Tuesday, June 19, 2007

US Military Maximizing The Opportunity To Meet Allah

The combined arms combat power of the U.S. military, wielded by the most well trained soldiers on this earth, is a wonderful and terrifying thing indeed. And with it, the dynamic in Iraq has just changed 180 degrees. General Petraeus has wasted no time now that all promised troops for the surge are on the ground in Iraq. The mission has now changed from emphasizing the creation of static outposts in Baghdad to large scale offensive operations aimed primarilly at al Qaeda. And as previously predicted, the first big offensive is going into Diyala Province, now the home base of al Qaeda in Iraq. This today from the AP:

About 10,000 U.S. soldiers launched an offensive against al-Qaida in Iraq northeast of Baghdad early Tuesday, killing at least 22 insurgents, the U.S. military said.

The raids, dubbed "Operation Arrowhead Ripper," took place in Baqouba, the capital of Diyala province, and involved air assaults under the cover of darkness, the military said in a statement. The operation was still in its opening stages, it said.

On Monday, military officials said U.S. and Iraqi forces had launched attacks on Baghdad's northern and southern flanks to clear out Sunni insurgents, al-Qaida fighters and Shiite militiamen who had fled the capital and Anbar during a four-month-old security operation.

A top U.S. military official said American forces were taking advantage of the arrival of the final brigade of 30,000 additional U.S. troops to open concerted attacks.

"We are going into the areas that have been sanctuaries of al-Qaida and other extremists to take them on and weed them out, to help get the areas clear and to really take on al-Qaida," the senior official said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak about the operation. "Those are areas in the belts around Baghdad, some parts in Anbar province and specifically Diyala province."

Al-Qaida has proven to be an extremely agile foe for U.S. and Iraqi forces, as shown by its ability to transfer major operations to Baqouba from Anbar province, the sprawling desert region in western Iraq. There is no guarantee that driving the organization out of current sanctuaries would prevent it from migrating to other regions to continue the fight.

The death toll in sectarian violence Monday skyrocketed after a brief period of relative peace. At least 111 people were killed or found dead nationwide, with 33 bodies of torture victims showing up in Baghdad alone.

Well to the south, Iraqi officials reported as many as 36 people were killed in fierce overnight fighting that began as British and Iraqi forces conducted house-to-house searches in Amarah, a stronghold of the Shiite Mahdi Army militia.

The U.S. military issued a statement that said at least 20 people were killed in clashes with coalition forces. A spokeswoman for Britain's Ministry of Defense said British soldiers played a supporting role to Iraqi security forces during the raid and fighting in Amarah. She spoke on condition of anonymity, which is ministry policy.

The operations on Baghdad's flanks were opened by the U.S. 3rd Infantry Division, which has taken over dangerous al-Qaida-infested regions to the south. The division began its drive into the Salman Pak and Arab Jabour districts on the city's southeastern fringe over the weekend.

At the time, ground forces commander Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno said U.S. troops were heading into those areas in force for the first time in three years.

The military said in a statement Monday that fighter jets dropped "four precision-guided bombs" in support of 1,200 U.S. soldiers from the 3rd Infantry as they started moving on al-Qaida targets.

Military officials said Multi-National Division-North forces likewise were increasing pressure on al-Qaida sanctuaries northeast of the capital in the verdant orange and palm groves of Diyala, now one of the most fiercely contested regions in Iraq.

The province is a tangle of Shiite and Sunni villages that has played into the hands of al-Qaida and allied militants who have melted into the tense region and sought to inflame existing sectarian troubles.

Al-Qaida has conducted public executions in the Baqouba main square and otherwise sought to enforce an extreme Taliban-style Islamic code. The terror organization's actions in the province have caused some Sunni militants, al-Qaida's natural allies, to turn their guns on the group with American assistance and blessing. Some militant Shiites are likewise joining government forces in a bid to oust the foreign fighters and Muslim extremists.

Multi-National Division-Baghdad, which has run the security operation in the capital since it began on Feb. 14, has increased pressure on districts to the northwest of the city to cut supply and reinforcement lines from Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province, to the Baqouba region.

"We're focusing up in the northwest to apply force in an area that's been important to al-Qaida and its associates as they move between Ramadi and Baqouba. That work, together with the developing efforts to provide local security through the (Sunni) tribes in Abu Ghraib and Amariyah, is putting pressure on al-Qaida," said Lt. Col. Scott Bleichwehl, division spokesman.

Some Sunni tribes, which had fought with or offered sanctuary to al- Qaida in Anbar province, have risen up against the group and are now receiving arms and training from U.S. forces. American military officials are trying to spread that success to al-Qaida areas now under attack.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Shiite, told visiting Defense Secretary Robert Gates last week that the United States should stop arming Sunnis who may have been part of the insurgency, according to officials in his office. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release the information. Al-Maliki repeated that position in a television interview in Baghdad on Monday. . . .
Read the entire story here. Just as a side note, while one cannot blame the AP author for speculating that driving al Qaeda out of Diyala will mean they just turn up somewhere else, it also shows that they lack a bit in the hold on reality department. Al Qaeda will never be able to take root and create the kind of destruction it has to this point without having support or acuquiesence of the local populace. The reason that al Qaeda has headed in large numbers to Diyala is because that support is no longer avaialbe to them in much of Baghdad and Anbar, but it was present in parts of Diyala. This is not whack-a-mole. It is much more akin to methodically cornering an animal, taking away their freedom of movement piece by piece. The available dens for al Qaeda are drying up save for the last - the one where you meet Allah and inquire whether all that stuff about 72 nubile virgins is real or not.

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