The fight in Najaf

A Battle Blog special edition

The battle this week in Najaf pitting Coalition and Iraqi forces against Muqtada al—Sadr's Mehdi Militia will shortly reach a conclusion that will likely not please the radical cleric. 

The fighting actually started on August 5, when Sadr's men attacked an Iraqi police station in the city.  The police defeated the initial attack without Multinational Force support.  Later, they were reinforced by elements of the Iraqi National Guard, and were able to defeat a second attack by more than 300 militia members. Once it was determined that Sadr's men were massing for a third attack, Multinational Forces were finally called in.  At approximately the same time, a US helicopter was shot down, and a US convoy on the outskirts of the city was ambushed.  The chopper crew was successfully evacuated, while the convoy lost one soldier killed and five wounded.

Perhaps realizing that the information war is vitally important in the ongoing effort against anti—Coalition forces, US Central Command has uncharacteristically released a recent, detailed report on the fight against Sadr's Mehdi Militia entitled Marines Continue to Battle with Anti—Iraqi Forces in Najaf.  For the first time, we get an accurate friendly order of battle taking part in the operation.

The Ground Combat Element of the 11th MEU consists of a reinforced Battalion Landing Team of around 900 to 1000 Marines.  In addition to this force, the 1st Cavalry Division has provided two mechanized infantry battalions reinforced by tank elements, and a combat aviation battalion.  The units are:

  •  Task Force 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment
  •  Task Force 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment
  •  Task Force 1st Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment

    At around 700 men for each of the combined arms task forces, this works out to about 2400 US Marines and combat Soldiers on the ground confronting Sadr's militia.  There are also 18 Apaches reinforcing the Cobra gunships of the Composite Helicopter Squadron of the MEU.

    The Iraqi National Guard (ING) units in Najaf have been reinforced and equipped with a full complement of assault rifles and ammo.  There are no exact ING manpower figures in the press release, but other sources estimate their strength to be around 1800.  The ING has also been placed under operational control of the Commander of the 11th MEU, Col. Anthony M. Haslam.  This was done to ease the synchronization of operations.

    The militia is up to their usual tricks.  They will ambush MNF and Iraqi units, then run and hide in so—called 'sacred shrines' in the city.  Their favorite hiding place has been the cemetery of Wadi al—Salam.  The article describes a typical operation

    The current MEU offensive kicked off Aug. 9 when AIF, who fled into mosques and buildings surrounding the Imam Ali Shrine after an initial Marine assault on Aug. 5, began to once again operate and launch attacks from the cemetery.  AIF today are conducting the same tactics —— launching attacks from the cemetery and surrounding areas, only to immediately run back and seek sanctuary in the mosques and buildings surrounding the Imam Ali Shrine.

    This time the Marines and Army are documenting and publicizing their findings in the cemetery.  Several photos of the arms caches in the sacred areas of the city reveal storage areas for assault rifles, RPGs, and mortar rounds.  Sadr's thugs took advantage of the previous cease—fire by preparing new bases of operation to terrorize the populace and to launch attacks against Iraqi forces.  US CENTCOM further describes the militia's use of the cemetery since the cease—fire

    Using it as sanctuary, they began by staging large weapons caches there.  Activity increased over time, to including sporadic offensive operations against Iraqi security forces and kidnapping Iraqi policemen.  The AIF kidnapped their victims, including innocent civilians, bringing them to the cemetery for torture, execution, and burial. [emphasis added]

    As of this writing, Sadr's militia has again been pounded into non—existence with continuing attacks from the ground and air.  The holy shrines and the cemetery have been surrounded by US and Iraqi forces, while US patrols with loudspeakers move into the streets to demand that Sadr's militia surrender and leave Najaf or face death.  Also, all civilians have been urged to leave the area.  It is clear that the MNF and Iraqi forces are applying the principle of overwhelming force against the enemy by employing no less than 4200 US and Iraqi ground combatants assisted by main battle tanks and helicopter gunships.

    It's only a matter of time before Sadr is captured or killed, but likely not from a full—scale assault by US forces.  Keep in mind that there is still a valid arrest warrant for Sadr issued by an Iraqi court for the charge of murder.  The area is cordoned off, and Sadr is going nowhere; it's time the Iraqis take charge and accomplish the mission.  I believe they will, in their own way.  The transition of authority to the Iraqi government has been of tremendous benefit in many ways.  One of the advantages is that it has allowed the Iraqis to officially reconstitute selected government agencies using former expatriate pro—democracy Iraqis. Under the watchful eye of the MNF, one of these agencies is the successor to the Iraqi Intelligence Service (IIS).  They have been very successful in the past year assisting Coalition forces.  And if there is one thing they don't like, it's Iranian meddling in their country using an upstart radical Shia cleric.  Look for a relatively quick resolution.

    Douglas Hanson is our military affairs correspondent. Battle Blog is his week—end review of War on Terror news that is overlooked by the traditional media.

