By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
July 3, 2007 – Operation Phantom Thunder enters its third week with coalition forces operating in and around Baghdad, Diyala province and Anbar province, in Iraq, a Joint Staff spokesman said here today. Army Brig. Gen. Perry Wiggins also said that the Taliban has not been able to launch a serious challenge to NATO's International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan.
Wiggins said U.S. servicemembers are experiencing a tough fight against a fanatical enemy, but they are making progress against the terrorists.
The fighting against al Qaeda and Shiia militias in Iraq is in areas where such groups long have had freedom of movement and time to prepare elaborate defenses, he said. During Phantom Thunder, U.S. and Iraqi forces have captured nearly 500 enemy fighters and found more than 50 major weapons caches, Wiggins said.
"The most remarkable thing about these gains is that the actions are increasingly a result of local Iraqis coming forward with tips (an Iraqi forces) responding to those tips," he said.
The Iraqi people know who the enemy is, they know where caches are, and they are turning enemy fighters in to Iraqi security forces, he said.
In Baqubah, the capital of Diyala province, coalition forces have discovered what Wiggins called an al Qaeda shadow government. "We have found a courthouse, jail and torture chamber, which can only provide an indicator of the type of inhuman justice one could expect if al Qaeda was in charge," he said.
Coalition and Iraqi forces have cleared more than 120 deeply buried improvised explosive devices and numerous booby-trapped houses in the operation. Some of the houses were so infested they had to be destroyed rather than having the explosives disarmed.
These operations go hand in hand with U.S. and Iraqi special operations forces going after al Qaeda leaders and Jaysh al Mahdi special groups and car bombs networks throughout Iraq.
Phantom Thunder operations continue to squeeze insurgent forces, Wiggins said. He added that he expects the enemy to oppose the coalition effort by launching spectacular attacks on the Iraqi people.
In Afghanistan, NATO and Afghan security forces have seized the initiative. Operation Adalat, conducted in the southern part of the country, ended yesterday with more than 250 Taliban fighters killed, as well as Taliban sanctuaries, operations and lines of communications disrupted, Wiggins said.
In Afghanistan's eastern region, Operation Maiwand continues. Maiwand is an Afghan-planned, Afghan-commanded effort with U.S. forces in support. Maiwand is aimed at separating the Taliban from the populace in the Ghazni province area. "This is a significant step in the development of Afghan national security forces," he said.