War on Terrorism

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Petraeus Says U.S. Will Retain Presence in Iraq for Foreseeable Future

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

July 31, 2007 - The United States will retain some presence in Iraq for the foreseeable future, the commander of Multinational Force Iraq said today.
Army Gen. David H. Petraeus told Diane Sawyer on ABC's "Good Morning America" that the American people understand that the United States cannot completely "unhook" from Iraq.

"The question is, 'What is the nature of our support, and what is the level of that support?'" Petraeus said.

The general said he is not an optimist or a pessimist. "I'm a realist," he said.

He noted there have been times for optimism in Iraq over the past years. National elections, with millions of Iraqis hoisting their purple-dyed fingers as proof they voted, were a time for optimism.

But al Qaeda in Iraq dimmed that optimism, the general said. The bombing of the Golden Mosque in Samarra in February 2006 ignited sectarian violence, which reached damaging levels in the winter. Petraeus said the level of violence was such "that the very fabric of Iraqi society has been torn."

He said the way forward in Iraq will be hard, but added that "hard is not hopeless."

During his comments, Petraeus also reflected on the challenges of leading troops in a war. "There is an awful lot of soul-searching that goes on when you are the commander of an endeavor like this, and you do occasionally ask yourself if this is worth it," he said.

"I think it is, or I wouldn't be engaged in it. But I ask myself periodically. I think any commander should do that, must do it."

Gates, Rice to Reaffirm U.S. Ties to Gulf Region

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

July 30, 2007 - Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said his rare and possibly unprecedented joint trip here with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice sends a message that the United States has no intention of cutting long-term ties in the region. "I think that it is a statement, first of all, of the importance of this region in terms of U.S. vital interests and the importance we attach to reassuring our friends out here of our staying power," Gates told reporters traveling with him.

The two Cabinet members will meet tomorrow in Sharm el-Sheikh with members of the Gulf Cooperation Council. The council includes Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates and works to strengthen their cooperation in broad areas, including security. Jordan and Egypt will send representatives to the meeting, too.

Gates told reporters he has four goals for the conference. First and foremost, he said, is "to reaffirm that the Persian Gulf and the Middle East are an enduring vital interest to the United States and that we will continue to have a strong presence in the region, as we have for decades," he said.

The secretary said he also seeks "to intensify our dialog with friends on long-term regional political and security issues." Unlike his previous visits to the region, which centered heavily on Iraq, Gates said he expects a much broader dialog this time that will include Iran, al Qaeda, Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Syria, Lebanon, proliferation and other issues.

Gates also said he hopes "to explore new initiatives to strengthen and expand existing security relationships and opportunities for further cooperation among states in the region." He said he intends to see if there's an interest in pursuing dialog on ways to strengthen existing bilateral security relationships.

Finally, he said he wants to reassure regional countries that U.S. policies in Iraq "have had and will continue to have regional stability and security as a very high priority," he said.

A senior defense official speaking on background told reporters the talks are expected to focus heavily on Iraq and encouraging its neighbors to do more to support its new government.

"Instability in Iraq will negatively affect the stability of the region as a whole, and so it is in these countries' own interest to try to bring about stabilization of the political and security situation in Iraq," he said. "And that is a message we will be carrying."

Concerns about Iranian interference in Iraq, its nuclear programs and its ambitions in the region also are expected to weigh heavily in the discussions. There's "broad concern" about Iran, particularly now that two forces that previously countered its ambitions, the Taliban in Afghanistan and Saddam Hussein in Iraq, are both gone, the official said.

"So I would be one to argue it is in your interest to strengthen the government in Baghdad and embrace it in the Arab would so that it is an obstacle to Iranian influence and not a bridge," the official said he will tell participants at the conference.

But the visit is not what the official called "a Johnny-one-note trip" that will be limited to Iraq and Iran. "We also are going to be talking quite straightforwardly about how we can enhance cooperation bilaterally and maybe even multilaterally in terms of defense capabilities," the official said.

Coalition Detains 35 Suspects in Central, Northern Iraq

American Forces Press Service

July 31, 2007 - Coalition forces detained 35 suspected
terrorists during operations targeting al Qaeda in central and northern Iraq over the past two days. Coalition forces captured a suspected terrorist believed to be a driver for the al Qaeda emir of Mosul yesterday, military officials reported. Based on information gathered during that operation, coalition forces then raided a building in Mosul today targeting the emir's alleged associates. The ground forces detained two suspects said to be tied to the terrorist leader.

West of Baghdad today, coalition forces captured a suspected al Qaeda emir, believed to control 20-30 terrorist operatives. His
terrorist cell is allegedly responsible for rocket and improvised-explosive-device attacks against Iraqi and coalition forces.
Coalition forces targeted an associate of the al Qaeda emir of Baghdad during a raid in Tarmiyah today. The ground forces detained three suspected terrorists.

Southwest of Taji, coalition forces detained two suspected
terrorists while targeting an individual suspected of facilitating the movement of foreign terrorists in eastern Anbar province.

"These terrorists cannot hide; we will seek them out," said
Army Lt. Col. Christopher Garver, Multinational Force Iraq spokesman. "The people of Iraq deserve the ability to choose their own future, free of brutal terrorist attacks."

In other operations today, a Multinational Division Baghdad aircraft conducted a precautionary landing July 31 in an eastern portion of the Iraqi capital.

The aircraft, an AH-64 Apache helicopter, came under attack from ground fire and landed east of the New Baghdad District. The crew of the aircraft was successfully evacuated from the precautionary landing site by its sister aircraft.

The crewmembers were taken to a coalition medical treatment facility for a routine evaluation. The incident is under investigation, U.S. officials said.

Iraqi security forces, with U.S. Special Forces soldier advisors, conducted an early-morning raid yesterday detaining 13 individuals in an effort to disrupt
terrorist weapons smuggling and early warning systems in the Nidah area of eastern Iraq.

After clearing six buildings, forces detained a primary target, along with 12 others. The primary suspect is thought to be a key member of the
terrorist criminal network of al Qaeda in Iraq operating in the Mandali area. He is suspected of engaging in improvised explosive devices and car bomb activity, as well as mortar attacks, small-arms attacks, murder, kidnapping, ransom, and intimidation of local citizens.

Along with the suspected terrorists, two AK-47 assault rifles, three cell phones and a pick-up truck belonging to one of the detainees were also confiscated.

In operations July 29, Multinational Division Baghdad Apache helicopter crews located and engaged enemy rocket launchers in northern Baghdad. The crew reported finding 10 rocket-launching systems in an open area, possibly the same area from which a rocket attack was launched on the International Zone earlier the same day.

"Detailed reconnaissance and demonstrated aerial skills by the air weapons team were key in interdicting future rocket attacks directed at the International Zone," said Army Lt. Col. Christopher Walach, commander of 1st "Attack" Battalion, 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division.

The Apache team was conducting a reconnaissance mission when it was called by ground forces from 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, to go to the site.

The ground forces cleared the Apache crews to engage the launching systems, and the crews fired on them, disabling them. A ground unit from 2nd BCT later moved to the site to confiscate the rocket-launching systems while the Apache crews provided security.

(Compiled from Multinational Force Iraq and Combined Joint Special

Army Casualties

The Department of Defense announced today the death of two soldiers who were supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.

They died July 27 near Kamu, Afghanistan, of injuries sustained when their unit came in contact with enemy forces using small arms fire during combat operations. They were assigned to 1st Squadron, 91st Cavalry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, Vicenza, Italy.

Killed were:
Maj. Thomas G. Bostick Jr., 37, of Llano, Texas, and
Staff Sgt. William R. Fritsche, 23, of Martinsville, Ind.


For more information related to this release, media may contact the Southern European Task Force public affairs office at 011-39-0444-71-7011 or 011-39-0444-71-8020.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Surge Putting Pressure on Terrorists; Air Power Surges with Ground Troops

By Fred W. Baker III
American Forces Press Service

July 30, 2007 - Operations in Iraq are putting pressure on insurgents, keeping them off balance and eliminating their safe havens, a senior spokesman there said today. "We have established a degree of
tactical momentum ... and will continue to build on that momentum," Navy Rear Adm. Mark I. Fox, deputy spokesman for Multinational Force Iraq, said during an in-country media roundtable this morning.

"We continue to pressure former sanctuaries in the Baghdad belts -- around Ramadi and in and around Baqubah -- denying (al Qaeda in Iraq) freedom of movement and disrupting extremist secret cells while increasing the confidence of the local citizens in the coalition and Iraqi security force."

