Battle Blog 13 -19 September 2004

Terrorists from the Tawhid and Jihad groups aligned with Jordanian—born terror leader Abu Musab Zarqawi have been responsible this past week for a series of car bombings and the kidnapping of three 'foreign' construction workers.  The two Americans and one Briton support operations at Coalition base camps in the greater Baghdad area, and were abducted from their house located in Baghdad proper.  In a videotape released yesterday, the terrorists threatened to behead the three men unless the Coalition releases two Iraqi women held in American prisons.  A US spokesman said that there are no Iraqi women held in US detention facilities.

The spate of car bomb attacks against Iraqi National Guard and security forces base camps and recruiting stations shows that the terrorists have correctly determined that well—trained Iraqi security forces are the key to a stable and democratic Iraq.  They avoid direct combat with Coalition and Iraqi forces, opting instead to conduct a campaign of suicide and car bombings, which, by design, result in a high number of civilian casualties.  Unfortunately, as the time for elections approaches, look for these types of attacks to increase,e since it is the terrorists' only tactic to derail the establishment of Iraqi security units.

It is possible that Fallujah is being softened up for a potential Coalition ground offensive to finally retake the town from Baathist dead—enders and the so—called Fallujah Brigade.  That unit was formed around a cadre of Saddam Hussein's Sunni loyalists who entered into an agreement with the I Marine Expeditionary Force last spring, in the hope that they could prevent a final Coalition assault into the city.  The brigade was officially disbanded last week, and Coalition air forces have conducted almost daily precision air strikes against safe houses of Abu Musab Zarqawi's terrorist cells.  The end of the Syrian rat line may finally get the attention it deserves.

Not only has Fallujah been bombarded from the air this past week, but another town in the Sunni Triangle has also been on the receiving end of Coalition combat power.  Operation Hurricane II consisted of both Soldiers and Marines from the 2d Brigade Combat Team of the 1st Marine Division who attacked into Ramadi to disrupt yet another newly—identified terrorist cell in the area.  Operations against the Daham terrorist network actually began September 16 with Operation Hurricane I, and both were planned as clearing operations to search for and confiscate illegal weapons and ammunition caches.  An increase of activity on the ground in Ramadi, coinciding with the air strikes in Fallujah, does appear to signal a major operation in the Sunni triangle in the near future.

Reconstruction projects in Najaf have been well underway since the fighting ceased Aug 28.  A Marine Corps News article, 11th MEU (SOC) helps rebuild Najaf describes the $4.8 million project to rebuild important facilities such as hospitals, schools, and police stations.  Some of these buildings were occupied and fortified by al—Sadr's thugs during the recent fighting, and must now be rebuilt.  The money for the reconstruction comes from the Commander's Emergency Response Program (CERP), which has been in existence as far back as the establishment of the Coalition Provisional Authority.  It has proven to be one of the most flexible rebuilding programs instituted in Iraq, since spending authority is delegated to the commanders in the field who know best what is required in their area of operations.  Critics of our efforts in Iraq need to take note that,

Funding goes to local contractors [emphasis mine] who will be the ones to rebuild their own city.  They are grateful for the chance to earn money and provide for their families.  "This is very good for us," said a local Iraqi contracted to work on a school in Najaf.  "It will help us to better the city all around."

Even if it wasn't a squadron of modern jet fighters, the new Iraqi Air Force finally got off the ground this week according to the article Iraqi Air Force Conducts First Solo Operations Mission.  One of two SB7L—360 Seeker reconnaissance aircraft launched on its first solo flight over southern Iraq this last Wednesday.  The Australian—made Seeker has visual, video, and infrared capabilities, and according to Iraqi Air Force Commanding General, Maj. Gen. Kamal Al—Barzanjy,

'...will help to protect our oil, electricity, borders, and other different important places.'

The focus on a reconnaissance capability shows that the Iraqis and the Coalition recognize the threat to oil facilities in southern Iraq from their Iranian 'neighbors.'  Further, the security of their porous border with Iran will be a combined arms and services effort.  According to the article:

The single—engine SEEKER aircraft include live observation feedback capabilities to ground forces and also carry digital video recording hardware and other reconnaissance technology.  Their employment will be coordinated with Iraqi and multinational force efforts on the ground and will eventually include operations all over the country as the Iraqi government deems necessary.

Speaking of southern Iraq, the Coalition continues to maintain significant Naval and Marine forces in the northern Arabian Gulf to protect Iraqi oil facilities off the Al—Faw Peninsula.  ESG 3 Proves Flexibility, Mobility with First Staff Cross Deck at Sea describes a transfer of command and control of Expeditionary Strike Group 3 from the USS Belleau Wood to the USS Essex.  Once the transfer was executed and the watch established, the USS Essex became the flagship for Marine Brig. General Joseph V. Medina commander, Task Force (CTF) 58.  Expeditionary Strike Group 3/CTF 58,

...is responsible for Maritime Security Operations (MSO) in the Northern Arabian Gulf, to include protection of Al Basrah Oil Terminal (ABOT) and Khawr Al Amaya Oil Terminal (KAAOT) off the coast of Iraq.

