The Marines (and some attached Army combat engineers) are wrapping up Operation Matador in northern Iraq, near the border of Syria.
The Green Machine is stacking the jihadis deep or putting the survivors in cages. To my knowledge three Marines have been KIA as of this time.
Wretchard has put up a post exploring the tactics and strategy involved, and the likely strategic objectives, and links to other excellent posts by Bill Roggio and Chester on the subject.
Counter insurgency combat is as much an intelligence exercise as it is one of force on force conflict. The bloggers mentioned above note that Matador is no local operation but rather the logical next step in a long term strategy aimed at cutting the heart out of the human pipeline into Iraq.
Syria has been the gatekeeper for allowing foreign fighters into Iraq since the end of the war. The reduction of Fallujah and other cities and towns by coalition forces, plus the gradual growth of Iraqi security formations have pushed the jihadi command and logistic entities out of many of the Iraqi cities they once sheltered in. An argument that the terrorists don't suffer much from this development, based on the seemingly endless litany of media reports of bombings and assassinations, misses the point that the attacks are killing people but not stopping recruitment of Iraqi police, civil service, and army personnel.
And you have to dig deep to find out that the scope of the attacks are actually constricting; most of the country is relatively secure. The enemy is attacking with larger formations and employing more suicide bombers, but the actual area of operations where most of these high-profile attacks are executed has been reduced to the regions on the "rat line" from Syria.
Matador is not reactive - it's proactive. Concentrating on securing the large urban centers with physical assets has not meant that the rat line has been ignored; far from it. Observation of enemy movements, surveillance of their communication, and the development of human intelligence along the rat line has been ongoing. Matador is a logical first step in grinding the cobbles of that particular highway into dust.
The large numbers of foreigners among the dead and captured terrorists, along with their higher levels of training and individual equipment, begs the question "How long will we tolerate Syria's action as the primary facilitator of the insurgency?".
Not too much longer, I would think. If Assad hasn't been presented with a polite note explaining what "We will make no distinction between the terrorists or those who support them",yet, I would be highly surprised. The Iraqi people have already tried to burn the Jordanian embassy because of Zarqawi's role in the murder campaign against Iraqis. The future of Iraq as an independent democracy aligned with the United States should be considered by Syria.
Someday Iraqis will be totally in control of their own foreign policy. They will have all the oil wealth of the old regime, but an army comprised of volunteers, equipped with U.S. weapons and technology, led by an elected civilian government. And they will remember who attempted to keep them from that state. They may decide that Syrian Baathists are an intolerable threat.
I think I know why President Bush is such an outwardly happy guy these days. It has little to do with judicial appointments, social security reform, or the economy. He has just over three years left to finish what he set out to do in Iraq, and that's just too much time for the terrorists to survive.
UPDATE: Maybe so, maybe not.
We can hope.
Via: Captain' Quarters.