BAGHDAD, Jan. 8, 2016 —
Iraqi security forces are learning the lessons of the battle for Ramadi and already are sharing them, coalition officials said here today.
The fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant is still going on, but Iraqi military officials already are applying the lessons, said Army Capt. Chance McCraw, an operations specialist with Operation Inherent Resolve.
McCraw spoke to reporters traveling with Marine Corps Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who visited several sites in Iraq and met with senior U.S. and Iraqi officials over the last two days.
The fight for Ramadi was outside the recent experience of the Iraqi security forces, McCraw said, noting that Ramadi was a conventional arms fight that had more in common with the Battle of Chancellorsville in Virginia during the American Civil War than with the counterinsurgency war Iraqi forces were used to fighting. In Chancellorsville, Robert E. Lee held the center while attacking the Union Army’s flank. That was the same plan ISIL had in Ramadi, he said.
The ISIL strategy was to block Iraqi security forces from coming into Ramadi, then using vehicle-borne bombs to attack the flanks of the Iraqi columns.
Learning on the Fly
Iraqi security forces learned on the fly, McCraw said. They could not send explosive ordnance disposal technicians ahead to clear the way, because Ramadi is a built-up area, and a machine gun nest or sniper teams would take an unacceptable toll on the irreplaceable EOD technicians.
“The Iraqis used armored bulldozers and other earthmoving equipment to build berms and walls on the flanks,” the captain said. Iraqi forces also used mine-clearing line charges called “miclics” to clear ways through these bomb-laced blockages.
In this manner, he said, the Iraqi security forces were able to advance and take Ramadi, and the troops involved in that fight are sharing their experiences with troops in other parts of Iraq.
Lessons Will Apply in Mosul
What they have learned will be important when Iraqi forces launch their campaign to retake Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city and the center of ISIL activity in the country, McCraw said.
Mosul – like Ramadi – is a city on a river, and another lesson learned from the assault on Ramadi was the importance of bridge-building engineers. Iraqi engineers still in training were rushed to the front to build a ribbon bridge over the Euphrates River south of Ramadi proper. “I guess you could call it their graduation exercise,” McCraw said.
In peace, Mosul has a population of around 2.5 million, and the Tigris River bisects the city. Bridging companies will be important to that effort, officials said, and the Iraqis are investing in the capability.
Active combat continues in Ramadi, Iraqi forces are still clearing portions of the city, and ISIL fighters are trying to stage in an area to the northeast called “the shark fin” because of its shape, McCraw said. Iraqi forces have rescued more than 500 civilians who were trapped by ISIL in the city, he added.
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