Friday, May 11, 2007

The Coming Battle for Diyala & The Sunni Revolt Against Al Qaeda

Between the counterinsurgency operation in Baghdad and the Sunni revolt in Anbar Province, al Qaeda has largely retreated into Diyala province northeast of Baghdad, where they are preparing for a defense along the lines of that executed by Hezbollah in the fight last year with the Israelis in Lebanon. The situation is hardly static. Sunnis in Diyala are beginning their own revolt against al Qaeda, and they are getting assistance from the Anbar Sunnis. This today from Bill Rogio:

Al Qaeda's campaign of murder and intimidation [in Diyala is] beginning to anger the tribes much as it did in Anbar province. Al Qaeda's establishment of its Islamic State of Iraq, with its capital in Baqubah made the province ripe for a major Coalition operation in the region. . . Today, the speculation has become a reality, as "Arab tribesmen in Baqubah have said they will form a tribal alliance to cleanse the Diyala province of foreign fighters and those of the al-Qaeda terrorist network in Iraq."

"Tribesman Sheikh Wameed al-Jabouri told al-Hayat that a number of tribes had signed a cooperation agreement to undertake this mission and to bring the city back to how 'it used to be,'" notes DPA. "The agreement could be considered "a national charter" that proves their rejection of the actions of the terrorist groups, al-Jabouri said."

. . . Diyala has become the main hub of al Qaeda's operations. Al Qaeda in Iraq made Baqubah the capital of its rump Islamic State of Iraq. Since the inception of the Baghdad Security Plan in mid-February, the security situation, which was deteriorating after U.S. forces pulled back last fall, has markedly worsened. Al Qaeda has prepared fighting positions, supply bases, IED traps, bomb rigged buildings, and training camps in the province.

Over 2,000 hardened al Qaeda fighters fled Baghdad and are operating in Diyala. An American intelligence official and a U.S. military officer informs us that al Qaeda is operating along the lines of Hezbollah's military structure in Lebanon. Recent al Qaeda attacks in the region bear this out. Al Qaeda is organized in small military units with infantry, mortars, anti-tank and anti-aircraft teams, as well as suicide and IED cells and the accompanying logistical nodes. Al Qaeda has been conducting a terror campaign to remove tribal leaders and others who oppose them, while waging a campaign of intimidation designed to cower the local population.

The U.S. and Iraqi security forces have preparing the battlefield in Diyala until the full compliment of U.S. forces are in theater and able to finish securing the Baghdad "belts" - the regions surrounding Baghdad. The Diyala Campaign is only is its opening phase, with U.S. and Iraqi forces conducting raids, search and destroy missions, establishing forward operating bases and logistic nodes in preparation for the full assault sometime early this summer. The establishment of the yet to be named Diyala Salvation Front is a crucial element to establishing local intelligence networks and an auxiliary force to hunt al Qaeda.

The influence of Sheikh Sattar al Rishawi and his Anbar Salvation Council cannot be underestimated in the formation of the anti al Qaeda tribal alliance in Diyala. The Anbar Salvation Council has been operating outside its provincial boundaries and has sent emissaries into Diyala, Salahadin, Niwena and other provinces in an effort to expand his anti al Qaeda Awakening movement nationwide.
Read the entire story here. If there is to be the type of progress needed to sustain operations beyond September, I suspect the operations in Diyala will have to commence in mid to late June and I expect it to be a particularly aggressive and bloody offensive. There are precious few areas left where al Qaeda can fall back in Iraq, and Diyala has the potential to be a decisive operation if the terrorists have no other option then to stand and fight. The chance for a decisive success will drastically increase if, as it seems, the Sunnis in Diyala turn on al Qaeda in Iraq and provide significent intelligence in advance of full scale operations.

And on a final note, the MSM has relatively silent for the past few days on operations in Iraq. That does not mean that we are not conducting operations. To the contrary, it appears that Task Force 145, the special ops folks. have been incredibly busy doing bad things to bad people. And in Baghdad, Iraqi security forces have captured some 86 suspected insurgents and killed one during raids in Baghdad. Read the story here. I posted earlier about the capture to kill ratio as an objective indicator of enemy morale. When you get in the 86 to 1 ratio, it makes me feel fairly sanguine about the real liklihood of success of the counterinsurgency.

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