  • A Battle Blog special edition

    The battle this week in Najaf pitting Coalition and Iraqi forces against Muqtada al—Sadr's Mehdi Militia will shortly reach a conclusion that will likely not please the radical cleric. 

    The fighting actually started on August 5, when Sadr's men attacked an Iraqi police station in the city.  The police defeated the initial attack without Multinational Force support.  Later, they were reinforced by elements of the Iraqi National Guard, and were able to defeat a second attack by more than 300 militia members. Once it was determined that Sadr's men were massing for a third attack, Multinational Forces were finally called in.  At approximately the same time, a US helicopter was shot down, and a US convoy on the outskirts of the city was ambushed.  The chopper crew was successfully evacuated, while the convoy lost one soldier killed and five wounded.

    Perhaps realizing that the information war is vitally important in the ongoing effort against anti—Coalition forces, US Central Command has uncharacteristically released a recent, detailed report on the fight against Sadr's Mehdi Militia entitled Marines Continue to Battle with Anti—Iraqi Forces in Najaf.  For the first time, we get an accurate friendly order of battle taking part in the operation.

    The Ground Combat Element of the 11th MEU consists of a reinforced Battalion Landing Team of around 900 to 1000 Marines.  In addition to this force, the 1st Cavalry Division has provided two mechanized infantry battalions reinforced by tank elements, and a combat aviation battalion.  The units are:

  •  Task Force 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment
  •  Task Force 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment
  •  Task Force 1st Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment

    At around 700 men for each of the combined arms task forces, this works out to about 2400 US Marines and combat Soldiers on the ground confronting Sadr's militia.  There are also 18 Apaches reinforcing the Cobra gunships of the Composite Helicopter Squadron of the MEU.

    The Iraqi National Guard (ING) units in Najaf have been reinforced and equipped with a full complement of assault rifles and ammo.  There are no exact ING manpower figures in the press release, but other sources estimate their strength to be around 1800.  The ING has also been placed under operational control of the Commander of the 11th MEU, Col. Anthony M. Haslam.  This was done to ease the synchronization of operations.

    The militia is up to their usual tricks.  They will ambush MNF and Iraqi units, then run and hide in so—called 'sacred shrines' in the city.  Their favorite hiding place has been the cemetery of Wadi al—Salam.  The article describes a typical operation

    The current MEU offensive kicked off Aug. 9 when AIF, who fled into mosques and buildings surrounding the Imam Ali Shrine after an initial Marine assault on Aug. 5, began to once again operate and launch attacks from the cemetery.  AIF today are conducting the same tactics —— launching attacks from the cemetery and surrounding areas, only to immediately run back and seek sanctuary in the mosques and buildings surrounding the Imam Ali Shrine.

    This time the Marines and Army are documenting and publicizing their findings in the cemetery.  Several photos of the arms caches in the sacred areas of the city reveal storage areas for assault rifles, RPGs, and mortar rounds.  Sadr's thugs took advantage of the previous cease—fire by preparing new bases of operation to terrorize the populace and to launch attacks against Iraqi forces.  US CENTCOM further describes the militia's use of the cemetery since the cease—fire

    Using it as sanctuary, they began by staging large weapons caches there.  Activity increased over time, to including sporadic offensive operations against Iraqi security forces and kidnapping Iraqi policemen.  The AIF kidnapped their victims, including innocent civilians, bringing them to the cemetery for torture, execution, and burial. [emphasis added]

    As of this writing, Sadr's militia has again been pounded into non—existence with continuing attacks from the ground and air.  The holy shrines and the cemetery have been surrounded by US and Iraqi forces, while US patrols with loudspeakers move into the streets to demand that Sadr's militia surrender and leave Najaf or face death.  Also, all civilians have been urged to leave the area.  It is clear that the MNF and Iraqi forces are applying the principle of overwhelming force against the enemy by employing no less than 4200 US and Iraqi ground combatants assisted by main battle tanks and helicopter gunships.

    It's only a matter of time before Sadr is captured or killed, but likely not from a full—scale assault by US forces.  Keep in mind that there is still a valid arrest warrant for Sadr issued by an Iraqi court for the charge of murder.  The area is cordoned off, and Sadr is going nowhere; it's time the Iraqis take charge and accomplish the mission.  I believe they will, in their own way.  The transition of authority to the Iraqi government has been of tremendous benefit in many ways.  One of the advantages is that it has allowed the Iraqis to officially reconstitute selected government agencies using former expatriate pro—democracy Iraqis. Under the watchful eye of the MNF, one of these agencies is the successor to the Iraqi Intelligence Service (IIS).  They have been very successful in the past year assisting Coalition forces.  And if there is one thing they don't like, it's Iranian meddling in their country using an upstart radical Shia cleric.  Look for a relatively quick resolution.

    Douglas Hanson is our military affairs correspondent. Battle Blog is his week—end review of War on Terror news that is overlooked by the traditional media.