Drilling for Justice
Army officers have been pleased with Michael Gordon’s portrayal of the events in Baqubah.
On 19 June American forces sealed off Baqubah and began attacking targets within the city. The immediate goal of Arrowhead Ripper was to free Baqubah of al Qaeda, by trapping and killing its members, but according to American officers here, public remarks by senior military officials may have flushed many AQI leaders before the attack. Despite this frustrating and significant setback, progress toward the end-state goal of Arrowhead Ripper—turning over Baqubah to Iraqi government control—appears to be working, at least in terms of the removal of the current AQI leadership and its quasi-government. There are conflicting signals about how many of the AQI leadership escaped before Arrowhead Ripper launched. This weekend’s capture of a possible high-value target in Baqubah indicates that not all AQI leaders successfully fled the city before the attack.
Media reports indicating that many top leaders escaped before Arrowhead Ripper began appear to be mostly true. But other information suggests some AQI leaders are trapped just down the road from where I write. In addition to the seven men who were caught trying to escape while dressed as women, there is information that some AQI leaders remain trapped in a constricting cordon.
Senior Officer in the Iraqi 5th Division during meeting in Baqubah. The Iraqi Army in Baqubah is far more capable than the police.
For security reasons, the Iraqi Army (IA) was not included in the initial planning of Arrowhead Ripper, yet with each succeeding day the IA has taken a larger role in the unfolding attack. The Fifth Iraqi Army Division is considered an increasingly competent group of fighters, and from the limited scope of 5th IA that I personally witnessed, that judgment seems correct. The 5th is committed to battle. Whereas the Iraqi Army is coming into the fight, and playing increasingly critical roles, the local police force is less impressive.
First a quick media round-up. (This is not all inclusive.)
Alexandra Zavis from Los Angeles Times is down in the heat of the battle bringing home information. Michael Gordon from New York Times is still slugging it out, and his portions are accurate in the co-authored story, “Heavy Fighting as US Troops Squeeze Insurgents in Iraqi City.”target=”blank” (Long title.)
CNN has joined the fight. AP came but will stay only a few days. Joe Klein from TIME was here on the 21st and his story posted the same day and was accurate. We rode together in a Stryker. Like magic, Joe’s story was out before I got back to base. Joe took a helicopter out and filed from elsewhere. I’m having comms problems here which is greatly slowing the flow. My Thuraya satellite phone and RBGAN satellite dish are not working for hours each day. The AP reporter is having the same problems. The signal degradation is caused by a special sort of RF interference. Moving our antennas around won’t work. We simply get cut off for long periods.
I am with 3-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team. I’ve run a few missions with them in Baghdad, and they have fought all over Iraq. This Brigade has much recent combat experience, and is expertly commanded. A person does not need to even meet the commanders (though I do each day) to know they are running a tight ship. The professionalism of 3-2 is particularly high, and they are very competent fighters who are maximizing their assets, including the incredible Stryker vehicles.
Big Bad (chuckle-chuckle snort-snort) Joe Klein: Michael Yon he ain’t…
I helicoptered today into Baquba, the centerpiece of the current U.S. offensive in Iraq, with Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno -and then drove via Stryker brigade into the center of the fight for a briefing. It was midday, and the sun was so hot that both sides in the battle seemed to be taking a siesta. Only a few small explosions could be heard in the distance; there was no small arms fire. Odierno-a supertanker of a man with a shaved head who looks like ancient turtle-met with a group of battalion commanders in the ruins of a medical center that had been blasted, by someone, several years earlier. Situation maps were leaned against a white ceramic tile wall; the officers sat in campaign chairs, hunched in a tight semi-circle; bottles of cold water were passed around.
Read the article and then read Yon’s. Which one has “the pulse”?
The first day of operation Arrowhead Ripper was intense. The Army is giving full access to the battlefield, and while on base full access to the TOC (HQ) which means I see the raw truth on the ground, and as it feeds through the TOC. They are hiding nothing. Or if they are, it’s in plain view. (Special operations notwithstanding.) A reporter can see as much as he or she can stand.
“…I don’t want to say much more about that, but our guys are seriously outsmarting them. Big fights are ahead and we will take serious losses probably, but al Qaeda, unless they find a way to escape, are about to be slaughtered. Nobody is dropping leaflets asking them to surrender. Our guys want to kill them, and that’s the plan…”
I will post here on this particular entry all there is and will be on this operation.
Let us begin.
From Black Five.
