Operation Phantom Strike Builds on Security Progress, Intelligence
By Sgt. Sara Wood, USA
American Forces Press Service
Aug. 15, 2007 - Operation Phantom Strike, a joint operation launched this week by coalition and Iraqi forces, is using the information and intelligence gained through operations this summer to more effectively target insurgents throughout Iraq, a Multinational Force Iraq spokesman said today. Since the surge of operations began in June, coalition and Iraqi forces have advanced considerably, cleared key Iraqi neighborhoods, and formed relationships with citizens in those neighborhoods, Army Brig. Gen. Kevin Bergner told reporters in Baghdad. Phantom Strike will build on those successes and continue to target terrorists who kill innocent Iraqi citizens and try to disrupt the political process, he said.
Bergner noted that intelligence gathered over the last eight weeks "sets different conditions and sets different opportunities for coalition and Iraqi forces now. (We have) new sources of information, (a) cumulative base of intelligence, and that gives you the opportunity to focus your strike operations in a different way."
Bergner highlighted some progress made in recent weeks, including:
-- In July, 18 senior al Qaeda in Iraq leaders were captured or killed, and hundreds of lower-level operatives were captured or killed. Six of these individuals were senior emirs who were in charge of geographic areas; seven were foreign terrorists or weapons facilitators; three were cell leaders; and two were leaders of media and propaganda networks.
-- In the first two weeks of August, five al Qaeda senior leaders were killed or captured from Mosul, Salah Ad Din, Samarra and Baghdad.
-- On Aug. 4 in Najaf, Iraqi forces captured a "special groups" leader who had facilitated cross-border training and recruited individuals by paying them to emplace improvised explosive devices.
-- On Aug. 5, Iraqi and coalition forces captured a special groups network leader who oversaw five terrorist groups in Baghdad.
-- On Aug. 7, Iraqi and coalition forces in eastern Baghdad killed 30 members of Iranian-backed "special group" terrorist cells and detained 12. On the same day, Iraqi and coalition forces captured an eight-person kidnapping cell with its leader located in Baghdad.
-- In Baqubah, this weekend marked the third consecutive trip by central government leaders to help restore services and begin reconstruction.
-- On Aug. 12, more than 500 Anbar men joined the ranks of the Iraqi security forces in the first graduation held at the newly reopened Habaniyah police training center.
-- This week, the central criminal justice court of Iraq convicted a Libyan foreign terrorist who admitted to entering Iraq illegally via Egypt and Syria and who, in April, attempted to drive a truck bomb into an Iraqi police station.
Another sign of progress, Bergner pointed out, is the willingness of Iraqi citizens to step forward and help establish security. In certain neighborhoods in Baghdad, Iraqi citizens man checkpoints with the Iraqi army and provide tips that lead to terrorist safe houses and weapons caches.
Despite this progress, insurgents are still capable of staging large-scale attacks, such as bombings yesterday in northern Iraq, Bergner said. These attacks are a reminder that the enemy the coalition faces in Iraq will kill innocent people to further their means and that progress in Iraq will continue to be challenged by these terrorists, who have no regard for human life, he said.
"It's very difficult, but we're continuing to pressure those networks and to encourage Iraqi people to come forward, work with their security forces, work with their government, because that's the fundamental thing that helps deal with the kinds of terrorist problems that are plaguing the Iraqi people," he said.
Coalition and Iraqi forces still face a hard fight in Iraq, Bergner acknowledged. He cautioned that progress will not be "like turning on a light switch," but will be gradual and sometimes uneven.
"While we continue to make progress against the sources of violence, it is the Iraqi people who are taking courageous stands in their local communities," he said. "We see it through the meetings and pledges of tribal leaders, we see it through the development of local security forces that have joined the ranks with their brothers to fight al Qaeda, and we see it in the commitment between local government leaders and their citizens and their security forces."