The Belmont Club is one of the single best blogs out there for anyone interested in the strategies and tactics currently being used in Iraq. Today, there’s an excellent piece on the current efforts to shut down the terrorist smuggling lines along the Euphrates River.
It’s becoming increasingly clear that the pace of operations along the Euphrates and elsewhere in al-Anbar Province has continued to quicken over the past few months – which is why the number of casualties has been so high this week. As the Iraqis gain strength in the rear areas – cities like Baghdad and Mosul, we’re able to reconfigure our force deployments to put more pressure on the heart of the insurgency in al-Anbar.
With that increased push comes increased risk. We’re engaging in a continuous series of operations against the major corridor of ammunition, money, and manpower coming in across the Syrian border. The operations in al-Anbar are definitely producing results – the terrorist forces are finding that what used to be safe havens are now under the control of US and Iraqi forces. They’re being forced to leave behind large caches of weapons and other materials that only further help in the destruction of terrorist cells in the region.
We’re fighting using very effective counterinsurgency tactics – disrupting the enemy’s lines of supply to keep them off base and disorganized. While the terrorists can still do damage, the fact that our operational pace has not slowed and the Iraqi forces are becoming more effective indicates that this conflict is not in their favor.
It took the United States a considerable amount of time to develop and execute an effective strategy for dealing with what amounts to a low-level civil war in Iraq. However, now that we’re on the offensive and we’re continuing to get the Iraqi forces up to fighting condition, the coalition is making considerable progress in defeating the terrorist insurgency.
The level of violence in Iraq won’t suddenly go away – rather we’re looking at a slow reduction in the level of violence over time. However, the insurgency is not attracting popular support, even among the Sunnis, and with the Euphrates corridor now being divided on both sides, the insurgency is going to have a much more difficult time getting to places like Baghdad, Basra, and Mosul.
What isn’t being mentioned in the MSM is that despite the tragic deaths of the past week, this war is amazingly lopsided – Gen. Jack Keane made the incredible estimate that 50,000 “insurgents” have been killed or captured this year. That number is probably way too high, but the number of casualties on the enemy side are likely into the thousands captured or killed. If Keane’s numbers are even close to correct, the insurgency simply can’t keep up their current pace – especially as the Iraqis continue to tire of the constant disruptions to their lives caused by the terrorists.
We’re engaged in a multi-pronged strategy in Iraq – not only are we engaging in attacking the terrorists, but we’ve also made some strides in getting Iraq’s infrastructure back. Our most crucial reconstruction goal needs to be getting the electrical infrastructure back online – the lack of power is one of the biggest gripes in Iraq right now, and for good reason. Thankfully, the level of electrical production is increasing, albeit slowly.
The next few weeks are crucial – Iraq will have a new Constitution, preparations for December’s elections will begin, and the operations in al-Anbar will continue to put pressure on the terrorists. America has shown that it is fully resolved to see this thing through, and if we can continue to weaken the insurgency while strengthening the Iraqi troops the insurgency will no longer be able to pose the threat that it currently does. The road ahead will still be long and difficult, but make no mistake – we will not abandon the people of Iraq to these murdering savages.
UPDATE: The New York Times has more on the offensive operations in al-Anbar Province.
Bill Roggio also has more on Operation Quick Strike, centered around the Euphrates corridor and the Iraqi town of Haditha.