War on Terrorism

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Iraqi Forces Demonstrate New Capabilities

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

Aug. 29, 2007 - Iraqi forces are stepping forward to shoulder the security burden in the country, a Multinational Force Iraq spokesman said today.
Army Brig. Gen. Kevin Bergner made the assertion in a conference call with military analysts.

In Karbala yesterday, hundreds of thousands of Shiia pilgrims celebrating the birth of Muhammad al-Mahdi, a ninth-century imam revered by the sect, were placed in danger from two militias vying for power. The Mahdi Army and the Badr Organization faced off, disrupting the celebrations. "Iraqi security forces responded rapidly to maintain control of the city," Bergner said.

Iraqi security forces did not call on reinforcements from the coalition to handle the outbreak of "green-on-green" violence. "It is a testament to the Iraqi
training that they felt they did not need our assistance," a Pentagon spokesman speaking on background said.

Iraqi forces also are flexing their wings in other areas of the country, Bergner said. They are continuing to clamp down on al Qaeda in Iraq. Iraqi and coalition forces killed terrorist leader Abu Ibrahim in Tarmiyah. Ibrahim was known as the emir of the city and had murdered and intimidated the population, even killing a 9-year-old girl. The Iraqi people of the region gave Iraqi forces the tip that led them to Ibrahim, Bergner said.

Killing Ibrahim took a major piece out of the car-bomb network in Baghdad, he said.

Operation Phantom Strike, the Multinational Corps Iraq operation to capitalize on surge forces in Baghdad, continues. The operation has been successful in denying extremists use of places in the tri-border region of Diyala, Salah ad Din and Anbar provinces and south of Baghdad as safe havens or operating bases, Bergner said.

Coalition and Iraqi forces are operating in these regions, and the payoff is the trust of the Iraqi people. "Now that they are operating there, they have established a base of information and a network ... that's enabled by the people of the neighborhoods," he said.

This results in more actionable intelligence, he said. Combined forces are operating in places they seldom went in the past and, after 60 days of operations, they are gaining the trust of the people. "The Iraqi people have grown to have confidence in them and (are) providing helpful information," Bergner said.

"At the same time, those citizens are willing to organize themselves into groups to work with coalition and Iraqi forces," he said, adding that this builds momentum for coalition and Iraqi forces in these regions.

In Karkh, Iraqi and coalition forces dismantled another al Qaeda cell, one of the worst in the region for shipping suicide car bombers into Baghdad.

"You are seeing the sheikhs in these different areas starting to coalesce in not too dissimilar a way as you saw in Anbar," Bergner said. He quickly pointed out that there is no "one-size-fits-all approach" in Baghdad, but momentum is pointing toward cooperation.

In Mosul, 2nd Iraqi Division soldiers also are demonstrating their increased capabilities. "Just this past Sunday, they had four different contacts," Bergner said.

In the first, soldiers stopped two separate car-bomb attacks. In the second, an Iraqi army patrol stopped a motorcycle carrying a suicide bomber who died when he triggered his bomb prematurely. In the third incident, an Iraqi patrol disrupted an ambush and found two additional car bombs. Finally, Iraqi soldiers killed four gunmen in two vehicles.

"To hear the kind of operations they are conducting and the effects they are achieving is another indicator of the progress the (Multinational) Corps is achieving," he said.

Coalition, Iraqi Forces Make Progress Against Insurgents

By Sgt. Sara Wood, USA
American Forces Press Service

Aug. 29, 2007 - Coalition and Iraqi forces have been making gains against al Qaeda in Iraq, as citizens step forward to help the security forces and take more responsibility for their country, two U.S. generals in Iraq said today. "We know this will continue to be a tough fight and that we must keep the pressure on these (insurgent) networks, but the courageous stand of the local citizens and their cooperation with Iraqi security forces is making a difference,"
Army Brig. Gen. Kevin Bergner, a Multinational Force Iraq spokesman, said in a news conference in Baghdad.

Bergner highlighted recent gains coalition and Iraqi forces have made, such as:

-- Yesterday, Iraqi forces responded rapidly to violence targeting religious pilgrims in Karbala. The Iraqi government also responded, increasing security measures and providing on the ground
leadership to help ensure restraint and order.

-- On Aug. 20, operations in Tarmiya resulted in the death of an al Qaeda leader who oversaw
terrorist operations in the northern belts of Baghdad. The leader was killed after he grabbed a coalition soldier and attempted to detonate a suicide vest.

-- Combined engagements this week in the city of Khalis resulted in 33 terrorists killed and three detained and allowed coalition forces to reopen a water canal that had been cut off by insurgents.

-- On Aug. 27, nearly 1,000 sheiks and leaders met to reinforce national attention on efforts of reconciliation in the Taji area and to denounce terrorism.

-- On Aug. 26, Iraqi soldiers in Mosul stopped a series of insurgent attacks, including two car bomb attacks, a motorcycle-bomb attack, and an al Qaeda ambush.

Bergner pointed to actions of Iraqi security forces in Mosul as proof that Iraqis are in the center of the fight against al Qaeda. "Their courage and perseverance are hard to adequately describe as they fight every day to restore security in their neighborhoods," he said.

Army Lt. Gen. James Dubik, commander of Multinational Security Transition Command Iraq, joined Bergner at the news conference. He recounted his experiences travelling around Iraq and visiting local security forces. The Iraqis are committed to the fight, he said, but still face many challenges in developing their forces.

Dubik said that he and the Iraqi ministers of defense and interior have to look not only at the fighting force, but at the larger ministerial capacity to keep those forces supported. There has been progress on this front, as the two ministries have increased their defense spending by $4.5 billion over the last two years, he said.

An encouraging recent development has been the spike in numbers of
police officers hired by the Iraqi government, Dubik said. In Anbar, more than 8,000 police officers were hired; in Diyala, 5,000 policemen were hired; in Abu Ghraib, 2,000 police officers hired; and in the next six months, about 12,000 new policemen are expected to be hired in Baghdad. This increase is attributable to the surge in offensive operations in the area, he said.

"The reason I find this exciting is, police should provide security, and these are areas that are in transition from security provided by military forces to security provided by police," Dubik said.

Because Iraqi security forces have grown so quickly, they face a number of challenges, Dubik said. First, it is easier to recruit soldiers than it is leaders, so the force ends up unbalanced. Second, it takes longer to develop mid-grade officers who can lead units effectively. Third, it is difficult to get sufficient equipment delivered on time to units. And fourth, the government must build bases to house units as they are stood up.

"These are all very hard problems, no doubt about it. But ... hard doesn't make it hopeless; it just makes it hard," Dubik said.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Coalition Forces Kill Two Terrorists, Detain 22 Suspects in Iraq

American Forces Press Service

Aug. 29, 2007 - Coalition forces killed two
terrorists and detained 22 suspected terrorists today during operations targeting senior al Qaeda leaders in central and northern Iraq.

-- South of Baghdad, coalition forces killed two
terrorists while targeting a Syrian-based explosives expert who facilitates the movement of foreign terrorists in Iraq and is tied to several senior leaders of al Qaeda in Iraq.

-- In three related raids around Tarmiyah today, coalition forces captured the al Qaeda emir of the northern belt around Baghdad and six of his associates.

-- In two raids in the northern Tigris River Valley, coalition forces captured a suspected close associate of a regional
terrorist emir and 14 additional suspects for alleged ties to al Qaeda networks in Bayji and Mosul.

"Al Qaeda in Iraq's leaders are on the run, and we're continuing to put pressure on them," said Army Lt. Col. Christopher Garver, a Multinational Force Iraq spokesman. "Our operations are targeting al Qaeda in Iraq from the top, middle and bottom. There is no safe haven for
terrorists here."

In operations yesterday:

-- Iraqi
army scouts with U.S. Special Forces advisors detained three suspected al Qaeda leaders, including the al Qaeda emir for operations in Samarra, during an operation in Tikrit. Intelligence indicates the three are linked to an attack on coalition forces Aug. 26 in Samarra that killed two coalition soldiers and two innocent civilians. One of the detainees is reportedly an al Qaeda military coordinator for operations around Samarra, while another detainee is believed to be a local facilitator for al Qaeda operations in Tikrit.

-- Soldiers from Multinational Division Baghdad and Iraqi security forces captured four suspected insurgents and recovered a small weapons cache in the Karadah district of eastern Baghdad. The troops uncovered two AK-47 assault rifles, one spotting scope, and three eye pieces in the operation.

