In a statement for the al-Qaeda linked "Shura Council of Mujahideen" in response to operation Swarmer, the terror group predicts this operation to be a failure "just like all previous operations".
What I noticed in this particular statement is the tone which came significantly calm when compared with similar statement during equally large offensives like in Fallujah or Tal Afar when the terrorists even threatened to use unconventional weapons and promised to "make the earth shake beneath the infidels".
This time the comment of al-Qaeda was as if the operation represented little if any threat to their men and assets.
So what's really happening? Is Swarmer a mere political theater? Show business? Professional military quest? Or what?
Through my humble military knowledge, the participating force is way larger than the size of the assaulted targets. All we heard from US or Iraqi officials about accomplished objectives was the capture of 50 or 60 suspects (no big names or top ranking al-Qaeda leaders), IED making materials, several missiles and 70 lbs of TNT, i.e. almost the everyday finding of weapon caches. Let alone that we didn't see any footage of the reportedly confiscated weapon caches.
(Numbers from a statement for the spokesman of Iraqi defense ministry)
I tend to believe that the primary objective of the operation is to polish the skills of future battalion-size airborne Iraqi units through real-time action against real targets and to move Iraqi forces to the stage where they can take the initiative instead of waiting for the enemy to make the first move.
As the maps show, the area where the operation is taking place is surrounded by a number of medium and large sized US and Iraqi bases and using helicopters in such great numbers is more expensive, complicated and has little advantage over ground transport of troops and you don't really need helicopters to gain the surprise factor when approaching the open plains, semi-desert area takes slightly more than an hour in vehicles from the nearest bases.
But I think Iraqi forces can benefit greatly from this kind of experience given the relatively small number of these troops compared to the area they need to cover which makes air deployment of troops vital for having quick response abilities especially when Iraqi troops are planned to become responsible for security in a growing amount of territory over time.
I also suspect there are other two possible dimensions for the operation; one deals with morale and the other is a long-term military plan to cut the lines of transportation between the eastern and western areas of action of the insurgency that pass through the rural areas near and around Samarra.
The morale dimension can be summarized in the fact that the security forces in charge (US and Iraq) are asked to take action that can antagonize the threat represented here by the terrorists' attack on the golden dome mosque of Samarra that gave rise to great tension on the streets and jeopardized the unity of the country.
The government promised to respond to the challenge and catch the perpetrators and I tend to think that the operation is targeting the suspected bases used by the group that blew up the mosque.
If the troops do have this objective in their mission brief, then I think there's a good chance to get this particular terror group busted.
Even if the last part is not among the objectives, hearing a better evaluation of the performance of the participating Iraqi troops will be enough reward.