Sunday, September 04, 2005


In typical fashion, the Iraqi insurgents control an area, then leave a token force behind when attacked by Americans to insure the escape of a larger force:


In the largest urban assault since the siege of Fallujah last November, more than 5,000 U.S. and Iraqi troops entered this northern city before dawn Friday. But the 45-minute firefight at day's end suggested that the insurgents who have controlled much of Tall Afar for almost a year would not relinquish it easily.


One year ago this month, U.S. and Iraqi forces stormed into the city after a series of roadside bomb attacks on their supply convoys. But soon after that offensive -- in a pattern repeated elsewhere in Iraq -- the bulk of the troops withdrew from the region, leaving about 500 behind to police a vast swath of northwestern Iraq, including Tall Afar and a more than 100-mile stretch of the Syrian border.

By the end of October, the insurgents had returned, stronger than ever and with more foreign fighters backing them. They quickly reasserted control over the city through intimidation -- kidnappings and beheadings -- and a highly effective campaign aimed at persuading Tall Afar's majority Sunni Turkmens that the U.S. operation was directed at them.

"The September operation basically made people angry, which the insurgents were able to take advantage of," said Maj. Bob Molinari, 35, of Fort Carson, Colo., the planning officer for the 3rd Armored Cavalry, which was shifted from Baghdad in late April as the situation here deteriorated. The offensive "had the opposite effect than was intended. We created a power vacuum and they filled it."



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