The southeastern belt wraps around the capital in an arc running from Nahrawan east of Baghdad, south through Jisr Diyala down to Salman Pak, and east through Arab Jabour and Hawr Rajab to the city of Mahmudiyah. Most of the area is rural farmland, crisscrossed by irrigation canals that limit mobility and facilitate the creation of insurgent refuges.
The northeastern belt runs from the Tarmiyah area in the Tigris River Valley, east through Khalis and Baqubah and south to Nahrawan east of Baghdad. It controls the road networks that link Baghdad with the eastern shore of the Tigris River Valley, as well the Diyala River Valley and a key border crossing with Iran. Consequently, both al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), Jaysh al-Mahdi, and associated Iranian-backed Special Groups have competed to control the area.
The Baghdad belts are residential, agricultural, and industrial areas that encircle the city, and networks of roadways, rivers, and other lines of communication that lie within a twenty or thirty mile radius of Baghdad and connect the capital to the rest of Iraq. Beginning in the north, the belts include the cities of Taji, clockwise to Tarmiyah, Baqubah, Buhriz, Besmayah and Nahrwan, Salman Pak, Mahmudiyah, Sadr al-Yusufiyah, Fallujah, and Karmah.
A division-level operation to clear Baqubah and the surrounding areas during Operation Phantom Thunder.
Baghdad Security Districts:
The southern provinces of Maysan, Dhi Qar, Muthanna, and Basra are populated almost entirely by Shi’a Arabs, in the major cities of Amarah, Nasariyah, and Basra, as well as in the rural marshlands. Of these provinces, Basra is the primary economic hub.
The mid-Euphrates region of Iraq lies south of Baghdad. Its main cities include Karbala, Hillah, Kut (الكوت), Diwaniyah (الديوانية), and Najaf (النجف). The population is predominantly Shi'a in the south and generally a mixture of Sunni and Shi'a to the north of Hillah and northwest of Kut. Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) play an important role in this region, particularly the 8th Iraqi Army Division led by the capable General Othman Ali Ferhood.
The Iraqi province of Diyala lies to the north of Baghdad. Its shares its eastern border with Iran, its northern border with Kurdistan, and its western border is shaped by the flow of the Tigris River. The Diyala River, a tributary of the Tigris, flows south through Diyala before meeting with the Tigris just south of Baghdad. Diyala's main cities include Baqubah (its capital), Muqdadiyah, Balad Ruz, Khalis, and Khanaqin. The province has a mix of Sunni Arab, Shi'a, and Kurdish residents.
The upper Tigris River Valley runs from the northern border of Iraq down directly into the center of Baghdad. As the Tigris winds its way south to the capital, a number of key Iraqi cities lie along the route; these are Bayji, Tikrit, Samarra, and Balad. A major highway, Main Supply Route Tampa, also runs from the Syrian border, through Mosul, and down along the Tigris River and aforementioned cities into Baghdad.