in broader terms, saying Qaeda leaders were bound to know an attack was coming in light of President Bush’s decision to pour nearly 30,000 additional troops into the fight in a bid to secure Baghdad and areas around the capital that have been insurgent strongholds. That included Baquba, which lies 40 miles north...
    Washington Post - Iraq Push Revives Criticism of Force Size by Tom Ricks.

    The major U.S. offensive launched last weekend against insurgents in and around Baghdad has significantly expanded the military's battleground in Iraq -- "a surge of operations," and no longer just of troops, as the second-ranking U.S. commander there said yesterday -- but it has renewed concerns about whether even the bigger U.S. troop presence there is large enough.

    As the U.S. offensive, code-named Phantom Thunder, has been greeted with a week of intensified fighting in areas outside the capital -- areas that the U.S. military has largely left untouched for as long as three years -- the push raised fears from security experts and officers in the field that the new attacks might simply propel the enemy from one area to another where there are not as many U.S. troops...
    The Fourth Rail - One Week of Operation Phantom Thunder by Bill Roggio.

    Operation Phantom Thunder, the corps coordinated operation across three theaters in the Baghdad Belts, has completed it seventh day. Lieutenant General Raymond Odierno, the ground forces commander, briefed on the operation. To date, Coalition and Iraqi forces have killed 159 al Qaeda and insurgents, wounded 41, and detained 721 suspects. Coalition and Iraqi forces found and destroyed 304 roadside bombs, seven car bombs and 128 weapons caches.

    Operation Arrowhead Ripper, the campaign in the Diyala theater, remains the hottest of the three. So far the bulk of the fighting is occurring in Baqubah, the provincial capital. "At least 55 al-Qaida operatives have been killed, 23 have been detained, 16 weapons caches have been discovered, 28 improvised explosive devices have been destroyed and 12 booby-trapped structures have been destroyed," since the start of Arrowhead Ripper, Multinational Forces Iraq reported. Coalition and Iraqi forces also found an al Qaeda "torture chamber." Upwards of 1,000 al Qaeda fighters are thought to be holed up in the western half of the city.

    Al Qaeda prepared for the assault on Baqubah. "Days before the offensive, unmanned U.S. drones recorded video of insurgents digging trenches with back-hoes," the Associated Press reported. "About 30 improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, were planted on Route Coyote, the U.S. code name for a main Baqubah thoroughfare." About fifteen percent of the western portion of the city is said to have been cleared, and the operation could take up to 60 days...
    LA Times - In Iraq, Role of Tribes is Divisive by Alexandra Zavis.

    When the Sunni Muslim sheik sent his representatives into the heaving Baghdad slum where a Shiite Muslim militia holds sway, many thought he was courting disaster. Sunnis mutter darkly that the only members of their sect who enter Sadr City are the ones stuffed into the trunk of a car.

    But on this occasion, the head of a Shiite family stood up and recited a poem calling Abdul Sattar Rishawi "the honest, the decent, the good sheik, who would not bow his head in humiliation." The sheik's representatives were so pleased, they asked him to read it again.

    This kind of bold move has persuaded the U.S. command to champion tribal leaders such as Rishawi as a way around the government stalemate in Baghdad. Rishawi has formed an alliance of Sunni Arab tribes that are fighting Al Qaeda-linked insurgents in Al Anbar province. Military leaders, who have provided weapons and other material to some tribal groups there, hope that Rishawi's effort can be replicated in other provinces.

    But some Western officials question the wisdom of encouraging tribalism in Iraq, when such loyalties have helped to cripple development and stir conflict in other parts of the world. Iraq's Shiite-led government also is uneasy over the alliances, which Prime Minister Nouri Maliki warns could end up creating even more militias if weapons fall into the wrong hands...

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    Default Iraq, Baquba, Arrowhead Ripper, and the Real Elements of Victory

    CSIS, 25 Jun 07: Iraq, Baquba, Arrowhead Ripper, and the Real Elements of “Victory”
    ...There also is the problem of creating an effective bridge between tactical victory and lasting strategic impact even if political conciliation does move forward. So far the Coalition has been virtually silent on progress in Baghdad, much less how such progress can be made in the new fighting outside it. Giving tactical victories lasting meaning requires the following additional elements:

    1. Iraqi Army forces must begin to take over meaningful operations without US embeds and US partner units, and dependence on US reinforcement and support....

    2. Iraqi police and local security forces must establishing a lasting security presence in the areas where tactical victories are won, and do so credibly in ways that give ordinary Iraqis security....

    3. The Iraqi government must follow-up security with a meaningful presence and by providing steady improvements in services....

    4. There must also be effective local government....

    5. There has to be economic aid and progress....

    6. There must be an end to sectarian and ethnic cleansing and displacement...

    ...One of the greatest single failures of the current approach to fighting in Iraq is that it does not track sectarian and ethnic separation and displacement and make ending this on a local and national level at least as important as halting major attacks and killings. It may take years to make Iraqis secure from Islamist extremists and the worst elements of Shi’ite gangs and militias. There can be no meaningful tactical success, however, unless Iraqis can be safe from their own neighbors and begin to lead ordinary lives in their own neighborhoods....
    Last edited by Jedburgh; 06-26-2007 at 01:42 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jedburgh View Post
    Personally, I don't think there really is an "Iraqi" army and government. We are placing our hope on a myth. I'm afraid there are only two options: a horrific, huge version of the Lebanon civil war; or a major multinational peacekeeping presence for a decade.

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    Default G.I.’s Forge Sunni Tie in Bid to Squeeze Militants

    6 July NY Times - G.I.’s Forge Sunni Tie in Bid to Squeeze Militants by Michael Gordon.

    Capt. Ben Richards had been battling insurgents from Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia for three weeks when he received an unexpected visitor.

    Abu Ali walked into the Americans’ battle-scarred combat outpost with an unusual proposal: the community leader was worried about the insurgents, and wanted the soldiers’ help in taking them on.

    The April 7 meeting was the beginning of a new alliance and, American commanders hope, a portent of what is to come in the bitterly contested Diyala Province.

    Using his Iraqi partners to pick out the insurgents and uncover the bombs they had seeded along the cratered roads, Captain Richards’s soldiers soon apprehended more than 100 militants, including several low-level emirs. The Iraqis called themselves the Local Committee; Captain Richards dubbed them the Kit Carson scouts.

    “It is the only way that we can keep Al Qaeda out,” said Captain Richards, who operates from a former Iraqi police station in the Buhritz sector of the city that still bears the sooty streaks from the day militants set it aflame last year...

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    SSI, 10 Jun 09: Arrowhead Ripper: Adaptive Leadership in Full Spectrum Operations
    In an article published in Foreign Affairs, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates reflects on “whether formations and units organized, trained, and equipped to destroy enemies can be adapted well enough and fast enough to dissuade or co-opt them—or, more significantly, to build the capacity of local security forces to do the dissuading and destroying.” This question is central to the on-going debate over whether the Army has the proper structure and training to perform full spectrum operations. This monograph reports that 3-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team (SBCT) effectively operated as a “full spectrum” force during Operation ARROWHEAD RIPPER in the city of Baqubah, Iraq, from June to September 2007. The Brigade Commander organized the SBCT to conduct simultaneous kinetic and nonkinetic operations, task-organizing his brigade to leverage the Iraqi military, local leaders, and Iraqi systems already in place to accomplish his mission of defeating al-Qaeda and stabilizing the city of Baqubah. Ultimately, adaptive leadership, at every level, enabled 3-2 SBCT to operate in a full spectrum campaign.

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