Battle Blog 20-26 September 2004

Combat action continued this past week in the area known as the Sunni Triangle, particularly in and around Fallujah.  In the last few weeks, a series of precision air strikes have hit terrorist hide—outs in the city, and ground operations were conducted in small towns around the greater Fallujah area.  Saturday, the Coalition upped the ante by attacking terrorist fortified positions with Marine armor and artillery.  Operations appear to be focused on the terror network run by Abu Musab Zarqawi. However, terrorists from the Tawhid and Jihad groups have also joined up with Zarqawi's forces.  These groups claimed responsibility for last week's car bombings, and the kidnapping and beheading of American construction worker Eugene Armstrong.

The key to a secure and stable Iraq will be the establishment of a new Iraqi army, a national guard, local police, and other Iraqi security forces. For this reason, anti—Iraqi forces have deliberately targeted recruiting stations and training camps of the new Iraqi security forces in the hopes of delaying or completely stopping them from accomplishing the standup of their units.

In only the second exception to the Battle Blog policy of avoiding legacy media sources, an article in the Washington Post (registration required) deserves special mention (hat tip to Ed Lasky) since it provides a current assessment of the training. equipping, and fielding the new Iraqi security forces.  The piece is authored by Lt. Gen. David Petraeus, who is in charge of this vital project.  A summary of the progress is noted below:

  •  Approximately 164,000 Iraqi police and soldiers (of which about 100,000 are trained and equipped) and an additional 74,000 facility protection forces are performing a wide variety of security missions.

  •  Training is on track and increasing in capacity.

  •  Iraqi security forces are in the fight and have suffered substantial casualties as they take on more and more of the burden to achieve security in their country.  Since Jan. 1 more than 700 Iraqi security force members have been killed, and hundreds of Iraqis seeking to volunteer for the police and military have been killed as well.

  •  Six battalions of the Iraqi regular army and the Iraqi Intervention Force are now conducting operations.

  •  Two of the regular army battalions, along with the Iraqi commando battalion, the counterterrorist force, two Iraqi National Guard battalions and thousands of policemen recently contributed to successful operations in Najaf.

  •  In the next 60 days, six more regular army and six additional Intervention Force battalions will become operational.  Nine more regular army battalions will complete training in January, in time to help with security missions during the Iraqi elections.

    Lt. Gen. Petraeus doesn't sugarcoat the situation, noting that times ahead will be difficult:

    There will be more tough times, frustration and disappointment along the way.  It is likely that insurgent attacks will escalate as Iraq's elections approach.  Iraq's security forces are, however, developing steadily and they are in the fight.  Momentum has gathered in recent months.  With strong Iraqi leaders out front and with continued coalition —— and now NATO —— support, this trend will continue.  It will not be easy, but few worthwhile things are.

    Iraqi Security Forces Lead Central Baghdad Operation  shows how these new Iraqi security forces are taking a greater role in combating the terrorists.  An Iraqi National Guard Brigade accompanied by Multi—National Forces started the operation at 4:00 AM and over a period of ten hours succeeded in capturing 24 men suspected of being in the anti—Iraqi forces.  The article also says that,

    Besides the 24 detainees taken in during the operation, the operation netted a large quantity of weapons and munitions.  Weapons captured by raids include: two rocket—propelled grenade launchers; one 82—millimeter mortar system; two 60—millimeter mortar systems; 11 AK—47 assault rifles; three multiple rocket launch systems and one sniper rifle.  Munitions captured include: 38 107—millimeter rockets; 17 hand grenades; 12 RPG rounds; 26 mortar rounds (18 60mm, eight 82mm) and one120—millimeter artillery round.

    Terrorists still claim that mosques are holy places, yet continue to conduct combat operations using these 'holy sites' as a base of operations.  A CENTCOM press release, Anti—Iraqi Forces Attack 1st Infantry Division from Mosque describes how a patrol from the 1st Infantry Division was attacked with small arms and mortar fire from a mosque in the town of Sammara.  The Soldiers did not return fire, but had earlier come under attack from other buildings in the town and responded with direct fire, attack helicopters and air strikes.

    Meanwhile, the Afghanistan Army has stood up its first regional command headquarters on September 19. Afghan Army's Kandahar Regional Command Stands Up by Col. Randy Pullen reminds us that it is critical for the Afghan government to establish a presence in the country outside of the capital of Kabul.  Other regional command headquarters will be set up in Gardez, Mazar—e—Sharif, and Herat.  Ultimately, the new command will have a permanent brigade of 3,000 men to maintain security in the region.  Among the attendees at the ceremony were members of the new Afghan Defense Ministry, and representatives from the nations of Japan and the Netherlands.  Kandahar Governor Yousef Pashtoon said,

    'This great day just didn't happen.  We came to this successful day through the best plans of our government and with the ample assistance of the coalition and especially the U.S. Army.'

