Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Urban Warfare

As an example of the media focus mentioned below, consider how much the heinous attacks in Baghdad got airplay today. They are a desperate response to vigorous military operations we are carrying out with our Iraqi allies near the Syrian border.

The successes there are not getting much attention, but for those following the real reports, the action is significant. Our operational tempo just keeps increasing: one operation after another, with the ground already prepared to deny the enemy sanctuary.

And this is the "urban combat" that we were told would be so costly to us. But we're killing and capturing jihadists by the hundreds. The only media mention of it tried to stress that the terrorists got away from Tall Afar via secret tunnels. However a quick bit of math indicates we got just about all of them thought to have been there.

The population is turning in terrorists right and left. Iraqi tribes are fighting al-Qaeda elements themselves. 80% of the jihadist network in NW Iraq seems to have been wiped out.

And the Iraqi security forces are carrying a much bigger load in this operation than before, which bodes well.

It is truly inspiring to read this press conference by Col. McMaster of the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment -- a heavily armored but nimble combined-arms force, supported by light infantry elements of the 82nd airborne division.

Read it all, but here are a few excerpts:
The enemy in this area is -- this is the worst of the worst in terms of people in the world. The enemy here was drawn to Tall Afar for a couple of reasons.

First of all, Tall Afar is positioned along routes that lead from Mosul into Syria. So it was important to the enemy to have freedom of action, not only in Tall Afar, but in western Ninevah province, so they could access sources of external support in Syria.
To protect themselves here, what the enemy did is they waged the most brutal and murderous campaign against the people of Tall Afar.

I'd like just to briefly characterize the enemy, describe who we're fighting here. This is an enemy, who when they came in, they removed all the imams from the mosques, and they replaced them with Islamic extremist laymen. They removed all the teachers from the schools and replaced them with people who had a fifth-grade education and who preached hatred and intolerance. They murdered people. In each of their cells that they have within the city has a direct action cell of about 100 or so fighters. They have a kidnapping and murder cell; they have a propaganda cell, a mortar cell, a sniper cell -- a very high degree of organization here.
The enemy conducted indiscriminate mortar attacks against populated areas and wounded scores of children and killed many others. The enemy here did just the most horrible things you can imagine, in one case murdering a child, placing a booby trap within the child's body and waiting for the parent to come recover the body of their child and exploding it to kill the parents. Beheadings and so forth. [These are Michael Moore's "Minute Men" and George Galloway's "Freedom Fighters"! --ed.]

So the enemy's grip over this population to maintain the safe haven was based on fear, coercion, and these sort of heinous acts. And not only were they targeting civilians, brutally murdering them, torturing them, but they were also kidnapping the youth of the city and brainwashing them and trying to turn them into hate-filled murderers.

So, really, there could be no better enemy for our soldiers and Iraqi army soldiers to pursue and defeat and deny the enemy the safe haven in this area.
The result of those operations were that Iraqi security forces and armed forces killed large numbers of the enemy in those engagements, 30 to 40 of the enemy at a time. So the enemy realized this tactic isn't working, so they went back into harassment attacks -- IEDs, roadside bombs, mortar attacks, sniper attacks against our forces, and attempted to do sort of hit-and-run operations against us.

But our troopers were very aggressive in maintaining contact with the enemy. We have an air/ground team here, so our aerial scouts were able to maintain contact with the enemy as they tried to move into the interior of the city. So we pursued them very effectively.

And we were able to gain access to intelligence here by a very good relationship with the people, who recognized this enemy for who they are and were very forthcoming with human intelligence.
They conducted more sniper attacks against innocent civilians, more mortar attacks.

And in response, we targeted their mortar teams. We killed four of their mortar teams and captured two. We killed about 12 of their sniper teams. And we relentlessly pursued the enemy until the enemy realized that a lot of our power was building now toward Tall Afar because we wanted -- as we were figuring this enemy out, we were preparing for operations to destroy their safe haven in a particular neighborhood of the city.
And the enemy then moved into some of these outlying neighborhoods outside of their support base, and they wanted to take the fight there to divert our attention. They also tried some diplomatic efforts to call off attacks for a couple of weeks and to act as if the problem was solved -- again, a desperate attempt to avoid the removal of this safe haven in Tall Afar. [An old arab battle trick called a hudna. Don't fall for it! -- ed.]

But we conducted very effective combat operations against the enemy, we being the Iraqi security forces and our forces. These were very complex defenses in neighborhoods outside of the Sarai neighborhood, which was the center of the enemy's safe haven here. They had their command and control in a safe house in the center that was very heavily defended. Outside of that, they had defensive positions with RPG and machine gun positions. Surrounding those positions, they had homes that were rigged to be demolished by munitions as U.S. and Iraqi soldiers entered them, and then, outside of those, they had Improvised Explosive Devices, roadside bombs, implanted, buried into the roads.

