Morning Report: September 9, 2007

Operation Lightning Hammer II. Bill Roggio at The Long War Journal:
With Operation Lightning Hammer II underway in Iraq’s north, the provinces of Ninewa and Salahadin are a major focus of the latest offensive. Over half of the troops allotted to Lightning Hammer II are operating in Mosul, Tal Afar, and a region known as the Za'ab triangle in northern Salahadin province. Most of the troops conducting offensive operations in Ninewa and northern Salahadin are Iraqis.

“The Za'ab triangle is the main effort for our operations,” said Col. Stephen Twitty, the commander of the 4th Infantry Brigade, 1st Calvary Division during a Pentagon press briefing on September 7. Twitty runs the battlespace in Ninewa province, and recently assumed command of segments of northern Salahadin province in support of Lightning Hammer II. “[The Za'ab triangle] is an area that has seen very little coalition presence in previous months.” The Za’ab triangle is delineated by the Tigris River and Ninewa, Irbil, and Kirkuk provinces, and has served as an al Qaeda safe haven.

Twitty is executing Gen. David Petraeus’ counterinsurgency doctrine of clear, hold and build in the north. “As we destroy safe havens in the area, we're setting conditions for permanent presence in the Za'ab for coalition and Iraqi security forces by establishing Iraqi police stations and checkpoints to cut off the terrorists from freedom of movement,” he said. Iraqi and US forces killed 25 terrorists and detained over 50 since the operation began on September 5.

Roggio adds that 'The operation in this region is Iraqi manpower intensive, as only four US battalions (about 3,000 troops) are supporting the two divisions of Iraqi troops from the 2nd and 3rd Iraqi Army Divisions. Overall, 20,000 Iraqi Army and 20,000 Iraqi Police operate in Ninewa province with support of a single US brigade. Ninewa province is set to transfer to Iraqi provincial control in October 2007. With concurrent operations underway in neighboring Kirkuk and Diyala provinces, as well as in Baghdad and the Belts, al Qaeda’s ability to reorganize and regroup is limited. Al Qaeda in Iraq has increasingly found it difficult to pull off “spectacular” mass-casualty suicide attacks inside Baghdad and in the major cities, while the level of violence overall in Iraq has dropped. ...'

Yezidi bombing mastermind reported killed. And speaking of mass-casualty attacks, Abu Mohammed al-Afri, who plotted the recent massacre of over 400 Yezidis in northern Iraq, is dead: 'A U.S. air strike killed a senior al Qaeda militant who masterminded truck bombings on Iraq's minority Yazidi community last month that killed more than 400 people, the military said on Sunday. "On September 3, a coalition air strike killed the terrorist responsible for the planning and conducting of the horrific attack against the Yazidis in northern Iraq on August 14," military spokesman Rear Admiral Mark Fox told a news conference. Iraq's government has put the death toll at 411 from the suicide bombings, although the Iraqi Red Crescent has said it could be more than 500.' The terrorist, named as Abu Mohammad al-Afri and identified as an associate of Abu Ayyab al-Masri (the leader of Al-Qaeda in Iraq), was killed in an air strike southwest of Mosul.

Big Pharaoh, Sandmonkey are back. Morning Report joins The Bald-Headed Geek in celebrating the return of Sandmonkey and Big Pharaoh. BP's latest post looks at recent reports of radical islamist mosques in Britain. The Pharaoh adds:
I’ll never forget the first time I visited London around 9 years ago. My jaws dropped when I saw such hardliners coming out of almost every mosque I passed by. Men dressed in white robes with very long beards and women all covered in black. I just couldn’t believe I was in London. The scene was so weird and strange to me. I was even more shocked when I heard several of these hardliners preach in London’s Speakers’ Corner. It was such an ironic scene: medieval rhetoric in one of Europe’s sumbols of freedom and civilization.

Anyway, I believe the responsibility to root out these people falls on the Muslim community in Britain. Unfortunately, the community is busy blaming everyone else and playing victim.

Commentary. Although I'm a bit late linking it, I want to give you The Middle Ground's latest post on Iraq:
As soon as the British rolled out of the JSS (Joint Security Station) in Basra, the Mahdi Army took up residence, displacing the police that may have been Badr Brigade or simply highly infiltrated with Sadr's Mahdis. According the Christian Science Monitor, a series of assassinations in the south have included a police chief and governor from Diwanyah on August 18, 2007 and the Governor of Muthanna on August 20, Four of Al Sistani's aides have been killed since June.

Not that these attacks are new by any means. It is simply that the wind down of the Sunni insurgency and Al Qaeda attacks, along with the bold assassination of elected officials, has started the media looking back at an area that has been ignored as "pacified" under the British. As CSM notes, these southern provinces are "economically vital" since they include Iraq's major oil and natural gas fields, the southern ports for import and export of goods and energy resources and several provinces that are part of the agrarian belts that provide Iraq with its food from cattle to wheat fields.

Even as the Shi'ites have sought to present a "united" front to gain and keep control of the Iraqi parliament, the southern half of Iraq has been contested by various Shi'ite groups since the overthrow of Saddam's regime. Not only is it economically important, but it has the largest population base. This is an important factor in deciding the political make up and control of the government of Iraq. ...

Read the rest of this long but highly informative article at the link.