By Other Means 3
Reuters is reporting a battalion-sized Operation Dagger following right on the heels of a similarly sized Operation Spear. Spear targeted the area of Karbila, right next to the Syrian border at the western end of the Euphrates river line. Dagger, on the other hand has hit Ramadi, which is near the eastern end of the Euphrates river belt heading for Baghdad. Both ends at once, so to speak.
QAIM, Iraq (Reuters) - U.S. and Iraqi forces launched their second major offensive in western Iraq in as many days on Saturday, both designed to root out militants dug in along the Euphrates river valley. The military said around 1,000 Marines, sailors, soldiers and Iraqi troops had begun Operation Dagger north of the city of Ramadi, a rebel stronghold west of Baghdad, and that about 50 insurgents had been killed on Friday in the first operation.
Ramadi has been described as a logistical hub of the insurgency. According to the Associated Press, the current operation is of a piece with the March assault on an insurgent camp along Lake Tharthar and the discovery of huge caches in the area.
In early June, Marines sweeping the eastern part of the lake discovered an underground bunker complex in a rock quarry that had recently been used by insurgents and included air-conditioned living quarters and high tech military equipment, including night vision goggles. The military later destroyed the complex and weapons caches.
Sfgate also notes the increasing tempo.
The assault, dubbed Operation Spear, was the third large-scale attack led by U.S. Marines in volatile Anbar province in the past six weeks. The area has long been the main bastion of Iraqi Sunni Arab guerrillas and foreign fighters filtering in across the porous Syrian frontier.
That was Spear: then came Dagger. The question is: how can this be happening? According to the calculations of Fester, a self-described "Lefty" political blog, Coalition forces are losing the casualty exchange with insurgent forces. He calculates the enemy is killing us at nearly double (1.8:1) the rate that we are killing the enemy.
Therefore it is reasonable to assume that the insurgents lost roughly 500 men to any future combat operations in the month of May while inflicing roughly 450-500 permanent direct losses on the Iraqi government forces and another 400 US soldiers are out of action due to death or serious combat injuries. Therefore the incapacitation ratio is roughly 1.8:1 in favor of the insurgents. Against US forces only, the ratio is near unity. ...
So where do are US forces getting the the manpower to up the pace of attack? Overall US force levels are being drawn down. America has lost 18,000 men in theater to troop reductions after the Iraqi elections. According to Global Security Org, the total number of US troops in theater is expected to fall from 153,000 to 135,000. One possible answer is that America is understating the number of men in theater by excluding the Special Forces from the count. But even if the entire 10th Special Forces group were included, it would add only about 3,000 men to the total. The increase in tempo cannot come from having more Americans.
One other possibility is that the Coalition is throwing more cannon fodder, what the Daily Kos called "fresh meat", against the insurgents. Austin Bay notes that more and more Iraqi Army units are being used in operations. Austin Bay recently attended a briefing in Baghdad and reported that "In at least nine out of ten security operations, the new Iraqi military is providing half of the forces." That would permit the US to reduce the number of troops devoted to security operations and devote them attacks against the insurgents, where the Left assures us they would be lucky to break even against Zarqawi's men.
In either case, if the calculations of Fester and the Daily Kos are correct, the increased tempo cannot be sustained. Reason: if a player keeps losing chips at the table he will run down his stake. If combat results favor the enemy it necessarily follows that the more combat, the better for the enemy. Sooner or later, according to the predictions of the Left, the Coalition must retire bankrupt from the field. The relative availability to generate forces was the theme of Richard Oppels's article on Tal Afar, a city on the Tigris line.
Nine months ago the U.S. military laid siege to this city in northwestern Iraq and proclaimed it freed from the grip of insurgents. Last month, the Americans returned in force to reclaim it once again. After the battle here in September, the military left behind fewer than 500 troops to patrol a huge region. ... "We have a finite number of troops," said Major Chris Kennedy, executive officer of the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, which arrived in Tal Afar several weeks ago. "But if you pull out of an area and don't leave security forces in it, all you're going to do is leave the door open for them to come back. "This is what our lack of combat power has done to us throughout the country. In the past, the problem has been we haven't been able to leave sufficient forces in towns where we've cleared the insurgents out."
In the near term, the operational tempo (billed as "violence", "instability" or "mayhem" in the media) will almost certainly increase for the following reasons. First, Iraqi forces are now coming online and they are not the "fresh meat" the Daily Kos claims. Though they may have shortcomings, Iraqi troops are far from totally ineffective and actually represent a net increase in coalition combat power against the enemy. Second, the cumulative results of two years of intelligence infrastructure building coming into fruition in the larger size of caches being found and in the number of "tips" which precede many of the recent captures and rescues. Third, the insurgent strategy of attempting to ignite a civil war as described in the last post, will generate its own backblast. Back to Oppel's article.
Khasro Goran, the deputy provincial governor in Ninewa, which includes Tal Afar (said) "There is no life in Tal Afar," he said in an interview a week ago. "It is like Mosul a few months ago - a ghost town." There are more than 500 insurgents in Tal Afar, he said, and they project a level of fear and intimidation across the city far in excess of their numbers. Thoroughfares lined with stores have been deserted, the storefronts covered with metal roll-down gates. In northeast Tal Afar, a young mother now schools her six children at home after a flyer posted at their school warned: "If you love your children, you won't send them to school here because we will kill them." ... At least 40 members of two predominantly Shiite tribes of Turkomen, the Sada and Jolak, were killed in two car bombings in May. The perpetrators, American officers said they believed, were members of the predominantly Sunni Arab Qarabash tribe, which they say has strong ties to Syrian fighters and links to the network of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Qaeda leader in Iraq.
In other words, the Coalition is actually gaining and will continue to gain in strength. This does not necessarily prove we are winning because the enemy is also reinforcing the Iraqi battlefield with every combatant he can muster. Oppel notes the influx of reinforcements from Syria:
At Rabiah, the principal northern border crossing to Syria, several hundred American soldiers arrived three weeks ago and say they have disrupted the smuggling of weapons and money. But they doubt there has been any curtailment yet in the infiltration of foreign fighters, often difficult to distinguish from legitimate travelers. "As far as foreign fighters coming in from the border control point, I can't say we've had any impact on that," said Captain Jason Whitten, the company commander whose troops oversee the Rabiah crossing.
What we are witnessing is a race between the force-generation capabilities of two sides. Materially speaking, the enemy is bound to lose. Al Qaeda is openly rushing every available fighter into Iraq. But millions of Iraqis Sunnis, Kurds and Shi'ites who have no intention of being resubjugated, fueled by the oil wealth of Iraq can be counted on to resist them, supported by the most deadly military force in the world. On the face of it the enemy cause would be lost. But in the matter of the will to win the outcome becomes more doubtful. Iraq has become the recruiting focus of a generation of Islamists and Leftists while the United States public has won itself enough temporary safety to forget the dangers of September 11. The enemy's hunger -- almost desperation for victory -- stands in symbolic contrast to the desire among many Americans to close Gitmo. The war in Iraq has bought American homeland security in the most unexpected of ways. The enemy has learned to refrain from awakening the US giant, the better to defeat him in his sleep.