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.

Looking for Battle, Marines Find That Foes Have Fled (WaPo, A10)

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.”


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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Yes indeed, In Vietnam we wished that the enemy
    would hold still so that we could shoot them as well.

    The Marines outdated training makes them perfect
    saps for any force willing to fight a different type of war.

    By the way the Army was also involved in the fiasco.

    The real problem of course is that this is a Bush propaganda war and not a real war in the sense that the people of Iraq are fighting to force an
    occupier out. The intruder is the U.S. – we are the enemy over there – lets keep that in mind

  2. herb says:

    Like I have said before, these muslums are Chickens**t. The best they can do is to be your friend while sticking a knife in your back.

  3. wehutson says:

    Lt Bell,

    What are you talking about. It was a success. Scores were routed and many insurgents were taken permanently out of the equation.

    Don’t summarize from what one LCpl says.

    What are you a Lt of? And what’s your background? What do you really know about current MarCor training for Iraq?

  4. Lurking Observer says:

    I believe LT Bell serves in the JAG corps. Used to be Thursday nights on CBS, but I haven’t seen her in several years.

    And to generalize about Muslims as “herb” does is about as useful as an M203 against an F-16 on a strafing run.