Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Imminent Major Battle in Diyala?

Diyala has arguably become the most dangerous place for both Iraqis and Americans.
The recent crimes of al-Qaeda and affiliated groups in recent months in this province have cost tragic losses among Iraqi civilians, Iraqi security forces and American soldiers.

I haven't found a confirmation of the following news elsewhere but I know al-Sabah is well-informed as it has access to official sources more than any other local news outlet. And I think the editors wouldn't risk their credibility by putting inaccurate information in the front-page story, especially when they're quoting an American officer. Here are the main parts, emphasis added:

After establishing a command center that connects the Provincial council, the city councils and the security forces, Diyala province is about to witness the biggest battle ever to enforce law and bring security.
The purpose of the operations is to rid the province off the militant groups that spread chaos, murdered and displaced the citizens all this time.
The information we have indicate that the authorities will be receive assistance from around a hundred Diyala tribes. These tribes are receiving direct support from the government which is providing them with weapons. The tribes play a remarkable role in watching their neighborhoods and preventing the infiltration of militants at the edges of the province.

Deputy chief of the provincial council of Diyala sheik Dhari Khayon said the battle would be run by Iraqi commanders given the field experience and the knowledge about the terrain of the province they possess. Khayon added that
the concerned authorities have detailed information about the whereabouts of militants and the regions they had declared under the rule of the so called Islamic state in Iraq; these regions include Katoon, New Baqubah, Mafraq, Hadid, Mkheisah, Abukarmah and Jbeinat (all in and around Baqubah) and the villages of Sayyid, Mijadid and Ihaymur (around Khalis) as well as Himbis and Tayih in Miqdadiyah.

Colonel Morris Jones (not sure of the spelling) a battalion commander in the 3rd brigade, 1st Cavalry division which operates in the province confirmed that a group he described as al-Qaeda affiliated insurgents requested negotiations with him.

I'll stop at a few points that were mentioned in this report; first the number of tribes doesn't make sense the way it's presented. I guess the paper is using the word "tribe" for both large tribes and smaller clans.
Second, non-Iraqi elements of al-Qaeda do not negotiate, they either fight or relocate to another region if they see the case is totally lost, so I think the group allegedly seeking negotiations is made of Iraqi insurgents who don't want to be swept along with al-Qaeda. But that really doesn’t change the fact (if true) that they are expecting a serious crackdown that they prefer to not be considered among the very bad guys when the action begins.

Third, and back to the tribes, the tribal coalition of Diyala, generally speaking, might not be as effective as the Anbar salvation and Awakening councils because in Diyala's case the tribes are from both sects, and there is also a considerable Kurdish population in the eastern part, and this means it would be difficult for all those people to agree on a common strategy or to avoid ethnic/sectarian tensions from surfacing among the tribes themselves.

Anyway, the news says the battle is imminent, the details it provided about the positions of the terrorists is interesting and the number of tribes that would be supporting the operations is encouraging; we just have to wait and see how it unfolds.

You can find a previous post, mostly about Diyala, here.

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