Friday, August 05, 2005

The Belmont Club: The Battle for the Border

The Belmont Club: The Battle for the Border:

"Rawah is located at 34 28 N 41 55 E, almost exactly halfway between the Syrian border and Haditha. A main road runs on the south bank of the Euphrates but a bridge at Rawah gives onto a crossroads on the opposite side, from where a number of roads radiating like spokes on a wheel provide access to the Syrian desert crossings, Mosul, Tharthar Lake and other points on the north bank of the river. Bill Roggio has a map and more information on the Rawah operation at his site together with a compendium of all the operations that have taken place along the Euprates River line. Visit each of Roggio's links in his enumeration of the river operations and it will be abundantly clear how every one is aimed at pruning the routes along the Euphrates and horizontally across Iraq towards the Tigris.

Making it harder for the enemy to move around while making it easier for US units has the effect of lowering apparent enemy numbers while correspondingly increasing apparent American troop strength; but this is only a means to an end."

(Speculation alert) There are probably many similar operations that are taking place along the river and to its north, as per the Di Rita briefing. One of them may have been undertaken by the US Marines at Haditha, during which 21 Marines were killed. One possible reason why this operation has been kept low key, despite its size, is that it may be literally ripping up the insurgent base of support along the upper Euphrates. If the LA Times article is accurate, the insurgents essentially took the whole population of Rawah with them; if the phenomenon is being repeated elsewhere, the displacement of the Sunni population must be huge. To the north there is the unsustaining desert; to the south across the river there is the sweep of the Marines; for the insurgents to leave the population in place would risk leaving intelligence in the hands of the Americans. This has got to hurt and it is only the beginning. The LA Times notes the abandonment of RPGs, sniper rifles, mortars -- stuff you wouldn't leave behind -- not willingly. The whole point of strangling the enemy lines of communication while building support bases is to set up the stage for pursuit. And they will be pursued. The focus of newspaper coverage in the coming days may abruptly shift from 'poor helpless Marines from Ohio' to 'we're slaughtering them! We're killers!' These are the hard choices of war, and as Hemingway once wrote "all stories, if continued far enough, end in death, and he is no true-story teller who would keep that from you."

Wretchard of the Belmont Club discusses recent reports of an upsurge in American military activity along the northern edge of the Euphratis river. Apparently this has become a resupply/infiltration route from Syria, and American forces are moving to choke off this route, and strangle the insurgency.

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