The Washington Post has a report on the new offensive in Iraq, aimed at clearing al-Qaeda in Iraq from its "new stronghold in Diyala province north of the capital".
The Diyala offensive involves about 10,000 U.S. soldiers, making it one of the largest military operations since the Iraq war began more than four years ago. The operation, code-named Arrowhead Ripper, is focused in the area around Baqubah, the capital of Diyala, a mixed Shiite-Sunni area that in recent months has become one of the most violent regions in Iraq.Bill Roggio at The Fourth Rail has more detail too.
..."The end state is to destroy the al-Qaeda influences in this province and eliminate their threat against the people," Brig. Gen. John M. "Mick" Bednarek, deputy commanding general of the 25th Infantry Division, was quoted as saying. "That is the number one, bottom-line, up-front, in-your-face, task and purpose."
This major combat operation has been hugely talked about by the pro-war punditry since at least March. They've billed it as the second Fallujah and are pinning a lot of hope on it - hope that the US can finally kick Al Qaeda out of Iraq entirely. The battle plan involves attempting to leave Al Qaeda's fighters only one easy escape route - over the border into Iran.
However, this isn't the first recent offensive in the area - mostly it differs simply in scale from operations carried out even as recently as January.
Pro-war pundits are billing this operation as "Al Qaeda's Waterloo". I think they are, as usual, under-estimating the resilience of small units of 4th generation fighters which can melt into the landscape and reform later in another location. Mosul seems likely as the next Al Qaeda hot-spot.
But should the US succeed in its aims, what then? Does anyone really think the end of Al Qaeda in Iraq is the end of the problems Iraq has experienced? Does anyone really think that Sunni insurgency groups fighting alongside the US will remain allies much longer if Al Qaeda is no longer a threat to their own local ambitions?