In a separate operation yesterday, coalition forces detained a group of 15 individuals traveling together in four vehicles in Baghdad. The group included seven Iraqis and eight Iranian nationals. Forces searched the vehicles as the group passed through a checkpoint and confiscated an AK-47 rifle and two 9 mm pistols in the possession of the Iraqis in the group. The Iraqis serving as a protective detail had identification but no weapons permits and also had Iranian money.

The individuals were allowed to proceed and went into a local hotel. Coalition forces followed shortly after, searched their rooms, and confiscated a laptop computer, cell phones, and a briefcase full of Iranian and U.S. money. The group was taken to a coalition facility for questioning. The Iranian nationals had passports. It was later determined that two of the Iranian individuals were carrying diplomatic credentials. Coalition troops released the Iranian nationals to Iraqi officials.

In other operations this week:

-- Iraqi special operations forces with U.S. Special Forces advisors detained a suspected battalion commander of the Jaysh al-Mahdi militia and one suspected insurgent during an intelligence-driven operation in Baghdad on Aug. 27. The suspected Shiia extremist operates in Qhadirah, an area in Baghdad. Reports indicate he directs a group that targets Iraqi citizens. The alleged leader also maintains connections to insurgents in the Hayani area, Baghdad and Basrah. Intelligence indicates the targeted individual's group also is responsible for emplacing explosively formed penetrators in Sadr City targeting Iraqi and coalition forces, officials said.

-- Iraqi police received tips from a local citizen that thwarted insurgent efforts to detonate two car bombs targeting security forces and innocent citizens in Kirkuk on Aug. 26.
Police discovered one of the vehicles while responding to a separate attack on a patrol, and a second vehicle was discovered after a concerned citizen phoned in a suspicious truck in the neighborhood. Both police and an Iraqi explosive ordnance team responded and confirmed the presence of a car bomb and safely detonated it.

"We've seen a growing capability from the
police to coordinate among their own units to deal with these threats," said Army Capt. Sean Lucas, commander of Company C, 2nd Battalion, 35th Infantry Regiment. "The cooperation between the Iraqi police, (emergency services unit), and (explosive ordnance detachment) demonstrates not only a concern for the security of the people, but their ability to provide that security."

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

Kirkuk Province Invests Dinars for Better Life

American Forces Press Service

Aug. 29, 2007 - Officials in Iraq's Kirkuk province are stepping up to invest more Iraqi money for funding reconstruction projects designed to provide a better future for residents, a U.S. State Department official said today. "We work very closely with the local government on their budget execution, and this is the spending of Iraqi dinars, not U.S. dollars, supporting projects all over the province," Howard Keegan, the leader for the provincial reconstruction team in Kirkuk province, told Internet reporters and "bloggers" during a conference call from Iraq.

In addition, the governor of Kirkuk province "is reviewing every project before the contract is signed to ensure integrity," Keegan said. "We're spending very few U.S. dollars here in our effort compared to what the Iraqi government is spending."

More than 25 provincial reconstruction teams in Iraq are helping the country's 18 provincial governors deliver essential services to their citizens as part of efforts to reconstitute an economic and political infrastructure that for decades was manipulated to serve the needs of Saddam Hussein.

Kirkuk "was a province that was decimated by Saddam Hussein in his attempts to eliminate the Kurdish population" that live in the region, Keegan explained. The province's other large ethnic groups include Arabs and Turkmen.

Thanks to Saddam, Kirkuk today has a decrepit infrastructure that's gradually being repaired and upgraded by determined Iraqi authorities with U.S. and coalition assistance, Keegan said.

"We've got a city that's got over a million people, and there is no real sewage system, and the water system is vastly overloaded, along with the electrical grid," Keegan said. "It's in pretty bad shape, so we've got quite a bit of work to do on that."

Consequently, water and electricity "are still a premium" in Kirkuk province, Keegan said, noting that the province averages between four and eight hours of water and electric service per day.

However, things are looking up in the province, Keegan said. A U.N.-provided trash-collection system is slated to be turned over to Iraqis in January or February, he said. Also, there's an influx of new industries into Kirkuk province, he continued, such as a tire factory, a sunflower processing plant and oil field services businesses.

Kirkuk province is a major oil producer in Iraq and there've been recent discussions among Iraqi officials about boosting the number of petroleum refineries in the area, Keegan said.

A new
criminal justice trial courthouse, women's vocational center and other new services have recently opened, Keegan reported. And prison and jail guards who work in the province are receiving intensive training about humane treatment of prisoners, he added, noting such training was previously nonexistent in Iraq.

Disagreements occurring among Kurds, Turkmen and Arabs living in the region are addressed by Iraqi and coalition officials, Keegan observed, noting all groups are urged to negotiate and work together to solve their issues.

Keegan predicted that "a true unity government" espousing power-sharing and cooperation among all ethnic groups will soon emerge in Kirkuk province.

Iraqis have rapidly moved from living under a brutal dictatorship to a democracy, Keegan said. Such a change "would be exceptionally difficult for any group of people," he said.

Yet, Iraqis are making great strides in adopting democracy and rebuilding their country, Keegan said.

Meanwhile, insurgents fleeing the effects of surge operations in and around Baghdad are showing up in Kirkuk province, Keegan said, noting the terrorists are believed to have conducted several recent bombings in Kirkuk city. "And, that's a fairly new development to the security situation here," Keegan said.

U.S. troops and Iraqi security forces are picking up the pace to quell the violence, he said.

Kirkuk province's people greatly appreciate the United States' assistance, but many worry U.S. troops could leave before the job is complete, Keegan said. "I fear that if we have to leave our mission before it is ready, it'll be devastating for the people here," he said.

He said Iraqis of all ethnic groups he has spoken with use one word to describe that scenario. "That word is 'chaos,'" Keegan said, adding he hopes the American people "can maintain patience to let us finish doing our job" in Iraq.

Coalition Kills More Than 100 Insurgents in Afghanistan Engagement

American Forces Press Service

Aug. 29, 2007 - Afghan national security forces advised by coalition forces killed more than 100 insurgent fighters in a battle that started this morning and still continues in the northern part of Afghanistan's Kandahar province,
military officials reported. The combined force was on a combat patrol five miles south of Chenartu Village when it were attacked by a large group of insurgents from reinforced fighting positions using small arms, heavy machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades and mortars. Throughout the battle, insurgents continued to reinforce the area, engaging Afghan government forces in an attempt to overrun their position.

The Afghan-led force used small arms and crew-served weapons to repel the enemy attack while calling for close-air support, which destroyed the enemy hilltop positions with bombing runs. Coalition aircraft destroyed the reinforced enemy emplacements and sniper positions as well as two trucks used to reinforce and resupply the insurgent force.

One Afghan security force member was killed in the battle. Three coalition forces and three Afghan troops also were wounded in the engagement. No civilians were killed or wounded, as all targets were engaged in open and unpopulated areas.

"Afghan national security forces are maintaining constant pressure on extremists to deny them access to any support bases," said
Army Capt. Vanessa R. Bowman, a Combined Joint Task Force 82 spokeswoman. "The (Afghan troops) are effectively engaging criminal forces at work in this country and enjoying increasing success in their efforts to bring security to all Afghans. Today's engagement shows how far they have come in their development."

In other operations today, Afghan and coalition forces detained seven men in Ghazni province. Intelligence reports led the forces to compounds in the Ghazni district of the province that were suspected of providing sanctuary to a Taliban-affiliated militant. The detainees will be questioned as to their involvement in militant activities, officials said.

"Violent extremists are not concerned with the welfare of the peaceful Afghan people," Bowman said. "The enemies of peace and stability continue to disregard the safety of non-combatants by hiding amongst them, using civilian areas to support their campaign of terror and willfully disrupting innocent Afghan's attempts to lead peaceful lives."

Also today, Afghan and coalition forces detained six suspected militants during an operation in Nangarhar province. The forces suspected the targeted compounds, located in the Boti Kot district, were housing a militant responsible for facilitating the use of improvised explosive devices.

"Pockets of militants continue to attempt to disrupt the efforts toward prosperity in Afghanistan," Bowman said. "Their negative influence will not be tolerated in a country that has chosen development and progress."

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

IG Team to Look at Weapons Accountability Issues in Iraq

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

Aug. 29, 2007 - The Defense Department's inspector general will travel to Iraq with an 18-person assessment team to determine the magnitude of a reported problem with Iraqi weapons accountability. According to a Government Accountability Office report, Multinational Security Transition Command Iraq cannot fully account for about 110,000 AK-47 rifles, 80,000 pistols, 135,000 items of body armor, and 115,000 helmets reported as issued to Iraqi forces as of Sept. 22, 2005.

