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U.S., Iraqi Forces Make Gains Against Insurgents in Western Iraq

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 17, 2005 – American and Iraqi military forces are making inroads against insurgents holed up in western Iraq's Anbar province, a senior U.S. military officer told reporters at a Baghdad news conference today.

Operation Steel Curtain, launched Nov. 4, is making progress from west to east against insurgents operating near the Iraqi-Syrian border, Army Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, a spokesman for Multinational Force Iraq, said.

Lynch said U.S. and Iraqi forces conducted door-to-door searches in the western Iraqi town of Husaybah to rid it of insurgent influence. About 400 Husaybah residents were safely removed to a temporary camp before military operations there commenced, he said.

Most recent Steel Curtain operations are centered in the Iraqi town of Ubaydi, which is divided into old and new sections, Lynch said. That operation hasn't been conducted without cost. Today five U.S. Marines were killed during a firefight with insurgents in New Ubaydi, according to a Multinational Force Iraq news release. Sixteen enemy fighters were killed during that engagement.

The availability of 212,000 Iraqi security troops enables that force to leave behind a persistent security presence after towns are liberated from insurgent influence, Lynch said.

Current Steel Curtain operations are achieving great success against insurgents operating in and around Ubaydi, Lynch said, primarily because the town's citizens are identifying insurgents hiding among the population to Iraqi and U.S. forces.

"The people of Ubaydi have said, 'We're tired of the insurgency,' and have turned in the insurgents," Lynch said. For example, an insurgent dressed as a woman was recently identified to Iraqi and coalition troops by Ubaydi townspeople, he said. And, some Ubaydi residents living at a temporary camp housing about 1,400 townspeople told Iraqi and coalition forces about 21 suspicious people in their midst, Lynch said.

The temporarily displaced residents of Ubaydi and Husaybah are being taken care of by humanitarian-relief organizations like the Iraqi Red Crescent and the U.S. Agency for International Development while Iraqi and coalition troops provide security, Lynch said. They will return to their homes as soon as possible after their towns are rid of insurgents, he said. Stay-behind Iraqi forces will provide security when the civilians return home, he said.

Lynch said 275 reconstruction projects earmarked for western Anbar province, totaling $200,000,000 in value, have either been completed, are in progress, or are slated to be completed.

"So, the humanitarian assistance and the reconstruction of ... Anbar continues apace with the military operations," Lynch said.

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