Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Update from Ramadi 
The tide seems to have turned. Again.

Each of the Ramadi offensives began with troops staging raids into the targeted area to eliminate "high value individuals"--local al Qaeda leaders. Then the troops would place three-foot-high concrete blocks known as Jersey barriers around the targeted neighborhood to prevent insurgents from "squirting out." This would be followed by a clearing operation, with U.S. and Iraqi troops advancing from multiple directions to root out the enemy. Combat was intense. Insurgents fought back with everything from homemade bombs to AK-47s, rocket-propelled grenades, and heavy machine guns. Ten American soldiers were killed and another 40 wounded.

"The price was heavy but worth it," says Colonel John W. Charlton, the burly commander of the 1st Brigade who directed the operations. "The enemy lost massively."

To illustrate the point, he shows me a page of closely printed type listing all the arms caches seized by his men. These included 10,250 pounds of homemade explosives, 2,347 pounds of high explosives, 2,265 feet of detonation cord, and 6,000 gallons of chlorine. U.S. troops discovered and dismantled entire factories devoted to the production of IEDs, and they killed hundreds of insurgents.

Yet, for all the shortcomings of their government, Iraqi forces have begun to play a key role in Coalition operations, and nowhere more than in Ramadi. Key to the success of this undertaking has been the recent decision by most of the major Anbar tribes to turn against al Qaeda. From 2003 to 2006, the sheikhs who traditionally dominate life in this rural province were happy to fight alongside al Qaeda against the American "crusaders" and the "Persians" (Shiites) who now run Baghdad.

I would quibble with this. In my opinion, Al Qaeda was not able to make very significant inroads into Ramadi until 2004, after which time things deteriorated very quickly, though.

I'm sure there was some cadre building going on, and some sheikhs were turning a blind eye. But there were no running battles in the streets with platoon-sized and company-sized elements of moojies until 2004 -- really around the time Fallujah fell to them.

Al Qaeda had a firm foothold in Fallujah in 2003, but not in Ramadi. For most of 2003, the baseline of violence in Ramadi was about the same as Boot describes in this article - 2 to 4 attacks per day, the occasional rocket landing, and weeks going by without a U.S. soldier or marine being killed.

It was always a rough neighborhood, but U.S. civil-military operations were key, in my estimate, to maintaining some sort of stability at that time.

Yet, for all the difficulties that remain (and it would be a serious mistake to underestimate them), the overall trend in Anbar is positive. Startlingly so. According to briefings I received at Multi-National Division-West in Camp Falluja, attacks in the province are at a two-year low. More than 13,000 police officers have been deployed, and more are on the way. Tips to Coalition forces are soaring. Whereas U.S. troops used to find only 50 percent of IEDs, they are now defusing 80 percent before they detonate.

Yes, that is an important metric. It speaks to deteriorating skill on the moojie side, and an improved willingness and ability of the Iraqi people to tip off coalition soldiers. All things being equal, that should translate to a 60% reduction in coalition casualties due to IEDs, which seems to be what we're seeing.

Nevertheless, with only three of five extra brigade combat teams on the ground, the situation in the capital has already shown signs of improvement since Fardh al-Qanoon started in February. The murder rate fell 75 percent in February. March saw a slight increase, but by the beginning of April the number of murders in the capital was still down 50 percent since the start of the year. Last year it was not uncommon to find dozens of corpses a night dumped in the capital, many of them tortured by Shiite death squads using power tools.

I wonder if Sears still honors the Craftsman warrantee if the tools are damaged by bone fragments and covered in dried blood?

Just asking. I mean, no questions asked, right?

Overall, an encouraging report. Definitely read the whole thing.

Splash, out



Read the whole what thing?

No link or source to follow.

Yeah, where did this come from? Need... more... input.

Link is here. Jason must've been tired.
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