"Since January, the inspector general's office has been thoroughly investigating reports of unaccounted-for weapons, as well as allegations of arms ending up in the wrong hands," Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said at a news conference today.

Morrell said Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates became very concerned when Turkish officials claimed that U.S.-issued weapons were ending up in the hands of criminals in Turkey.

The IG team will meet up with colleagues on the ground and use whatever resources it needs to close the investigation, Morrell said. By law, the IG is the principal advisor to the secretary for matters relating to the prevention of fraud, waste, and abuse in the programs and operations of the Defense Department. The IG organization has auditors and criminal investigators, and the IG can suggest new ways of doing business. The Defense Criminal Investigative Service works for the inspector general, and special agents with the service can investigate, arrest, and charge personnel for
criminal behavior.

Morrell said the IG, retired Army Lt. Gen. Claude M. Kicklighter, will "remain in place as long as it takes to find out if any record-keeping problems persist, and if so, make any recommendations to commanders on the ground to fix those problems." With direction from Gates to get to the bottom of the situation, Kicklighter and his team will travel to Iraq next week, he added.

The team is expected to operate in high gear, Morrell said, and "offer remedies within weeks, not months."

The weapons unaccounted for under the program were issued in 2003 and 2004. The period was a chaotic one in Iraq, with coalition forces wanting to get weapons out to Iraqi security forces as quickly as possible. Pentagon officials said many of the AK-47s issued to Iraqi troops were taken from the battlefield, cleaned up, checked and reissued.

Since then, the procedures have changed.
Army Lt. Gen. James Dubik, commander of Multinational Security Transition Command Iraq, described today's accountability processes at a Baghdad news conference today.

"The responsibilities now are very complete," Dubik said. "We hand over weapons on the
military side from Taji National Depot by serial number to the responsible officer by Iraqi division, and then that person hands them off by serial number within the division."

For the Iraqi
police, weapons are sent to the Baghdad Police College by serial number. Officials there hand off weapons by serial numbers to the provincial directors of the police, who assign them to stations and policemen by serial number, the general explained.

"You walk in to any
police station now, (and) you find a ledger of people signing weapons in and out by name, by serial number, by date," Dubik said.

Army Chief: National Guard Vital in Long War

By Staff Sgt. Jim Greenhill, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service

Aug. 28, 2007 - The National Guard is making a vital contribution to current wars and will continue to be integral as the
U.S. military enter a period of persistent conflict, the Army chief of staff said here Aug. 26. With the sixth anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks fast approaching, Gen. George W. Casey Jr. counseled citizen-soldiers and -airmen to reflect on the future.

"We are at war. We are facing a period of protracted conflict. ... Stop for a minute and think about what's at stake here," he urged those attending the National Guard Association of the United States' 129th General Conference. "What's at stake here in this war is the power and the values of our civilization.

"What's at stake here is whether
terrorism or freedom charts the future.

"What's at stake here is nothing less than our way of life."

As they have been since the First Muster of 1636, the nation's Minutemen are on the front lines. "The men and women of the
Army and Air Guard are out there every day ... fighting to ensure that the values and ideals upon which this country is based aren't forgotten," Casey said.

The comments came during an hour-long speech and question-and-answer session that included a sobering global geopolitical assessment.

"There (is) near unanimity among people who think about the future -- intelligence officials, academics, think tanks, people within the Department of Defense -- that the next decades will be ones of persistent conflict," Casey said. "We're in for a protracted period of confrontation that is fueled by state and non-state individual actors who are increasingly willing to use violence to achieve their political and ideological bents.

"We're seeing that now, and there is no reason to believe that that is not going to continue."

Several trends are fueling conflict, he said. These include:

-- Globalization. "Globalization has had unquestionable positive impacts on prosperity around the world," Casey said. "Unfortunately, most of that has been north of the equator. The people that are not beneficiaries of the increased prosperity can become recruits for some of these ideological groups or
terrorist networks."

-- Improved communications. "The same connectivity and technological advances that are boosting prosperity also now are being used by
terrorist organizations to export terror around the world," Casey said.

-- Increased energy demand. "The competition for energy is going to become more intense," Casey said. "Because of rising middle classes in China and India, for example, the demand for oil is going to outstrip the supply and the resources that are currently being dedicated to look for new (deposits) and to look for alternatives aren't going to be able to bridge the gap. We're going to see increased competition for these different resources and probably also a switch to cleaner fuels like a move to natural gas. Almost 60 percent of natural gas reserves happen to be in three places: Russia, Iran and Qatar. ... What we're going to see is probably more dependence on the Middle East."

-- Disasters. "Climate problems and natural disasters are going to create more difficult problems for the less-developed countries," Casey said.

-- Population growth. "Analysts are predicting that some of these less-developed countries -- primarily South America, Africa, the Middle East, South Asia and Southeast Asia -- are going to almost double in population in the next 25 years," he said. "That's going to create a young population that, again, is more vulnerable to ideological terrorists."

-- Weapons proliferation. "The increased proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their likely use by
terrorist organizations" are looming threats, Casey said. "Recent intelligence estimates conclude that al Qaeda is looking for weapons of mass destruction, and there is no question that they will use them, most likely against a developed country, if they find them."

"What I see in the coming decades: You have a propensity for conflict that will be fueled by these local trends, and they'll likely be taken advantage of by these global terrorist organizations," Casey said.

Previously commander of Multinational Force Iraq, Casey has been the Army chief of staff since April 10. "How proud I am of the contribution of the National Guard to this war on terror over the past almost six years," he said, repeatedly emphasizing his gratitude to both the
Army and the Air National Guard.

"I've seen firsthand the contributions. ... (The National Guard) performed extremely well. ... Half of the Guard and Reserve are combat veterans. ... You continue to fill the role of citizen, soldier and patriot: citizens most of the time, soldiers some of the time, and patriots all the time," he added.

"What will victory look like?" an audience member asked.

"Unfortunately, there is not going to be a D-Day invasion," Casey replied. "This is an ideological confrontation. Frankly, it's not going to be won until Muslim moderates achieve success over Muslim extremists. Our job is to keep Muslim extremist groups from prevailing in the Middle East as well as from attacking our country.

"It's not going to be a big battle; it's going to be an ideological struggle that's going to play out over the next several decades, not unlike the Cold War. It'll be something that'll gradually, over time, get better. But I can't see that you're going to wake up one morning and say, 'Boy, I'm glad that's over.' That's not going to be the case at all."

(
Army Staff Sgt. Jim Greenhill is assigned to the National Guard Bureau.)

Coalition Troops Kill, Detain Dozens, Seize Weapons in Iraq

American Forces Press Service

Aug. 28, 2007 - Coalition and Iraqi forces killed and captured dozens of insurgents and seized scores of weapons during operations in Iraq over the past three days,
military officials said. Combined forces killed eight terrorists and detained 11 suspects during raids today targeting al Qaeda leaders and their networks in central and northern Iraq.

During operations southeast of Kirkuk, coalition forces targeted a regional terrorist unit commander, also referred to as an "emir," and one of his operatives, both of whom are believed to facilitate the movement of foreign
terrorists in Iraq, military officials said. As the assault force approached the target site, troops observed the two armed men in tactical fighting positions poised to attack.

Coalition forces called for close-air support, which engaged the two armed terrorists, killing them. Once the assault force was at the target location, four armed men attempted to maneuver around them into
tactical positions, but coalition forces engaged and killed them using fire from the supporting aircraft. Ground forces surveyed the area and found weapons, rocket-propelled grenades, an RPG sight and a suicide vest. An explosives team safely destroyed the materials on site.

During two coordinated operations at the border of Salah ad Din and Tamim, northeast of Tikrit, troops targeted a senior-level al Qaeda advisor operating in the Kirkuk area. The targeted individual is believed to be tied to the international
terrorist Khalid al Turki, who was killed in an operation June 23, and several other al Qaeda leaders in the area, military officials said.

As coalition forces arrived at the first location, they received small-arms fire from a nearby rooftop. Troops responded to the enemy fire, calling for close-air support to engage and kill two armed men identified on the roof.

When coalition forces secured the building, they discovered two women and a boy who were injured in the engagement. The assault force treated the three civilians and transported them to a
military medical facility for further treatment. Troops detained six suspects during the operation. At the second location, coalition forces detained two additional suspects with alleged ties to the al Qaeda advisor.

