On the evening of 16 March, an IED detonated at Quds Gate, located along Highway 1 near Uwaynat village in an area south of Tikrit city. According to security sources, a proximate target was said to be an unnamed Iraqi PSC supporting an unnamed client. Limited anecdotal reporting from social media sources indicated the PSC may have been contracted to support CF. The gate was reportedly damaged, but no casualties were reported amongst checkpoint personnel or the PSC. As typically seen, Iraqi and CF security officials refrained from commenting on this incident.
To recall on 29 February, Kata’ib Hezbollah issued a “final warning” addressed to a broad range of organizations accused of dealing with US forces including contracted logistics companies. As part of the warning, contracted companies were given until 15 March to terminate their contracts or face unclear actions. Transcending the expiration of this deadline, an increasingly regular facet of militant activity tied to US-Iran tensions involved roadside IED attacks against PSC logistics convoys contracted to support US military and diplomatic missions in Iraq. Such attacks are intended to threaten the sustainability of US forces by targeting vulnerable supply lines.
Relevant activity has been almost exclusively conducted along various segments of Highway 1 in central and southern Iraq. The next most recent detonations affected CF-contracted logistics convoys south of Baghdad and north of Baghdad on 10 February and 5 March respectively. Between 15 February and 14 March, four additional IED finds or premature detonations were recorded along segments of Highway 1 in Babel, Diwaniyah, and Muthanna provinces. Additional relevant IED incidents are likely to have occurred given established reporting challenges. Most attacks result in moderate casualties, with fatalities exceedingly rare. Accordingly, a decisive operational impact on CF sustainability is assessed to be unlikely as of yet, but this line of targeting is undoubtedly registering a statement as intended.
The 16 March attack stands out as the northernmost IED incident pertaining to these motives in the recent past. This promotes the likelihood of additional attacks along Highway 1 in areas of Salah ad Din and Nineveh provinces in the future. Further shifts to other key routes supporting joint bases elsewhere in Iraq are certainly possible in the future. This will form a growing consideration as US forces continue to consolidate to less vulnerable large bases in Anbar province and the KR-I through the spring. As previously expected, reports from various sources cite ongoing drawdown efforts at Qayyarah West Airfield in southern Nineveh province, K-1 Military Base in Kirkuk province, and a more obscure forward operating base near Al Qaim in western Anbar province.
For further discussion and analysis please see our full report.