Sunday, October 10, 2004
The LAT has a story coming out in Monday's edition that states that the Administration is delaying the investment of Al Fallujah and Ar Ramadi until after the election.
I believe that this story is disinformation, deliberately planted in the news media to throw off the jihadi high command to the timing and location of our upcoming offensive.
The highway leading west out of Baghdad runs through Al Fallujah, Al Habbaniyah, and Ar Ramadi, the provincial capitol of Al Anbar Governorate. It is the smuggling route that leads to the Syrian and Jordanian frontiers. It is the highway through which passes most of the weapons and personnel that reach the jihadi in Al Anbar Governorate. Most of the casualties that have occured in Iraq have taken place along this highway and within these towns. Our story begins not here, however. Rather, it begins in a city to the north.
About a month and a half ago the ruling tribal sheiks of Samarra, a medium size city to the northwest of Baghdad, had come to a settlement with the Government of Iyaad Allawi and the commanders of the First Marine Expeditionary Force. Almost immediately following the settlement, jihadi flying the black flag of Tawhid wal Jihad, the fedayeen led by Jordanian-born terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, rolled through Samarra in Toyata pickup trucks mounted with heavy machine guns. This was a "show-the-flag" demonstration to inform the locals who was boss.
Allied reaction was immediate. As Wretchard pointed out in his excellent blog, The Belmont Club, four Marine infantry and two Iraqi commando and infantry battalions were able to overrun most of Samarra in one night in a spectacular coup de main. Further, the Iraqis took down the Shi'ite mosque and other targets in the city that might have been held on to by the "Hajis" for great media effect. After several day's fighting, the city was in Allied control and the locals had been convinced that the Allies were in town to stay.
One of the highlights of this action was the fact that the Allies were able to invest Samarra by surprise. The jihadi were caught flat-footed, apparently, and had little if any idea that they were about to be attacked by four battalions.
Within a week, First Marine Division had dispatched a two-battalion force to overrun targets in Babil province. to the south of Baghdad and along the highway that leads to the Kuwaiti frontier. Apparently, the decision had been made at higher levels to increase the operational tempo of the war.
Which brings us to the cockpit of the war, the three towns of Al Fallujah, Ar Ramadi, and Al Habbaniyah. These towns have been under effective insurgent control since earlier this year, most notably in Al Fallujah. Earlier this year, the First Marine Division staged an abortive offensive against Al Fallujah's motley battalion of Ba'ath sympathizers, nationalists, Wahabi fundamentalists, and Zarqawi's force of some 700-1000 Qaeda men. The offensive would have succeeded, but had to be called off due to the probable collapse of the Governing Council of Iraq. So, a face-saving compromise called the "Fallujah Brigade" was brought about. The Brigade was made up of local Iraqis under the command of a former Saddam general. It fell apart within a few weeks, as members succumbed to local pressure, joined the jihadi, sold their services to the local organized crime syndicate, or simply went home. Flush with pride and overconfidence, Tawhid wal Jihad continued a campaign of kidnappings, beheadings, and suicide bombings. In a decided shift in strategy, the jihadi attacked Iraqi policemen and national guard outfits, as well as symbols of Shi'ism and any forces allied with the supreme Shi'a authority in Iraq, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. I believe that the summer and fall terror campaign was a strategic error on Zarqawi's part. In overplaying his hand, Abu Musa al-Zarqawi forced the Allies into a position where they had to eliminate his force as well as those of his coalition. He carried things to a point where his continued presence became intolerable to the Iraqi government and to many Iraqis who might sympathize with his aims, but are repelled by his viciousness.
Consequently, I believe that sometime in August or September, a decision was made at the Presidential level to put paid to the insurgency along the Baghdad-to-Amman highway.
The political reason is obvious. Iraqi elections are set for January. The Wahabist insurgency will attempt to create chaos in an attempt to deligitimize any election, or better yet, delay it indefinitely. There is a reason that the Ba'athist-Wahabist coalition must do this. Elections tend to confer legitimacy on the elected. Recall the election in El Salvador in the early 1980's. There, the election of the conservative Christian Democrats and the strong showing of Roberto D'Aubuisson's ARENA party basically killed off the political fortunes of the Soviet-backed Farabundo Marti Liberation Front. Within a few years, the Communist insurgency had gone the way of the dodo. The same fate most probably awaits the Ba'ath-Wahabist alliance of convenience should it fail to stop the elections.
And so, to the present day. The Los Angeles Times is running a story stating that a Sunni triangle offensive (which is, in the main, all about Al Fallujah) is being put off until after the election. I believe that this is disinformation, simply because it follows a pattern of psychological operations used by the Central Command against Saddam and other enemies. Because of the necessity to have a demonstrable victory over the insurgency by a combined arms army of Iraqis and Americans, I believe the offensive will be conducted sooner rather than later, and at a speed and pace that will surprise everyone.
As one observer of the situation wrote to Section 9:
Our options are limitless and our Marines are the absolute experts in optimizing their strengths and exploiting weaknesses in the enemy that he isn't even aware of. How we prosecute the offensive in Fallujah will not come from any textbook. But it will become a textbook. I look forward to seeing the enemy die in great numbers.
I strongly suspect that the jihadist control of the Baghdad-to-Amman highway towns is coming to an end. And soon.