Saturday, June 16, 2007

News From The Surge - As It Begins In Earnest

Now with all five combat brigades on the ground, General Petraues tells us that the surge will begin in earnest, moving into al Qaeda positions in Diyala and in the belts surrounding Baghdad - the areas that were either long term al Qaeda strongholds or areas that al Qaeda has retreated to escape the offensives in Baghdad and and Anbar.

US Defence Secretary Robert Gates said Saturday that a troop surge in Iraq is only starting to have its full impact and that it is too soon to tell whether conditions will be ripe by September for decisions on US force levels.

The US commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus, said that the latest troop reinforcements to arrive in theatre had enabled the military to begin major operations against Al-Qaeda rear-bases outside the capital.

"While I indicated yesterday that I think we'll see some trends and be able to point in some directions by September, the full impact of the surge is really just beginning to be felt," Gates said.

. . . Petraeus and US ambassador Ryan Crocker are supposed to report to a sceptical Congress in September on whether the surge is working or whether an alternative strategy is needed.

Gates was to meet Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki later to press for more rapid progress by his Shiite-led government in reaching out to the disenchanted Sunni former elite.

He is the third senior US official to deliver the same message over the past week, following Deputy Defence Secretary John Negroponte, the former US ambassador, and Admiral William Fallon, commander of US forces in the Middle East.

"We are pressing hard on those (reconcilation benchmarks)," said the US ambassador, who joined Gates and Petraeus at a news conference.

"The Iraqi government has been pushing itself. The progress has been frustratingly slow.

"We will see where we are by September. We will report at that time honestly as to what has been achieved and what hasn't," said Crocker.

Gates, who visited troops at a joint security post in Baghdad, said there had been successes in reducing violence in Anbar province west of the capital, although security had deteriorated in Diyala province to its north.

"In terms of the security situation, as I say we've got two months, three months to go. There are some positive trends, there are some negative trends," he said.

Petraeus said it was possible to make progress over the next few months.

"And then we'll see how long we'll sustain the surge, and how long we can sustain the surge, because those considerations enter into it as well."

. . . US troops levels in Iraq swelled to 155,000 over the past week as the last of five additional combat brigades deployed, US commanders said.

Petraeus said "fairly large coordinated offensive operations" had been launched against Al-Qaeda in areas outside Baghdad in the previous 24 hours.

"We have been doing what we might be calling shaping operations in a lot of these areas, doing intelligence gathering, putting in some special operators, going in but then coming out," he said.

"And now for the first time are we going to some key areas in the belt from which Al-Qaeda has sallied forth with car bombs and additional fighters and so forth."
Read the entire story here.

The military is reporting on the results of several raids tied to the new offensive.
Iraqi and coalition forces captured one terrorist leader and killed 16 suspected terrorists today. Ten more insurgents died in fighting yesterday.

Coalition forces in Baghdad captured five suspected terrorists, including an alleged al Qaeda in Iraq emir whose organization includes a deadly car-bomb cell in the city, during two raids today. At one targeted location, coalition forces destroyed two vehicles used to transport explosives and personnel for the terrorist network.

An operation in Mosul killed one terrorist. Outside the targeted building, a man identified as Izz al-Din, also known as Abu Ahmad, drew a weapon on the approaching ground forces. Coalition forces engaged and killed him. One suspected terrorist was detained on scene for his involvement with Abu Ahmad.

Abu Ahmad was the head of five terrorist cells in Mosul and was responsible for directing attacks against Iraqi and coalition forces, U.S. officials said.

Yesterday, Multinational Division Baghdad troops killed 10 insurgents who had launched a series of roadside-bomb and small-arms-fire ambushes in the West Rashid district of southern Baghdad.

. . . Meanwhile, a number of raids have taken place involving the discovery and seizure of enemy munitions. In one raid yesterday, nine individuals were detained on suspicion of running a bomb-making cell in the east Doura neighborhood of Baghdad’s Rashid district.

. . . In other news, troops seized several caches on June 13. Baghdad troops teamed up with a platoon of Iraqi national police to conduct a raid in the eastern Sadr City district.

The troops discovered three complete 60 mm mortar systems, complete 82 mm and 120 mm mortar systems, four 120 mm mortar rounds, 32 60 mm mortar rounds, three 107 mm rockets, a rifle scope, two AK-47 rifles, two sets of body armor, and a variety of weapon manuals.

An air and ground assault took place on two houses in Salman Pak on June 13. The raids yielded two 107 mm rockets, homemade explosives, two AK-47 assault rifles, a bolt-action rifle, several propane tanks, copper wire, ammunition, magazines, and several assault vests.

In another raid, Iraqi troops and Baghdad soldiers raided a weapons cache in the Yarmouk neighborhood. The cache contained 113 landmines, 63 grenades, three rockets, three mortars, two gas masks, five washing machine timers, more than 2,000 rounds of AK-47 ammunition, and seven boxes of various electronics and other assorted explosives.

It is the largest weapons cache discovery by U.S. or Iraqi forces to date in the Yarmouk area, U.S. officials said.
Read the entire story here.

The increased operational tempo and chasing the rats down their holes is inevitably going to lead to more U.S. casualties.
The fight for security in Baghdad is likely to “get harder over the coming months as we engage an increasingly desperate enemy,” the deputy secretary of state said in Baghdad today.

John D. Negroponte, who served as U.S. ambassador to Iraq from 2004 until assuming his current post in February, spoke with reporters after two days of meetings in Iraq with senior U.S. and Iraqi leaders.

All recognize that as the Baghdad security plan reaches full stride with the last of the surge troops arriving this month, difficult days are likely to remain ahead, he said.
Read the entire story here. For most of us, this is the unfortunate cost of succeeding in any military conflict. For Harry Reid, it is twisted into a sign of American failure.

On a far more important note then Senator Reid, here is a fascinating briefing on Mental Health in the military:

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