KUBAYSAH, Iraq --
Roughly 25 kilometers from the nearest city, the small town of Kubaysah lies well off the beaten path. Using this to their advantage, insurgents have recently looked to the area as somewhat of a safe haven.
With no natural barriers to speak of, Kubaysah is surrounded by nothing more than barren desert. There are literally hundreds of ways in or out. It’s these multiple avenues of approach that make it attractive to foreign fighters looking to lay low.
Based on a proven counter-insurgency tactic, coalition forces devised a plan of attack that would not only rid the town of insurgents, but keep them out as well.
In conjunction with the start of Operation Mawtini (My Freedom), Regimental Combat Team 2 Marines and soldiers recently participated in a 72-hour long clearing and berming operation of Kubaysah.
“Increased population control was our primary objective for this operation,” said Army Lt. Col. Douglas C. Crissman, the commanding officer of 2nd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment. “We wanted to make it as easy as possible for (Iraqi Security Forces) to maintain security.”
Approximately 160 Iraqi Army soldiers from 1st Battalion, 2nd Brigade, 7th IA Division, led the charge in clearing Kubaysah’s 1,500 plus houses.
“They were the main effort,” said Army 1st Lt. Peter C. Galeotti, the officer in charge of 3rd platoon, Alpha Company, Task Force 2-7. “We were just there to supervise.”
For Galeotti, a native of Granville, Mass., this was his first time working with IA’s during a big operation.
“I was really surprised at their high-level of discipline,” Galeotti explained. “If we were to do a similar search, it’s exactly how I’d want my squad leader to conduct the mission.”
Each search team was comprised of approximately nine IA soldiers and three U.S. Army soldiers. While IA’s searched a house for illegal paraphernalia, U.S. Army soldiers gathered census data: name, age, place of residence and photographs of all male local nationals.
“This is the way it should be done,” Galeotti said. “The more they do themselves, the faster we can all go home. But we can’t just cut ‘em loose. We need to make sure they’re ready. That’s why we’re here; to observe and make corrections when necessary.”
On the flip side, heavy equipment operators with Bravo Company, 1st Combat Engineer Battalion, worked to construct a 10-foot berm around the entire city (eight kilometers in length). Marines with 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion provided security for this portion of the operation.
“Though not many attacks occur in the city itself, we believe insurgents are using Kubaysah to plan attacks elsewhere in the (Al Anbar) Province,” Crissman explained. “With the new berm in place, there are now only two ways in or out; each of which is jointly guarded by IA’s and (Iraqi Policemen).”
Earlier this year, Task Force 2-7 teamed up with ISF for Operation Shurta Nasir (Police Victory) in nearby Hit, Iraq. Unlike previous operations, this one was both conceived and executed by the IP’s themselves.
“We’ve been riding that wave ever since we got here,” Crissman said. “Though a success overall, there were some things that didn’t go so well. Capitalizing on those lessons learned was something we focused on this time.”
One of those lessons learned was the involvement of IP’s. In most cases, a city’s police force is staffed with homegrown talent.
“Kubaysah is a small, relatively isolated community,” Crissman said. “Everybody knows everybody. We believe some of the IP’s may be reluctant to turn in their own; tempted to look the other way. IA’s, on the other hand, are from all over the country. They’ve got a different outlook on things.”
In addition to the clearing and berming of Kubaysah, another goal of this operation was to establish a permanent coalition presence in the heart of the city.
“If something were to happen, it’s a 40-minute commute from Camp Hit,” Crissman said. “The bad guys can hear us coming from miles away – easy. By having a platoon permanently at (Combat Outpost) Kubaysah, we can respond in a matter of moments.”
A company of IA soldiers will also be stationed at COP Kubaysah. Together, both IA and U.S. Army soldiers will conduct daily foot patrols through the city streets.
“This operation will certainly have a lasting effect, but it’s definitely not the answer to all our prayers,” Crissman said. “At the very least, it ought to serve as a deterrent; make the insurgents think twice about making Kubaysah one of their rest stops.”
Although the operation yielded only six detainees, Galeotti and his men are far from discouraged.
“At least the people saw us out there; saw that we cared about their wellbeing,” Galeotti said, “because in the end, we’ll never get rid of all the insurgents without them on our side. The most important thing for us to do is to make sure they feel safe, willing to come to us or the IP’s with information.”