Aug 19 2007

Battle At Donkey Island, II

Published by at 8:15 am under All General Discussions,Iraq

A few days ago Der Spiegel published the story of Donkey Island near Ramadi, Anbar Province, Iraq (my post on the story is here). As I said before, the Battle for Donkey Island was a microscosm of the Iraq war right now and could be one of history’s ironic moments. It is ironic because Donkey Island was the place al-Qaeda tried to turn the tide on The Surge and their sweeping losses across Iraq. It was also one of the last chances for al-Qaeda to help the Donkies in DC (the Democrats) to find fault with the Surge prior to the report coming to Congress in September. The fact the Donkies’ and al-Qaeda’s political fortunes may have been determined at Donkey Island is why the story is not ony ironic – but important.

The Battle of Donkey Island is where al-Qaeda planned to undo all the successes in Anbar Province. It was another massive massacre in the making, just like the one they pulled off in the north of Iraq this week which killed over 500 people. But the target was Ramadi – one of Iraq’s largest cities. But as with al-Qaeda’s fortunes, the Battle of Donkey Island came about because Iraqis, tired of al-Qaeda’s blood lust and killing, turned on al-Qaeda and tipped off US forces to their plans – thus ending one hope for wishing for American defeat in Iraq.

Now the Washington Post has provided their version of events of The Battle of Donkey Island:

Stretching before him under a full moon were the flat lands near the village of Tash, south of the city of Ramadi. Violence had plummeted in recent months in Ramadi — long one of the deadliest cities in Iraq for U.S. troops — as powerful tribes in the predominantly Sunni region joined forces with the U.S. military to uproot Islamic insurgent groups such as al-Qaeda in Iraq.

But ahead lay a vicious battle, which would not only reveal their enemy’s determination to retake Ramadi but also throw into question the region’s long-term stability if the Americans were to leave. It suggested, moreover, that preserving the city’s fragile, hard-won calm would call for heavier fighting than anticipated.

Yet U.S. commanders say the all-night firefight, dubbed the battle of Donkey Island, also demonstrates progress, by showing how an increase in U.S. troops and Sunni cooperation makes it much harder for insurgents affiliated with al-Qaeda in Iraq to operate in Anbar.


After months of planning, according to U.S. military intelligence, the well-armed and highly trained contingent of as many as 70 fighters set up a hasty camp beside a canal to make final preparations for their mission three miles to the north. It would be the first major counterattack targeting Ramadi.

Facilitators prepared the area for the fighters’ arrival, stashing weapons caches to defend their camp, located among prickly brush in a Bedouin area south of Ramadi. Once there, the fighters posed as shepherds and used nomad tents. When the U.S. patrol stumbled upon them, the insurgents were within days or hours of launching their attacks and were ready, as one U.S. officer said, “to fight to the death.”

This may be another Battle of the Bulge story in the making. What it shows is that al-Qaeda is limited to killing Muslims now to show their strength. And in many ways they are restricted in what they can do even there. Personally, I found the Der Spiegel account more compelling and less obsessed with American casualties and more focused on both sides of the battle.

One response so far

One Response to “Battle At Donkey Island, II”

  1. WWS says:

    I thought the Spiegel version gave a better overall picture of the strategic significance of the battle and the change taking place in Iraq right now, but I understand what this reporter was trying to do and I appreciate the perspective. This reporter focused on writing as complete a first person account as could be made by interviewing all of the available eyewitnesses and combining their stories, a classic method of battlefield reporting. This version did give a more compelling and complete narrative of the actual battle, and I especially enjoyed the image of the two explosive-laden trucks going up in twin orange fireballs. Another good point was the treachery of the wounded AQ fighters, showing why anyone fighting them has to keep shooting until you know they’re dead, not just down.