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April 30, 2007

Taliban Spring Offensive Gets Off To Shaky Start; Coaches Begin Calling 2007 A "Rebuilding Year"

Damn, you hate to see that. And they had such high hopes after the draft and some off-season trades.

Dropping to 200ft, [the Apache] swooped close to the motorcyclists - and the two men could not believe their luck: some of the passengers were holding the parts of a long-barrelled heavy machine-gun.

Six of the bikes slewed to a stop, their passengers leaping off and aiming their weapons at the helicopter in what appeared to be a well-practised drill, while the others took off across country. The Apache banked away to begin its attack run.

"Some of them were trying to get the heavy machine-gun up a small hill to engage us," Lt Denton said. "Capt Staley used the 30mm gun to take out the two guys who had taken off, and then we fixed on the ones with the heavy machine-gun. They were huddled around a large boulder and we shot them. We put as many rounds around it as we could, because if they got to it they could cause us trouble. But they never had a chance to set it up."

*** After the shooting stopped, 12 Taliban were confirmed dead.

American commanders believe that the uncompromising use of airpower in recent weeks has been a key factor in preventing the Taliban from launching their expected full-scale spring offensive against coalition forces and forcing them to rethink their tactics.

Another report on our devastating use of aerial firepower here, with a video report (sadly consisting of photo stills, but still nice).

American helicopters seem to be less dominating in Iraq -- largely because terrorists are armed with rockets capable of knocking them out.

Question: If Iraq is only a sideshow, at best, in the War on Terror, why is it that Al Qaeda and its state sponsors like Iran are flooding Iraq with lethal helo-killing armaments, rather than Osama bin Ladin's home base of Afghanistan?

Via Small Dead Animals, with Fred Kagan's take on the war in Iraq -- the Iraqi army is more and more standing up on its own. A bit wobbly at times, but getting there.

And not even the NYT can ignore the increasing progress in Anbar province:

Anbar Province, long the lawless heartland of the tenacious Sunni Arab resistance, is undergoing a surprising transformation. Violence is ebbing in many areas, shops and schools are reopening, police forces are growing and the insurgency appears to be in retreat.

“Many people are challenging the insurgents,” said the governor of Anbar, Maamoon S. Rahid, though he quickly added, “We know we haven’t eliminated the threat 100 percent.”

Many Sunni tribal leaders, once openly hostile to the American presence, have formed a united front with American and Iraqi government forces against Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia. With the tribal leaders’ encouragement, thousands of local residents have joined the police force. About 10,000 police officers are now in Anbar, up from several thousand a year ago. During the same period, the police force here in Ramadi, the provincial capital, has grown from fewer than 200 to about 4,500, American military officials say.

At the same time, American and Iraqi forces have been conducting sweeps of insurgent strongholds, particularly in and around Ramadi, leaving behind a network of police stations and military garrisons, a strategy that is also being used in Baghdad, Iraq’s capital, as part of its new security plan.

...

The insurgency in Anbar — a mix of Islamic militants, former Baathists and recalcitrant tribesmen — still thrives among the province’s overwhelmingly Sunni population, killing American and Iraqi security forces and civilians alike...

Furthermore, some American officials readily acknowledge that they have entered an uncertain marriage of convenience with the tribes, some of whom were themselves involved in the insurgency, to one extent or another. American officials are also negotiating with elements of the 1920 Revolution Brigades, a leading insurgent group in Anbar, to join their fight against Al Qaeda.

These sudden changes have raised questions about the ultimate loyalties of the United States’ new allies. “One day they’re laying I.E.D.’s, the next they’re police collecting a pay check,” said Lt. Thomas R. Mackesy, an adviser to an Iraqi Army unit in Juwayba, east of Ramadi, referring to improvised explosive devices.

...

Still, the progress has inspired an optimism in the American command that, among some officials, borders on giddiness. It comes after years of fruitless efforts to drive a wedge between moderate resistance fighters and those, like Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, who seem beyond compromise.

“There are some people who would say we’ve won the war out here,” said Col. John. A. Koenig, a planning officer for the Marines who oversees governing and economic development issues in Anbar. “I’m cautiously optimistic as we’re going forward.”


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posted by Ace at 04:20 PM

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