The Triangle of Death: The End of Zarqawi?
The Belfast Telegraph has some interesting tidbits about Operation Plymouth Rock, the offensive through the Latifiyah, Mahmudiyah and Yusufiya triangle: "Lieutenant Colonel Mark Smith, the commander of the 2nd Battalion based at Mahmudiyah, said: "We have insurgents returning home from Fallujah and finding us on the way. With Fallujah over, the action has moved here. This is now the most dangerous place in Iraq. Increasingly, we are coming up against Zarqawi's people; they are better armed and better trained." "Lt-Col Smith had just returned from an all-night operation, and still had camouflage paint on his face. The raid, on a farm, followed information that Zarqawi was hiding there. They did not find him, but, Lt-Col Smith said, they caught two senior militant leaders." "We have had lots of engagements and we have killed a lot. We keep on getting reports that Zarqawi is in this area. If he is we shall find him and we shall capture or kill him." More: "Lieutenant Michael Loring Mayne, who was involved in the battle at Yusufiyah, said: "What is very noticeable is that we are coming across well-trained fighters. In Yusufiyah they carried out a fighting withdrawal. That is not easy; it needs skill and discipline. We faced some pretty fierce and sustained fire and some of it was at pretty close quarters, some of my guys were pretty badly hurt." The 2nd Battalion mentioned is probably 2nd Battalion, 24th Marine Regiment, a reserve unit from the midwest, apparently attached to the 24th MEU. The battalion landing team for the 24th MEU is 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, from Camp Lejeune, NC. Here's an in-depth piece on Col Ron Johnson, the Commanding Officer of the 24th MEU. Interesting, but of course, the anti-war tone is ubiquitous in the British press, and this story is no exception. UPDATE: A reader has asked my opinion of the fighting withdrawal. This is referring to a tactical withdrawal, not an operational one. For example, the relocation of a large group of insurgents from Fallujah to the Trianlge of Death could be termed an operational movement (displacement, or withdrawal). But this context implies an insurgent defense of a particular piece of terrain, followed by a fighting withdrawal to another piece of terrain, or town nearby. The fact that they are fighting while moving means they have more skill than average; the fact that they are moving means we are hurting them enough to make them do so, certainly good news.