December Operations in Muqdadiyah
Diyala province is the main effort of U.S. forces in Iraq in January 2008. In November and December 2007, U.S. troops conducted reconnaissance in force to determine how AQI functioned in Diyala province, and particularly, in the area beyond Muqdadiyah. This essay describes these operations, which preceded the new Iron Harvest Offensive.
Diyala province is a critical front in the fight against Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI). In mid-2007 Coalition operations and the Awakening movement in Anbar province drove AQI into Diyala. After a violent spring, U.S. and Iraqi forces successfully cleared Baqubah in June and July 2007. They prevented al Qaeda from establishing new safe havens north and west of that city as they escaped from it. In August, major operations expelled al Qaeda from the villages of the Diyala River Valley. In October, U.S. forces cleared Muqdadiyah, the population center on the river. As a result of this campaign, U.S. and Iraqi forces secured the main roads and settlements in Diyala. Al Qaeda in Iraq regrouped along the remote and sparsely populated Hamrin Ridge and on the east and north sides of Lake Hamrin.
Attacks in Multi-National Division-North (MND-North) have decreased overall, but the north “still has the highest number of attacks in all of Iraq,” according to Major General Mark Hertling, Commander, MND-North and 1st Armored Division. As a result, maintaining security in Diyala, and elsewhere in northern Iraq, required aggressive military operations. To combat the “shift” of AQI to the north, Coalition Forces have conducted two division level operations across northern Iraq since November – Operation Iron Hammer and Operation Iron Reaper. These operations aimed to disrupt and dismantle AQI operations in northern Iraq and set the conditions for tribal reconciliation and the establishment of local governance.
Coalition operations in Diyala in December aimed to reconnoiter new enemy positions and set the conditions whereby U.S. Forces could pursue the enemy further. This backgrounder deals with the operations in the northern Diyala River Valley – specifically the area north of Muqdadiyah, which has been the most active in December 2007.