Bill Roggio has an account of Operation Swarmer, and his commenters have additional information as well.
The assault netted "a number of enemy weapons caches have been captured, containing artillery shells, explosives, IED-making materials, and military uniforms." The inclusion of the military uniforms, while certainly not a new development, serves as a reminder that insurgents are using Iraqi Army and police uniforms, and that some of the reported sectarian-related violence may in fact be initiated by the insurgency to discredit the Iraqi security forces and stir up ethnic tensions.
Further evidence of masking insurgency action under the guise of police forces is discovered in a separate raid in north-central Iraq; "After receiving information on a possible fake identification workstation, Soldiers from 2nd Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment, conducted a cordon and search with members of the Iraqi Police. Once inside the target residence, the combined force discovered more than 300 false identification cards, including Iraqi Police IDs."
Again, while none of this is earth shattering news, these insurgent activities must be remembered and factored into reporting of sectarian related violence as well as claims the Iraqi security forces are involved in death squads. No doubt there are illegal actions by rogue units or individuals in Iraqi security forces, but some of these killings are very likely the actions of insurgents hoping to discredit the ISF and degrade the security situation.
Bloomberg has interesting details on the composition of the assault.
Operation Swarmer began early today with more than 1,500 U.S. and Iraqi troops, about 200 tactical vehicles and more than 50 helicopters, the U.S. military said in a statement e-mailed from Baghdad. Samarra is about 80 miles (125 kilometers) north of Baghdad on the Tigris River. The goal of the raid is to ``clear a suspected insurgent operating area northeast of Samarra,'' the military said. The assault is expected to last for several days as a thorough search of the area is conducted, it said. ...
Today's mission involved a combination of UH-60 Black Hawks, AH-64D and CH-47 Chinooks, the Pentagon said in a fact sheet. None of the helicopters fired munitions or air-to-ground missiles, the statement said. (Emphasis mine) ...
Weapons caches containing artillery shells, explosives, bomb making materials and military uniforms were discovered during today's raid, according to the military's statement. Earlier this month, U.S. and Iraq troops found weapons and equipment caches west of Samarra, it said.
One of Bill Roggio's commenters has put together an order of battle based on CENTCOM video briefings.
Air Assualt element: Iraqi Army 1 Bde/4th Div; US 3 BCT & CAB/101st AB Div
Ground component: Iraqi MOI 2nd Special Police Commando Bde
This is the third Air Assualt that the Iraqi Army has participated in. Previous ops employed Iraqi 1st Bn/1st Bde/4th Div (same Bde doing this op) and 3rd Bn/1st Bde/6th Div in joint US-Iraqi assualts. This is just the largest.
Though I wouldn't want to make too much of it, there are a couple of things worth noting about this operation. First, it has an information warfare component aimed to convey, I think, two things: that the Coalition is doing something about the terrorists trying to incite sectarian violence; and that the Iraq Army, not Shi'ite militias or vigilante groups, should be entrusted with exacting vengeance. The information warfare component is probably meant to answer both Iraqi and US critics who say that the Coalition is standing by "helplessly" in the face of the insurgents.
Secondly, despite press reports that insurgents were trying to turn Samarra into a Second Falluja none of the LZ's appeared to have contested by the enemy to the point where the helicopters had to fire suppressive munitions. (See my italicized excerpt from Bloomberg). Nor is the force at 1,500 men a very large one for a cordon and search operation lasting several days. Considering the bulk of the force appears to consist of Iraqi Army one can only conclude that either the operation is only for show or that the units involved are quite professional. They have to interoperate with the 101st AB not only during the assault phase, but presumably for the duration of the operation. That suggests these Iraqi units are not anything to scoff at.
It also says something about the relative strength of the insurgency. Recall that the insurgents felt confident enough to contest much a larger force of USMC and US Army units for the possession of Falluja in 2004. Even in 2005 insurgents were prepared to fight for Tal-Afar against Iraqi units and the 3rd ACR. But if Iraqi units assaulted essentially uncontested into the town that says something, and I don't think it says that the insurgency is gaining in strength.
But the operation's not over yet. Let's see what happens.