Isolating the enemy in Ramadi

Stars & Stripes:

As far as Capt. Justin Michel is concerned, Entry Control Point Eight is the roughest intersection in town.

A heavily fortified checkpoint on Ramadi’s eastern edge, ECP-8 is the kind of barren, shell-pocked outpost that makes a visitor walk a double-time zigzag for fear of snipers, or clench his gut in anticipation of falling mortar rounds.

In the past four months, this key entryway into Ramadi has been struck by what Michel called two “particularly nasty” car bombs and has suffered numerous attacks by snipers, rocket-propelled grenades and mortars.

In the first week alone, Michel’s Company A, 1st Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment endured daily attacks as U.S. and Iraqi soldiers and engineers struggled to fortify the checkpoint with more than 30,000 sandbags, nearly 2,000 feet of razor wire and 200 concrete barriers.

“This place is something else,” said Michel, 42, of West Point, Miss. “We put an awful lot of work into it.”

As U.S. and Iraqi army troops wage a renewed campaign to rid Ramadi of insurgents, fortified checkpoints like ECP-8 have become critical weapons in the monthslong battle. By securing major thoroughfares into and out of Ramadi, U.S. and Iraqi army commanders say they have been able to isolate insurgents within the city by cutting off or substantially reducing their supply of weapons, as well as their freedom of movement.

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That is how you defeat an enemy using a raiding strategy. A raiding strategy depends on the ability to move freely and retreat quickly after an attaack. These check points make that much more difficult. It is the classic way to defeat the raider and it appears to be working in /ramadi, however, the city could benefit from more such checkpoints and patrols. Ultimately yoy have to have a force to space ratio sufficient to cut off the movement. For much of the time in the last year, Ramadi has lacked a sufficient force to space ratio. This results in more casualties for both sides and prolongs the war.

This story at USA Today points out the lack of adequate forces in Ramadi that contributes to the problem.

These days, the main focus of U.S. and Iraqi military efforts is in Baghdad, where militias and death squads threaten to destabilize a fragile government. Thousands of U.S. and Iraqi troops are pouring into Baghdad to reinforce the 52,000 already there.

It's getting less attention, but a much smaller force is working to subdue Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province, where Sunni insurgents are entrenched.

“This is relatively lightly held by coalition and Iraqi forces,” says U.S. Army Col. Sean MacFarland, commander of the brigade responsible for the Ramadi area. “I don't have overwhelming force here.”

The city has about 300 trained and equipped police, though the Iraqi government has authorized a force of 3,000. There are about 2,000 Iraqi troops and several thousand U.S. soldiers in and around the city, which has about 300,000 residents. By contrast, about 12,000 U.S. and Iraqi troops were used to push insurgents out of Fallujah — half the size of Ramadi — in a major offensive in November 2004.

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An inadequate force to space ratio is the problem and it does not look like it will get fixed until after Baghdad is fixed.

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