"…With the mini-Tet raging, more than 50 rebels lobbed mortars and fired rocket-propelled grenades at the U.S. bases before they closed in under cover of machine-gun fire from virtually 360Â°. By the end, about the time Murtha wrapped up his press conference in Washington, coalition forces had stormed past dead insurgents to retake Ramadi’s central mosque.
But this is still a city the insurgents can claim they own. Although a U.S. Army brigade hunts them daily, the rebels move freely among a supportive populace. U.S. troops are despised here. The insurgents are embraced. "They are the people we see every day who give us a loaf of bread on a patrol, the people we will be fighting that night," says Lieut. Colonel Robert Roggeman, whose 2-69 Armored Regiment is battling to control the eastern part of this city of 400,000.
Pentagon officials routinely characterize anti-insurgent operations around Iraq as great victories. But just as Operation Steel Curtain, targeting insurgents in towns near the Syrian border, wound down, fighters loyal to al-Qaeda’s top man in Iraq, Abu Mousab al-Zarqawi, popped up in Ramadi. The insurgents’ ability to preserve and regenerate their forces is a hallmark of the war. The official American tally for the Nov. 17 battle in Ramadi: 33 insurgents killed, 1 Marine slightly wounded. But Blue Platoon knows it has not delivered a knockout punch." Michael Ware – Time
I am not sure what the "blue platoon" is exactly. The battalion (2-69 Armor or 2nd Battalion, 69th Armored Regiment) is a tank battalion. "Blue Platoon" would indicate an infantry unit. Perhaps this is an infantry element "grown" specfically for the necessities of the Iraq urban operations environment or it could be part of the battalion’s reconniassance troops.
The essence of US military strategy in Iraq lies in the creation of "Iraqi" troop units who can consolidate central government control over the entire country. "Clear and Hold" is the order of the day-week-month. We clear and they hold (the towns). What we see in this story by Michael Ware is that 2-69 Armor is unable to fully "clear" Ramadi of insurgent forces. It says that 2-69 Armor works its sector hard, reduces the level of activity of the insurgents, and then sees the insurgent forces re-bound and re-constitute themselves out of a sympathetic population. It says that the insurgents can mount serious attacks involving cordination of fire and maneuver, and this in a town that has been receiving serious attention from US forces for a couple of years.
This is a not a good omen. What will have to be seen is whether or not the insurgents try and/or succeed in taking these towns away from the government when US forces are withdrawn.