Saturday, October 02, 2004

October Offensive

And so it begins. The withdrawal of US forces from Fallujah has disappointed many who hoped for a decisive victory over the Baathist insurgents. But today's attack on Samarra seems to signal a renewal of effort to pacify the region:

U.S. and Iraqi forces battled their way into the heart of this Sunni stronghold Friday and moved house to house in search of militants in what appeared to be the first major offensive to regain control of areas lost to insurgents before the January elections.

More than 100 guerrillas were killed and 37 captured, according to an Iraqi official. The military said one American soldier was killed and four were wounded.

Backed by warplanes and tanks, some 5,000 troops swept in to seize the city hall, the main mosque and other important sites in Samarra, leaving only pockets of resistance after more than 12 hours of combat, according to the U.S. military and Iraqi authorities.


U.S. forces also clashed with insurgents in Baghdad, where warplanes and tanks attacked militants in the vast slum of Sadr City. A hospital director said 12 Iraqis were killed and 11 were wounded. The U.S. military, which maintains casualties are often exaggerated by Iraqi hospital sources, said only one armed insurgent was killed.

Late Friday, a U.S. airstrike flattened two houses in the insurgent-held city of Fallujah, according to Associated Press photographer Bilal Hussein, who said he saw a number of bodies, including those of women and children. A hospital doctor said the strike killed five Iraqi civilians and wounded 11 others. American military spokesmen in Baghdad said they had no information on the attack, but the U.S. command says it has been launching "precision strikes" against suspected terrorist hideouts in Fallujah.


The Americans said they conducted the operation in Samarra, 60 miles north of Baghdad, at the request of the Iraqi government. The attack appeared to trumpet the launch of major military operations to wrest other areas of the country from insurgents ahead of general elections.

U.S. military officials have signaled they plan to increase incursions into key Iraqi cities this fall - partly as a way for the United States to try to pressure insurgents into negotiations with Iraqi officials. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld alluded to this last week when he said insurgencies in Fallujah and the city of Ramadi can be solved either diplomatically through negotiations, or through force.

Cynics will claim this is just a ploy by Bush to secure his re-election. As long as he keeps it up until the insurgents are all gone, I really don't care why he is doing it. But it strikes me that this may prove to be a vindication for Wretchard at Belmont Club, who on Sept 30 all but predicted such a comeuppance for the Sunni insurgents:
During the April, 2004 fighting three things were critically different from today. There was the threat in April of a combined Sunni-Shi'ite uprising. The fear was that hitting Fallujah would stoke a Shi'ite insurgency. Since the Sunnis were considered secondary Fallujah was spared. This is not to justify the decision, but simply to point out the considerations at the time. Today, data provided the Special Operations Consulting-Security Management Group Inc (used by the New York Times to argue that fighting is spreading in Iraq) seems to show that the Shi'ite insurgency is a spent force, the result of a military campaign against Sadr which culminated in August, 2004 combined with efforts to isolate Sadr politically. There were seven attacks in an Najaf province out of a total of 2,429 in the month studied.

Second, there were only 5,000 "trained" men in the Iraqi Army in April 2004. Today the numbers are moving towards and past 70,000. A link to General Sharp's briefing on September 20 has many of the details of the state of training and increased numbers. What is strategically different about the Sunni strongholds today is not only the loss of allied Shi'ite insurgent support but the growing availability of Iraqi troops to crush them. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Richard Myers said in an interview today that Coalition forces are planning a 'solution' to the Sunni lawlessness in conjunction with the Iraqi government. To the legitimate question of 'why only now?' one can reply 'because there were no Iraqi forces then' -- barely a year after the fighting and on the heels of the capture of the principal Ba'athists. Fallujah could have been taken in an all-American assault and be occupied to this day by an all-American force; but rightly or wrongly, the President chose not to.

Update: Jeez that guy never sleeps! He has already posted commentary on the Samarra offensive here.

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