Ramadi as Omen?

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"…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 360°. 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.

Pat Lang

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18 Responses to Ramadi as Omen?

  1. searp says:

    PL – what about the notion that our progress is crippled by the rules of engagement?
    I could easily see a situation where the Iraqis that supplant American soldiers have much more liberal ROE.
    There may be an attempt to subdue Ramadi, Falluja, etc. the way Assad subdued Homs.
    At any rate, I expect the war to become more brutal when it is Iraqi-on-Iraqi. Of course this has every probability of mushrooming into full-blown civil war.
    Our “strategy” seems to be almost purely military, at least the overt strategy, but the fundamental problem is political.

  2. W. Patrick Lang says:

    In Ramadi the situation is evidently so bad that anything other than a military reposnse is out of the question.
    Getting “rough” won’t improve this. You either have the ability to hold your own against the insurgent or you don’t. It already IS rough.
    What do you have in mind, to shoot every tenth man as a warning? pl

  3. searp says:

    PL – making the opposite point, that the military response will inevitably intensify with a concomitant increase in collateral damage and intensification of the civil war.
    I absolutely agree that this will not solve anything, but I do believe that we haven’t seen the worst in Anbar. That will wait for “iraqification”.
    I just do not see an effective military solution,

  4. John Howley says:

    Good writing by Michael Ware of Time Magazine. However, there is no reference whatsoever to air support (or artillery support for that matter). Can this be true that no air is applied to support ground troops in Ramadi? Ware does not shy away from controversey in his article so why, then, does he seem to collaborate in the “radio silence” maintained by the military and the media regarding air operations in Iraq? (Seymour Hersch argues in his New Yorker article that stepped up applications of air power will be crucial to the Iraqification process.) Call me “puzzled.” Or better yet, “puzzled again.”

  5. W. Patrick Lang says:

    I confess to puzzlement over the whole issue of fire support in Iraq.
    There does not seem to be a lot of artillery around. I am accustomed to operating within the range fan of the guns whenever possible, but that does not seem normal in Iraq.
    Air? Beats me. pl

  6. Curious says:

    You know, I seriously don’t think It’s Al qaeda who right those EID.
    AL qaeda is into car bomb, suicide bomb. EID is not their style (seriously, since when Al qaeda develops skill to rig artilery shells and keep refining and changing design? They don’t Artilery is what a real army own and use. Not group of terrorists. Group of terrorist has to work with off the shelf non military chemicals and equipments)
    So, my suspicions, the people who keeps building and designing ever changing EID using artileries are the old Iraqi army, the insurgency. They have the artilery, the enginering skill and the military training.
    Al Qaeda is the one blowing cars and doing suicide bombs.

  7. Curious says:

    right = rig.

  8. Curious says:

    Losing world opinion. It’s subtle but important asset.
    UN official says US detentions abuse Iraq mandate
    Sun Dec 4, 2005 7:24 PM ET165
    BAGHDAD (Reuters) – The U.S. military is abusing its United Nations mandate in Iraq by detaining thousands of people without due process of law, a senior U.N. official said.
    The Iraqi government installed after the U.S. invasion of 2003 is also guilty of major human rights abuses, including holding people without charge in secret jails “littered” across the country, John Pace, human rights chief for the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI), told Reuters.
    Referring to accusations of corruption among Iraqi justice officials and police, Pace said illegal detentions were fuelling rather than curbing revolt.

    But in some of the strongest U.N. comments to date, Pace said in an interview on Sunday that the system, including the pattern, duration and conditions of detention, were “not consistent with what is foreseen in 1546” and complained of a “total breakdown” in individuals’ rights.

  9. Dan says:

    Someone up higher asked about the “notion” that progress is somehow prevented by the rules of engagement. No one has this notion.
    I’ve never had a soldier in the field say that to me, and everyone understands that every civilian we kill (accidentally or with intent) generates 10 new enemies.

  10. Dan says:

    RE Air support. Lots of operations don’t use air support, precisely because they’re in densely populated cities. I’m sure if 500 pound bombs were dropped near Mick, he would have noticed that and put it in his copy.

  11. fbg46 says:

    About a year – plus ago, there was a story about a tank company CO which was having his soldiers qualify with AKs. Why? Because they were being converted into foot soldiers. As anyone who has seen a tank arms room knows, there are precious few individual weapons there. It’s mainly crew-served stuff. So these soldiers had to use the enemy’s weapons to patrol with.
    That story said it all re: how strapped for foot soldiers we were then.
    Nice to see things haven’t changed (but then why would they?) — now the 2/69 Armor is performing missions that straight legs should be performing, it’s just there aren’t any.
    This War Is Over; Time To Leave.

  12. W. Patrick Lang says:

    Question. How many men in a tank company versus a rifle company? Should be over twice as many in a rifle company. pl

  13. fbg46 says:

    Correct re: the headcount differential between an infantry company and a tank company.
    It’s worse than that, because at the company level a tank company is weighted towards maintenance MOS’s — mechanics, armorers, etc. They’re good soldiers, but they haven’t had the training/experience in patrolling/small unit tactics that the legs have had.

  14. W. Patrick Lang says:

    Thanks. So, what’s the “Blue Platoon?”

  15. Mr.Murder says:

    are you for continued presence there at this point? I mistakenly attributed a Patrick Lane qoute from No Quarter to you in the morning rush.
    Of all places it was at this Wes Clark forum, who is an asset to foreign policy on the whole.
    Apologies in both instances if such is not the case. You’ve worked in such instances and p[robably would agree more with his present stance.

  16. John Howley says:

    The GAO reports that DOD has not yet developed a STRATEGY for TRAINING for joint operations in urban areas. GAO-06-193. http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d06193.pdf.

  17. Nell says:

    Dan, there is not much information to go on (press or military pr) about the amount, frequency, or location of bombing/air support. One data point is the announcement after the assault on Fallujah that the Marines had dropped half a million tons of bombs between early 2004 and late November 2004.
    No doubt the great bulk of this ordnance was dropped on Fallujah in November 2004, but even assuming that, the figure of 500,000 lbs. indicates to me a fairly regular and intense use of bombing.

  18. Dave says:

    I’d guess that much of the mass wasn’t bombs, and that the figure also includes things like rockets fired from Cobras. I could see that tonnage adding up to a 500,000 lb figure quite readily. (Though the source does say 500,000 tons, that seems much too high, and may well be an error.)

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