During a raid in southern Baghdad, troops targeted al Qaeda leaders associated with a car-bomb network that operates in the Iraqi capital. Ground forces captured three alleged members of the cell with ties to both its current leader and a suspected former leader detained in an operation May 5, military officials said.

"We continue to seek out terrorists wherever they hide, to diminish their ability to attack the Iraqi people," said
Army Lt. Col. Christopher Garver, a Multinational Force Iraq spokesman. "We work very hard to avoid injuring innocent bystanders and provide immediate medical care if we do."

In a separate raid this morning, Iraqi and coalition forces captured a highly sought weapons facilitator before dawn in Baghdad,
military officials said. Combined forces captured the suspected senior weapons distributor, who allegedly is connected to a network of "special groups" that receive arms -- including explosively formed penetrators, the most deadly form of improvised explosive device -- and funding from Iran. The suspect, who allegedly is linked to senior terrorist commanders, is responsible for distributing such Iranian weapons and other forms of lethal aide across the Iran-Iraq border, military officials said.

During the raid, troops detained two others who are suspected of distributing weapons smuggled into Iraq from Iran. Coalition forces confiscated money and identification documents from one of the targeted buildings for further analysis and evaluation.

"We assess that this capture will degrade the weapons smuggling network," Garver said. "Coalition forces will continue their focused operations to interdict Iranian supported terror groups operating in Iraq.

"We remain committed to dismantling terror networks that seek to kill innocent Iraqis, Iraqi security forces, and coalition forces," he added.

During operations in Iraq yesterday:

-- Iraqi and coalition forces launched "Operation Church," an air and ground operation in Diyala province aimed at clearing out insurgents and reopening the Khalis spillway, which regulates water flow to the town. Troops killed 33 armed insurgents, nabbed three others and seized three weapons caches. Water currently is flowing unimpeded to Khalis, military officials said.

-- Iraqi army scouts and U.S. Special Forces advisors detained a suspected terrorist cell leader near Tikrit. The suspect is believed to be responsible for a May 13 suicide-car-bomb attack on the Kurdish political headquarters in Makmoor, a Feb. 13, 2005, attack that killed three Iraqi National Guard members, the June 16, 2004, assassination of a sheik in northern Heychel, and the May 14, 2004, assassination of Ninewa province's governor, military officials said.

-- Iraqi special operations forces and U.S. Special Forces advisors detained a battalion commander of the Jaysh al-Mahdi militia and one suspected insurgent during an operation in Baghdad. The suspect allegedly directs a group that targets Iraqi citizens and he also maintains connections to insurgents in the Hayani area, Baghdad and Basrah, military officials said.

-- During four raids across Iraq, coalition soldiers seized weapons caches that included stockpiles of improvised explosive devices, mortars, a grenade launcher and ammo, and an explosively formed penetrator. Military officials said the recovered weapons demonstrate to neighborhood residents that coalition and Iraqi security forces are there to protect them.

In Iraq on Aug. 26:

-- Iraqi security forces repelled a series of attempted insurgent attacks in Nineveh province, killing five armed combatants and detaining two suspects. Iraqi troops also destroyed five car bombs and seized small arms and rocket-propelled grenades.

-- Soldiers with 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team nabbed three suspected insurgents while patrolling eastern Baghdad's Rusafa district. Troops were monitoring the Gailany gas station, where 20 insurgents had attempted to steal gasoline earlier in the day, when soldiers discovered three men attempting to hide firearms, including a locked and loaded pistol. Troops seized the weapons and detained the suspects, who are being held for further questioning,
military officials said.

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

Army Casualty

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

Pfc. Thomas R. Wilson, 21, of Maurertown, Va., died Aug. 27 in Paktika, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when insurgents attacked his unit during combat operations. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment (Airborne), 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, Vicenza, Italy.

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.

Afghan Judges Receive First Law Books

By Senior Airman Dilia DeGrego, USAF
Special to American Forces Press Service

Aug. 28, 2007 - The 37 judges in Afghanistan's Parwan province are the first of more than 450 judges within the Regional Command East area of responsibility to receive complete sets of Afghan law books. Delivered Aug. 25 by the Bagram Reconstruction Team and
Army Lt. Col. Chris Jacobs, a attorney with the Combined Joint Task Force 82 Staff Judge Advocate Office, these books are the first to be distributed as part of an Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and United States Agency for International Development initiative to distribute complete sets of Afghan law books to every judge in the country.

"For the first time since the Soviet era, each judge in Regional Command East will have complete access to up-to-date Afghan laws," said
Army Capt. Ryan Kerwin, another attorney with Combined Joint Task Force 82. "This is significant, because most Afghan judges have either limited or no access to published law. This lack of legal resources made it very difficult, if not impossible, to correctly apply the law and ensure uniformity throughout the Afghan court system. The judges will now have the tools to make rulings based upon the laws of Afghanistan."

Each set of law books consists of 17 volumes that cover both
Criminal Justice and civil law, including the constitution of Afghanistan, penal and civil codes, counternarcotics and human-rights law.

Parwan Chief Judge Fazil Rahmman Habibi and Head
Army Prosecutor Zikria Shitab said they are very glad to receive the law books.

"I cannot remember the last time each judge had his own set of Afghan law books," Habibi said. "We really appreciate getting these books; we've been in need of them, but they are very expensive, so we are grateful to get them."

"We will be sure to distribute the books to all the judges of Parwan, they will gain a lot of knowledge from them," Shitab added.

It took several months to organize the project. To begin, thousands of books were published and prepared for delivery. Provincial reconstruction teams will help distribute the books to provincial courts throughout the country over the next several months.

Combined Joint Task Force 82 is working to improve the Afghan judicial system and help promote the rule of law in Afghanistan in various ways, from building courts and prosecutors' offices, and improving jails to providing legal resources and coordinating with agencies like the U.S. Agency for International Development.

"CJTF 82 has taken big steps to help push the rule of law in Afghanistan forward," Kerwin said. "Developing the rule of law in Afghanistan is a difficult task that will take decades. Judge advocates at both the headquarters and task forces have worked hard to help push the Afghan justice system forward."

(
Air Force Senior Airman Dilia DeGrego is assigned to Combined Joint Task Force 82 Public Affairs.)

Bush Stresses Importance of Iraq Fight

By Sgt. Sara Wood, USA
American Forces Press Service

Aug. 28, 2007 - Defeating extremists in the Middle East is essential to America's security, and the most important way to counter these extremists is to win the fight in Iraq, President Bush said today. "The challenge in Iraq comes down to this: Either the forces of extremism succeed, or the forces of freedom succeed. Either our enemies advance their interests in Iraq, or we advance our interests," Bush said at the 89th Annual American Legion National Convention in Reno, Nev.

The violent ideology that inspires extremists in the Middle East has two main strains, Bush said: Sunni extremism and Shiia extremism. These two strains are vying for control of Iraq, and both want to drive America out of the region, which would represent a direct threat to the United States and its allies, he said.

America has enduring interests in the Middle East, such as creating a region of secure democratic states participating in the
war on terror, drying up the stream of recruits for al Qaeda, encouraging the government of Iran to be accountable to its people, and advancing a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine, Bush said.

"We seek justice and dignity and human rights for all the people of the Middle East," Bush said. "Achieving this future requires hard work and strategic patience over many years. Yet our security depends on it."

Iraq is the central front in the war on terror, and it is where Sunni and Shiia extremists are staging sensational attacks in an attempt to bring down the young democracy, Bush said. Sunni extremists are led by al Qaeda and frequently target innocent Iraqis with violent attacks, many carried out by foreign fighters. Shiia extremists are backed by Iran and are training Iraqis to carry out attacks on coalition forces, the Iraqi government and the Iraqi people, Bush said.

"We've seen what these enemies will do when American forces are actively engaged in Iraq," Bush said. "And we can envision what they would do if they were emboldened by American forces in retreat."

Momentum in Iraq is in the coalition's favor, Bush said. The new U.S. strategy in Iraq is showing results in better security, with sectarian violence sharply decreasing in Baghdad and al Qaeda being displaced from former strongholds in Baghdad and in Anbar and Diyala provinces. Also, since January, coalition forces have killed or captured an average of more than 1,500 al Qaeda terrorists each month and have targeted Iranian-backed militants and their supply networks, he said.

