Operation Quick Strike
UPI says Operation Quick Strike has been launched against "insurgents and foreign fighters in western Iraq's Anbar province".
Lt. Col. Steve Boylan, director of the U.S.-led Combined Press Information Center, said the offensive was not in response to the three insurgent attacks that killed 21 Marines this week. On Friday, Iraqi special operations forces directed a Marine airstrike on insurgents firing from buildings near Haqliniya, southwest of Haditha.
The most interesting information on the current operations comes form Bloomberg. The standard description of the operation's objectives was given: "to interdict and disrupt insurgents and foreign terrorists' presence in the Haditha, Haqliniyah, and Barwanah area". But Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies said in an interview that:
"This (assault) is part of a pattern of offensives to deny the insurgents sanctuary along the Euphrates River to match ongoing operations along the Tigris" ... Cordesman said the coalition's goals in the Euphrates valley are to make harder for foreign insurgents to infiltrate from Syria and find "stable sanctuary'' in the region. Another aim is to put pressure on Sunnis to join the political process, he said. "The political and military effects will play out over months, not days,'' he said in a telephone interview.
Cordesman's remarks suggest that Quickstrike's context is far larger than to disrupt the local insurgents in Haditha. They are certainly not a reprisal or reaction to the loss of 21 Marines in Haditha. (I speculated that they were lost in carrying out the offensive operation of which Quickstrike is a part). Together with General Ham's comment that these operations go "all the way out to the border" and the New York Times story that the US is mounting operations north of the Euprates in the direction of Mosul, Cordesman's statement that Quickstrike is "part of a pattern of offensives to deny the insurgents sanctuary along the Euphrates River to match ongoing operations along the Tigris" is nothing short of astounding.
(Speculation alert). My own guess is that the US decided that letting insurgents dig in, as they did at Fallujah, resulted in very expensive, publicly visible major operations. Even smaller ops like Matador showed that the enemy could turn individual villages into mini-forts which could create statistical casualty bumps (of say, more than six Americans killed). Readers will recall how one Marine AAV was destroyed in Matador because it had to proceed down a mined road. Therefore it was desirable to strike the enemy at many points at once, never allowing their cadres to re-group and re-connect with other cells. Forcing movement has already resulted, as the LA Times reports, in the abandonment of RPGs, mortars and mines, stuff you can't carry on the run.
The logistical key to successfully accomplishing this was to create the ability to strike on both banks of the Euprates and across the plain to the Tigris with armored vehicles. (The NYT article mentioned in passing that helicopter-borne raids were already common) The establishment of a base in Rawah facilitated this. Another important component was deploying Iraqi government forces in cleared areas to prevent, or at least slow down, the reconstitution of insurgent cells.