Thursday, February 16, 2006

Victory At Tal Afar - September 2005

After you read this,
be sure to check out:

People sleep peaceably in their beds at night
only because rough men stand ready
to do violence on their behalf.
~George Orwell

Last June and September, US forces conducted an extensive operation to root out al-Qaeda forces that had taken over the town of Tal Afar on the northern Syrian border, a city of 250,000 people. What was going on there? Col. H.R. McMaster, of the 3rd Armored Cavalry said:

First of all, the purpose of this operation is the secure the population of Tal Afar from the terrorists who have infiltrated this city and set up a safe haven support base here in Tal Afar.

Why Did the Enemy Come to Tal Afar?

  1. Positioned on roads between Mosul and Syria, the town secured access to their external supports in Syria.
  2. al-Qaeda in Iraq wants an ethnic and sectarian civil war. The area is 75% Sunni Turkmen, but there lots of minorities and ethnic division to be exploited: Shi'a Turkmen, Sunni Arabs, Izedis, and Kurds. Of the 150 police, only three were Sunni Turkmen since their families would be targeted if they enlisted.

What was the nature of the enemy there?

When US and Iraqi forces arrived in June:

A young man, who hobbled along on a crutch, complained that he was afraid to go to the city hospital to have the metal brace and screws that pinned his broken leg together six months ago removed. He said that there were terrorists all around it.

Col. McMasters said:

The enemy in this area is -- this is the worst of the worst in terms of people in the world...To protect themselves here, what the enemy did is they waged the most brutal and murderous campaign against the people of Tal Afar...

This is an enemy, who when they came in, they removed all the imams from the mosques, and they replaced them with Islamic extremist laymen. They removed all the teachers from the schools and replaced them with people who had a fifth-grade education and who preached hatred and intolerance. They murdered people. In each of their cells that they have within the city has a direct action cell of about 100 or so fighters. They have a kidnapping and murder cell; they have a propaganda cell, a mortar cell, a sniper cell -- a very high degree of organization here. And what the enemy did is to keep the population from performing other activities. To keep the population afraid, they kidnapped and murdered large numbers of the people here, and it was across the spectrum. A Sunni Turkmen imam was kidnapped and murdered. A very fine man, a city Councilman, Councilman Suliman, was pulled out of his car in front of his children and his wife and gunned down with about 30 gunshot wounds to his head. The enemy conducted indiscriminate mortar attacks against populated areas and wounded scores of children and killed many others. The enemy here did just the most horrible things you can imagine, in one case murdering a child, placing a booby trap within the child's body and waiting for the parent to come recover the body of their child and exploding it to kill the parents. Beheadings and so forth.

So the enemy's grip over this population to maintain the safe haven was based on fear, coercion, and these sort of heinous acts. And not only were they targeting civilians, brutally murdering them, torturing them, but they were also kidnapping the youth of the city and brainwashing them and trying to turn them into hate-filled murderers. So, really, there could be no better enemy for our soldiers and Iraqi army soldiers to pursue and defeat and deny the enemy the safe haven in this area.
In response to a systematic combined military and civilian effort to defeat them] they intensified their campaign of intimidation over the people. They conducted more sniper attacks against innocent civilians, more mortar attacks.
We captured five of the enemy dressed as women, trying desperately to get out of the area. Just yesterday we captured 104 of the enemy in these outlying areas.
They are some of the worst human beings on the face of the Earth.And...there is no...greater pleasure for us than to kill or capture these particular individuals.***

*** As I mentioned before, this reminds me of something Christopher Hitchens said:
They gave us no peace and we shouldn’t give them any. We can't live on the same planet as them and I'm glad because I don’t want to. I don’t want to breathe the same air as these psychopaths and murders and rapists and torturers and child abusers.Its them or me. I'm very happy about this because I know it will be them. It’s a duty and a responsibility to defeat them. But it's also a pleasure. I don’t regard it as a grim task at all.

Did they use "chemical weapons" against the insurgents' poor wittle bodies?
I'm glad you asked:

The enemy had rigged a lot of buildings for destruction, and they wanted to time the destruction of these buildings with the entry of our forces. In one of these buildings the enemy had big barrels of chemicals that had explosives implanted in the chemicals, wires running around, and the whole house was rigged for demolition.

Around this house a lot of families were living. Our soldiers were conducting an area reconnaissance operation. They went into this house. Immediately their eyes began burning, their throat began burning, so they withdrew out of the house immediately and then we conducted reconnaissance with some chemical protective gear and with a remote reconnaissance capability into the house and we could tell that the thing was rigged with chemicals.

We stopped all of our operations. We were actually pursuing a particular enemy, but this was more important. We evacuated the civilians from the area and then we demolished that building without a hazard to the people.

I don't know if you've been following some of the enemy's propaganda. You know, one of the cells in this enemy's structure here, this very well developed enemy structure, is a propaganda cell. And on the sort of jihadist and extremist websites, they've been saying, you know, that coalition forces are using chemical weapons. I think what they had hoped to do was detonate this building, kill innocent civilians in this neighborhood and then blame it on coalition forces. But we preempted their ability to do that by evacuating the civilians from that building. We found some manuals that describe how they could make sort of these kind of chemical dirty bombs and so forth.

How about the Iraqis?

These Iraqi soldiers are brave. They're courageous. They're building capabilities every day. And we draw strength from their example. I mean, these are men who, like our soldiers, are committed to this mission. They're doing it at great risk to themselves. And in this case, based on the ruthlessness of this enemy, they're doing it at great risk to their families as well. So we're proud, very proud to serve alongside these brave Iraqi soldiers.
In terms of brave Iraqis who have been killed in action during this operation, it is eight of our brothers who've fallen alongside of us. They have been killed in some cowardly attacks involving a suicide bomber on one occasion, and a couple of IED attacks. Nineteen Iraqi troopers - soldiers have been wounded during this operation. And for civilians, we think that caught in the crossfire during this operation that three to six, depending on where these casualties occurred, of civilians were killed during this operation.
I would say there are similarities with the way the enemy attempted to defend here and the way the enemy defended in Fallujah, but the enemy just couldn't get there. They couldn't pull it off. And I think that a lot of that has to do with the effectiveness of Iraqi security forces operating with us. And really the main issue, I guess, the main difference would be the access to human intelligence and the cooperation of the population.


Here is a link to an article by Jeremy Redmon on January 11th, 2006. The story is long on the hardships and unlikelihood of success in Tal Afar. But there is some hope in there too.


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