Securing the population of Baqubah

Washington Post:

U.S. and Iraqi troops have "seized control" of the western side of the embattled city of Baqubah, but 100 or more insurgents remain in the city and at least that many likely escaped, the American brigade commander here said Monday. "We're on our way to securing the population of Baqubah, which is what we came here to do," said U.S. Army Col. Steve Townsend, the commander of the 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division.

At the same time, Townsend warned of coming attacks as the Sunni insurgent group al-Qaeda in Iraq assesses the vulnerabilities of Operation Arrowhead Ripper, one of several operations U.S. commanders have launched in areas ringing Baghdad.

The push launched June 19 by about 10,000 U.S. and Iraqi soldiers has uncovered a wide variety of explosives along roads and in booby-trapped houses. Despite initial skirmishes, the Americans have not encountered the type of deadly resistance that made Baqubah such a perilous place for U.S. soldiers in recent months. One U.S. soldier has died in the operation and 18 others have been wounded, with all but two returning to duty.

Col. David Sutherland, a brigade commander, formerly oversaw Baqubah, where al-Qaeda in Iraq fighters have driven out many Shiites. Sutherland said the insurgent response was familiar. The group's fighters tended to avoid confrontations when he sent in forces in large numbers but would use guerrilla tactics to target more vulnerable patrols or outposts.

...

"The airplanes have been shooting all the houses and people are getting scared, so they ran away," said Amer Hussein Jasm, 28.

"My neighbor, he is innocent, and they shot his house anyway," another man said.

First Lt. Andy Moffit, 28, appealed to the men.

"Our planes can blow up this whole city. They have that capability," he said. "If we didn't care about you guys, we wouldn't place ourselves in danger walking around trying to separate the bad guys from the good guys. When you guys tell us where the bad guys are, you keep innocent people from being hurt.

"They don't care about you guys," he went on, referring to the insurgents. "They like to take your children and put bombs around them and have them blow up Americans. They do horrible things to the women. You don't have to like us. That's not important to me. The important thing is that you care about your city and you come together. If you do that, then the job is done and we can go home."

The men stared for a while, then had questions.

"When are you guys going to finish clearing and let us go back home?" said Abdullah Alwan, 55. "We are tired. Someone could shoot me right now."

"I'm tired with you," Moffit said.

...

The troops found at least 45 water heaters stocked with homemade explosives and 21 houses rigged to explode. U.S. military officials also say they have uncovered al-Qaeda in Iraq torture chambers, a courthouse where they believe insurgents passed down their version of Islamic justice and a grave containing five corpses.

...

There are several lessons in this story. The first is having an adequate force to space ratio actually results in fewer people being killed on both sides. Overwhelming force discourages resistance. The enemy recognizes his position is hopeless.

The other lesson is contained the dialog with the locals who were complaining about houses being destroyed. The lieutenant explained just how careful our forces are acting to clear the enemy and that if we did not care about the safety of the Iraqis it would be much easier and safer for the Americans to blow up the whole town. That is a lesson that the anti war left needs to comprehend as well as the terrorist rights groups posing as human rights activist. If they really had an interest in human rights they would be on the side of our troops who are freeing these people from the terrorist.

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