Friday, June 22, 2007

Operation Phantom Thunder 2

Michael Yon from Baqubah.

The combat in Baqubah should soon reach a peak. Al Qaeda seems to have been effectively isolated. The initial attack on 19 June achieved enough surprise that al Qaeda was caught off guard and trapped. They have been beaten back mostly into pockets and are surrounded and will be dealt with. Part of this is actually due to the capability of Strykers. We were able to “attack from the march.” In other words, a huge force drove in from places like Baghdad and quickly locked down Baqubah.

Our guys are winning. Al Qaeda is about to be strangled and pummeled to death in this town, but the local Iraqi leadership is severely wanting. This was most obviously noted in one area in particular, where there were some slight indicators of a possible humanitarian need. “Crisis” certainly is not the correct word, but there are displaced persons numbering at least in the hundreds. LTC Fred Johnson actually took me out there. (The access even to “bad” news is amazing with this Brigade.)

I wonder which part of all that the BBC will report. No count of civilian casualties, but displaced people can go some way to filling that role.

BTW, his criticism of the Iraqi commanders concerns their reaction (or lack of it) to the humanitarian need. The Americans are fighting; could they possibly transport the stuff that these people need? Evidently, only with difficulty. But the stuff is there.

Later I spoke with Major Jerry Gardner who is in charge of humanitarian needs. Gardner said he has 70,000 kilos each of flour and rice (bought from Iraq), and enough bottled water to keep 5,000 people going for 15 days. He can get three times that amount with a phone call. He’s got about 30,000 MREs, and also a complete “W.H.O. kit” that he says can feed 30,000 people for a month. Gardner said he can get four more kits like that if needed.

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