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John Wayne's Holster: Choking-Off the Euphrates Rat Line
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Thursday, October 06, 2005

Choking-Off the Euphrates Rat Line

A few weeks back, I posted an article detailing the progress coalition forces were making in securing the Syrian border and cutting off al Quaeda’s supply lines. Here is an update. For a detailed account of the day to day operations of the coalition forces, I recommend visiting The Fourth Rail or Security Watchtower. Below is a summary of the info I gathered from those sites, as well as other new sources.

al Quaeda relies on three major entry points on the Iraq-Syria border by which they are supplied with weapons and aspiring jihadists. The three entry points are Rutbah (along the major east-west highway into Syria), Rabiah (near Tal Afar), and al Qaim (along Euphrates River).

Operation Cyclone was conducted in mid-Sepetember, in the city of Rutbah. It was essentially a cordon and search operation designed to root out insurgents, disrupt their operations, and destroy their networking ability. Rutbah has been secured.

Over the past few weeks, coalition forces have focused their efforts in NW Iraq, in the region around Tal Afar. During operations in Tal Afar, 157 insurgents were killed and nearly 600 were captured. According to coalition commanders in the region, the insurgency has been effectively flushed from the region.

Once Tal Afar and Rutbah were secured, coalition forces stepped-up their efforts along the Euphrates Valley, in an effort to disrupt the rat line established by the insurgency. The rat line stretches from Qaim at the Syrian border, through Hiditha, all the way to Fallujah (just west of Baghdad). This is the insurgencies main supply line from Syria.

A series of three operations along the Euphrates valley was launched: Operation Mountaineer in the region around Ramadi, Operation River Gate in the region around Hiditha, and Operation Iron Fist in the region around Qaim.

Operation Mountaineer, which concluded Tuesday, was essentially a cordon and search operation. A few small arms clashes were reported within the city between insurgents and Iraqi military forces, resulting in the deaths of seven terrorists. Coalition forces cleared out a neighborhood in the southern end of the city, and uncovered a fairly large weapons cache. In addition, they secured a railroad bridge across the Euphrates that was being used for weapons smuggling. An Iraqi army batallion currently maintains a presence in the city, and Iraqi security forces are working to secure the area.

Operation River Gate is focused in the region surrounding Hiditha. The region serves as a major hub for distributing weapons and supplies procured by smuggling operation across the Syrian border. River Gate began with nighttime strikes on three bridges spanning the Eupharates, hampering the insurgencies ability to flee the city. As of Wednesday, six insurgents have been killed and over 100 have been captured. The ability of the insurgents to move about the area has been severely hampered. The operation is ongoing.

Operation Iron Fist is focused on the region around Qaim, near the Syrian border. Of particular interest are the small towns surrounding Qaim, such as Sada. The insurgency has been intimidating the locals and forcing them to leave town. The small towns are being used as bases for insurgency attacks against coalition forces. After three days of fighting, the Marines have cleared Sada and have taken the battle to Karabilah, where the insurgents have major support. To date, 42 terrorists have been killed. The goal of the coalition is not to occupy these small towns, but rather to clear them out and install Iraqi security forces to disrupt the insurgency’s ability to plan and carry out operations. This will have the effect of putting a stranglehold on the insurgents occupying Qaim. Once the security forces are in place, the coalition will focus on clearing and occupying Qiam, and thereby securing the Syrian border.

The occupation of the Qiam region and the securing of the bridges in the Hiditha region also limits the ability of the insurgent to move throughout the region. In effect, all traffic north and south of the Euphrates is now funneled through the Rawah region where the coalition has a strong presence.

Thus far, the Operations along the Euphrates Valley have been very successful. The insurgency’s bases in Western Iraq have largely been disrupted, and the supply line along the Euphrates Valley from Syria is being choked off. These events are all coming together at a critical time for Iraq. The referendum on the Constitution is fast approaching. Under the present circumstances, it will be difficult for the insurgents to carry out their plans in disrupting the referendum.


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