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March 18, 2006
Operation Swarmer Not Intended As 'Torch II'

Sometimes the press demonstrates such incompetence as to be actually dangerous. The coverage of the latest effort in Samarra in clearing out the terrorists is just the latest example. Operation Swarmer is a significant operation in its scope but mostly for its composition; the Iraqi forces comprise the main battle group of the contingent of 1500 troops and have performed well under the lead of the 101st Airborne.

Since its beginning, however, the press has both hyped the operation and attempted to tear it down as a publicity stunt by the White House. Described as the biggest air assault in three years, the press completely misunderstood this as the biggest air strike since the beginning of the war. As Dafydd ab Hugh reports on his Big Lizards blog, the two are completely different military terms:

In an article in today's Time Magazine, Brian Bennett and Al Jallam claim that Operation Swarmer -- the operation just undertaken by the Iraqi Army and the 101st Airborne -- "fizzled," simply because it did not live up to the exciting fantasy that Time mistakenly expected.

Evidently, Time anticipated a spectacular fireworks show that could make a four-color cover, with missiles and Willie Pete and maybe a couple of MOABs (or at least puny, little Daisy Cutters).

But contrary to what many many television networks erroneously reported, the operation was by no means the largest use of airpower since the start of the war.... In fact, there were no airstrikes and no leading insurgents were nabbed in an operation that some skeptical military analysts described as little more than a photo op. What’s more, there were no shots fired at all and the units had met no resistance, said the U.S. and Iraqi commanders.

Time complains that planes and helicopters didn't come screaming in like a World War II strafing run. But this operation was never supposed to be an airstrike; it was an air assault, a fact that even Time itself supposedly understood. The part I clipped out above with the elipses is this parenthetical explanation:

("Air Assault" is a military term that refers specifically to transporting troops into an area.)

In other words, Time already knew that we weren't planning a huge, Clintonian barrage of missiles all over the place, blowing up wedding parties and Boy Sprout jamborees with glorious abandon. Operation Swarmers was, according to Wretchard of the Belmont Club, a cordon and search operation... which is exactly what the Iraqi Army and the Americans did.

Air assault is just another method of bringing troops to bear on a point. Sixty years ago, Americans understood what an amphibious assault meant, and this is similar. When Marines landed on islands in the South Pacific and did not face withering fire (a rarity), or when the British landed in Normandy on D-Day at points with no resistance and no battle, neither amounted to a military defeat, an obvious point to everyone except certain journalists at Time Magazine, apparently.

I hadn't written anything about Swarmer to this point because the coverage already seemed out of joint with the reality. American and Iraqi troops have conducted raids like this for two years, and while the scope of this operation is larger than others, it has the same purpose. If anything, it demonstrates that the intelligence coming from Iraqis has become more dependable and more forthcoming. The results of the operation so far prove both:

In Operation Swarmer, described as the biggest helicopter-borne operation in three years when it began on Thursday, the joint U.S.-Iraqi force captured six people, not further identified, allegedly responsible for the killing last month of al-Arabiya television journalist Atwar Bahjat, her cameraman and a technician, the Iraqi government reported.

About 80 suspected insurgents overall had been detained as of Saturday, and 17 were released after questioning, said Lt. Col. Edward S. Loomis, a 101st Airborne Division spokesman. He said the search teams turned up 15 weapons caches, containing 352 mortar rounds, 84 rocket-propelled grenades and a "significant amount" of material for making improvised roadside bombs, among other items.

At the same time, another contingent of Iraqi security forces staged another raid on an insurgency position near Baqouba. They killed two "gunment" and captured 18 insurgents, including a Jordanian, along with computer records of radical imams and their fatwas ordering the assassination of Iraqi police.

Once again the hysterical press has built a strawman for the strict purpose of discrediting the administration when their false reporting gets exposed. Swarmer has been a success in its intended scope. It isn't the failure of the armed services or the administration that the national media is so illiterate on military matters that it turned an interesting tactical use of helicopters into some fantasy D-Day.

ADDENDUM: Let's take a look at the actual statement announcing Swarmer from the DoD:

Iraqi Security Forces and their Coalition partners launched the largest air assault operation since Operation Iraqi Freedom I today in southern Salah Ad Din province to clear a suspected insurgent operating area northeast of Samarra.

Operation Swarmer began this morning with soldiers from the Iraqi Army’s 1st Brigade, 4th Division, the 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.

Attack and assault aircraft provided aerial weapons support for the operation and also delivered troops from the Iraq Army’s 4th Division, the Rakkasans from 1st and 3rd Battalions, 187th Infantry Regiment and the Hunters from 2nd Squadron, 9th Cavalry Regiment to multiple objectives. Forces from the 2nd Commando Brigade then completed a ground infiltration to secure numerous structures in the area.

More than 1,500 Iraqi and Coalition troops, over 200 tactical vehicles, and more than 50 aircraft participated in the operation.

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

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

The tactics and the scope were what made this a significant operation, but not the overall mission. Too bad some journalists can't read well enough to know the difference.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at March 18, 2006 8:11 AM

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