Already this year, coalition forces have seized or destroyed more weapons caches than in all of 2006, Fox said. Just last week, coalition and Iraqi security forces seized more than 120 caches, he added.

Tips are coming in from Iraqi citizens in record numbers. In June, 23,000 tips were called in to coalition and Iraqi forces -- four times the number at this point in 2006.

"The pace and number of weapons caches seized reflects the pressure being applied by the surge of operations. Nevertheless the enemy retains the capability to launch spectacular attacks, as we have seen them do with tragic results for innocent Iraqi citizens," Fox said.

Iraqi security forces conducted a raid last week in Nasiriyah, seizing a cache with 42 improvised explosive devices, about 400 rockets, 70 mortar rounds, and 11 heavy machine guns.

Fox said another trend in the region pointing to the effectiveness of the surge is that tribes and leaders previously pitted against coalition forces are now joining the fight against insurgents. He cited a handful of recent events that indicate the "people of Iraq are rejecting the hatred, violence, sectarianism and Taliban-like state offered by (al Qaeda)."

-- One hundred sheikhs and 400 religious and political
leaders met in Ramadi on July 7 for a conference called "Promise of the People";

-- Fifty tribal
leaders met at the governor's house in Baqubah earlier this month to discuss security and services and pledged to work together in the Muqdadiyah Tribal Conference;

-- July 16 in Taji, Sunni and Shiia sheiks pledged unity to one another to stop sectarian attacks; and

-- Sixteen local sheiks and tribal
leaders in Khalis on July 23 pledged on behalf of some 75 sheiks to work to end the violence.

Air power also is surging in support of ground forces, delivering fire power and other support in record numbers since the since the surge began, said
Air Force Maj. Gen. David M. Edgington, who joined Fox at the roundtable. Edgington is director of the Air Component Coordination Element for Multinational Force Iraq. He is responsible for synchronizing all air assets into combat operations.

"Our purpose is to integrate our forces with the ground forces to synchronize the effects that we are able to bring to the battle in support of the coalition force," he said.

Edgington said air support is flying 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

In Iraq and Afghanistan combined, Air Mobility Command refuelers are flying 50 sorties a day, delivering some 3 million pounds of fuel. Airlift aircraft are flying 200 sorties daily, carrying about 2,000 passengers. These missions include taking troops to different posts and in and out of theater, medical evacuation flights, and transporting detainees.

Air Force cargo flights each day allow 160 trucks to stay off the roads and avoid the hazards of ground travel, Edgington said. "Taking 160 trucks off the roads a day is a huge effort on the part of the airlifters," Edgington said.

While he said he couldn't discuss operational details of combat air power in theater, the Air Force general showed eight video clips of recent combat action against insurgent troops. In the clips, airpower assets are seen destroying insurgent weapons caches, bomb factories and snipers on rooftops.

Edgington reported that Iraqi airpower abilities are growing at a "healthy rate."

Iraqi forces have C-130s flying in support of Iraqi and coalition missions. They also have surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft and are conducting pilot
training. They do not, however, have any air combat power yet, the general said.

Petraeus Working to Keep Iraq Assessment Apolitical

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

July 30, 2007 - The top U.S. commander in Iraq today acknowledged high expectations for a September assessment of the situation in Iraq and said he would work to keep politics out of the process.
Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of Multinational Force Iraq, spoke to Diane Sawyer on ABC's "Good Morning America" program from his headquarters in Baghdad. He said that every time he gets a question about the assessment, "I feel another rock going into the rucksack, which is reasonably heavy at this point."

Petraeus and U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan C. Crocker will offer a comprehensive assessment of the status of Iraq during testimony before Congress in September. The general said it will be the ground truth. "We will be trying, frankly, to stay apolitical in this whole endeavor," he said.

By then, Petraeus and other
military commanders may have offered recommendations through the chain of command to the president. "We will also offer our views of various implications of ways ahead that may be under discussion," he said.

Sustainable security in Iraq is the goal of the
military effort in Iraq, Petraeus said. He said it will take until summer 2009 to establish the conditions for that concept to flourish.

This does not mean the number of U.S. troops will remain the same, he said. Petraeus is on record as saying that he will not ask for extensions for troops beyond current 15-month deployments. He and other senior leaders will work together to decide when they can reduce the number of American troops in Iraq "without surrendering the gains we have made," he said.

He said he and
Army Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, commander of Multinational Corps Iraq, will work together to "determine at what point we can send forces home without replacements and also begin to transition tasks over time so we are doing more partnering and less leading."

Petraeus also said there will be a gradual drawdown of British forces in Iraq, contrary to reports that British forces will leave early. British forces are in command of Multinational Division Southeast and already have handed to provincial Iraqi control the provinces of Muthanna, Dhi Qar and Najaf. British forces are turning over more and more territory in Basra, the largest province in southeastern Iraq, to Iraqi control. "The plan over time is to draw down," Petraeus said.

In addition, the general addressed reported tension between him and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. He said stories about friction between Maliki and him are the product of "some political factions here who would like to throw sand in the gears of the relationship."

Petraeus said he meets with the prime minister several times a week, and he speaks with Maliki several times a day. "We have a relationship that includes good, frank and open discussions, and we don't always agree on everything," Petraeus said. "But we have the strength of a relationship that allows us to discuss those issues and to come to resolution on them. At times, politics trumps the
military, and we accept that."

Coalition Raids Kill Five Terrorists in Iraq

American Forces Press Service

July 30, 2007 - Coalition forces killed five
terrorists and detained 38 suspected terrorists today during operations targeting al Qaeda in Iraq's Salah Ad Din and Anbar provinces, military officials reported. As coalition forces approached one of the targeted buildings during a raid in Tarmiyah, they received small-arms fire from within. After ensuring that women and children near the scene were a safe distance from the building, coalition forces reacting in self-defense called in close-air support.

Ground forces assessed that five
terrorists were killed in the air strike. The assault forces detained 10 suspected terrorists and destroyed the building, officials said.

Near Karmah today, coalition forces raided four buildings associated with a suspected al Qaeda financier who works with senior al Qaeda leaders in Anbar province. During the operation, the assault force found machine guns, mortar rounds, improvised-explosive-device materials, and
military-style assault vests. A coalition air strike destroyed the cache, and the ground forces detained 17 suspected terrorists on site.

South of Samarra, coalition forces detained eight suspected
terrorists during a raid today targeting a suspected al Qaeda operative tied to suicide bombers and foreign terrorists. The ground forces uncovered a cache of weapons that included rifles, grenades, mortars, military-style assault vests, body armor, and materials to assist in anti-aircraft strikes. A trained explosives team destroyed the cache on site.

Elsewhere, coalition forces today detained three suspected terrorists during a raid targeting an alleged al Qaeda
leader in Bayji.

"Al Qaeda in Iraq and affiliated networks continue to conduct malicious attacks on the Iraqi people," said Army Lt. Col. Christopher Garver, a Multinational Force Iraq spokesman. "We will continue to target their leaders and operatives wherever they hide."

In operations yesterday, Iraqi security forces conducted a series of raids that led to the detention of a suspected al Qaeda cell leader responsible for attacks and facilitating foreign fighters in the Qaim area.

The suspect allegedly ran
terrorist activities in Husaybah and was reportedly involved in planning future large-scale attacks against coalition forces in the western Euphrates River Valley, officials said.

With U.S. Special Forces soldiers present as advisors, Iraqi police also detained two primary suspects and three additional people of interest near Husaybah, located on the Euphrates River west of Qaim. Various documents, including multiple identification cards and passports, also were seized during the operation. The second primary suspect is a school teacher believed to be spreading propaganda and recruiting his students to kill members of the Iraqi
police and army.

(Compiled from Multinational Corps Iraq and Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force Arabian Peninsula news releases.)

Iraqi Police Training

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service


July 30, 2007 - Iraq's national
police are in the second portion of a four-phase program to help them become a proficient, loyal law enforcement organization that serves all of Iraq's citizens, a senior U.S. military officer said today. The 25,000-plus-member national police organization falls under the Iraqi government's Interior Ministry as a "bridge force" between regular police and the Iraqi army, Army Col. Mark R. French, deputy commander for professional development and police training for the Civilian Police Assistance Team, told online journalists and "bloggers."

"Many of these forces have fought bravely; thousands have died in fighting the insurgents," French said.