But our forces aggressively pursued the enemy in these areas. They were able to defeat these IEDs based on the human intelligence we developed. We exploded many of them with attack helicopter fire or detonated them with our engineers. We penetrated that defense. Our tanks led with our Iraqi infantry in support. We absorbed any energy from their rocket-propelled grenades and machine guns, continued the assault into these safe havens and destroyed their leadership throughout the city. The word then went out that -- to the enemy that put other elements on notice: look, we're being slaughtered here; we need to avoid these very effective combined forces of Iraqi and U.S. forces. But we continued to relentlessly pursue them as we moved to isolate the Sarai district.

And the main engagements in this fight happened really between the 2nd and the 6th of September, a period of time during which we killed 118 terrorists and captured 137 of them. And we think at this point the enemy realized the futility of their defensive efforts.
We had some very heavy fighting on the 5th and 6th of September, during which we killed many of the enemy, who engaged us from their forward defensive positions. And it was at that point that the enemy shifted their approach again to essentially running away from the area. They gave the word to retreat. They did everything they could to blend in with the civilians who were evacuating from this dense urban area to protect them, and we caught them. We were integrated with the population. The people were pointing out who the enemy was. We had Iraqi army who was very good at sensing something isn't quite right when this man is walking down the street with children, and the children look very nervous. This one man in particular was a beheader who had beheaded over 20 people. And we were able to capture him as the children fled, as we came up to talk to this individual, and the children related to us this man said that they had to walk with him or he would kill them.

We captured five of the enemy dressed as women, trying desperately to get out of the area. Just yesterday we captured 104 of the enemy in these outlying areas.

So we relentlessly pursued the enemy as they attempted to break contact with our forces. But we're maintaining contact with them, and we're continuing to hunt them down.
I can't tell you how proud I am of the troopers of this regiment. They have relentlessly pursued this enemy in continuous combat operations for well over 14 days. They are tough, they are disciplined, they are compassionate. And America ought to be proud of the Cavalry troopers of this regiment and the soldiers more broadly in our army and the armed services.

We have been joined by a very effective organization, the 3rd -- the 2nd of the 325, the White Falcons from the 82nd Airborne Division. They've gotten into this fight and have done a tremendous job. We're coordinating our efforts with the 1st of the 72nd Infantry in Mosul, who is pursuing the enemy relentlessly in their area as the enemy attempts to flee.
And it is very clear to our soldiers as we go into these areas, as we see these caches, as we see the horrible acts that these people have committed, as we see the extremist literature and the intolerance and the hatred that this enemy possesses, it is very clear to us that these are enemies of our nation, and we are proud to be here to pursue them and defeat them in Tall Afar and broadly throughout this region.
They are some of the worst human beings on the face of the Earth. And it gives us no -- there is no really greater pleasure for us than to kill or capture these particular individuals.
In one of these buildings the enemy had big barrels of chemicals that had explosives implanted in the chemicals, wires running around, and the whole house was rigged for demolition.

Around this house a lot of families were living. Our soldiers were conducting an area reconnaissance operation. They went into this house. Immediately their eyes began burning, their throat began burning, so they withdrew out of the house immediately and then we conducted reconnaissance with some chemical protective gear and with a remote reconnaissance capability into the house and we could tell that the thing was rigged with chemicals.
I don't know if you've been following some of the enemy's propaganda. [The colonel's a funny guy! -- ed.] You know, one of the cells in this enemy's structure here, this very well developed enemy structure, is a propaganda cell. And on the sort of jihadist and extremist websites, they've been saying, you know, that coalition forces are using chemical weapons. I think what they had hoped to do was detonate this building, kill innocent civilians in this neighborhood and then blame it on coalition forces. But we preempted their ability to do that by evacuating the civilians from that building. That's one example of it.
I mean, basically, you know, in a lot of areas of this city, it was -- it was the schoolhouse for the enemy. And they would go in -- they took over schools. They would go into schools, have classes on how to do an IED. I mean, literally, chalkboards. We've got photos of students and teachers standing in front of chalkboards. And, you know, in one engagement we had about a month ago we were able to gain observation of the enemy having an IED class outside of a school with, you know, 30 people gathered around, digging up a hole, and showing how you put in an IED. Now, we disrupted their class with an artillery attack that resulted in 30 of the enemy being killed on that occasion. But it's another example of what the enemy was using this area for.
The colonel has a gift for understatement.


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