    Douglas Hanson is our military affairs correspondent

  • Combat action continued this past week in the area known as the Sunni Triangle, particularly in and around Fallujah.  In the last few weeks, a series of precision air strikes have hit terrorist hide—outs in the city, and ground operations were conducted in small towns around the greater Fallujah area.  Saturday, the Coalition upped the ante by attacking terrorist fortified positions with Marine armor and artillery.  Operations appear to be focused on the terror network run by Abu Musab Zarqawi. However, terrorists from the Tawhid and Jihad groups have also joined up with Zarqawi's forces.  These groups claimed responsibility for last week's car bombings, and the kidnapping and beheading of American construction worker Eugene Armstrong.

    The key to a secure and stable Iraq will be the establishment of a new Iraqi army, a national guard, local police, and other Iraqi security forces. For this reason, anti—Iraqi forces have deliberately targeted recruiting stations and training camps of the new Iraqi security forces in the hopes of delaying or completely stopping them from accomplishing the standup of their units.

    In only the second exception to the Battle Blog policy of avoiding legacy media sources, an article in the Washington Post (registration required) deserves special mention (hat tip to Ed Lasky) since it provides a current assessment of the training. equipping, and fielding the new Iraqi security forces.  The piece is authored by Lt. Gen. David Petraeus, who is in charge of this vital project.  A summary of the progress is noted below:

  •  Approximately 164,000 Iraqi police and soldiers (of which about 100,000 are trained and equipped) and an additional 74,000 facility protection forces are performing a wide variety of security missions.

  •  Training is on track and increasing in capacity.

  •  Iraqi security forces are in the fight and have suffered substantial casualties as they take on more and more of the burden to achieve security in their country.  Since Jan. 1 more than 700 Iraqi security force members have been killed, and hundreds of Iraqis seeking to volunteer for the police and military have been killed as well.

  •  Six battalions of the Iraqi regular army and the Iraqi Intervention Force are now conducting operations.

  •  Two of the regular army battalions, along with the Iraqi commando battalion, the counterterrorist force, two Iraqi National Guard battalions and thousands of policemen recently contributed to successful operations in Najaf.

  •  In the next 60 days, six more regular army and six additional Intervention Force battalions will become operational.  Nine more regular army battalions will complete training in January, in time to help with security missions during the Iraqi elections.

    Lt. Gen. Petraeus doesn't sugarcoat the situation, noting that times ahead will be difficult:

    There will be more tough times, frustration and disappointment along the way.  It is likely that insurgent attacks will escalate as Iraq's elections approach.  Iraq's security forces are, however, developing steadily and they are in the fight.  Momentum has gathered in recent months.  With strong Iraqi leaders out front and with continued coalition —— and now NATO —— support, this trend will continue.  It will not be easy, but few worthwhile things are.

    Iraqi Security Forces Lead Central Baghdad Operation  shows how these new Iraqi security forces are taking a greater role in combating the terrorists.  An Iraqi National Guard Brigade accompanied by Multi—National Forces started the operation at 4:00 AM and over a period of ten hours succeeded in capturing 24 men suspected of being in the anti—Iraqi forces.  The article also says that,

    Besides the 24 detainees taken in during the operation, the operation netted a large quantity of weapons and munitions.  Weapons captured by raids include: two rocket—propelled grenade launchers; one 82—millimeter mortar system; two 60—millimeter mortar systems; 11 AK—47 assault rifles; three multiple rocket launch systems and one sniper rifle.  Munitions captured include: 38 107—millimeter rockets; 17 hand grenades; 12 RPG rounds; 26 mortar rounds (18 60mm, eight 82mm) and one120—millimeter artillery round.

    Terrorists still claim that mosques are holy places, yet continue to conduct combat operations using these 'holy sites' as a base of operations.  A CENTCOM press release, Anti—Iraqi Forces Attack 1st Infantry Division from Mosque describes how a patrol from the 1st Infantry Division was attacked with small arms and mortar fire from a mosque in the town of Sammara.  The Soldiers did not return fire, but had earlier come under attack from other buildings in the town and responded with direct fire, attack helicopters and air strikes.

    Meanwhile, the Afghanistan Army has stood up its first regional command headquarters on September 19. Afghan Army's Kandahar Regional Command Stands Up by Col. Randy Pullen reminds us that it is critical for the Afghan government to establish a presence in the country outside of the capital of Kabul.  Other regional command headquarters will be set up in Gardez, Mazar—e—Sharif, and Herat.  Ultimately, the new command will have a permanent brigade of 3,000 men to maintain security in the region.  Among the attendees at the ceremony were members of the new Afghan Defense Ministry, and representatives from the nations of Japan and the Netherlands.  Kandahar Governor Yousef Pashtoon said,

    'This great day just didn't happen.  We came to this successful day through the best plans of our government and with the ample assistance of the coalition and especially the U.S. Army.'

    Douglas Hanson is our military affairs correspondent