Iraq's regular
police perform routine municipal duties, while its armed forces are focused on external threats, French explained. The national police, he continued, serve as an auxiliary law enforcement agency that could be engaged to address internal threats to the nation, such as militia-generated violence against the central government and its citizens.

Today, most national
police officers are stationed in Baghdad, helping U.S. troops during surge-related, anti-insurgent operations, French said. Smaller contingents are serving in Samarra and Balad.

The Iraqi Interior Ministry merged commando, emergency-response and other units to create the national
police in March 2006, French said.

In summer 2006,
U.S. Army Gen. George W. Casey Jr., then-commander of Multinational Force Iraq, decided the national police weren't performing properly and needed an overhaul.

"At that time, General Casey directed a four-phase transformation program be initiated for the national
police," French said. The first phase, he said, included an overall look at operations, including personnel and supply practices.

The second phase, being conducted now, is a month-long
police training program for each national police brigade, French said. About 75 percent of the curriculum teaches students how to perform law enforcement duties in a democracy, he said, while the other 25 percent focuses on tactical skills such as patrolling, cordon-and-search operations, and conducting checkpoints. The program is slated to conclude about Oct. 10.

Phase Three consists of "Carabinieri-like"
police training scheduled to start around Oct. 15, French said. The Carabinieri are Italy's famed paramilitary police force.

"Right now, this training is envisioned to last about 90 days," French said. "It's a leader-centric, train-the-trainer focus." The curriculum includes public order response, advanced investigation techniques, forensics,
special weapons and tactics, and urban operations, he said.

The fourth phase, which has no start date planned, will consist of distributing newly trained national
police officers to posts across Iraq, French said.

In the past, the national police have been accused of having anti-government militia members within their ranks, French acknowledged. Today, however, each national police member attending phase-two
police training is vetted, he pointed out.

"They're checked against a Ministry of the Interior data base for criminal records or any history of sectarian militia activity," French explained. "We've culled out quite a few."

U.S.-U.K. Leaders Reaffirm Objectives in Terror War

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

July 30, 2007 - The United States and Great Britain share common values and "an obligation ... to work for freedom and justice around the world," President Bush said today in a joint news conference with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown at Camp David, Md., today. "After all, we're writing the initial chapters of what I believe is a great ideological struggle between those of us who do believe in freedom and justice and human rights and human dignity and cold-blooded killers who will kill innocent people to achieve their objectives," Bush said.

Both men said they will continue to work together closely.

Bush thanked Brown for Britain's continued support in Afghanistan and Iraq. "Success in Afghanistan and Iraq will be an integral part of defeating an enemy and helping people realize the great blessings of liberty as the alternative to an ideology of darkness that spreads its murder to achieve its objectives," he said.

"Terrorism is not a cause, it is a crime, and it is a crime against humanity" said Brown, on his first visit to the United States as prime minister. "And there should be no safe haven and no hiding place for those who practice
terrorist violence or preach terrorist extremism."

Brown said the British have duties and responsibilities in Iraq to support of the democratically elected government. "Our aim, like the United States, is step by step to move control to the Iraqi ... government and to its security forces as progress is made," he said. "And we've moved from combat to overwatch in three of the four provinces for which we, the British, have security responsibility. We intend to move to overwatch in the fourth province, and that decision will be made on the
military advice of our commanders on the ground."

Brown called Afghanistan the front line against
terrorism and said the United Kingdom has added to its commitment in the country, providing two more battalions to NATO forces there.

Bush stressed the commonality of purpose between the two leaders on Iraq. "There's no doubt in my mind that Gordon Brown understands that failure in Iraq would be a disaster for the security of our own countries, that failure in Iraq would embolden extremist movements throughout the Middle East, that failure in Iraq would basically say to ... people sitting on the fence around the region that al Qaeda is powerful enough to drive great countries like Great Britain and America out of Iraq before the mission is done," he said.

The president said Brown understands that failure in Iraq would spread violence across the Middle East, and "that a country like Iran would become emboldened."

The Western world is in a generation-long battle against al Qaeda-inspired terrorism, and there is no negotiating with
terrorists, Brown said. The battle must include military, diplomatic, intelligence, security, policing and ideological terms.

"So we are at one in fighting the battle against
terrorism, and that struggle is one that we will fight with determination and with resilience and right across the world," he said.

Army Casualty

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Spc. Daniel A. Leckel, 19, of Medford, Ore., died July 25 in Baghdad, Iraq, of wounds suffered from enemy small arms fire. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 28th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, Fort Riley, Kan.

For more information related to this release, the media may contact the Fort Riley public affairs office at (785) 239-3410.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Army Casualties

The Department of Defense announced today the death of three soldiers who were supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom. They died July 26 in Saqlawiyah, Iraq of wounds sustained when an improvised explosive device detonated near their vehicle. They were assigned to the 5th Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, Fort Stewart, Ga.

Killed were:
Sgt. William R. Howdeshell, 37, of Norfolk, Va.,
Spc. Charles E Bilbrey, Jr., 21, of Owego, New York, and
Spc. Jaime Rodriguez, Jr., 19, of Oxnard, Calif.,


For more information related to this release, the media may contact the Fort Stewart public affairs office at (912) 767-2479.

Forces Kill 8 Terrorists, Detain 22 Suspects Today During Operations

American Forces Press Service

July 29, 2007 - Coalition forces killed eight
terrorists and detained 22 suspected terrorists during operations today targeting al Qaeda members in central Iraq and the Tigris River valley, officials reported. While targeting an al Qaeda leader in the Yusifiyah area, who was also suspected of helping foreign terrorists to enter into Iraq, coalition forces were engaged by terrorists with small arms fire. Coalition forces employed close air support killing five of the terrorists.

The assault force then followed fleeing suspects into a building, where they detained armed individuals and uncovered fortified fighting positions and a large cache of weapons. One boy was injured during the operation. He was treated on site and accompanied by his father to a
military medical facility.

"Terrorists continue to endanger innocent Iraqis and show their disregard for human life each time they surround themselves with civilians during their criminal operations," said
Army Maj. Marc Young, a Multinational Force Iraq spokesman.

Also today, insurgent mortar fire wounded 10 Iraqi civilians working at a Baghdad oil refinery. U.S. troops from Joint Security Station Raider responded immediately to assist in the evacuation of the wounded. The impact of the four 120 mm rounds did not damage the facility or affect refinery operations.

"Targeting this nation's infrastructure is a prime example of how far Iraq's enemies will go to disrupt the peoples' lives," said
Army Col. Ricky Gibbs, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team commander.

In other operations today in Iraq:

-- Coalition forces south of Tarmiyah, targeted an al Qaeda cell leader and used aircraft to patrol the area. As the operation began, armed
terrorists engaged the aircraft with small arms fire. The aircraft, returning fire in self-defense, engaged the terrorists on the ground, killing three and wounding one suspect. The assault force on the ground detained three additional suspected terrorists.

-- South of Baghdad, coalition forces used air assets to contain a suspected enemy force while targeting key players in the city's car bomb network. As coalition forces raided the target building, several suspected terrorists attempted to evade the assault force. With the help of close air support, the ground force detained seven suspected terrorists.

-- Coalition forces raided a building in Samarra looking for a suspected foreign
terrorist facilitator and financier tied to an individual detained during an operation July 14. The ground forces detained two suspects on scene and discovered weapons and a mortar round in the building.

-- Coalition forces detained two suspected terrorists during an operation south of Tikrit targeting an al Qaeda
military emir.

In operations yesterday:

-- Two synchronized raids in Tarmiyah targeted senior terrorist
leaders from the area. Coalition forces captured a suspected al Qaeda judge and his alleged advisor. Forces also detained three more suspected terrorists from the location.

-- In Samarra, coalition forces raided four buildings in search of an alleged key terrorist leader and close associate of the local al Qaeda emir. The ground forces captured the targeted individual, who is also an alleged bomb-maker and involved in kidnappings, assassinations and extortion operations. Four other suspected terrorists were detained with him.

-- Coalition forces conducted two coordinated raids south of Tarmiyah targeting associates of high-level al Qaeda leaders. The ground forces detained six suspected terrorists for their ties to al Qaeda operations.

-- U.S. soldiers and Iraqi security forces captured three suspected insurgents during Operation Burkan IV in eastern Baghdad. Raids were conducted in the Karada District in the hopes of shutting down and disrupting a cell believed responsible for
training snipers and improvised explosive device attacks.

