Thursday, November 11, 2004
This map over at GlobalSecurity.org provides the best layout of where our forces stand in Fallujah after three days of fighting. The Allied offensive kicked off Sunday evening from a line of departure along the railroad berm that runs along the north end of the city. Overall responsibility for the operation lay with the First Marine ("Guadalcanal") Division, with several units of First Cavalry Division seconded to the operation. It has been a very successful four days.
Moving from one's west to one's east, the units jumping off were First Battalion/1st Marine Regiment, 3rd Battalion/5th Marines, 2nd Troop/U.S. 7th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Battalion/Eighth Marines, 1st Battalion/Third Marines, and finally, 2nd Battalion/2nd U.S. Infantry. On Sunday night, U.S. and Iraqi forces (probably elements of the 36th Commando Brigade) siezed the Fallujah hospital and both of the bridges over the Euphrates River. This was done to deny an easy line of retreat to the west.
The Marines and infantry advanced through the winding alleys of the several neighborhoods that made up Fallujah proper. The northwest part of town, Jolan, was the fastness of Abu Musa al-Zarqawi's Tawhid al-Jihad. The Marines basically went through Jolan, cutting off small rebel groups from the larger whole. On the left flank of the offensive, division sent 2/2 Infantry and 1/3 Marines through the Ba'athist stronghold of Askari. In both cases, there was tough fighting, but Marine and Infantry training and the small unit leaders and their seasoned NCO's decided the battle in favor of the Americans. As of this writing, in the western sector each battalion is moving south by west. The Marines and Cavalry in the west hope to pivot and bottle up the jihadi against the Euphrates for the final kill. The infantry-Marine team on the east end will be pushing the jihadi through the industrial sector in the southeast towards the anvil: the Queen's Dragoon Guards and the Black Watch. The Guards battalion and the Highlanders occupy blocking positions to prevent the escape of the jihadi, and have cut off the town from Baghdad to the east and al-Ramadi to the northeast.
In a larger tactical sense, what has been achieved has been to bottle up the jihadi into smaller component sections that can be defeated in detail. One report that came into Section 9 had it that both Hadid and Janabi, two promininent capos in the Zarqawi and Ba'ath organizations, respectively, have been killed in the past days. This has led to severe morale problems among the insurgents, and there have been attempts to escape to al-Ramadi and other Sunni towns. This A.P. report is especially revealing:
FALLUJAH, Iraq - Insurgents tried to break through the U.S. cordon surrounding Fallujah on Thursday as American forces launched an offensive against concentrations of militants in the south of the city. Some 600 insurgents, 18 U.S. troops and five Iraqi soldiers have been killed in the four-day assault, the U.S. military said.
In an apparent bid to relieve pressure on their trapped allies, insurgents mounted major attacks in Mosul, Iraq's third-largest city 220 miles to the north. Guerrillas assaulted nine police stations, overwhelming several, and battled U.S. and Iraqi troops around bridges across the Tigris River in the city, where a curfew was imposed a day earlier.
The jihadi are attempting to initiate an uprising in Sunni Iraq to relieve Fallujah. I have it on good authority that this was foreseen by our command, and I suspect that much will fall on the jihadi in al-Ramadi and Mosul in the coming days. We are using approximately ten battalions in the Fallujah operation (hat tip: Wretchard). We have 50 battalions available for maneuver operations. Wretchard's take is that there will be a high operational tempo over the next two months in the runup to the January elections. I happen to agree, and believe that CENTCOM has chosen the late fall and winter months in Iraq to break the back of the Wahabist insurgency. Expect the Marines and infantry to relentlessly chase down the jihadists and bring them to account.
In the foreseeable future one can see the outlines of a political arrangement as local Sheiks and Ba'athis legacy politicians, wary of a Shi'a/Kurd dominated state, use the American offensive as an excuse to enter into a settlement with the Allawi government. That is how it looks from here. In the end, while the jihadi will be crushed by superior infantry-it will be the Iraqi political class that divides the spoils in a characteristically Iraqi manner.