Members of the 2nd Brigade, 25th Infantry will begin leaving for Iraq within the next few weeks. They will replace the Stryker unit that’s been in Iraq since the end of last year. The last I heard, the plan was still to leave the Stryker vehicles in Iraq and to only swap out the men in order to speed the process.
The Stryker Brigade had things pretty much in hand when it left Samarra early in the year for the Mosul area, but things have deteriorated badly over the past several months:
Samarra, an ancient city of 250,000 known for its 9th century spiral minaret, is controlled by about 500 fighters from three well-known Sunni Muslim rebel groups, according to city residents and the U.S. military.
The insurgents have destroyed police stations and government buildings. The police chief and mayor still live in Samarra, but have lost all authority. The city council president resigned last week after insurgents blew up the council building.
The guerrillas have also kidnapped and executed residents suspected of collaborating with the Americans. With the U.S. military on the city’s outskirts, Samarra’s insurgents slip out of the city to mount their attacks.
Video CDs purchased in Samarra show three local men confessing as American spies. The videos end with statements saying collaborators must be killed. The fate of the men is unknown.
Rather than going back into Samarra and trying to strong-arm the resistance as the Stryker Brigade did at the beginning of the year, the 1st Infantry Division units in the area are hoping that Iraqi officials can negotiate a peace settlement with the insurgents, most of whom seem to be Baath-party holdovers.
The rebels are members of three large insurgent outfits: Jordanian terror suspect Abu Musab al-Zarqawi’s Tawhid and Jihad, another umbrella group called Mohammed’s Army, as well as Ansar al-Sunna, the insurgent coalition that has taken responsibility for numerous suicide bombings and other attacks, including Tuesday’s execution of 12 Nepalese hostages.
Shortly after the Stryker Brigade left Samarra, security there was turned over to Iraqi forces. Although Iraqi troops have been performing better as of late, it was a pretty rough spring and summer for them and it’s not surprising that things got out of hand again.
In Tal Afar, west of Mosul, yesterday, a Kiowa helicopter was forced to make an emergency landing during some fighting. It isn’t clear what the cause was, but the crew escaped safely. A Stryker vehicle moved in to secure the landing site and was apparently disabled.
U.S. intelligence believes Tal Afar is being used as a haven by insurgents smuggling men and arms into Iraq from nearby Syria. It opted to launch the Saturday operation in a bid to flush them out, the military said.
Meanwhile, Darth Sadr is still a servant of the Dark Side:
The cleric’s public statements and subsequent actions have often been at odds and nothing in Friday’s sermon suggested he was planning to immediately resume hostilities. But its inflammatory tone did nothing to calm the tension between his fighters and the U.S. and Iraqi militaries.
“Many, but not all, think that the American army is invincible. But now it’s appeared only truth is invincible,” Sheik Jaber al-Khafaji, said in a statement read on al-Sadr’s behalf. “America claims to control the world through globalization, but it couldn’t do the same with the Mahdi Army.”
Last week’s accord that ended three weeks of fighting between U.S. forces and al-Sadr militiamen in Kufa’s twin city of Najaf gave the interim government control of that city. It also disentangled U.S. forces from bitter street fighting.
Al-Sadr portrayed the American withdrawal from Najaf’s devastated Old City as a sign of U.S. military weakness. “We should keep in mind the lessons of what happened in Najaf,” the cleric’s statement said.
I’ve long debated with those who claim “the Muslim mind only understands violence”, but al-Sadr’s words and actions over the past year certainly seem to make the point of those who think annihilation is the answer.
Remember when Darth Vader’s TIE Fighter was sent spinning out of control off into space at the end of STAR WARS? The Death Star was destroyed and the Rebel base was saved, but Vader eventually got his fighter back under control. That’s exactly what Darth Sadr is trying to do right now. We’ll have to see if he tries to strike back.
To be continued.