Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Marines on the Offensive

American forces are on the offensive and it is a bit unsettling to me.

Following Operation Matador around Qaim on the Syrian border, US Marines and soldiers are involved in another reinforced-battalion sized operation along the Euphrates "rat line" into Baghdad around Haditha, Operation New Market:

Helicopters swept down near palm tree groves to drop off Marines who blocked off one side of Haditha, while other troops on foot and in armored vehicles established checkpoints and moved toward the city's center. U.S. warplanes circled overhead.

According to initial reports, three insurgents were killed during several fierce gunbattles that broke out after U.S. forces entered this town before dawn, Marine Capt. Christopher Toland told an Associated Press reporter embedded with U.S. forces. Two Marines also were wounded and evacuated, Toland said.

In these latest operations, no Iraqi forces are apparent.

This is disappointing considering that the recent Baghdad area operation was a largely Iraqi operation:

Seven Iraqi battalions backed by U.S. forces launched an offensive in the capital on Sunday in an effort to stanch the violence that has killed more than 550 people in less than a month, targeting insurgents who have attacked the dangerous road to Baghdad's airport and Abu Ghraib prison.
This type of operation is what we need to do if we are to halt our recent rise in casualties:

Gen. John Abizaid, the American military commander in the Persian Gulf region, said last week in Washington that Iraq's police force has not developed as quickly as U.S. generals had hoped, raising questions about how soon American forces could begin returning home.

Edward B. Atkeson, a senior fellow at the Rand [sic: AUSA] Institute of Land Warfare, believes it is the inability of U.S. authorities to produce an Iraqi security force capable of taking over complete control of Iraq that continues to place American troops in the firing line.

"Whenever you take a larger part in the security operations you have to be prepared to take a larger part of the casualties," Atkeson, a former U.S. military intelligence chief in Europe, said from Alexandria, Va

One of the problems is that Iraqi forces tend to be regional in nature rather than mobile and able to operate across the entire country. With Sunnis only recently joining security forces, it will take time for Iraqi units to be formed in western Anbar province where they can follow our units into an area after we've cleared it in order to hold it. In time, those units will be able to carry out offensive operation with our backing. But for now, other than the growing string of border posts where Iraqis are being emplaced, western Anbar is a US operation.

So we will have to be content for now with missions that seek to kill the enemy without holding the ground. Eventually, we'll bring in Iraqis. But this is better than having our own troops doing it all. We may be better at killing the enemy but less effective Iraqi troops are actually better for pacifying a region as long as the enemy is atomized and unable to pick off Iraqi governemnt outposts at will.

While I still think that we are winning, with the recent uptick in our casualties, I can't say that it feels like victory at the moment.