Looking for Battle, Marines Find That Foes Have Fled
The Marines taking part in Operation Matador discovered a frustrating fact of asymmetrical warfare: an enemy unwilling to engage on their terms.
The Marines were in the middle of Operation Matador, an assault designed to flush out and capture or kill foreign fighters who had come to Iraq to join the insurgency against the U.S. military and the Iraqi government that it supports. Severing the insurgents’ network north of the Euphrates River, commanders said, would cut off the supply of guerrillas, guns and money that was moving from Syria into northwestern Iraq and being passed along for attacks in Baghdad and other cities.
But from the outset, as Marines swept west in what would be a week-long operation, scores of foreign fighters had fled ahead of them, residents of towns farther east told the Marine commanders.
This shouldn’t be surprising. Indeed, the enemy resorts to terrorism precisely because it knows it’s outmatched in traditional combat.
The insurgents were the only enemies, but they wouldn’t come out to fight. “Frankly, I’m tired of going around not seeing anything, not knowing anything, and then having Marines, guys I know, get blown up by mines,” [Cpl. Alexander ] Kalouf said.
“I’d much rather foreign fighters come out and shoot at us. We can respond to that,” Kalouf said, as the Americans got ready to head back across the Euphrates. “We can’t stand all their IEDs and mines, crap like that. Because we can’t do that.”