On Route Michigan
Bill covers an IED sweep in the capital of the Anbar province from a Buffalo armored vehicle.
I joined Lieutenant Colonel Shawn McGinley, the commander of Task Force 54, on a platoon-sized patrol to clear IEDs on Route Michigan, a stretch of road that bisects Ramadi and is the main route for military convoys.
LtCol McGinley described the road “as the most dangerous place in Ramadi, perhaps Iraq”, and the view of the street gives good credence to this belief. Route Michigan looks like a war zone, with destroyed facades of buildings, broken water and sewer lines dispensing their fluids into the streets, potholes in the streets and sidewalks from IED blasts and mortar fire, and barricades blocking the entrances from the side streets. Two armored Bradleys were destroyed here, and the track wheel rims were in full view as evidence. LtCol McGinley stated all of the damage has occurred since the fall of Saddam, and much of the heavy damage was caused by IEDs detonated by the insurgency.
Meanwhile, DefenseLINK notes: U.S. Forces Dealing With Different Enemy in Anbar:
While terrorists and foreign fighters pose a continuing problem, most of those fighting coalition forces are Iraqi “rejectionists,” Multinational Forces West officials said on background.
Officials characterize rejectionists as mostly Sunni Arabs who see the interim government in Baghdad as favoring Shiite and Kurdish interests. “There is a fear of Shiia dominance here,” an official said. “There is also a fear of dominance by Iran.”
The story notes that pre-referendum intimidation by rejectionists and terrorists kept voters away from the polls. Only about 4% of Ramadi’s half-million residents voted on the new constitution. Officials are hoping for a far-greater turnout for the Dec. 15th national elections.
The story also has this to say about the enemy:
Fear of domination by the Shiite majority has caused a two-track development in the province, officials said. Citizens are willing to participate in the election because they want their views heard and changes made. But they also still are willing to kill coalition troops, officials said.
One senior Multinational Force Iraq spokesman likened the situation to Sinn Fein in Northern Ireland: there are both militant and political wings of the Sunni camp.
And then there’s the border issue:
Controlling the border with Syria has been tough. Officials said Syria has not done enough to stop the traffic across their border. Operations in the western Euphrates River Valley have disrupted smugglers’ routes and stopped some of the flow of suicide bombers in to Iraq. But disrupting the smuggling routes means driving those involved more firmly into the ranks of Iraqi rejectionists.
“Nothing is easy or simple” in the region, a Multinational Forces West official said.
While things are probably worse in Iraq than most places, truly locking down any border anywhere always rubs a lot of people the wrong way. Even in great and powerful nations.