-- With U.S. Special Operations Forces present as advisers, Iraqi police detained two known al Qaeda cell members suspected of numerous crimes, including murdering and intimidating Iraqi citizens and improvised explosive device attacks against coalition forces, during a helicopter assault in a remote area northwest of Taji.

"The capture and detainment of these two individuals will further inhibit al Qaeda activities in Western Iraq and reduce attacks in Ramadi and Qaryat al Majarrah areas," a U.S. Special Operations Forces commander said following the mission. "It also shows that the government of Iraq will not allow anti-Iraqi forces to interfere with the Iraqi government and their plans to stabilize the al Anbar area."

In operations July 27:

-- Apache helicopter crews assigned to Multinational Division Baghdad disrupted a small arms attack on a coalition outpost in southern Baghdad. The aircraft crew observed tracer rounds fired by five to seven men on the roof of a mosque in the area. The Apaches fired into a nearby field instead of engaging the insurgents on the mosque. The small arms fire ceased and the insurgents fled the area.

-- Four suspected insurgents were captured during a raid in Baghdad led by Iraqi army and security forces. With U.S. Special Forces advising, forces confiscated documents indentifying one of the men as a battalion commander for enemy forces. The alleged insurgents are responsible for placing explosively-formed penetrators around Baghdad. They are also believed to be responsible for attacks on Iraqi and coalition forces.

-- With U.S. Special Operations Forces present as advisers, Iraqi soldiers conducted a series of raids detaining two suspected insurgents believed to be responsible of numerous attacks against coalition forces and Iraqi citizens in the town of Husaybah. Rifles, ammunition and false identification cards were also seized during the operation.

One individual is allegedly responsible for the coordination and execution of multiple improvised explosive device, indirect fire and small arms attacks against coalition forces and Iraqi citizens. He is also suspected of financing and providing intelligence support for insurgent activities. Another detained individual is believed to be responsible for a series of bomb attacks. He is also allegedly involved in the kidnapping of Iraqi citizens.

"The capture and detainment of these individuals will greatly inhibit al Qaeda in Iraq activities in Western Iraq and reduce attacks in Habbaniyah and surrounding areas," a U.S. Special Operations Forces commander said following the mission.

In operations July 26:

-- During Operation Marne Avalanche, paratroopers discovered three weapons caches and captured one insurgent from a cell responsible for attacks against citizens and security forces in North Babil. The caches contained two heavy machine guns with 575 rounds, a rocket-propelled grenade launcher with seven rounds, three assault rifles, an ammunition vest and a can of 7.62 mm ammunition.

"Going into areas like this, where insurgents have been running around freely really makes them think twice," said
Army Staff Sgt. John Panowich, a squad leader with the 25th Infantry Division. "No coalition or Iraqi security forces have been in that area for quite some time. So, for us to just pop up in his own backyard one night is going to keep him laying low and watching over his shoulder for a while."

-- While conducting patrols as part of Operation Iron Blitz, U.S. soldiers located multiple weapons and munitions caches consisting of mortars, anti-aircraft guns with ammunition, containers filled with high explosives and other bomb-making materials.

Troops also discovered a car bomb factory containing several vehicles in different stages of completion. Aviation units later dropped a 500-pound bomb, destroying the facility.

While searching the building, troops found a kidnapping victim who had been taken while visiting relatives near Abu Ghraib. He claims to have been tortured and held for almost four days. Troops reunited the man with his family.

-- Iraqi and coalition forces killed 11
terrorists and detained 13 suspected terrorists in an effort to secure a village in the Diyala province during Operation Woodshed. The combined security forces, with assistance from attack helicopters, close-air support and field artillery assets, observed and killed several elements of enemy forces attempting to maneuver on their elements.

"The coalition and Iraqi forces will continue to conduct aggressive, intelligence-driven operations to target those organizations that have offered nothing but hatred and destruction to the citizens of Diyala," said
Army Col. David Sutherland, commander of coalition forces in the province. "The terrorists' actions will not be tolerated, and in the end, they will be brought to justice."

(Compiled from Multinational Corps Iraq and Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force Arabian Peninsula news releases.)

Afghan, Coalition Troops Conduct Successful Missions Against Taliban

American Forces Press Service

July 29, 2007 - Afghan National Security Forces, supported by coalition partners, successfully conducted an operation against Taliban fighters in Helmand province this week,
military officials reported. Several Taliban fighters were killed during a precise operation July 27, according to reports, and there were no reported civilian casualties or damage.

"This operation follows a series of ... blows against the Taliban command over the last few weeks," said
U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Claudia Foss, International Security Assistance Force spokesman. "They are aimed at impacting the ability of the Taliban to plan and coordinate its attacks."

In other operations this week, Afghan National
Police thwarted the attempts of insurgents trying to hijack a United Nations food shipment in Farah province July 27. The shipment, part of the World Food Program, was headed to Herat where more than 100,000 Afghans rely upon it for survival.

The failed attack resulted in one Afghan National
Police officer killed and six wounded.
Attacks by the Taliban earlier in the summer along the road linking Kandahar to Herat caused the suspension of the food shipments until July 11. An estimated 1,500 to 2,000 tons of food was shipped weekly during normal operations.

"Once again, the Taliban have proven that their propaganda about caring about the lives of innocent Afghans is a lie," said
Army Maj. Chris Belcher, a Combined Joint Task Force 82 spokesman. "Their actions speak louder than their words as they strike at the food deliveries bound for the poorest of this country."

On July 26, Afghan National
Police detained three suspects in connection with bombings in Nangahar province. The police initially responded to a call over a land dispute when they were tipped off to the suspicious activities of an individual. Afghan forces discovered 25 bags of explosives, 20 rolls of fusing and more than 11,000 blasting caps while searching the suspect's house.

Afghan forces took three individuals into custody and asked for coalition force assistance in the questioning process. While being questioned, one suspect admitted to illegally purchasing and smuggling all the items from a major supplier in Pakistan to sell within Afghanistan.

"By discovering this bomb-making material, the (Afghan National
Police) has made the streets of Nangahar safer for everyone," Belcher said. "The material found could have been used to make up to 11,000 (improvised explosive devices)."

(Compiled from International Security Assistance Force and Combined Joint Task Force 82 news releases.)

Comedians Entertain Troops in Iraq

By Pfc. Benjamin Gable, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service

July 29, 2007 - Comedians Dave Attell and Scott Kennedy are keeping troops laughing during an eight-stop USO-sponsored comedy tour for servicemembers deployed to the Operation Iraqi Freedom theater of operations. Attell may be best known for his travelogue show on Comedy Central, "Insomniac," where he tours bars and club scenes for late-night fun. He has been a guest on "The Late Show with David Letterman" and "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart." He's also traveled the world performing stand-up and visiting soldiers in combat zones.

Scott Kennedy has performed in sold-out shows in 150 cities in the United States and Canada. He has headlined from coast-to-coast and has twice sold-out the Riviera Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. Kennedy has made performed eight shows for soldiers overseas in his career.

"I have two nephews that have served in Iraq, and I love you guys," Kennedy said. "If you guys are here, I'm here."

Both comedians interact with the audience during their shows, asking soldiers questions, and then delivering punch lines and snappy comebacks. The comics hit on topics from relationships to favorite alcohol drinks to life in Iraq.

The soldiers in the audience roared with laughter during the routines at the Scorpion Morale, Welfare and Recreational Center here July 28.

"I'm a big fan of stand-up comedy; these guys did a great job," said Sgt. Michael Bone, assigned to the 2nd Infantry Division's 1st Battalion, 38th Infantry Regiment, 4th Stryker Brigade.

When the show was over on Camp Liberty, Attell and Kennedy signed autographs, gave away free DVDs and took pictures with soldiers. They personally thanked every soldier for their service while speaking with them.

"I always liked to find soldiers when filming 'Insomniac' because you guys have no days off and are up all night," Attell said.

(
Army Pfc. Benjamin Gable is a journalist assigned to the 7th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment.)

General Recognizes Pilots for Daring Rescue Mission

By Spc. Nathan Hoskins, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service

July 29, 2007 - The top U.S. general in Iraq presented awards to four Apache pilots for their part in the July 2 rescue of two other pilots downed by enemy fire during a July 27 ceremony in the Victory Base Complex here. Gen. David Petraeus, commander of Multi-National Forces Iraq, honored the four pilots of the 1st Cavalry Division's 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, and eight others who helped rescue the pilots.