The U.S. strategy also is producing encouraging results at the local level in Iraq, Bush said. In Anbar province, which was once thought to be lost to insurgents, local Sunnis have turned against al Qaeda and joined with U.S. forces to drive
terrorists out of their cities, he noted. Virtually every city and town in the province now has a mayor and municipal council, he said, and local officials are forming ties with the central government in Baghdad.

Other provinces also are showing signs of progress, Bush said. In Diyala province, the city of Baqubah re-opened six banks, and in Ninewah province, local officials have established a commission to investigate corruption.

"Iraqis are increasingly reaching accommodations with each other, with the coalition, and with the government in Baghdad," Bush said. "This reconciliation is coming from the bottom up. It's having an impact in the fight against the enemy, and it's building a solid foundation for a democratic Iraq."

Bush acknowledged that Iraq has much more progress to make on the national level, but said he was encouraged by the agreement reached Aug. 26 by the top leaders in Iraq's government. The leaders agreed on several draft pieces of legislation, such as a law on de-Baathification reform and legislation on provincial powers, which are among the benchmarks identified by Congress.

"These measures still have to be passed by the Iraqi parliament, but the agreement shows that Iraq's leaders can put aside their differences, they can sit down together, and they can work out tough issues central to the fate of their country," Bush said.
At the international level, the new strategy in Iraq also is showing results, Bush said. International developments include:

-- The United Nations and Iraq, with support from the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and other nations, have finalized an International Compact for Iraq that will bring new economic assistance and debt relief in exchange for aggressive economic reform.

-- The Iraqis have convened a neighbors conference, which is bringing together countries in the region to help Iraq through security, economic and diplomatic cooperation.

-- The United Nations Security Council has decided to expand its mission in Iraq and is seeking to help with local elections and reconciliation. The UN will soon name a new high-ranking envoy to Iraq to coordinate the expanded effort.

-- Saudi Arabia is looking to open a new embassy in Baghdad.

"The international community increasingly understands the importance of a free Iraq. They understand a free Iraq is important for world peace. And that is why we'll continue to rally the world for this noble and necessary cause," Bush said.

Bush noted that some critics say the lack of political progress on the national level in Iraq proves the surge has failed. However, improving security is the vital precursor to making gains in other areas, like the government and economy, and local political progress will come before national progress, he said.

Bush also emphasized that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and other
leaders are dealing with complex and emotional issues that can be likened to the struggle for civil rights in the U.S. They are trying to resolve these issues in a challenging security environment, after decades of tyranny and oppression, he said.

"Iraq's leaders aren't perfect, but they were elected by their people," Bush said. "They want what we want: a free Iraq that fights terrorists instead of harboring them. Leaders in Washington need to look for ways to help our Iraqi allies succeed, not excuses for abandoning them."

The challenge the United States faces in Iraq is hard, Bush said, but Americans should appreciate how difficult establishing democracy can be. The men and women of America's
military understand why they're in this fight and one day will join the ranks of veterans and look back on their service with pride, he said.

"One day, years from now, another president will be in a room like this," Bush told the room of military veterans. "That president will look out upon a sea of caps worn by those who show a quiet pride in their service.

"Some of that audience will include people who've won the fight against fascism and Nazism and communism. You'll be joined by younger veterans who have fought in places like Kandahar and Ramadi," he added. "And just like you, the new generation of veterans will be able to say proudly they held fast against determined and ruthless enemies, helped salvage an entire region from tyranny and terror, and made a safer world for the American people."

Afghan, Coalition Troops Kill, Capture Insurgents, Find Weapons

American Forces Press Service

Aug. 28, 2007 - Afghan and coalition forces killed 21 insurgents, nabbed 12 others, discovered a weapons cache and thwarted two ambushes in Afghanistan over the past two days,
military officials said. Afghan National Police members from Chamkani and coalition forces detained a key Taliban leader and six other insurgents in a targeted strike near Sultak village in the Patan district of Paktia province.

The high-profile suspect, Zakir Shah, is a mid-level Taliban field commander who helps transport foreign fighters and supplies between Afghanistan and Pakistan,
military officials said. He also allegedly is responsible for the murders of Afghan civilians.

"The Afghan National
Police in Chamkani have quickly developed into a well-trained and effective force," said Army Capt. Vanessa R. Bowman, a Combined Joint Task Force 82 spokeswoman. "Coalition forces provided only minimal assistance to the (Afghan National Police) during planning and execution of this operation and the (Afghan National Police) performed all of their tasks flawlessly."

During an operation southwest of Kandahar City this morning, Afghan National Security Forces and coalition forces advisors killed two Taliban insurgents and detained five others. Credible intelligence led combined forces to a compound suspected of housing the militants. Troops there shot and killed two insurgents.

One detainee is suspected of being a Taliban
leader who has facilitated improvised-explosive-device attacks against combined forces in the Kandahar City area, military officials said. He and the other suspects are being held for further questioning.

"This operation was directed at al Qaeda and Taliban extremist fighters who have historically planned and launched attacks aimed at terrorizing innocent non-combatants," Bowman said. "This operation is simply another step in the (Afghan national security forces') deliberate and systematic plan to rid Afghanistan of al Qaeda and Taliban extremist fighters who continue to attempt to destabilize the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan."

In Afghanistan yesterday, Afghan and coalition troops foiled an insurgent ambush in northern Kandahar province. Combined forces were on combat patrol near Tughrak village in the Sha Wali Kot district when they spotted 20 insurgents moving into fighting positions. With Afghan troops in the lead, the combined forces killed seven before the remaining insurgents fled. Afghan forces confiscated weapons and equipment from the site after the fighting ceased.

"Afghan national security forces are becoming increasingly capable of providing the security that Afghans want and need," Bowman said. "Today, this alert and combat-ready (Afghan forces) patrol spotted the enemies of peace and stability before they could carry out their act of aggression. The insurgents' appetite for senseless violence cost seven insurgents their lives."

In eastern Musa Qalah Wadi, in Afghanistan's Helmand province, combined forces thwarted a separate attempted Taliban ambush yesterday. Troops were patrolling north of Regay village, in Helmand district, when an unknown number of insurgents attacked the patrol with small-arms fire, mortars and rocket-propelled grenades.

The Afghan-led force repelled the attempted ambush with accurate small-arms fire and artillery. When the insurgents reinforced their fighting positions with additional fighters, the Afghan troops requested coalition close-air support. Coalition aircraft aided in spotting targets for the ground forces, which killed a dozen insurgents during the engagement.

Combined forces later destroyed or confiscated rifles, mortars, a motorcycle, insurgent propaganda and numerous pieces of IED materials,
military officials said. They also discovered a trench-bunker system and the bodies of three insurgents killed during the fight.

"Enemy forces have repeatedly attacked those who support the legitimate government of Afghanistan," Bowman said. "This is especially true in the Musa Qala area, which is an area the enemy has used as a base of support for a long time. The amount of weaponry found and destroyed by the (Afghan
military) demonstrates how the enemy is using the area as a resupply point for insurgents.

"This latest mission by the (Afghan
military) has once again interdicted the enemy fighters ability to rely on this area to support their acts of violence against the innocent people of Afghanistan," she added.

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

Army Casualty

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

Sgt. James S. Collins Jr., 35, of Rochester Hills, Mich., died Aug. 28 in Kirkuk, Iraq, of wounds suffered during combat operations. He was assigned to the 303rd Military Police Company (Combat Support), U.S. Army Reserve, Jackson, Mich.

For more information related to this release, the media may contact the Army Reserve 88th Regional Readiness Command public affairs office at (612) 713-3011.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

U.S. Works with Local Leaders on Reconciliation in Iraqi Province

By Sgt. Sara Wood, USA
American Forces Press Service

Aug. 27, 2007 - The U.S. provincial reconstruction team in Iraq's Diyala province is working to connect provincial
leaders with Iraq's central government and foster reconciliation in an area where security is still challenging, the team's leader said today. The PRT, which was established in April 2006, includes about 46 military and civilian members from various government agencies who work directly with the provincial government, John Melvin Jones said during a conference call with online journalists and "bloggers." The team's biggest challenge right now is getting enough involvement in Diyala from other agencies, because the security situation isn't stable, he said.

"Everything is based around security; if we have security, then we can bring in agencies like (the United States Agency for International Development)," he said. "It's going to take a while before the security situation gets stable enough so that you can even have all these other agencies involved."

Jones was in Baghdad today with the Diyala provincial governor and governors from three other northern provinces to meet with Iraq's deputy prime minister about the problems in Iraq's north. The key issue that needs to be worked out is a disconnection between the central government and provincial governments when it comes to getting funding for reconstruction, Jones said.

