6 years, 9 months ago
To a significant degree it appears that the Mahdi militia is disappearing from the streets of Basra. Disappearing from the streets is not the same thing as being identified, disarmed and arrested. But at least in Baghdad – and most specifically in Sadr City – their are continuing operations against the Sadrists.
US and Iraqi forces have killed at least 45 insurgents in fierce battles with Shiite fighters in eastern Baghdad over the past 24 hours, the US military said on Monday.
Three US soldiers were also killed in east Baghdad on Monday when they were hit by rocket or mortar fire, the military said.
Earlier, the military said seven “criminals” were killed in the flashpoint Sadr City district of the Iraqi capitalwhen US forces called up an aerial weapons team (AWT) and a M1A2 Abrams Tank after soldiers came under attack with small-arms fire.
Another 38 militiamen were killed on Sunday, including 22 in one of the heaviest clashes in weeks, when militiamen blasted Baghdad’s fortified Green Zone with rockets and mortars, taking advantage of a blinding dust storm that grounded US attack helicopters.
The biggest clash in the day-long battles came at dusk on Sunday when “a large group of criminals engaging with small-arms fire” attacked a security forces checkpoint, a US military statement said.
“US soldiers used 120 mm fire from M1A12 Abrams tanks and small-arms fire to kill … 22 criminals, forcing remaining enemy forces present to retreat,” the military said.
One particular statistic that cries out for robust counterinsurgency is that “More than 712 rockets and mortar rounds have been launched in Baghdad in the past month, according to Maj. Gen. Qassim Atta, an Iraqi army spokesman.” This divides to approximately 24 rounds of ordnance per day being launched within the confines of the city. It isn’t likely that truces and offers of talks will persuade the militia to disarm. Their disarmament will have to be forcible.
There has been speculation that with attention focused on the Mahdi militia, al Qaeda will have a chance to regroup and conduct an offensive. Time engaged in such speculation, using as evidence only a few lone bombings. There has also been speculation that al Qaeda would join forces with the Mahdi militia. The Captain’s Journal judges both of these speculations to be so unlikely that the chances of obtaining are statistically insignificant. The Sadrists and al Qaeda will not be able to get along any more than Ansar al Sunna or the 1920s Brigade could get along with al Qaeda. Furthermore, there is too much history of violence between these two groups, the bombing of the Samarra shrine being one such unforgivable occurrence.
Operations continue against al Qaeda, and on April 28 the Sons of Iraq killed a dozen al qaeda fighters while defending themselves. There has never been a time in the Iraq campaign in which operations against al Qaeda have ceased. The Mahdi militia must be seen as the Shi’a equivalent of al Qaeda rather than a disenfranchised segment of the population. The impoverished in Iraq are not one and the same with the militia.