By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
July 13, 2007 – Ongoing anti-insurgent operations conducted in and around Baghdad and to the south of Iraq's capital city are achieving continued success, a senior U.S. military officer said today during a teleconference with retired military analysts. Maj. Gen. Rich Lynch, commander of Multinational Division Center and U.S. Army's 3rd Infantry Division, said he is optimistic that the surge will reduce violence in Baghdad while seriously disrupting insurgent operations in Iraq.
"Eventually, I believe you'll see (an) improved security situation inside of Baghdad" due to the surge operations, he said. "But, it's not going to happen overnight."
Seeing on TV that the surge has minimal impact on the insurgents, "causes me great confusion," he noted.
In reality, U.S. and Iraqi security forces participating in Operation Marne Torch are busily knocking out insurgent sanctuaries located within his battle space, Lynch said, which includes parts of eastern and southern Baghdad, as well as Najaf, Karbala, Babil and Wasit provinces.
"We've had significant impact on the enemy with the surge forces," Lynch asserted. "I contend that they are indeed being successful." Yet, he cautioned it will take some time to gauge the overall effectiveness of the surge operations.
Operation Marne Torch is one of several ongoing operations that are part of an overall offensive against insurgents in Iraq called Operation Phantom Thunder, which began June 15, once all of the surge troops were in place. President Bush directed a deployment of about 30,000 additional U.S. troops to Iraq earlier this year as a surge of forces to assist the Iraqi government in confronting the insurgency.
Many surge-related operations designed to eliminate enemy activity in Baghdad and its environs are being conducted within Multinational Division Center's battle space, Lynch said. Since it was launched nearly a month ago, Operation Marne Torch has killed or captured 300 insurgents and netted 60 large enemy weapons caches, the general reported.
When he surveyed his area of operations in March before all the surge troops had arrived, Lynch observed there were four enemy sanctuaries that needed to be taken out.
Those sanctuaries were used by Sunni and Shiite insurgents, as well as al Qaeda in Iraq operatives, because "there weren't any security forces" in the area, Lynch explained.
"So, we've got major operations across my battle space to disrupt those four sanctuaries," Lynch said. One ongoing operation is focused on knocking out Sunni-insurgent strongholds in the Tigris River valley region, including the Arab Jabour area south of Baghdad.
Lynch said another offensive, Marne Avalanche, has just commenced against Sunni and Shiite insurgents operating in the Euphrates River valley.
And, a top al Qaeda in Iraq chieftain believed responsible for the downing of a U.S. helicopter in April 2006 and the adduction and killing of two soldiers in June 2006 was apprehended July 9 thanks to tips from Iraqi citizens, Lynch said. Iraqi citizens had tipped off coalition forces about the location of a large enemy weapons cache that day, he noted, while local Iraqi militia had captured the suspected terrorist and turned him over to coalition authorities.
Lynch also pointed to suspected Iranian support of insurgents in Iraq, noting his troops have found numerous rocket-propelled grenades and other ordnance, including powerful explosive-formed-penetrator munitions, with Iranian markings.
The Iranian ordnance is being trucked-in into Iraq from the border in Wasit province, Lynch explained, noting much of it has been delivered to Shiite-backed insurgent groups. Lynch said U.S. and Iraqi troops, including a brigade from the country of Georgia, are setting up additional checkpoints in that area to intercept such cross-border arms shipments.
Yesterday, coalition troops patrolling east of the Tigris River destroyed 40 enemy-emplaced, Iranian-sourced rockets that were aimed at U.S. troops, Lynch said.