We seem to have flushed many insurgents out of Fallujah, but predictably they’re showing up in other parts of Iraq:
Two Fort Lewis soldiers were killed Saturday in Mosul, Iraq, when insurgents attacked another Stryker patrol, once again firing from a mosque, a U.S. commander said.
Stryker troops responding to the ambush routed and killed an undetermined number of the gunmen, said Col. Robert Brown, commander of the Fort Lewis-based 1st Brigade, 25th Infantry Division.
They found weapons and ammunition in the mosque and in a nearby hospital, he said.
Four other Stryker soldiers were wounded and taken to a field hospital, officials in Mosul said late Saturday night. No other information was immediately available.
The attack followed Friday’s running battle in which Stryker troops killed at least 22 fighters who ambushed them along a main highway and from another mosque in western Mosul.
“We were really feeling good about that,” Brown said of Friday’s outcome. “Then today we lose two guys. It’s tough.”
Brown, in an interview with The News Tribune on Saturday, said the fighters his men have battled the past few days are likely foreigners or from other parts of Iraq. They appeared to be better trained than the local insurgents they typically encounter, he said. And residents told U.S. and Iraqi forces that the fighters weren’t from the area.
“We could tell from watching their movements,” Brown said. “The local guys hop out of a car and spray their AK-47s like they don’t know what they’re doing. These guys got out and moved like soldiers.”
He said Iraqi commandos working with the Stryker troops said the insurgents were likely from Syria, Yemen and other neighboring Arab countries.
Most of what I’ve read seems to indicate that we captured/killed fewer foreign fighters in Fallujah than we were expecting. While this might mean that there are fewer foreign fighters in Iraq than I’ve thought, I think it probably means that most of the more-experienced foreign jihadists felt the change in the wind and got out of the city before we closed it off, leaving the poorly-trained and -equipped green native recruits to slug it out with the US Military and New Iraq Army.
I expect that December will be a slightly quieter month, casualty-wise, as the insurgents marshall their forces, regroup after what had to be a significant setback at Fallujah, and finalize their plans to turn January into month of hell. The insurgents will focus on hitting softer targets like police stations and daycare centers for a few weeks, then make a major push in the weeks leading up the elections at the end of next month.
We need to weather the storm. Iraqis need to hunker down and demonstrate that they are determined to forge ahead with democracy despite violent opposition. To back down now would signal that violence is indeed the answer to the nagging problem of 21st-Century reality versus 11th-Century thinking. To delay the elections, even for six months, would set back the bigger picture at least a year or two.
The month preceding the elections are going to be filled with bloody carnage, whether it’s next month, next summer, or next year.
The push into Fallujah cost 71 American lives. That’s a terrible toll. But how many lives, American and otherwise, might have been saved between April and November if we had gone in in force last spring? (I realize that the political reality at the time made it tough to do such a thing. I don’t think the factors that worked against us then are still against us now when discussing elections.) Maybe 25? 50? I’m just guessing, but I think it’s probably more than that.
And in the end we had to go in anyway.
January is going to cost us more blood. It’s going to cost the Iraqis more blood. But it will cost our enemies far, far more blood. And when it’s over Iraq will have elected a new government. That’s what this is all about.
If we let the bloodshed of the next sixty days deter us from our goal, that bloodshed will have been in vain. Because we will just have to ramp up for elections again in July or the fall or next year, and the months leading up to THAT election will be filled with more of the same bloodshed.
The only other alternative would be to disengage from the rebuilding of Iraq completely. That might save a few American lives in the short run, but it’s a recipe for disaster in the longer run. And not that much longer, even.
(There’s more good info in the article. Go check it out.)