"The central government understands that it's going to make promises and so forth; the guys at the provincial level are waiting for action," he said. "We see our role here as facilitating the contact, making sure that when the deputy prime minister says he's going to give a certain amount of money to the province to rebuild houses, that there's ... a way the province governor can get access to that money."

Access to fuel and electricity remain a problem in Diyala, Jones said, and many employers are not hiring new workers because of the security situation. However, in the past month and a half, there has been a rebirth of commerce in Baqubah, the provincial capital. Because of the intense combat operations in the Diyala River Valley, shops and markets have been able to open in Baqubah and people venture into the streets, he said.

The important thing to understand about northern Iraq is that sectarian and tribal divisions have been in place for thousands of years, Jones said. The PRT is working to get reconciliation among these groups, he said, but it is not something that will be achieved overnight.

"Our problem here is to try to get them to understand that they can work together for the good of the entire province," Jones said. "It's something that's been going on for thousands of years out here, and we need to change the mindset of those persons involved."

Iraq Operations Net 36 Terrorists, Kill Nine

American Forces Press Service

Aug. 27, 2007 - Coalition troops detained 36 terrorists and killed nine others today during a series of raids in Baghdad and other areas in central and northern Iraq, officials reported. Individuals detained in the Baghdad raid are believed to be involved in the transport of weapons and explosively formed penetrators from Iran to Iraq, as well as bringing militants from Iraq into Iran for terrorist training. Coalition forces also confiscated a number of documents, photographs and possible improvised explosive device components. Intelligence reports indicate one of the detainees is a "special groups" senior-level terrorist facilitator with possible Iranian connections.

"The special groups network constitutes a significant threat to security and stability in Sadr City and other areas around Baghdad," said
Army Lt. Col. Christopher Garver, a Multinational Force Iraq spokesman. "We will continue to dismantle and degrade the special groups terrorist network, eliminating their ability to attack innocent Iraqis as well as Iraqi security forces and coalition forces."

Coalition forces killed eight
terrorists and detained 16 others during additional raids in and around Baghdad aimed at key leaders in the al Qaeda in Iraq network operating in central and northern Iraq.

In other Iraq operations today:

-- Coalition troops killed a leader of an al Qaeda in Iraq cell in the Arab Jabour area and one of his associates during an operation north of Salman Pak.

-- Coalition troops captured an alleged
terrorist senior leader today during a raid south of Kirkuk. The suspect is believed to have close ties al Qaeda in Iraq and is believed to facilitate the movement of foreign terrorists into the country. Six additional suspected terrorists were detained during the raid.

-- Coalition units operating near Baajah and Muqdadiyah detained five suspected terrorists for alleged involvement with senior leaders of al Qaeda in Iraq. Coalition troops also found munitions and machine guns, which were destroyed.

In yesterday's operations:

-- U.S. soldiers with Task Force Marne raided an enemy safe house in Suwayrah and captured two suspected insurgents. The raid, dubbed Falcon Fury II, is a component of Operation Marne Husky. Suwayrah is a known enemy safe haven about 25 miles southeast of Baghdad. The troopers' main goal was to disrupt enemy activity in Suwayrah and prevent assaults on civilians and coalition forces in the area, U.S. officials said.

-- Coalition forces killed 11 terrorists and detained six others during a series of operations targeting al Qaeda in Iraq leaders and their networks in central and northern Iraq.

-- Iraqi troops and U.S. Special Forces soldiers detained a terror cell-network leader linked to the former regime of Saddam Hussein during an operation in Tikrit.

-- Iraqi commandos detained a suspected al Qaeda administrative leader and planner for attacks using car bombs in Baghdad.

-- In southern Baghdad yesterday, coalition helicopter crews killed four insurgents who were placing a roadside bomb. At least one other insurgent was wounded.

Earlier in the weekend, Iraqi forces,
U.S. Marines and U.S. Special Forces soldiers detained eight suspected terrorists and killed three during a series of raids Aug. 25. Iraqi and coalition troops also destroyed an al Qaeda-manned fighting position and a safe house near Jurf as Sakhr on Aug. 25 as part of Operation Gecko. OH-58D Kiowa Warrior helicopters engaged the location with one missile, rendering the position useless to the enemy, officials said. Five terrorists found hiding in a nearby building were killed by a 1,000-pound bomb.

(Compiled from Multinational Force Iraq and Multinational Corps Iraq news releases.)

Bush Praises Iraqi De-Baathification Agreement

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

Aug. 27, 2007 - President Bush today praised Iraqi
leaders for an agreement that will allow former low-level Baath Party officials to serve in the Iraqi government. The agreement helps meet one of the specific benchmarks set by U.S. legislators and shows progress in the political arena, Bush said during a stop at Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque, N.M.

Iraqi President Jalal Talibani; Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki; Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi; Vice President Adil Abd al-Mahdi; and Massoud Barzani, president of the semi-autonomous Kurdish region, hammered out the agreement and announced the breakthrough yesterday in Baghdad. The agreement still must pass the Iraqi parliament, but U.S. officials are hopeful for its success, since the men represent the largest sects in Iraq.

"I congratulate Iraq's
leaders on the agreement reached yesterday in Baghdad," Bush said in New Mexico. "These leaders ... recognize the true and meaningful reconciliation that needs to take place, and they recognize this is a process. Yesterday's agreement reflects their commitment to work together for the benefit of all Iraqis to further the process."

The agreement will begin to establish new power-sharing arrangements, the president said. It also commits to supporting bottom-up security and political initiatives and advances agreement among Iraq's
leadership on several key legislative benchmarks.

Reforming the de-Baathification law has been a top priority for the Iraqi government, along with a hydrocarbon law and a revenue-sharing law. Sunni Arabs held many positions of responsibility in Saddam Hussein's Baath Party, and Shiia Arabs and Kurds worry that the Sunni minority will return to power.

Bush called the agreement an important step, but said he reminded Iraqi leaders in phone calls that much more needs to be done.

"The Iraqi parliament will convene again in early September, and it will need to act to codify this political progress," he said.

The president said the United States will continue to help the Iraqi people succeed. "Success in Iraq will be a major blow to the extremists and radicals who would like to attack America again," he said. "And that's why the United States will continue to support Iraq's leaders and all the Iraqi people in their efforts to overcome the forces of terror that seek to overthrow a nascent democracy."

Afghan, Coalition Forces Destroy Taliban Heroin Lab

American Forces Press Service

Aug. 27, 2007 - Afghan and coalition forces teamed up to defeat a group of Taliban insurgents protecting a heroin laboratory in Helmand province yesterday, officials reported. Afterward, the Taliban launched a mortar attack against innocent civilians living almost a dozen kilometers north of the destroyed lab. The attack on the civilians came about an hour after Afghan and coalition forces bested an insurgent force, which was later determined to be guarding a large heroin lab. Both attacks followed a night of fighting between insurgents and Afghan and coalition troops. A number of insurgents were killed in the firefights.

The heroin lab was located about 23 kilometers south of Musa Qalah, a town in Helmand province that is known to support Taliban activities. The lab contained large amounts of opium-processing chemicals, such as ammonium chloride, liquid ammonia and charcoal. Two rifles, two shotguns, ammunition, insurgent propaganda and improvised-explosive-device materials also were recovered.

U.S. and Afghan forces destroyed the laboratory and continued on with their combat patrol. About 11 kilometers north of the destroyed lab, insurgents attempted a third ambush in less than 24 hours.

During the fighting, Taliban fighters launched an 82 mm mortar into group of Afghan civilians living in Regay village. No civilians were killed, but one suffered shrapnel wounds and was provided immediate medical attention.

Afghan and coalition forces are conducting combat patrols as part of Operation Palk Mesher in southern Afghanistan. The operation is designed to disrupt and eliminate insurgent activity in Helmand province, U.S. officials said.

The Taliban have made repeated attempts to deceive media outlets with civilian casualty claims. Credible intelligence suggests that these false claims are being made in an attempt to weaken Afghan government and coalition resolve, officials said.

"The insurgents continue to follow their pattern of falsely reporting civilian casualties and continuing to put civilians in harm's way in a vain attempt to stop the advance of the (Islamic Republic of Afghanistan) forces toward their support areas," said
U.S. Army Capt. Vanessa R. Bowman, a Combined Joint Task Force 82 spokeswoman. "With the discovery of their drug-making facilities, it is becoming increasingly clear why they want us to stop our operations.