The pursuit of AQI meant that Diyala was the logical next step. Its sectarian mix not only allowed AQI to move into Baquba and its environs, it also gave them opportunities to inflame sectarian tensions. While the US has worked hard to turn the corner in Anbar, AQI fled to fight another day, and that day is today.
The Battle of the Belts have begun and as Michael Yon stated in his latest dispatch, this is the largest operation since the end of major combat four years ago:
After weeks of maneuvering in and around Baghdad, U.S. and Iraqi forces have isolated and cornered large numbers of terrorists in Diyala province (northeast of Baghdad), and especially in the provincial capital, Baqouba. This is a major operation, with 9,000 Americans and a thousand Iraqi troops (and police) involved. In addition, there are several hundred local irregulars, who have switched sides. This is a big change in the Baghdad suburbs. While tribal leaders and warlords in the west (Anbar province) have been turning on terrorist groups, especially al Qaeda, for several years, the gangs of Baghdad were more resistant to changing sides.
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.
BAQOUBA, Iraq – Task Force Lightning continued its offensive operation in and around the capital of Diyala province, Iraq, today as part of a powerful crack down on al-Qaida terrorists operating in the area.
U.S. and Iraqi combined forces engaged and killed at least 30 al-Qaida operatives, and discovered four IEDs emplaced in houses, and 10 buried IEDs during the first full day of Operation Arrowhead Ripper.
“These criminals will know no safe place to hide in Diyala,” said Brig. Gen. Mick Bednarek, Deputy Command General for Operations, Task Force Lightning and Multinational Division North. “The people of Diyala are tired of the terror and violence these al-Qaida thugs have brought to their province and are cooperating with us in order to root them out.”
As the Soldiers moved through Baqouba and the surrounding areas, they discovered at least two weapons caches containing assault weapons, grenades, rocket launchers, large and small caliber ammunition and explosives. Ground forces also coordinated a precisions guided munitions strike to destroy a known al-Qaida weapons cache located inside a safe house, and reported a large secondary explosion due to the munitions the terrorists stored inside.
In another incident, Soldiers from Alpha Troop, 5th Squadron, 73rd Cavalry Regiment observed and engaged armed individuals emplacing an IED near Zaganiyah village, along the Diyala river valley.
The gunmen returned fire but the Soldiers, using direct and indirect fires, killed both of the armed IED emplacers.
“This operation is just beginning and we will continue to strike al-Qaida no matter where they hide and we won’t rest until the job is done,” said Bednarek.
Approximately 10,000 Soldiers throughout Diyala Province are participating in and supporting Operation Arrowhead Ripper, which was launched by Task Force Lightning to eliminate al-Qaida in Iraq terrorists. Included in this operation are over 1000 Iraqi Army soldiers and a comparable number of Iraqi Police.
In the short time since Petraeus took charge here, Anbar Province – “Anbar the Impossible” – seems to have made a remarkable turnaround. I just spent about a month out there and saw no combat. I have never gone that long in Iraq without seeing combat. Clearly, some areas of Anbar remain dangerous—there is fighting in Fallujah today—but there is also something in Anbar today that hasn’t been seen in recent memory: possibilities. There are also larger realities lurking up on the Turkish borders, but the reality today is that the patient called Iraq will die and become a home for Al Qaeda if we leave now.But now the AQ cancer is spreading into Diyala Province, straight along the Diyala River into Baghdad and other places. “Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia” (AQM) apparently now a subgroup of ISI (the Islamic State of Iraq), has staked Baquba as the capital of their Caliphate. Whatever the nom de jour of their nom de guerre, Baquba has been claimed for their capital. I was in Diyala again this year, where there is a serious state of Civil War, making Baquba an unpopular destination for writers or reporters. (A writer was killed in the area about a month ago, in fact.) News coming from the city and surrounds most often would say things like, “near Baghdad,” or “Northeast of Baghdad,” and so many people have never even heard of Baquba.
Michael Yon, who I have come to admire for his “good, bad and ugly” analysis of the situation in Iraq, is now in the thick of the fighting in the new operation just kicked off there. He says it is the biggest operation since the invasion and its going to be tough and bloody.
Yon does a review, a sort of how we got where we are today in the piece which is brutally honest. It is also not very flattering to those who have lead us up to this point. But, as he mentioned in the interview I was able to participate in on Pundit Review radio, he’s now changed his mind and feels we have a chance to win this thing since Gen. David “Harry Reid thinks you’re incompetent” Petraeus has taken over.
CBS News Embed: video only~2 minutes
CBS Gloating…first casualties…no details…just a “check in later…morbid MFs.