Tall Afar, Iraq:
After spending the night in abandoned homes, the more than 5,000 U.S. and Iraqi troops who had swept into the northern city of Tall Afar awoke Saturday morning to broadcasts from mosques calling residents to fight the invasion.
But the troops met little resistance as they continued raiding houses Saturday to gather information about the insurgents who have controlled large parts of the city for nearly a year.
In one of the few pockets of fighting, insurgents fired seven rocket-propelled grenades at U.S. tanks from adjacent buildings in the western neighborhood of Qadisiyah. A U.S. jet destroyed much of the block with a 500-pound satellite-guided bomb, commanders said. Soldiers also destroyed at least half a dozen roadside bombs and discovered a large cache of artillery rounds hidden in one of the many lush valleys that divide the city.
The methodical campaign to eliminate resistance and shut down the supply routes keeping the insurgents and terrorists in action continues. The operations in Tall Afar are pretty significant, given the city’s location on a major road between Mosul and the Syrian border and the history of insurgent strength in the area.
It was estimated that several hundred insurgents were holed up in the city and that they’d fight tenaciously. That things have been pretty calm so far might mean that intel was wrong, that the insurgents melted away before we could pin them down, or that they’re simply preparing to go out in a blaze of glory. Regardless, gaining solid control of this location should greatly aid efforts to stabilize the region and should provide some trickle-down benefits as insurgents and terrorists in other parts of Iraq lose a good source of supplies and personnel. If we’re able to kill or capture a fair number of bad guys, so much the better.
Two little things jumped out at me in this article. First,
Soldiers from Blue Platoon, stationed in the northeastern neighborhood of Qadra, were awake hours before dawn, cleaning their weapons with steel-bristled brushes and WD-40.
WD-40? I’ve been wondering what, if anything came of the reports from the days of the invasion about complaints over the CLP issued. At the time, an alternative called Mili-Tec was mentioned prominently. What ever became of this?
And then there’s this:
The soldiers also interviewed residents for information about insurgent activity, but a shortage of interpreters complicated their efforts. The platoon, divided into two sections, shared a lone interpreter throughout the day.
Now, on the surface, one interpreter per platoon doesn’t seem too bad. But in this sort of operation, it certainly seems you’d want an awful lot more. It could literally mean the difference between victory and draw in the city. We need to figure our where the enemy is, and we need to be sure that people we’re letting go aren’t them. That’s pretty hard to do when you can’t communicate.
The lack of interpreters has long plagued our troops. I know you can’t just snap your fingers and get skilled, trusted interpreters. But I certainly hope we’re doing an awful lot (including offering an awful lot of money) for more of them.
UPDATE: Things have picked up a bit in Tall Afar:
In three days of fighting, as many as 200 insurgents have been killed, McMaster said. Two U.S. and four Iraqi soldiers have been wounded, none seriously.
Elsewhere Sunday in Tall Afar, an Iraqi army unit freed 35 hostages held in a house south of downtown, according to Maj. Gen. Khorsheed Salim, commander of the army’s 3rd Division, which is heavily involved in the operation.
Soldiers in the western part of the city found a laboratory rigged with explosives, McMaster said. The lab also contained a chemical that burned the troops’ throats and eyes when they entered. The Army is trying to identify the substance.