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The Search Continues...

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This is something thats been bothering me deeply ever since it started and I wanted to pull in one of our Milbloggers over at The Fourth Rail to update DT readers on the search for the missing soldiers captured this weekend in the Triangle of Death south of Baghdad.

His sourcing is pretty good and he seems to have some info the mainstream media lacks in the coverage of this tragic and still unfolding event.

Bill Roggio reports:

The U.S has poured over 4,000 troops into the region, and are backed by an unspecified number of Iraqi Army, police and tribal allies throughout eastern Anbar and Karbala. An American military intelligence source informed us the Anbar Salvation Council has devoted assets in the region and are working tribal and insurgent contacts to develop leads in the case. "Every asset has been brought to bear in the hunt for the missing troops," according to a Multinational Forces Iraq press release, "including search dogs, trucks with speakers, unmanned aerial vehicles, law enforcement advisers, and both U.S. and Iraqi troops." Pamphlets have been dropped via air and phone tip lines have been established.

While it was initially thought the al Qaeda assault and kidnap element would move the captured soldiers from the Mahmudiyah region into the desert expanses in eastern Anbar province, where al Qaeda maintains a base of support, the al Qaeda team appears to have stayed in the farming regions just south of Baghdad. Either al Qaeda never planned to move the soldiers far from the capture point, or the cordon was established quickly enough to have trapped the terrorists in the box. The U.S. and Iraqi security forces maintain a network of forward outposts in Mahmudiyah, Yusifiyah and Sadr al Yusifiyah which would make safe transit through these regions difficult.mahmudiyah-search-map-DT.jpg

Yusifiyah has been an al Qaeda stronghold in the past. Task Force 145 fought pitched battles against al Qaeda in the winter and spring of 2006, and nearly captured Abu Musab al Zarqawi before he was killed in Baqubah in June.

Al Qaeda in Iraq mocked the U.S. efforts to recover their soldiers, and stated the efforts may in fact endanger their lives. While al Qaeda has claimed it has captured the soldiers, it has yet to release photographs, video or audio to support the claim.

Al Qaeda will want to broadcast footage of the captured soldiers both to demoralize the U.S. public and to reap the rewards of a major propaganda coup. The U.S. will likely have Internet access locked down in the region to prevent the tape from being transmitted digitally, but an individual courier should eventually be able to slip the cordon. If the kidnap cell did not bring its own recording equipment, it will either push to a safe house to make the recording, or a team will press to reach it. Either act can lead to exposing the location of the soldiers. But their chances of survival decreases as soon as the tape is made.

Lets keep our fingers crossed that these boys are found before it comes to all that.

-- Christian

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