Chief Warrant Officer Allan Davison and Chief Warrant Officer Micah Johnson, both AH-64D Apache attack helicopter pilots for Company A, 1st Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment, received Distinguished Flying Crosses.

Davison and Johnson landed their attack helicopter in a hostile area and evacuated the two downed OH-58 Kiowa helicopter pilots of the 3rd Infantry Division's 3rd Combat Aviation Brigade.

Apaches only have two seats, so Johnson, the front seat pilot, let one of the Kiowa pilots take his seat in the Apache while he and the other Kiowa pilot strapped themselves to the outside of the aircraft and sat on the wings, said Johnson.

"It looked like they were both in pretty good shape, but one of them kind of looked like he had been through enough, like he was a little shocked, as I would be, too. I told him to get in front," he said.

Once the pilots were strapped in, Davison, the pilot in command, took off and headed to Baghdad International Airport where the pilots were dropped off.

While this was taking place, their Apache wingmen were circling above providing security.

Those two pilots, Chief Warrant Officer Seung Choi and Chief Warrant Officer Troy Moseley, received Air Medals for their efforts.

Although happy at being awarded medals and recognized by the top commander in Iraq, the pilots said their greatest reward was finding the downed pilots alive.

"We've seen a lot of aircraft shoot-downs," Johnson said in an interview after the rescue. "Every one that we've all probably seen, it's resulted in burning aircraft and black smoke and usually catastrophic loss of life. If not loss of life, then there have been serious injuries. Just to see those two alive, it was amazing. It was great."

(
Army Spc. Nathan Hoskins is a journalist assigned to the 1st Cavalry Division's 1st Air Cavalry Brigade.)

Friday, July 27, 2007

U.S., Iraqi Generals Chart Security Progress in Baghdad

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

July 26, 2007 - Security progress in Iraq is undeniable, Iraqi and American
leaders in Baghdad said today. Iraqi army Lt. Gen. Abood Qanbar, commander of the Baghdad Operations Center, said sectarian violence is decreasing and his country will not slip in civil war.

U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, commander of Multinational Corps Iraq, attributed the success to three factors. The first is that the surge of coalition forces has had an impact on the situation in the capital. The surge is denying sanctuary to al Qaeda in Iraq and Shiia extremists.

"The important element to long-term effectiveness is holding these gains," Odierno said during a news conference. "The Iraqi security forces and coalition forces have made a commitment to ensure we hold these gains."

The second factor is Iraqi forces' growth in strength and capacity, the general said. "With such professional growth comes the confidence of the population," Odierno said. "Security provided by competent Iraqi security forces allows the people to go about their business of restoring economic, political and social growth of the nation."

Third is reconciliation efforts that tribal leaders and sheikhs have been engaged in. "Ultimately, reconciled groups come to understand that the political process is the best way to achieve their objectives peacefully and under the rule of law instead of through violence and fear," he said.

Abood said the number of bodies discovered by authorities has decreased by 90 percent. He added that improvised explosive devices are down 40 percent, and car bombs are down 15 percent. "Life is normal in many areas of Baghdad," Abood said through a translator. "We have noticed more stores opening after a long suspension. Work in the government offices is now organized."

The general said many projects are under way in Baghdad, and students were able to finish the school year with minimal interference of their exams.

With the return of more peaceful life, the number of Iraqis using medical facilities has jumped by 300 percent, Abood said.

"Iraqi people in some hot areas rejected the terrorist groups after they felt that the Iraqi forces can protect them," he said. "People are cooperating with the Iraqi security forces."

He said terrorists are not pleased with the unity the Iraqi people have shown. "We know that terror has no religion," he said. "It is the enemy of all the nations and all humanity."

Abood is under no illusions. Even with the progress in Baghdad, a lot of work remains, he said. "We have to face sectarianism, and all the people must support the operations," he said.

Odierno congratulated the Iraqi soccer team for its victory over South Korea in the Asian Games. "As hard-working men from many different and diverse backgrounds, they represent what is best about this nation," the general said. "I wish them the best of luck against Saudi Arabia, and I hope they can take home the Asian Cup for the first time in history this Sunday."

Following the soccer team's victory, extremists launched an attack on Iraqis celebrating the win. "These cruel acts of terrorism like this have gone on far too long," Odierno said. "Together we can put a stop to this, and we can throw these heartless zealots out of this country for good."

Operations Fahrd al Qanoon and Phantom Thunder are supporting the Iraqi government's plan to secure the Iraqi population, Odierno said. Forces are concentrating operations on ending terror inflicted on the population by al Qaeda and other illegal groups.
"Our combined forces have captured hundreds of weapons and ammunition caches, found and cleared well over 1,300 explosive devices and more than two dozen car bombs," he said. "We have captured key al Qaeda and extremists Shiia leaders."

Odierno also acknowledged the suffering of the Iraqi people and thanked them for their sacrifices. "It is my hope that we will be able to continue standing alongside you until the job is done," he said.

Iraq Operations Net Suspected Weapons Smuggler

American Forces Press Service

July 27, 2007 - Coalition forces captured four suspected
terrorists believed to receive support from within Iran in a pre-dawn raid in a village in Iraq's Diyala province today. One of the four is a highly sought operative believed to be a senior leader in a weapons-smuggling network, military officials reported.

The captured terrorists are suspected of facilitating the transport of weapons and personnel from Iran into Iraq. They are also believed to have facilitated the flow of deadly, armor-piercing explosively formed projectiles to be used against coalition forces.

"Coalition troops remain relentless in our pursuit of those
terrorists who seek to bring EFPs and other lethal aid into Iraq," said Army Maj. Marc Young, a Multinational Force Iraq spokesman. "Iranian influence is hindering the prospects of peace and stability in Iraq."

In other recent operations:

-- Iraqi army soldiers with U.S. Special Forces advisors detained a cell leader of the rogue Jaysh al-Mahdi militia in Baghdad yesterday. The suspect is believed to command an improvised-explosive-device cell allegedly responsible for attacks on coalition forces. He also is alleged to have received financial support and EFPs from Iran, which were distributed to other cell members in the Bayaa and Aamel areas of Baghdad.

-- Iraqi security forces with U.S. Special Forces advisors detained two primary targets of an al Qaeda cell in Baghdad yesterday. The forces detained their primary targets at several different residences during the early morning operation. The cell allegedly is responsible for conducting extrajudicial killings of Iraqi citizens and emplacing improvised explosive devices. They are also believed to have conducted attacks on Iraqi and coalition forces, as well as local Iraqi citizens.

-- Attack aviation crews from Multinational Division Baghdad killed seven insurgents July 25 in western Baghdad. The Apache crews responded to a call from ground forces receiving small-arms fire from about 15 insurgents. The insurgents attempted to flee the area in a van when the helicopters arrived. The crews engaged the vehicle, destroying it and killing seven insurgents.

"Conducting close-combat attacks are one of our primary tasks during our daily mission sets," said
Army Capt. Scott McCraney, the pilot in command for the mission. "We were able to successfully destroy the van and engage the insurgents that were firing on (the troops)."

(Compiled from Multinational Force Iraq, Multinational Corps Iraq and Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force Arabian Peninsula news releases.)

Improved Ninewah Security May Mean Fewer U.S. Troops in Future

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

July 27, 2007 - Insurgent attacks in Iraq's Ninewah province have dropped significantly, and if the trend continues, fewer U.S. troops will be needed in the region, an
Army commander in the area said today. A sign of the improved security situation in the province is the fact that the province -- which includes Mosul, Iraq's second-largest city -- will transfer to Iraqi provincial control sometime next month, said Army Col. Stephen Twitty, commander of the 1st Cavalry Division's 4th Brigade, during a briefing with Pentagon reporters via telephone.

The Ninewah provincial government has made great strides and can stand on its own with minimal help, Twitty said. "We have a very mature provincial government here," he said.

The coalition provincial reconstruction team in Mosul and the brigade staff will continue to coach and mentor the provincial government. "In nine months I have seen this government mature, so they will be able to operate pretty much independently and run the provincial government pretty much independently," Twitty said.

On the security side, the two Iraqi divisions in the province are already under the command of Iraqi Ground Forces Command. "We still continue to see a need for the (provincial reconstruction team) to be here and will probably see a need for some type of coalition forces up here," Twitty said. "That may or may not be a robust force like I have, and it's going to be based on the security situation here."

