Thursday, March 16, 2006

BREAKING: U.S. and Iraqi Forces Launch Massive Air Assault in Countryside North of Baghdad

HT: Stop the ACLU via Drudge

Stop the ACLU is following the latest developments of Operation Swarmer, the most massive military air assault in three years:

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) -- In a well-publicized show of force, U.S. and Iraqi forces swept into the countryside north of the capital in 50 helicopters Thursday looking for insurgents in what the American military called its "largest air assault" in nearly three years.

There was no bombing or firing from the air in the offensive northeast of Samarra, a town 60 miles north of Baghdad, the U.S. military said. All 50 aircraft were helicopters - Black Hawks, Apaches and Chinooks - used to ferry in and provide cover for the 1,450 Iraqi and U.S. troops.

The military said the assault - Operation Swarmer - aimed to clear "a suspected insurgent operating area" and would continue over several days.

Residents in the area of the assault reported a heavy U.S. and Iraqi troop presence and said large explosions could be heard in the distance. American forces routinely blow up structures they suspect as insurgent safe-houses or weapons depots. It was not known if they met any resistance, but the military reported detaining 41 people.

Dr. Rusty Shackleford posts the following Department of Defense press release:

Iraqi and coalition forces today launched the largest air assault operation since the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom in southern Salah Ad Din province to clear a suspected insurgent operating area northeast of Samarra, military officials reported.

"Operation Swarmer" began this morning with soldiers from the Iraqi army's 1st Brigade, 4th Division; the U.S. Army 101st Airborne Division's 3rd Brigade Combat Team; and the 101st Combat Aviation Brigade conducting a combined air and ground assault to isolate the objective area, officials said.

Attack and assault aircraft provided aerial weapons support for the operation and also delivered troops from the Iraqi army's 4th Division; the "Rakkasans" from 1st and 3rd Battalions, 187th Infantry Regiment, of the U.S. Army; and the "Hunters" from 2nd Squadron, 9th Cavalry Regiment, U.S. Army, to "multiple objectives" according to a Multinational Force Iraq statement. Forces from Iraq's 2nd Commando Brigade then completed a ground infiltration to secure numerous structures in the area, officials said.

More than 1,500 Iraqi and coalition troops, more than 200 tactical vehicles, and more than 50 aircraft participated in the operation, according to the MNF-I statement.

Initial reports from the objective area indicate that a number of enemy weapons caches -- containing artillery shells, explosives, materials for making homemade bombs, and military uniforms -- have been captured.

The operation is expected to continue for several days as a thorough search of the objective area is conducted, officials said.

Operation Swarmer follows closely the completion of a combined Iraqi and coalition operation west of Samarra in early March that yielded substantial enemy weapons and equipment caches.

The name Swarmer, the MNF-I statement explained, was derived from the name given to the largest peacetime airborne maneuvers ever conducted, in spring 1950 in North Carolina. Soon after this exercise, the 187th Infantry was selected to deploy to Korea as an airborne regimental combat team to provide Gen. Douglas MacArthur with an airborne capability.

Personally, I believe the use of overwhelming force to root out these terrorist cells is long overdue and I hope we'll see more of it in the days ahead. While it's noble to do everything possible to limit civilian casualties to the extent possible, I also think it's important to pull out all the stops and show these thugs exactly who they're dealing with.

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Update 3/17: In the interest of full disclosure, the timestamp does not match the time this post actually went live. I composed the post and attempted to publish at the noted time, but apparently Blogger was having some server issues and it errored without publishing. I suppose it goes without saying that the story is no longer "Breaking" as the post title indicates. It went live this morning around 7:45AM without modification, but I felt that a time change would be inappropriate considering these were my thoughts last night and not this morning. I normally send TrackBacks to sources I cite, and they were not sent for the same reasons mentioned above. If you happen to see a link from your site that doesn't have a TrackBack associated with it and you normally see one, this is the reason for it. Much thanks, as always for stopping by.

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