By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
June 28, 2007 – U.S. and Iraqi troops are disrupting terrorist activities from Baghdad and its environs to Anbar province as the result of surge-related operations being conducted across Iraq, a senior U.S. military officer serving in Iraq said yesterday. Operation Phantom Thunder is an ongoing anti-insurgent operation that launched June 15, once all "surge" troops arrived in Iraq. The operation has shut down hideouts operated by al Qaeda and other extremist groups, bomb factories and execution rooms, Army Brig. Gen. Kevin Bergner told online journalists yesterday.
Phantom Thunder has produced "a pattern of finding facilities, the operating bases, that al Qaeda and other extremists have been operating from in Iraq," said Bergner, who serves as Multinational Force Iraq's deputy chief of staff for strategic effects.
Bergner pointed to the recent discovery of safe houses in Baqubah, Iraq, that were used by insurgents for executions, as well as for prisons and weapons storage.
"We continued that same pattern," Bergner said, noting an al Qaeda weapons cache, rocket-propelled grenades and other munitions turned up in more recent security sweeps in Baqubah. A recent coalition raid in Anbar province yielded an enemy improvised explosive device factory, the general said.
"So, what we're seeing is an array of facilities that are established specifically to operate from, launch spectacular attacks from and solidify their control over the neighborhood in which they're established," Bergner said regarding insurgent facilities that have been shut down across Iraq in recent weeks.
Just days ago, coalition troops killed two senior al Qaeda agents who had operated a foreign-fighter cell out of northern Iraq, Bergner pointed out.
The purpose of the surge of operations "is really centered on improving population security, creating that linkage between the Iraqi forces and the people, the citizens in these neighborhoods, and connecting them with their government," Bergner said.
It will likely "take a period of weeks and months" to measure the surge's full effects against the enemy, he added.
Establishing security across Iraq is "one of those things that takes time to build, and it's one of those things that takes time to solidify once you've got it in place, so that it becomes more resilient," Bergner said.