U.S., Iraqi forces launch operation aimed at expanding security zones
American and Iraqi forces have launched a “major operation” in Ramadi designed to expand security zones in the contested city, officials said Monday.
The operation focuses on western Ramadi and includes troops from Task Force 1-9 Infantry and Iraqi police and soldiers. It is the fourth such large-scale clearing operation conducted in the city since February, officials said, and aims to create a permanent presence of Iraqi and American troops where there previously was none.
“This operation will benefit the people of Ramadi by establishing security and providing basic services and necessities,” U.S. Army Col. John Charlton, commander of 1st Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, said in a news release. “[Al-Qaida] has intimidated the people of Ramadi through murder, kidnapping and the destruction of their city. The Sons of Anbar are here to establish and maintain security,” Charlton said, referring to Iraqi troops specifically recruited in and deployed in the province.
Other U.S. military officials were quick to say that the operation was not a “Fallujah-style” battle for the city. In that large operation, civilians were cleared from the city and American troops battled insurgents house-to-house in pitched fighting.
According to an Australian television news crew embedded with U.S. forces in Ramadi, the new operation targets the al-Iskan district of the city and included Apache attack helicopters. The report quoted Army Maj. Dave Christensen as saying there had been several troops wounded already, including two Americans and two Iraqis. One Iraqi police officer was reported killed.
Ramadi, long one of the centers of the Sunni insurgency in western Iraq, falls under the Army’s 1st Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division. But, the troops in the city are a mix of Army, Marines and Navy personnel, including many special operations units.
Before February, the city and its surrounding areas fell under the Germany-based 1st Brigade, 1st Armored Division. That brigade has been credited with a grinding, determined effort to establish combat outposts in territory previously ceded to the insurgents.