Douglas Hanson is our military affairs correspondent

Terrorists from the Tawhid and Jihad groups aligned with Jordanian—born terror leader Abu Musab Zarqawi have been responsible this past week for a series of car bombings and the kidnapping of three 'foreign' construction workers.  The two Americans and one Briton support operations at Coalition base camps in the greater Baghdad area, and were abducted from their house located in Baghdad proper.  In a videotape released yesterday, the terrorists threatened to behead the three men unless the Coalition releases two Iraqi women held in American prisons.  A US spokesman said that there are no Iraqi women held in US detention facilities.

The spate of car bomb attacks against Iraqi National Guard and security forces base camps and recruiting stations shows that the terrorists have correctly determined that well—trained Iraqi security forces are the key to a stable and democratic Iraq.  They avoid direct combat with Coalition and Iraqi forces, opting instead to conduct a campaign of suicide and car bombings, which, by design, result in a high number of civilian casualties.  Unfortunately, as the time for elections approaches, look for these types of attacks to increase,e since it is the terrorists' only tactic to derail the establishment of Iraqi security units.

It is possible that Fallujah is being softened up for a potential Coalition ground offensive to finally retake the town from Baathist dead—enders and the so—called Fallujah Brigade.  That unit was formed around a cadre of Saddam Hussein's Sunni loyalists who entered into an agreement with the I Marine Expeditionary Force last spring, in the hope that they could prevent a final Coalition assault into the city.  The brigade was officially disbanded last week, and Coalition air forces have conducted almost daily precision air strikes against safe houses of Abu Musab Zarqawi's terrorist cells.  The end of the Syrian rat line may finally get the attention it deserves.

Not only has Fallujah been bombarded from the air this past week, but another town in the Sunni Triangle has also been on the receiving end of Coalition combat power.  Operation Hurricane II consisted of both Soldiers and Marines from the 2d Brigade Combat Team of the 1st Marine Division who attacked into Ramadi to disrupt yet another newly—identified terrorist cell in the area.  Operations against the Daham terrorist network actually began September 16 with Operation Hurricane I, and both were planned as clearing operations to search for and confiscate illegal weapons and ammunition caches.  An increase of activity on the ground in Ramadi, coinciding with the air strikes in Fallujah, does appear to signal a major operation in the Sunni triangle in the near future.

Reconstruction projects in Najaf have been well underway since the fighting ceased Aug 28.  A Marine Corps News article, 11th MEU (SOC) helps rebuild Najaf describes the $4.8 million project to rebuild important facilities such as hospitals, schools, and police stations.  Some of these buildings were occupied and fortified by al—Sadr's thugs during the recent fighting, and must now be rebuilt.  The money for the reconstruction comes from the Commander's Emergency Response Program (CERP), which has been in existence as far back as the establishment of the Coalition Provisional Authority.  It has proven to be one of the most flexible rebuilding programs instituted in Iraq, since spending authority is delegated to the commanders in the field who know best what is required in their area of operations.  Critics of our efforts in Iraq need to take note that,

Funding goes to local contractors [emphasis mine] who will be the ones to rebuild their own city.  They are grateful for the chance to earn money and provide for their families.  "This is very good for us," said a local Iraqi contracted to work on a school in Najaf.  "It will help us to better the city all around."

Even if it wasn't a squadron of modern jet fighters, the new Iraqi Air Force finally got off the ground this week according to the article Iraqi Air Force Conducts First Solo Operations Mission.  One of two SB7L—360 Seeker reconnaissance aircraft launched on its first solo flight over southern Iraq this last Wednesday.  The Australian—made Seeker has visual, video, and infrared capabilities, and according to Iraqi Air Force Commanding General, Maj. Gen. Kamal Al—Barzanjy,

'...will help to protect our oil, electricity, borders, and other different important places.'

The focus on a reconnaissance capability shows that the Iraqis and the Coalition recognize the threat to oil facilities in southern Iraq from their Iranian 'neighbors.'  Further, the security of their porous border with Iran will be a combined arms and services effort.  According to the article:

The single—engine SEEKER aircraft include live observation feedback capabilities to ground forces and also carry digital video recording hardware and other reconnaissance technology.  Their employment will be coordinated with Iraqi and multinational force efforts on the ground and will eventually include operations all over the country as the Iraqi government deems necessary.

Speaking of southern Iraq, the Coalition continues to maintain significant Naval and Marine forces in the northern Arabian Gulf to protect Iraqi oil facilities off the Al—Faw Peninsula.  ESG 3 Proves Flexibility, Mobility with First Staff Cross Deck at Sea describes a transfer of command and control of Expeditionary Strike Group 3 from the USS Belleau Wood to the USS Essex.  Once the transfer was executed and the watch established, the USS Essex became the flagship for Marine Brig. General Joseph V. Medina commander, Task Force (CTF) 58.  Expeditionary Strike Group 3/CTF 58,

...is responsible for Maritime Security Operations (MSO) in the Northern Arabian Gulf, to include protection of Al Basrah Oil Terminal (ABOT) and Khawr Al Amaya Oil Terminal (KAAOT) off the coast of Iraq.

Douglas Hanson is our military affairs correspondent