Yon and Roggio on Iraq
But as earlier posts have noted, the Operation in Baquba is really part of a wider effort called Operation Phantom Thunder. The AQI were always going to leave Baqubah, one way or the other, with a rearguard to exact a price for their eviction. But the principal problem was always how to harry the AQI during the transition. Bill Roggio writes "U.S. and Iraqi forces continue to shape the battlefield in the regions north and west of Diyala, in Salahadin, Kirkuk, and Ninewa provinces. These are areas al Qaeda will likely attempt to regroup." And the principal news is that simultaneous operations are ongoing in Mosul and in Tikrit, Mosul, Fallujah and "an area south of Baghdad" in addition to efforts against Moqtada al-Sadr.
That al-Qaeda is alive to the danger of the strategy being employed against it is indicated by their counterattacks and plan of maneuver. In a report entitled "al Qaeda Strikes at the Seams", Bill Roggio describes attacks on Coalition forces outside of Baquba. "As Iraqi and Coalition forces press forward with Operation Phantom Thunder in the Baghdad Belts, al Qaeda conducted its first coordinated counter attack. Five separate suicide strikes Baghdad, Babil and in the north resulted in up to 45 deaths. The most effective strike targeted members of the Anbar Salvation Council who were meeting in Baghdad." These counterattacks are obviously intended to produce two effects. First, create space for maneuver by forcing Coalition forces into defensive actions and second, send the message that they too can strike the forces that are attacking them. As the AQI go fluid they have to turn every now and again to keep the pursuers off their backs.