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US Supplies Iraqis with Line Charges for Planned Push into Ramadi

Iraqi soldiers assigned to the 71st Iraqi Army Brigade don their protective masks during patrol scenario at Camp Taji, Iraq, Oct. 15, 2015. (U.S. Army photo by William Marlow)
Iraqi soldiers assigned to the 71st Iraqi Army Brigade don their protective masks during patrol scenario at Camp Taji, Iraq, Oct. 15, 2015. (U.S. Army photo by William Marlow)

U.S. advisers have begun training the Iraqi Security Forces in the use of line charges to clear obstacles in the long-stalled effort to retake Ramadi in Anbar province from the Islamic State, the military said Tuesday.

Thirty-five so-called Anti-Personnel Obstacle Breaching systems have been delivered to Iraqi forces and U.S. advisers have been training them in their use to clear land mines and improvised explosive devices planted by Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, fighters around Ramadi, said Army Col. Steve Warren, a spokesman for Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve.

The breaching systems, carried by two troops in backpacks, are designed to be deployed and fired in less than two minutes. The system sends what Warren called an "explosive rope" across anti-personnel obstacles to clear a path for an attacking force.

Warren said that the line charges, combined with U.S. airstrikes, were intended to create "maneuver space" for Iraqi forces in the push on Ramadi, which was taken by ISIS in May after Iraqi troops fled.

"The airstrikes keep them at bay while they (the ISF) place the explosive rope," he said in a video briefing from Baghdad to the Pentagon.

Warren said Iraqi attempts to retake Ramadi have been hampered by ISIS counter-attacks using Vehicle-Borne Improvised Explosive Devices.

Earlier this month, Warren said ISIS has thrown up defensive belts around Ramadi, using remotely controlled improvised explosive devices much like minefields, and taking up defensive positions to cover the IEDs with fields of fire.

"So, this is not what we trained the Iraqi army back in the earlier and middle 2000s to fight against," he said. "We trained and built a counter-insurgency army, and this is much more of a conventional fight."

To counter the belts of IEDs, the U.S. has provided the Iraqi army with more bulldozers and training in the use of line charges to conduct what the field manuals call an "in stride breach," meaning a tactic to overcome an obstacle while continuing an assault to an objective.

--Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@military.com.

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