"It is unfortunate that the enemies of peace and stability will stoop so low as to fire mortars at innocent Afghans to protect their drug trade," the captain said.

In other operations, Afghan soldiers accompanied by coalition troops thwarted a Taliban ambush during operations about 16 miles south of Musa Qalah, in Helmand province Aug. 25.

The Afghan-led patrol was crossing a tributary a few miles south of Regay village when more than 15 insurgents sprang an ambush with rocket-propelled grenades and small arms. The Afghan and coalition forces repelled the attack. Twelve enemy fighters were killed; no Afghan army or coalition members were injured during the fighting. No Afghan civilian casualties were reported.

The area in and around the town of Musa Qalah is recognized as the largest Taliban stronghold left in Afghanistan, officials said. Afghan and coalition forces are conducting combat patrols in the area as part of Operation Palk Mesher. The operation is designed to disrupt and eliminate insurgent activity in southern Afghanistan's Helmand province.

The purpose of the operation is "to strike into the heart of the insurgents' safe haven," Bowman said. "We expect that, as we maneuver deeper into this area, the Taliban will raise more and more inaccurate claims of non-combatant casualties."

The Taliban "hope that by carrying out this campaign of lies, they can get the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to end its campaign in the area," the captain said.

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

Monday, August 27, 2007

Army Casualty

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

Staff Sgt. Nicholas R. Carnes, 25, of Dayton, Ky., died Aug. 26 in Orgun-e, Afghanistan, from wounds suffered when insurgents attacked his unit using small arms fire in Lewanne Bazaar, Afghanistan. He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 138th Field Artillery Regiment, Kentucky Army National Guard, Carrollton, Ky.

For more information related to this release, the media may contact the Kentucky National Guard public affairs office at (502) 607-1562.

Marine Casualty

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

Lance Cpl. Matthew S. Medlicott, 21, of Houston, died Aug. 25 from wounds suffered while conducting combat operations in Al Anbar province, Iraq. He was assigned to 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Pendleton, Calif.

Media with questions about this Marine can contact the Camp Pendleton public affairs office at (760) 725-5044.

Army Casualties

The Department of Defense announced today the death of two soldiers who were supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom. They died Aug. 26 in Samarra, Iraq, of wounds suffered when the enemy attacked their unit during combat operations. They were assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, N.C.

Killed were:
Sgt. Joshua L. Morley, 22, of Boise, Idaho.
Spc. Tracy C. Willis, 21, of Marshall, Texas.


For more information related to this release, the media may contact the 82nd Airborne Division public affairs office at (910) 432-0661.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Seven Iraqis Escape Makeshift Prison, 11 Terrorists Detained

American Forces Press Service

Aug. 26, 2007 - Seven Iraqi citizens found their way to a coalition patrol base near Khan Ban Sa'ad, Iraq, yesterday after escaping a makeshift prison,
military officials reported. The alleged captors were linked to an earlier operation yesterday when attack helicopters patrolling the area observed three individuals moving in a tactical formation through a ditch. Coalition forces positively identified the individuals as hostile enemy forces and fired on their position, killing all three.

The escapees identified the remains of the three individuals as their captors and led coalition ground forces to the makeshift prison, officials said.

Inside the makeshift prison, coalition forces found eight bodies believed to be of both the Sunni and Shia sects, which the escapees identified as fellow prisoners. Each of the dead prisoners had gunshot wounds to the head and showed obvious signs of torture, according to officials.

The remains of the dead prisoners were turned over to Iraqi police. The seven escapees, who also showed signs of torture, were taken to an Iraqi clinic for treatment.

In other operations this week:

– Iraqi
army forces, with U.S. Special Forces acting as advisors, detained two leaders of the rogue Jaysh al-Mahdi militia during two operations Aug. 24 in Baghdad and in Taji. The individual targeted during the Baghdad raid is believed to be responsible for directing a criminal network of individuals who routinely attack Iraqi and coalition forces with improvised explosive devices and explosively formed projectiles in the New Baghdad area. In the second operation, members from the Iraqi Army 9th Division Reconnaisance team detained a Jaysh al-Mahdi company commander Aug. 24 in Taji.

– Iraqi security and Iraqi
army forces, with U.S. Special Forces acting as advisors, detained two key al Qaeda in Iraq leaders and seven other suspected terrorists in two separate operations Aug. 24 in Baghdad and in the Za'ab Triangle. In the Baghdad operation, forces detained an emir believed to be responsible for leading a cell that launches attacks on coalition and Iraqi forces with improvised explosive devices. An intelligence officer of al Qaeda in Iraq captured during the same operation reportedly collects names of Iraqi security forces personnel and targets them for assassination. During the second operation, Iraqi army forces conducted a successful air assault raid and detained seven suspected members of an al Qaeda in Iraq cell operating in the village of Jarnaf Gharbi.

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

Army Casualty

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

Pfc. Edgar E. Cardenas, 34, of Lilburn, Ga., died Aug. 22 in Abu Ghraib, Iraq, of wounds sustained from an improvised explosive device. He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood, Texas.

For more information related to this release, the media may contact the Fort Hood public affairs office at (254) 287-0104; after hours (254) 291-2591.

Army Casualties

The Department of Defense announced today the death of two soldiers who were supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom. They died Aug. 23 in Baghdad, Iraq, of wounds sustained from an improvised explosive device. They were assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne), Fort Lewis, Wash.

Killed were:
Sgt. 1st Class Adrian M. Elizalde, 30, of North Bend, Ind.
Sgt. 1st Class Michael J. Tully, 33, of Falls Creek, Penn.


For more information related to this release, the media may contact the U.S. Army Special Operations Command public affairs office at (910) 432-6005

Army Casualties

The Department of Defense announced today the death of two soldiers who were supporting Operation Enduring Freedom. They died of wounds sustained from a non-combat related incident in Herat, Afghanistan. The circumstances surrounding the incident are under investigation.

Killed were:
Sgt. 1st Class Daniel E. Miller, 43, of Rossford, Ohio. He was assigned to 1st Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, Fort Riley, Kansas.
Sgt. 1st Class Scott M. Carney, 37, of Ankeny, Iowa. He was assigned to the 2d Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry Division of the Iowa Army National Guard.


For more information related to Sgt. 1st Class Miller, the media may contact the Fort Riley public affairs office at (785) 239-3410.

Fore more information related to Sgt. 1st Class Carney, the media may contact the Iowa Army National Guard public affairs office at (515) 252-4582/4305.

Army Casuatly

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

Sgt. 1st Class David A. Heringes, 36, of Tampa, Fla., died Aug. 24 near Tikrit, Iraq, of wounds sustained when an improvised explosive device detonated near his unit during combat operations in Bayji, Iraq. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, N.C.

For more information related to this release, the media may contact the 82nd Airborne Division public affairs office at (910) 432-0661.

Attacks Down, Economic Development Up in Iraq

By Melinda L. Larson
American Forces Press Service

Aug. 26, 2007 - Recent strides in Iraq's economic development, including the reopening of a flour mill last week, are occurring as Iraqi and coalition forces disrupt al Qaeda and other
terrorist elements, a senior military spokesman in Iraq said today. "Local production of flour in a previously dormant mill is a small but meaningful step in Baqubah that demonstrates that as al Qaeda in Iraq is driven out, economic growth emerges," Navy Rear Adm. Mark I. Fox, deputy spokesman for Multinational Force Iraq, said at a news conference.

The flour mill in Baqubah, closed for nearly a year, is capable of producing 200 tons of finished flour per day and will employ about 100 mill workers and several truck drivers. The reopening of the mill was the result of a collaborative partnership between the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, Stryker Brigade Combat Team, and Diyala provincial leadership, Fox said.

"As we focus on pressuring al Qaeda, we gain tactical momentum and economic developments and reconstruction are now possible," Fox added. "As al Qaeda is driven out, normal activities like banking and commerce flourish."

Disrupting al Qaeda while trying to develop an economy and a democracy takes a dose of diplomacy.

On the diplomatic front, the State Department's Provincial Reconstruction Teams, interagency expeditionary teams designed to develop stable economic and political environments at the provincial level, are also making meaningful strides, according to the State Department's counselor for public affairs, another featured speaker at today's news conference.

"The role of the Provincial Reconstructions Teams is to help provincial governments develop a transparent and sustained capability not only to govern, but to increase security, rule of law, promote political and economic development, and provide the administration necessary to meet the basic needs of the local population," said Philip Reeker.