He said the security situation is showing great promise. When his brigade moved into the area in December, there were between 15 and 18 attacks per day. Today, that number is down to between seven and nine. "But we must not call victory yet, and we must continue to look at the situation up here," he said.

He said he will look at the possibility of reducing coalition forces in the province.

About 19,000 Iraqi
police and 20,000 Iraqi army soldiers are in Nineveh and are taking on the job of fighting and defeating terrorism, Twitty said. He described an example of Iraqis shouldering the burden that occurred May 16, when terrorists launched a car-bomb offensive. "The Iraqi security forces stood their ground and destroyed the majority of the (car bombs) ... so they could not reach their final destination, decisively defeating the attack," he said.

Iraqi security forces have "the will, the personnel and most of the equipment to fight," but still face challenges, the colonel acknowledged. Logistics, medical support, aviation support, and engineer expertise and equipment are shortfalls. "These are the areas that the Iraqi security forces must develop and that the Iraqi government must provide for their forces," Twitty said.

The Iraqi forces will continue to grow; Iraqi government plans call for another 3,000 policemen and standing up three new Iraqi army battalions to augment the current forces, Twitty said. "These additional forces will solidify the current effort in the province," he said.

The terrorists have reacted to the success with confusion. "The insurgents have been plagued with infighting amongst several groups of the Islamic State of Iraq, and it continues to attempt to influence operations here in Nineveh," Twitty said. "This infighting caused decreased effectiveness of insurgent attacks in June. This month, insurgent forces received little to no financial and logistics support due to the strong Iraqi police, Iraqi army and coalition force presence and operations. These operations have resulted in the seizure of 11 caches and the capture of several insurgent
leaders."

The improved security has allowed coalition and Iraqi officials to concentrate on infrastructure improvements and strengthening the local government.

General Urges Wounded Troops to Share Their Stories

By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service

July 27, 2007 - Veterans of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan returning home wounded should share their stories with fellow Americans, a top Army Medical Department officer said here today.
Army Brig. Gen. Michael S. Tucker, deputy commander of North Atlantic Regional Medical Command, and Army Command Sgt. Maj. Jeffery S. Hartless, senior enlisted leader of the Warrior Transition Brigade at Walter Reed Army Medical Center here, presented Purple Heart Medals to 14 wounded Army soldiers at Walter Reed before an audience of nearly 250 family and friends, fellow servicemembers and medical staff.

Today's recipients are among the nearly 27,000 servicemembers wounded in Operation Iraqi Freedom and nearly 1,500 wounded in Operation Enduring Freedom.

After pinning a Purple Heart to the left side of each soldier's shirtfront, Tucker told the soldiers they now are part of the nation's "hero population" and he urged them to share their experiences with Americans.

"As you move on in life and as you have opportunities, America wants to hear your stories," he said. "You will find that it makes you feel better and that it's part of your healing."

Addressing recipients' families, Tucker expressed his condolences. "When you enlist a soldier, you enlist a family, and when you wound a soldier, you wound a family," he said.

"It's true that some of our lives, especially those here at Walter Reed, have been interrupted by this war," he said, "but these people's lives have been interrupted forever.

"To the soldiers, I thank you for answering the call to duty to your nation," Tucker said. "Each of you continues to inspire all of us with your enthusiasm and your determination and your commitment to service."

The Purple Heart, awarded to U.S. servicemembers wounded by an instrument of war in the hands of the enemy, is one of the most recognized and respected military decorations.

Army soldiers who received Purple Heart medals today were:

-- Staff Sgt. Scott Gentry, 31, of Spokane, Wash., assigned to 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry, from Fort Bliss, Texas. He was traveling in the lead vehicle of a patrol when an IED exploded.

-- Sgt. Andre Marcus Knight, 29, of Petersburg, Va., assigned to 4th Battalion, 1st Infantry Division, from Fort Riley, Kan. His platoon was on a routine clearance mission when a 400-pound bomb planted underneath a sewer line in the road detonated near his vehicle. Two of his fellow soldiers died in the blast.

-- Sgt. Christopher Lynch, 21, of Whetland, Calif., assigned to D Company, 5-73rd Cavalry, 3rd Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division out of Fort Bragg, N.C. He was wounded when a suicide bomber struck his vehicle during a patrol in Iraq.

-- Sgt. Luis Martinez-Ramirez, 38, of Vega Alta, Puerto Rico, a combat engineer with Puerto Rico's National Guard assigned to A Company, 130th Engineer Battalion. He was wounded in an explosion during an early morning clearance patrol in Baghdad.

-- Sgt. Luis Rivera-Valentin, 30, of Toa Baja, Puerto Rico, a combat engineer with Puerto Rico's National Guard assigned to A Company, 130th Engineer Battalion. He was wounded in an explosion during an early morning clearance patrol in Baghdad.

-- Spc. Terence Cook, 21, of Clarksville, Md., assigned to 293rd Military Police Company, from Fort Stewart, Ga. He was returning from a patrol when his vehicle was hit by an improvised explosive device.

-- Spc. Justin S. Davis, 27, of Baton Rouge, La., assigned to 1st Battalion, 36th Infantry. He was shot while on watch at a schoolhouse in Ramadi, Iraq.

-- Spc. Daniel Gomez, 27, of Midway City, Calif., a combat medic with the 82nd Airborne Division, 3rd Platoon, B Company, 1st Battalion, 505th Infantry Regiment, in Salah Ad Din province, Iraq. His rifle platoon was conducting cordon-and-search activities when a fellow soldier was hit by a sniper. After successfully treating his fellow soldier, Gomez was hit by a sniper.

-- Spc. Amando Hamid, 20, of New York, N.Y., assigned to 2nd Brigade, 10th Mountain Division, from Fort Drum, N.Y. He was participating in a clearance mission in southwestern Baghdad when a 350-pound bomb exploded.

-- Spc. Anthony Labelle, 22, of Worchester, Mass., an Infantry Rifleman assigned to Charlie Troop, 3-4th Cavalry from Schofield Barracks, Hawaii. He was wounded by an IED blast while on patrol in Tal Afar, Iraq.

-- Spc. Joshua K. Lutz, 24, of Palm Harbor, Fla., assigned to a unit from Fort Richardson, Alaska. He was wounded by an IED blast while on patrol in Iraq.

-- Spc. Jason Pinney, 24, of Decatur, Ind., assigned to B Company, 1-32nd Infantry Battalion, 10th Mountain Division from Fort Drum, N.Y. He was shot near Afghanistan –Pakistan border in April.

-- Pfc. Ian J. Gillis, 20, of Santa Rosa, Calif., was a gunner assigned to 1st Battalion, 4th Infantry, from Hohenfels, Germany. He was wounded in an IED explosion while en route to help fellow soldiers.

-- Pfc. Ronnie Hodges, 23, of Jacksonville, N.C., a vehicle operator with Combat Support Battalion, 82nd Airborne Division, of Fort Bragg, N.C. He was wounded when an IED detonated near his convoy as it traveled to his base in Baghdad.

Iraqi, Coalition Forces Consolidating Anbar Gains

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

July 27, 2007 - Iraqi and coalition forces are consolidating gains they have made in Iraq's Anbar province, the coalition's ground commander in the region said today. "A gunshot heard right now in the city of Ramadi is a rare thing,"
Marine Brig. Gen. Mark Gurganus said during a phone interview.

Ramadi was the site of pitched fighting between Sunni insurgents and coalition forces. Al Qaeda in Iraq directed the fighting, and thousands of innocent Iraqis paid the price. Today, Ramadi is safe enough to bring the U.S. chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff into downtown for a walkabout.
Marine Gen. Peter Pace visited the region last week.

This week, there were 96 "incidents" in all of Anbar province. Coalition officials define an incident as any report of contact with the enemy, a car-bomb attack, a cache find, etc. Last year at this time, there were well over 400 incidents a week in the province. And the trend continues downward, Gurganus said.

Most of the contact with the enemy occurs in the eastern portion of the province, where Multinational Force West's area of responsibility abuts that of Multinational Division Baghdad.

Al Qaeda is entrenched in the region around Karma. That allows the
terror group to get operatives into Ramadi, Fallujah, Baghdad and the northern part of the country, Gurganus said.

