Thursday, June 21, 2007

"Our Guys Want to Kill Them, And That's the Plan"

In the very first battle of the much-heralded surge, Operation Arrowhead Ripper, Michael Yon is one of two journalists actually reporting from the battle started by 10,000 American troops against an al-Qaeda stronghold northeast of Baghdad.

The enemy in Baqubah is as good as any in Iraq, and better than most. That’s saying a lot. But our guys have been systematically trapping them, and have foiled some big traps set for our guys. I don’t want to say much more about that, but our guys are seriously outsmarting them. Big fights are ahead and we will take serious losses probably, but al Qaeda, unless they find a way to escape, are about to be slaughtered. Nobody is dropping leaflets asking them to surrender. Our guys want to kill them, and that’s the plan.
Yon, an independent, is among the best reporters in Iraq and unarguably the finest writer resident. He's made a practice of embedding with the troops in action rather than remoting from the Green Zone, the habit of most of the "on-site" reporters. He was the first to report, more than a year ago, that Iraq had devolved into civil war because of the vacuum our lapses in judgment had created. He was among the first to identify Gen. Petraeus as a man with solutions. He was first to identify success in Anbar province earlier this year, success even The New York Times eventually recognized.
In the short time since Petraeus took charge here, Anbar Province—“Anbar the Impossible”—seems to have made a remarkable turnaround. I just spent about a month out there and saw no combat. I have never gone that long in Iraq without seeing combat. Clearly, some areas of Anbar remain dangerous—there is fighting in Fallujah today—but there is also something in Anbar today that hasn’t been seen in recent memory: possibilities.
Now he reports
The doctor (Petraeus) has made a decision: Al Qaeda must be excised. That means a large-scale attack, and what appears to be the most widespread combat operations since the end of the ground war are now unfolding.


Few ears have heard even rumors of this battle, and fewer still are the eyes that will see its full scope. Even now—the battle has already begun for some—practically no news about it is flowing home. I’ve known of the secret plans for about a month, but have remained silent.

This campaign is actually a series of carefully orchestrated battalion- and brigade-sized battles. Collectively, it is probably the largest battle since “major hostilities” ended more than four years ago. Even the media here on the ground do not seem to have sensed its scale.


The idea this time is not to chase al-Qaeda out, but to trap and kill them head-on, or in ambushes, or while they sleep. It will be horrible for al-Qaeda. Horror and terrorism is what they say, and tonight they will reap their harvest. They will get no rest.

This is the end of whack-a-mole warfare.

"Our guys want to kill them, and that's the plan."

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