By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
BAGHDAD, June 15, 2006 – Al Qaeda in Iraq is in disarray and confusion following the death of its terrorist boss, and the Iraqi government is moving forward quickly to provide security for its capital city, coalition officials said today at a news conference. Army Maj. Gen. Bill Caldwell, a coalition spokesman, said Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's death June 7 helped set the conditions for a huge step forward in the security picture of Iraq.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki announced the beginning of Operation Together Forward yesterday. Iraqi forces are leading this operation and it is designed to cripple or shut down the terrorist network in and around Baghdad, officials said. Iraqi soldiers and police are operating traffic-control points, rolling roadblocks, cordon-and-knock missions, and many other tactics to find and capture or kill insurgents who target innocent Iraqis. Coalition forces are participating in some operations, but are mostly acting as a quick-reaction force to be called on if needed.
Coalition officials are pleased with the speed Maliki is demonstrating in his effort against terrorists. "The people of Baghdad are sick of the terrorist strikes in the neighborhoods and streets," said a Multinational Force Iraq official. "The Iraqis are getting results." Since Zarqawi's death June 7, there have been 452 Iraqi and coalition operations, Caldwell said. The vast majority of the operations, though, were Iraqi-only (143) or coalition-Iraqi combined operations (255). The operations netted 759 anti-Iraqi forces and killed 104 terrorists. The patrols also uncovered 28 arms caches.
An official with Multinational Division Baghdad said it amazes him that officials are still finding so many weapons caches more than three years after the operation that toppled Saddam Hussein. "Of course, the entire country was one large arms cache," he said. "And we're not finding new weapons. But there is enough of the old to keep everyone busy." Zarqawi's death allows Operation Together Forward to be even more effective than planned. The operation's intent is to disrupt terrorists in Baghdad, Caldwell said.
"Removing the personal threat of Zarqawi disrupted the Al Qaeda network," he said. "This forced the terrorists to reshuffle their leadership, dislodging them from their quarters leading in to the capital. These factors alone have set the conditions for Iraqi security forces to establish the foundation for unity, security and prosperity for the people of Iraq."