There are now 29 Provincial Reconstruction Teams at work throughout Iraq's 18 provinces. A conference that begins tomorrow in Baghdad will gather provincial governors from the four northern provinces, Reeker added.

"A great example of the progress we're making is the conference of northern province governors. It is an opportunity for delegations to share issues that affect the four northern provinces and discuss solutions," Reeker said.

Turning to operations, Fox told the Baghdad press corps that joint operations between coalition and Iraqi security forces have doubled compared to this time last year. He added the total number of attacks against civilians and security forces are at the lowest level since August 2006.

"Although we have made progress, we know we face a tough fight against an enemy that is willing to indiscriminately kill innocent men, women and children," Fox said. "We will continue to work closely with the government of Iraq and Iraqi security forces to pursue the enemy and build on our
tactical momentum."

Tribal Leaders in Diyala Province Band Together

By Melinda L. Larson
American Forces Press Service

Aug. 26, 2007 - Tribal
leaders in Iraq's Diyala province are banding together to secure peace and protect their people, the commander of coalition forces in the province told reporters yesterday. "They (tribal leaders) signed a peace agreement and swore to protect the land and their people from al Qaeda and to bridge the gap between tribes and to have a provincial-wide reconciliation movement," Army Col. David W. Sutherland said as he sat alongside the Iraqi security forces commander in Diyala, Maj. Gen. Abdul Kareem, during a joint press briefing in Baqubah, Iraq.

Referring to Kareem as his "friend" and "partner," Sutherland highlighted the success of the recent Iraqi and coalition forces Operation Lightning Hammer, which concluded Aug. 22.

In addition to disrupting al Qaeda and other militant rogue elements in the Diyala river valley, Lightning Hammer will be remembered for bringing together more than 80 tribal leaders from the area, many of whom had not spoken to one another for years, Sutherland said.

"Some of the sheikhs had been feuding for years," he said. "Their goal (now is) to work together for a better future for all Iraqis, regardless of tribe or sect. An attack (by al Qaeda) against one tribe is seen as an attack against all."

More than 80 tribal
leaders met Aug. 19 at the provincial governor's compound to discuss their grievances and swore on the Koran to unite in their fight against terrorists and become one tribe of Diyala. Sutherland said tribal leaders hold the social power in Iraq, and that's why it is important for tribes to become partners.

"Tribal
leaders are key to controlling the men of this province. They stand against al Qaeda and that makes our ability to bring them to justice much more decisive," Sutherland added.

Additionally, al Qaeda and rogue elements are being purged from the Diyala river valley not only by Iraqi and coalition forces, but by volunteers who are coming forward to assist Iraqi security forces.

"Concerned local nationals – patriots - have come forward and joined the security process," Sutherland said. "They are working with my soldiers and they are working with Iraqi security forces to assist us with information. They're being the eyes and ears forward - basically, advance scouts."

Sutherland said he believes that some of the Iraqi people who are volunteering to identify and purge al Qaeda and other elements from Diyala are doing so because they see improvements in their daily lives. Basic services such as food, water and electricity that in previous months had been quashed by al Qaeda are available once again.

"Iraqi security forces are now establishing a permanent presence to prevent the enemy from returning to those villages. The Iraqi security forces, partnered with our coalition forces, are here to protect them (Iraqi people) and provide safe haven," Sutherland said.

Sutherland also pointed out that as al Qaeda runs from Diyala province because of the tribal reconciliation initiatives, there's a plan in place.

"Multinational Division North, along with the Iraqi forces in Diyala, have a comprehensive plan to continue to attack al Qaeda as they migrate to other provinces," Sutherland said.

Noting that al Qaeda is well organized and funded, Sutherland said the fight will continue.

"The bottom line is, we will continue to attack al Qaeda and we will continue to attack anybody that disrupts the safety and security and services of the people in this province, no matter how organized they are."

President Confident of Success in Iraq as Iraqis Step Forward

By Melinda L. Larson
American Forces Press Service

Aug. 25, 2007 - More Iraqis are stepping forward to defend their democracy as young men sign up for the army,
police patrol the streets, and joint coalition and Iraqi operations double, President Bush said during today during his weekly radio address. "As the Iraqi people feel more secure, they are also forming neighborhood watch groups. They're volunteering important information about the terrorists and extremists hiding in their midst," Bush said.

The increase in tips helps account for the marked reduction in sectarian murders, Bush said. Also, driving out terrorists from cities and neighborhoods creates conditions for reconciliation at the local level, he said.

"Despite continuing violence,
leaders in places like Anbar, Najaf and Ninewah are now working through local provincial councils to approve funds to finance the rebuilding of homes and neighborhoods, to fight corruption, and to create new jobs," Bush said.

Bush added it can be easy to overlook the bravery shown by Iraqi troops and Iraqi civilians who are in the fight for freedom, but American troops on the ground see it every day.

He related the story of Army Staff Sgt. Sean Kane, one of four American soldiers whose life was reportedly spared by an Iraqi civilian who intercepted a suicide bomber last week in Baghdad while American soldiers were meeting with an Iraqi citizens group.

"Suddenly, a suicide bomber came running around a corner and headed straight for our soldiers and the Iraqi civilians," Bush said.

One Iraqi man saw what was happening and ran to intercept the bomber, Bush said.

"As he pushed the
terrorist away, the bomb detonated – killing both men, but sparing four American soldiers and eight Iraqi civilians," Bush said.

Later that same night, the citizens group contacted the local director of the Iraqi National Police and told him the location of the al Qaeda cell believed to be responsible for the attack. A raid was conducted that resulted in four arrests, Bush said.

New surge operations began in Iraq in June and the president emphasized that it is still the early stages of the new operations, but the success of the past two months has shown that conditions on the ground can change.

"We cannot expect the new strategy we are carrying out to bring success overnight," Bush said.

Bush said he is confident that helping Iraqis build democracy in their country will benefit Americans and people throughout the Middle East.

"By standing with the Iraqi people as they build their democracy, we will deliver a devastating blow to al Qaeda, we will help provide new hope for millions of people throughout the Middle East, we will gain a friend and ally in the
war on terror, and we will make the American people safer," Bush said.

President Confident of Success in Iraq as Iraqis Step Forward

By Melinda L. Larson
American Forces Press Service

Aug. 25, 2007 - More Iraqis are stepping forward to defend their democracy as young men sign up for the army,
police patrol the streets, and joint coalition and Iraqi operations double, President Bush said during today during his weekly radio address. "As the Iraqi people feel more secure, they are also forming neighborhood watch groups. They're volunteering important information about the terrorists and extremists hiding in their midst," Bush said.

The increase in tips helps account for the marked reduction in sectarian murders, Bush said. Also, driving out terrorists from cities and neighborhoods creates conditions for reconciliation at the local level, he said.

"Despite continuing violence,
leaders in places like Anbar, Najaf and Ninewah are now working through local provincial councils to approve funds to finance the rebuilding of homes and neighborhoods, to fight corruption, and to create new jobs," Bush said.

Bush added it can be easy to overlook the bravery shown by Iraqi troops and Iraqi civilians who are in the fight for freedom, but American troops on the ground see it every day.

He related the story of Army Staff Sgt. Sean Kane, one of four American soldiers whose life was reportedly spared by an Iraqi civilian who intercepted a suicide bomber last week in Baghdad while American soldiers were meeting with an Iraqi citizens group.

"Suddenly, a suicide bomber came running around a corner and headed straight for our soldiers and the Iraqi civilians," Bush said.

One Iraqi man saw what was happening and ran to intercept the bomber, Bush said.

"As he pushed the
terrorist away, the bomb detonated – killing both men, but sparing four American soldiers and eight Iraqi civilians," Bush said.

Later that same night, the citizens group contacted the local director of the Iraqi National Police and told him the location of the al Qaeda cell believed to be responsible for the attack. A raid was conducted that resulted in four arrests, Bush said.

New surge operations began in Iraq in June and the president emphasized that it is still the early stages of the new operations, but the success of the past two months has shown that conditions on the ground can change.

"We cannot expect the new strategy we are carrying out to bring success overnight," Bush said.

Bush said he is confident that helping Iraqis build democracy in their country will benefit Americans and people throughout the Middle East.

"By standing with the Iraqi people as they build their democracy, we will deliver a devastating blow to al Qaeda, we will help provide new hope for millions of people throughout the Middle East, we will gain a friend and ally in the
war on terror, and we will make the American people safer," Bush said.