November 15 This Day During the Iraq War

November 15, 2006 – The Battle of Ramadi was fought during the Iraq War from June 2006 to November 2006 for control of the capital of the Al Anbar Governorate in western Iraq. A combined force of U.S. Soldiers, U.S. Marines, U.S. Navy SEALs, and Iraqi Security Forces fought insurgents for control of key locations in Ramadi, including the Government Center and the General Hospital. Coalition strategy relied on establishing a number of patrol bases called Combat Operation Posts throughout the city. U.S. military officers believe that insurgent actions during the battle led to the formation of the Anbar Awakening. In August, insurgents executed a tribal sheik who was encouraging his kinsmen to join the Iraqi police and prevented his body from being buried in accordance with Islamic laws. In response, Sunni sheiks banded together to drive insurgents from Ramadi. In September 2006, Sheik Abdul Sattar Abu Risha formed the Anbar Salvation Council, an alliance of approximately 40 Sunni tribes. U.S. Navy SEAL Michael A. Monsoor was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for actions during the battle. On September 29, 2006, he threw himself upon a grenade which threatened the lives of the other members of his team. Monsoor had previously been awarded the Silver Star in May for rescuing an injured comrade in the city. The battle also marked the first use of chlorine bombs by insurgents during the war. On October 21, 2006, insurgents detonated a car-bomb with two 100-pound chlorine tanks, injuring three Iraqi policemen and a civilian in Ramadi.  The operation had some initial success but the effect that the Americans wanted to achieve did not happen. Very soon the American forces were bogged down in heavy street fighting throughout the city. Insurgents launched hit and run attacks on the newly established outposts, which were sometimes assaulted by as many as 100 insurgents at a time. In a major battle on July 24, al Qaeda forces sustained heavy casualties when they launched a number of attacks throughout the city.   The main target throughout the campaign was the Ramadi Government Center which was garrisoned by U.S. Marines who had sandbagged and barricaded the building. In an attempt to reduce attacks, U.S. forces demolished several buildings around the government center and planned to convert it into a park area. Roadside bomb attacks and ambushes of patrols on the streets happened nearly every time the Marines went outside the wire. Sniper attacks were also a constant threat to Marines during the battle. There were also several suicide-bombing attacks on the outposts. One sniper had used the fourth story of the Ramadi General Hospital to kill a number of Marines before he was counter-sniped. At the beginning of July the American forces managed to push deep enough in to the city to reach the Ramadi General Hospital, which was captured by the 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment on July 5. The Marines reported that members of al-Qaida in Iraq had been using the seven-story building, which was equipped with some 250 beds, to treat their wounded and fire on U.S. troops in the area. They said wounded Iraqi police officers who had been taken to the hospital were later found beheaded. Though there was no resistance during the operation, the Marines found about a dozen triggering devices for roadside bombs hidden above the tiled ceiling of one office. They knocked down dozens of locked doors and searched medicine chests and storage closets for additional weapons. Hospitals are considered off-limits in traditional warfare. In western Ramadi, however, insurgents have fired on Marines from the rooftop of a women and children’s hospital so often that patients were moved to a wing with fewer exposed windows. On August 21, insurgents killed Abu Ali Jassim, a Sunni sheik who had encouraged many of his tribesmen to join the Iraqi Police. The insurgents hid the body in a field rather than returning it for a proper burial, violating Islamic law and angering Jassim’s tribesmen. Following this, 40 sheiks from 20 tribes from across Al Anbar organised a movement called the Sahwa Al Anbar (Anbar Awakening). On September 9, Sheik Sittar organised a tribal council attended by over fifty sheiks and Col. MacFarland. During this council, Sittar officially declared the Anbar Awakening underway. Shortly after the council, the tribes began attacking al-Qaeda in Iraq insurgents in the suburbs of Ramadi. By October, nearly every tribe in northern and western Ramadi had joined the awakening. By December, attacks had dropped 50% according to the U.S. military. In mid-September 2006, the 1st Battalion, 6th Marines (1-6) relieved the 3rd Battalion, 8th Marines in western Ramadi. The battalion commander, Lt. Col. Jurney, deployed his companies throughout the city. Alpha Company was deployed to OP VA, a combat outpost close to a large seven-story building.  Bravo Company took up position in the Ramadi Government Center and Charlie Company was deployed to OP Hawk, the main combat outpost around Ramadi General Hospital. In late September, Pentagon officials announced that the troops of the 1st brigade, 1st Armored Division would have their tour extended by 46 days. This extension was ordered to give the relieving brigade, the 1st brigade, 3rd Infantry Division time to prepare for their deployment at the start of 2007. In mid-October, 1-6 conducted its first major offensive, taking the large building on 17th Street in the Jumaiyah neighborhood where they established the 17th Street Security Station. This was the first joint Marine-Iraqi outpost in the city. During heavy fighting between November 13 and November 15, U.S. forces were alleged to have killed at least 30 people, including women and children, in an airstrike in central Ramadi. Interviews by an unnamed Los Angeles Times correspondent in Ramadi supported eyewitness statements that there were civilian deaths during the fighting. Residents said the houses in an old Iraqi army officers quarters had been destroyed, including one being used as an Internet cafe. News photos showed bodies of civilians allegedly killed by coalition forces. A Marine spokesman disputed the account, saying that an airstrike on November 14 targeted a bridge east of Ramadi and there were many insurgent casualties in the attack. He said that on the 13th and 14th, Coalition forces killed 16 suspected insurgents, who had been placing IEDs and firing mortars and RPGs, in fighting in three separate incidents in Ramadi . At least one U.S. soldier was also killed in the fighting. The spokesman did not respond to inquiries about the number of civilian dead, but admitted that it was often difficult for coalition forces to distinguish between insurgents and civilians and did not confirm or deny that some collateral damage may have occurred. He neither responded to inquiries made by The Times regarding the number of homes destroyed or tank rounds fired in the fighting.  By mid-November at least 75 American soldiers and Marines were killed along with an unknown number of Iraqi soldiers and police. The U.S. commander, Col. MacFarland, claimed 750 insurgents had been killed in fighting in Ramadi and that his forces had secured 70% of the city. Two years before the battle, in 2004, then commander of the Marine garrison, MajGen James Mattis, stated that, “if Ramadi fell the whole province (Al Anbar) goes to hell”. Two years later, a classified report written by Marine Col. Pete Devlin in August 2006 and leaked to the Washington Post in mid-September 2006, said Al Anbar had been lost and there was almost nothing that could be done. Devlin was the chief Intelligence Officer for the Marine units operating in the province. The report said that not only were military operations facing a stalemate, unable to extend and sustain security beyond the perimeters of their bases, but also local governments in the province had collapsed and the weak central government had almost no presence. On November 28, 2006 another part of the classified Marine Corps intelligence report was published by the Washington Post which said US forces could neither crush the insurgency in western Iraq nor counter the rising popularity of the al-Qaeda terrorist network in the area. According to the report, “the social and political situation has deteriorated to a point that US and Iraqi troops are no longer capable of militarily defeating the insurgency in al-Anbar.” The report describes Al-Qaeda in Iraq as the “dominant organization of influence” in the province, more important than local authorities, the Iraqi government and US troops “in its ability to control the day-to-day life of the average Sunni.”

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