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John Wayne's Holster: Securing the Syrian Border
John Wayne's Holster
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Sunday, September 11, 2005

Securing the Syrian Border

Since the beginning of the Iraq War, Syria has served as a major source for supplying money, weapons and terrorists to the Iraqi insurgency. The Iraqi provinces of Ninawa (NW. Iraq) and Anbar (W. Iraq) share a border with Syria. Within these regions, the insurgents maintain a number of safe holds used for hiding terrorists and storing the weapons smuggled across the Syrian border. In addition, these regions often serve as a haven for planning and staging their attacks.

A guide for jihadists with aspirations of joining the insurgency was recently uncovered. The guide lays out in detail how and where one could cross the Syrian border into Iraq. Accordingly, the three main crossing areas are Rabi’ah (Ninawa, NW. Iraq - near Tal Afar), al Qa’im (Anbar, W. Iraq - along Euphrates River) and ar Rutbah (Anbar. W. Iraq – along the major highway into Syria).

The preferred entry point appears to be al Qa’im. This point is favored due to is relatively good terrain and its tribal sympathies towards the insurgents. In fact, the better part of the Euphrates valley, stretching from Qa’im at the Syrian border, through Hiditha, all the way to Fallujah (just west of Baghdad) is dotted with insurgency safe holds.

A counter-insurgency effort aimed at eliminating these jihadist safe holds is currently underway. The campaign, led by combined US and Iraqi forces, is initially focused on the northern-most and southern-most border crossings, in Rabi’ah and Rutbah respectively. The plan appears to be to close the border in those regions, bomb the known safe holds and staging grounds, and thus force the insurgents into the corridor along the Euphrates Valley.

In the last few days, the Iraqi government has closed the entry point at Rabi’ah. In addition, coalition forces have swept through near-by Tal Afar to uproot insurgents from their safe houses. The offensive began with targeted air strikes, and was followed by door to door searches. The town was also cordoned off to prevent the escape of insurgents.

Similarly, coalition forces have also launched cordoned and search operation against the town of Rutbah in S. Anbar province.

According the Iraqi defense minister Sadoun al-Dulaimi, once the cities are secure, coalition forces will “go down the Euphrates Valley.” This phase of the battle plan already appears to have been started. Last week, the US Marines took out two bridges across the Euphrates River near Qa’im and destroyed several safe houses. Most of the city has been abandonded, and coalition forces have moved into the towns outskirts, but the town itself is still apparently under insurgent control.

According to FOX News, the Marines currently near Qa’im are concerned that they lack sufficient forces to secure the area properly. Now that the Iraqi security forces and troops appear to be coming on line, it is hoped that they will be able to assist in holding and securing these cities.

Coalition forces are vowing to expand the offensive as they move down the Euphrates Valley.

Clearly, US forces – when given the opportunity and resources - are more than capable of carrying out their missions with great precision and effectiveness. Although the current operations to secure the Syrian border are going well, I am forced to question why the Washington bureaucrats made the military wait 2.5 years to start securing the border. Shouldn’t that have been one of the major priorities? And why are our forces still privately expressing concerns about insufficient forces to do a job that they know they are capable of doing?

Have they not learned what author and former Army intelligence officer Ralph Peters calls the “butcher’s paradox”. Wars can not be fought on the cheap. Either you pay your butcher’s bill up-front, or you encounter a more expensive protracted cost down the line. We need more men and equipment in Iraq now. Our military is the finest in the world. Stop making them fight battles with an arm tied behind their back.

Will someone please get Secretary of the Defense Industry Don Rumsfeld a cup of coffee and wake him up?


At 2:20 PM, Anonymous Roy said...

Unfortunately it does not appear that Rummy will wake up. I think they believe sending more troops or equipment would be political suicide. I fear that we have too much politics in this war, the Syrian Border must be shut down. I am glad to see that this is happening a little late but better than never.


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