Coalition forces divide the province into three areas. The western part of the province is called Area of Operations Denver. Marine Regimental Combat Team 2 commands the area and is supported by an
Army battalion. In a major desert operation, Marines and soldiers are looking for insurgents attempting to establish training camps and trying to exploit the system of wadis, deep waterways that are dry except during the rainy season, to insinuate their way back into the cities, Gurganus said.

Area of Operations Topeka centers on the provincial capital of Ramadi. U.S. and Iraqi army forces are turning areas there over to Iraqi
police for security responsibility, but U.S. forces will continue to work to build Iraqi security capacity in the region, the general said.

Area of Operations Raleigh in the east is the one area where there is still fighting going on, Gurganus said. He noted that Multinational Force West and Multinational Division Baghdad are working together to close the "seam" between the commands at Karma. Sixty-nine of the 96 incidents in the province this week were in and around Karma. Marine Regimental Combat Team 6 is augmented by an
Army battalion in this region.

Iraqi army forces in the province have made tremendous gains, Gurganus said. The 1st Iraqi Division is under command of the Iraqi Ground Forces Command. The 7th Iraqi Division in the west remains under coalition command but will soon be at full strength, Gurganus said.

"We are still partnered with them, and this will continue even when they are completely under Iraqi control," he said. "(This is) because our goal out here is not necessarily the building of numbers, but of capacity within these forces."

Iraqi, Coalition Forces Consolidating Anbar Gains

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

July 27, 2007 - Iraqi and coalition forces are consolidating gains they have made in Iraq's Anbar province, the coalition's ground commander in the region said today. "A gunshot heard right now in the city of Ramadi is a rare thing,"
Marine Brig. Gen. Mark Gurganus said during a phone interview.

Ramadi was the site of pitched fighting between Sunni insurgents and coalition forces. Al Qaeda in Iraq directed the fighting, and thousands of innocent Iraqis paid the price. Today, Ramadi is safe enough to bring the U.S. chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff into downtown for a walkabout.
Marine Gen. Peter Pace visited the region last week.

This week, there were 96 "incidents" in all of Anbar province. Coalition officials define an incident as any report of contact with the enemy, a car-bomb attack, a cache find, etc. Last year at this time, there were well over 400 incidents a week in the province. And the trend continues downward, Gurganus said.

Most of the contact with the enemy occurs in the eastern portion of the province, where Multinational Force West's area of responsibility abuts that of Multinational Division Baghdad.

Al Qaeda is entrenched in the region around Karma. That allows the terror group to get operatives into Ramadi, Fallujah, Baghdad and the northern part of the country, Gurganus said.

Coalition forces divide the province into three areas. The western part of the province is called Area of Operations Denver. Marine Regimental Combat Team 2 commands the area and is supported by an
Army battalion. In a major desert operation, Marines and soldiers are looking for insurgents attempting to establish training camps and trying to exploit the system of wadis, deep waterways that are dry except during the rainy season, to insinuate their way back into the cities, Gurganus said.

Area of Operations Topeka centers on the provincial capital of Ramadi. U.S. and Iraqi army forces are turning areas there over to Iraqi
police for security responsibility, but U.S. forces will continue to work to build Iraqi security capacity in the region, the general said.

Area of Operations Raleigh in the east is the one area where there is still fighting going on, Gurganus said. He noted that Multinational Force West and Multinational Division Baghdad are working together to close the "seam" between the commands at Karma. Sixty-nine of the 96 incidents in the province this week were in and around Karma. Marine Regimental Combat Team 6 is augmented by an
Army battalion in this region.

Iraqi army forces in the province have made tremendous gains, Gurganus said. The 1st Iraqi Division is under command of the Iraqi Ground Forces Command. The 7th Iraqi Division in the west remains under coalition command but will soon be at full strength, Gurganus said.

"We are still partnered with them, and this will continue even when they are completely under Iraqi control," he said. "(This is) because our goal out here is not necessarily the building of numbers, but of capacity within these forces."

Two Friends Survive Blast in Iraq, Receive Purple Hearts Together

By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service

July 27, 2007 - "Martinez! We made it!"
Army Sgt. Luis Rivera-Valentin shouted to his fellow soldier Sgt. Luis Martinez upon seeing him in a coalition hospital in Baghdad. Hours before, on the morning of April 22, Rivera-Valentin and Martinez rode through eastern Baghdad in an RG-31 Nyala mine-protected vehicle. They were clearing roadside bombs insurgents had littered across the landscape.

Around 1 a.m., an explosively-formed penetrator -- a shaped charge designed to penetrate vehicle armor -- exploded into the vehicle.

"The bomb hit right on my side window," Martinez said. "The shrapnel came right through my eye, destroying the lens and the cornea."

Hot shrapnel ripped through the vehicle and also hit Rivera-Valentin's eye, leaving him partially blind too.

"Right now, I don't have any lens in my left eye," he said, motioning to an eye patch held fast over his eye socket by an elastic band.

The two National Guard soldiers met after Martinez was promoted to sergeant and transferred into Company A, 130th Engineer Battalion, from Puerto Rico. As they became friends, they realized they had much in common. In fact, one could say they lives were mirrored.

Each man's hometown lies a few miles off Autopista Jose de Diego highway near Puerto Rico's northern coastline, where each lives with his wife and two kids.

They sat next to each other inside the same vehicle when it was rocked by the detonation. Their lives flashed before their eyes at the same exact moment while on the same road in a foreign country.

The soldiers wheeled next to each other on stretchers, and each man reached over his gurney and held his fellow soldier's hand in the hospital. Matching black oval patches now cover each man's single injured eye.

And at Walter Reed Medical Center here, where each soldier's uniform was pinned today with an identical Purple Heart Medal, doctors told each man he has a 50 percent chance of regaining vision in his damaged eye.

But the two friends don't worry about the surgeries that will take place over the next three months, they say, and their friendship has been reinforced during their mutual recoveries.

"We talk all the time about having faith in God, and that we're going to fine," Martinez said. "We talk about it, we cry about. The more you talk about it the better you feel about it, and the more you raise your spirits."

Rivera-Valentin is equally optimistic. "I feel very well. I give thanks to God everyday because at least I can see my family," he said.

The soldier says he's confident in the medical attention he's receiving at the Army hospital. "They're great doctors," he said. "They say they're going to do their best."

Rivera-Valentin and Martinez were two of 14 soldiers who received the Purple Heart Medal at Walter Reed today. The Purple Heart, awarded to U.S. servicemembers wounded by an instrument of war in the hands of the enemy, is one of the most recognized and respected military decorations.

Today's recipients are among the nearly 27,000 servicemembers wounded in Operation Iraqi Freedom and nearly 1,500 wounded in Operation Enduring Freedom.

Troops Detain Suspects in Iraq; U.S. Condemns Baghdad Attack

American Forces Press Service

July 26, 2007 - Iraqi and coalition forces netted 39 suspects in Iraq over the past two days, and
military officials strongly condemned an attack that killed at least 50 Iraqi soccer celebrants in Baghdad. During two synchronized raids today near Tarmiyah, coalition forces captured a suspected al Qaeda in Iraq cell leader allegedly responsible for coordinating car-bomb attacks. Ground forces also destroyed a vehicle used to transport terrorist weapons and personnel and detained 18 other individuals allegedly linked to the car-bomb cell.

Coalition forces also nabbed 11 suspects west of Taji today during a raid targeting a senior al Qaeda in Iraq figure. The detainee is suspected of coordinating car-bomb and suicide-bomb operations, as well as attacks on coalition forces.

In Mosul today, coalition forces captured two suspects. One detainee, allegedly the primary weapons facilitator for al Qaeda in Iraq in the Mosul area, had risen in the network's ranks as coalition forces worked to dismantle terrorist
leadership there. When troops captured the other suspect, they discovered fake documents and materials for counterfeiting identification.

"Al Qaeda in Iraq is on the run and placing less qualified operatives into
leadership positions to make up for vacancies left when coalition forces cripple their network," said Army Maj. Marc Young, a Multinational Force Iraq spokesman. "We will continue our operations to keep pressure on the terrorists and diminish their ability to attack the people of Iraq."

Multinational Force Iraq officials have released a statement condemning attacks in Baghdad yesterday that killed at least 50 Iraqis as they celebrated a soccer victory that advances the nation to the Asian Cup final for the first time.

"This barbarism is a direct attack on the national unity of Iraq and exposes these terrorists for what they really are," officials said. "The men and women of Multinational Force Iraq send our thoughts and prayers to the victims' families and the injured. The coalition force strongly condemns this malicious crime."

