COMBAT OUTPOST RAWAH, Iraq — U.S. and Iraqi forces’ efforts to disrupt the insurgency in western Anbar province include clearing a town believed to be a terrorist staging area and hunting for oil pirates, officials said Saturday.
Troops cleared suspected insurgents from Kubaysah, a town of 24,000, building a 10-foot-high berm that runs for five miles, according to a Multi-National Corps-Iraq news release.
Kubaysah became a known staging ground for insurgents after a February military operation drove them from Hit, a city about 15 miles away, officials say.
The effort was aimed at clearing and controlling Kubaysah to deny the insurgency its continued use, the release said.
Besides Iraqi security forces, the effort involved soldiers of the Army’s Task Force 2nd Battalion, 7th Infantry, part of Regimental Combat Team-2.
It came as part of Operation Mawtini, which began July 15 with the aim of tripping up the insurgency in western Anbar and impeding a summer surge in attacks.
Mawtini has resulted in the detention of 124 suspected insurgents and turned up what the military said were weapons caches, including one with 160 gallons of nitric acid rigged for detonation.
Elsewhere in western Anbar, U.S. troops Wednesday night mounted a reconnaissance foray into a large desert tract northeast of Rutbah to gauge whether oil pirates have been operating in the area, said Marine Capt. Mike Blackford of the 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion. Blackford is commanding officer of the battalion’s Company C, known as the “War Pigs.”
Blackford said RCT-2 had developed intelligence indicating oil pirates might have been operating in the area, and also may have been using an abandoned Iraqi airfield about 28 miles northeast of Rutbah to stage equipment and hold planning sessions.
Marines of the 1 LAR Battalion, Marine tanks of Company B, 1st Tank Battalion, and soldiers of the Army’s 2nd Battalion 7th Infantry sealed off an area of about 2,100-square miles and swept it for oil pirates. Marine aircraft supported the operation.
Armored vehiclesscouted the area for evidence of oil trucks, weapons, and any other indications of oil piracy in the area.
“The intent was to confirm or deny” whether the area was an operating base for oil pirates, Blackford said.
“I think we found that it’s probably not used to the level that the regiment believed it was,” he said.
But he said the time the RCT-2 troops spent scouring the area had gained them “a good knowledge of the ground we’re fighting on.”
During the operation the troops found 90 rounds of tank ammunition and a small quantity of machine-gun rounds, Blackford said.
It could not be determined whether the ammunition was part of insurgent weapons caches or perhaps former stocks from the nearby Iraqi airfield.