Friday, August 03, 2007

The Next Phase

The AP is reporting that the U.S. military has launched a new air campaign south of Baghdad, aimed at choking off the flow of weapons and insurgents reaching Baghdad.

Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, who leads the 3rd Infantry Division, also said he and other commanders feared insurgents would try to stage a massive attack ahead of a pivotal report due in mid-September to the U.S. Congress on political and military progress in Iraq.


Lynch said he gave the order on Wednesday for the division's 3rd Combat Aviation Brigade to begin Operation Marne Husky, the latest in a series of offensives in the capital and surrounding areas.

The new operation is aimed at disrupting insurgents who fled a recent crackdown on the rural areas of Arab Jubour and Salman Pak in a predominantly Sunni area south of the capital.

Lynch also noted a "marked and increasing Iranian influence" in weapons and the training of Shiite extremists in restive areas south of Baghdad.

According to Major General Lynch, the air campaign is targeted at the same region where a surveillance drone discovered more than 50 Iranian-made rockets, aimed at a U.S. Forward Operating Base. The discovery prevented an attack against the base, but it indicated that growing numbers of Shiite insurgents are operating south of the Iraqi capital.

While you won't find it in the AP dispatch, there are several inferences that can be drawn from General Lynch's comments. First, because the U.S. doesn't use air power indiscriminately, announcement of the air campaign suggests that we're getting good intelligence on terrorist activity in the region. It's a safe bet that surveillance drones have been following insurgents as they move into outlying areas, so when the Apaches of the 3rd Aviation Brigade head out, they know where to look for targets, and what to watch for.

Secondly, the air campaign won't be an "Army only" show. Fixed wing assets from Balad will also be involved, giving commanders more flexibility--and persistence--in hammering the terrorists from the air. And, the effort will go on around the clock, thanks to the impressive night/all-weather capabilities of the AH-64s and various Air Force assets.

And finally, if the effort announced by General Lynch sounds vaguely familiar, it should. Earlier this year, U.S. commanders in Afghanistan unleashed air power on the Taliban, with impressive results. Attack helos and other platforms caught a number of terrorist formations as they marshaled or moved toward intended targets, killing large numbers of the enemy. The "air campaign" in Afghanistan is one reason that the Taliban's anticipated "spring offensive" never really materialized, and the terrorists shifted to other tactics, including suicide bombings and kidnappings.

However, there is one major difference between the effort in Afghanistan, and the latest air offensive in Iraq. Unlike Afghanistan (where aviation units often struck terrorist safe havens that were difficult to reach by vehicle, or on foot) the "Marne Husky" campaign is aimed at areas where U.S. ground units have been operating, in force, for more than two months. After pushing the terrorists out of their old haunts in Salman Pak and Arab Jabour, Lynch is pursuing them into southern Diyala Province, creating more targets for his aviators, and prepping the battlefield for future ground operations.


lgude said...

That's a really helpful analysis of how much we have learned about dealing with the terrorists in the information war and their 'useful fools' in the media.

Brian H said...

Herd them into bunches and then blast 'em. Sounds good to me!