The attack reflects the inhuman, indiscriminate and brutal nature of the enemy, the statement read.

"These criminals want to see the people of Iraq fail," officials said. "We mourn those lost, while we reaffirm our continued commitment to support the Iraqi people."

In other news from Iraq, Iraqi special operations forces and U.S. Special Forces advisors apprehended an al Qaeda in Iraq cell
leader yesterday in southern Baghdad.

Iraqi troops secured the targeted building and questioned occupants on site. Forces apprehended the individual who identified himself as the primary suspect and captured another suspicious individual present during the operation.

The primary suspect is believed to command an al Qaeda in Iraq cell that operates in the Jamia area. His cell allegedly is responsible for conducting car-bomb attacks against Iraqi citizens intended to stimulate sectarian violence. No Iraqi or coalition forces were injured in the operation.

Iraqi security forces and U.S. Special Forces advisors detained a cell
leader of the rogue Jaysh al-Mahdi militia yesterday in southwestern Baghdad.

Iraqi forces detained the suspect without incident, and nabbed four other suspicious individuals present during the operation, military officials said.

The primary suspect is believed to command a Jaysh al-Mahdi militia cell that allegedly is responsible for killing more than 150 Sunni Arab Iraqis in death-squad fashion. The detainees are being detained for questioning. No Iraqi or coalition forces were injured in the operation.

(Compiled from Multinational Corps Iraq, Multinational Force Iraq and Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force Arabian Peninsula news releases.)

Iraq, Afghanistan Campaigns Have Kept U.S. Safe, Intelligence Official Says

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

July 26, 2007 - The U.S. offensive targeting overseas
terrorists has helped to prevent more Sept. 11-type attacks on the homeland, the defense department's top intelligence official told legislators at a Capitol Hill hearing yesterday. "Our fight against extremists in Iraq, Afghanistan and around the world has kept our nation safe from attacks here at home," James R. Clapper Jr., undersecretary of defense for intelligence, said at a joint committee meeting of U.S. House of Representatives members.

The hearing was held to discuss the implications of the recently released 2007 National Intelligence Estimate. The report states that terrorist groups such as al Qaeda are likely to attempt another attack on the U.S. homeland.

The
terrorists have been unable to achieve another successful attack on American soil since the Sept. 11, 2001, assaults against New York City and the Pentagon, Clapper said. Yet, this doesn't signify that al Qaeda isn't determined to strike again, he emphasized.

"This is not for a lack of will on the part of our enemy," Clapper asserted. Al Qaeda and its affiliates have carried out attacks in more than two dozen countries since Sept. 11, 2001, he pointed out.

"Al Qaeda has and will continue to attempt visually dramatic mass-casualty attacks here at home, and they will continue to attempt to acquire chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear materials," Clapper said.

And, there's no doubt that al Qaeda or some other terror group would use such weapons on America if they had the chance, he added.

The report describes al Qaeda as "a resilient and resourceful enemy" that is determined to retain its capability to directly strike America or other nations, Clapper said.

Unlike past global conflicts, America and its allies are today fighting "an enemy not confined to national boundaries or a single ethnic group," Clapper observed, noting that's why it's important to fight terrorists wherever in the world they operate.

Fighting the global war on
terrorism "is not an engineering project" with finite start and finish dates, Clapper, a retired Air Force lieutenant general, said. The enemy changes his tactics in an attempt to keep coalition forces off balance, he said.

Therefore, U.S. forces in Afghanistan and Iraq must "transform, adjust and respond accordingly," Clapper said.

The National Intelligence Estimate "makes it clear that our operations in Iraq are now distinct from the
war on terror," Clapper said. The report also cites al Qaeda's intention to leverage the capabilities of its Iraq affiliate in mounting future attacks, he said.

Troops in Afghanistan Thwart Ambushes, Kill Scores of Enemy Fighters

American Forces Press Service

July 26, 2007 - Afghan and coalition forces repelled three insurgent ambushes, killing scores of enemy fighters in Afghanistan over the past two days. Coalition forces delivered a blow to Taliban fighters after insurgents attempted to ambush troops north of the city of Keshay, in Oruzgan province, this morning.

Combined forces led by an element of 1st Brigade, 205th Afghan National
Army Unit, were on a combat patrol north of the city when an unknown number of insurgents attacked using small arms, machine guns, mortars and rocket-propelled grenades.

Afghan soldiers repelled the attempted ambush with small-arms fire and requested coalition close-air support to destroy the enemy positions. Coalition aircraft performed precision air strikes on three compounds confirmed as enemy positions.

Coalition forces immediately moved into the compounds to assess damage. Several insurgents died, and two were captured during the fighting. Troops collected hundreds of machine gun rounds, an AK47 assault rifle, a pistol, and eight grenades in a subsequent search.

One Afghan soldier died in the ambush. No Afghan civilian injuries were reported.

"The Afghan National
Army is becoming increasingly capable of sustaining security and force development," said Army Maj. Chris Belcher, a Combined Joint Task Force 82 spokesman. "Results such as today's show why we are handing increasing responsibility over to them as they continue to transition to the long-term security force for Afghanistan."

Elsewhere, Afghan soldiers and coalition advisors killed more than 50 enemy fighters during a combat patrol in Helmand province that turned into a battle that lasted more than 12 hours and finished early this morning.

Taliban insurgents engaged an element of 1st Brigade, 205th Afghan National Army Corps about 12.5 miles north of Qaleh-ye Gaz village. During the battle, insurgents attacked with heavy machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades and small arms from 16 separate compounds. Combined forces immediately returned fire and called in close-air support to destroy the enemy fighters within the compounds.

Coalition air support dropped two bombs where insurgents were packed most densely. Both compounds hit produced significant secondary explosions, suggesting a large quantity of explosive material was present in each. Insurgents routinely hide explosive material used to make improvised explosive devices in compounds within populated areas,
military officials said.

More than 50 insurgents were confirmed killed, with an unknown number wounded. Sixteen Taliban compounds, three enemy motorcycles and five enemy trucks were destroyed, as well. Since July 22, more than 160 insurgents have been killed in the area, military officials said.

Besides one soldier who broke his hand, combined forces suffered no casualties, and no Afghan civilian injures were reported.

"The enemies of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan continue to deliberately put innocent Afghans into harm's way by attacking (Afghan National Army) and coalition forces in populated areas," Belcher said. "We are taking every possible precaution to avoid harming non-combatants. Our aircraft engaged legitimate enemy targets during this engagement to minimize the potential of Afghan casualties."

In Kandahar province yesterday, insurgents attempted another ambush on Afghan National
Army soldiers but instead suffered scores of casualties.

A combined force consisting of elements of 2nd Battalion, 1st Brigade, 209th Afghan National Army, and a squad of Afghan National
Police and coalition advisors were near Chenar Tu village when they were ambushed for the third time in two days by an unknown number of insurgents hiding within three compounds.

The insurgents attacked the patrol with rocket-propelled grenades, small arms and heavy machine guns. Combined forces repelled the attempted ambush with small-arms fire and requested coalition close-air support to destroy the enemy positions.

Coalition aircraft dropped a total of four bombs, one on each compound and one on insurgents outside of the compounds. Coalition forces released bombs only after positively identifying each insurgent position. More than 20 insurgents died during the engagement, military officials said.

Intelligence continues to suggest Taliban forces are attempting to re-assert their presence in northern Kandahar after their recent defeats from Afghan National
Army and coalition operations in the area the past several weeks.

"Once again, the insurgents are purposefully attacking from civilian compounds, demonstrating their intentions to include Afghan civilians in their destructive actions," Belcher said. "They continue to prove to the world that their statements of caring about preventing civilian casualties are hollow claims."

In other news, Afghan National Border
Police detained an insurgent equipment supplier yesterday along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

As the individual tried to cross into Pakistan in eastern Nangarhar province transporting Afghan National uniforms and equipment, he was questioned by border police. The suspect admitted he was planning to sell the uniforms and equipment to insurgents in Pakistan.

In accordance with standard procedures, the suspect was turned over to the Afghan National
Police and will remain in custody until he faces criminal charges.

"The Afghan national security forces continue to do what Afghans have always done, which is fight and protect Afghanistan," said
Army Maj. Nick Sternberg, a coalition spokesman. "This arrest is just another example of the expanding capabilities and capacity of the (Afghan national security forces)."

(Compiled from Combined Joint Task Force 82 news releases.)