General Details U.S. Military Operations in Iraq, Afghanistan
By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, April 19, 2007 The recent security crackdown in Baghdad has not pushed violence into other parts of Iraq, despite various “high-profile attacks” that might indicate the opposite, a senior U.S. military officer said here today.
“Our analyses show that, with the exception of some high-profile attacks in Mosul, Tal Afar and Kirkuk, the cycle of violence in Baghdad does not appear to have spread to other areas,” Army Maj. Gen. Michael D. Barbero, the Joint Staff’s deputy director for regional operations, told reporters during a Pentagon news conference on U.S. military operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Pacific.
“We are not seeing a significant rise in violence in the other areas of Iraq,” he added.
Barbero said the attack levels in primarily Kurdish areas of northern Iraq “remain low, and remain steady. In the northern-central area, from Mosul in the south to the northern part of Baghdad … we have seen a slight increase there in the number of attacks,” he said.
Violence levels have been low in southern Iraq, he said, and the frequency of attacks has decreased in the country’s western provinces, including Anbar.
The top priority in Iraq is Fardh al-Qanoon, Barbero said, referring to the Baghdad security plan announced Feb. 13. The plan includes initiatives to create Joint Security Stations throughout Baghdad and deploy five additional U.S. brigades in and around the city.
“Three of the five deploying U.S. brigades are now operating in Baghdad, with the fourth brigade in Kuwait and starting their move north as we speak,” he said.
The 3rd Infantry Division established control yesterday of operations southwest of Baghdad, an area of operation that includes Najaf, a city where impassioned Iraqis took to the streets April 9 to protest America’s foreign policy and military forces.
“Twenty-four of 36 Joint Security Stations are operating in their neighborhoods (which) are manned by Iraqi army, police and coalition forces,” the general said.
Twenty-five of 33 combat outposts are operating in Baghdad’s neighborhoods, and local citizens have shown increased cooperation with forces – signs that the security plan is working, Barbero said. “In response to the increased security presence, the Iraqi people have been providing an increasing amount of tips, which have led to the discovery of more (weapons) caches,” he said.
Combined security forces find an average of 20 caches per month, Barbero said, up from the nine they averaged prior to Fardh al-Qanoon. Recently discovered caches contained suicide vests, improvised explosive devices, car bombs and materials used to design and carry out other “high-profile attacks.”
One widely-reported attack occurred yesterday in Baghdad’s predominantly Shia Muslim Rusafa district where multiple car bombs detonated, killing more than 150 Iraqis and wounding 137 others.
Barbero expressed his condolences to the Iraqi people for their significant losses. “Sunni extremists and al Qaeda in Iraq continue to attempt barbaric high-profile attacks in an attempt to incite sectarian violence, and yesterday was an example of this,” he added.
Echoing comments made by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Gen. Peter Pace, Barbero said there is indication that Iran is providing Sunni extremist groups in Iraq with “munitions and support.”
“We are seeing some aid from the Iranian intelligence sources to the Sunni insurgents,” Barbero said. “Detainees in American custody have indicated Iranian intelligence operatives have given support to Sunni insurgents. And we have discovered some munitions in Baghdad neighborhoods, which are largely Sunni, that were manufactured in Iran.”
Security challenges remain in Iraq, Barbero said, despite signs of progress. “It remains too early to tell if these indicators (of progress) are enduring trends,” he said.
Turning to Operation Enduring Freedom, Barbero said that Operation Achilles, the major tactical operation in southern Afghanistan “continues to target enemy forces, preempt enemy operations, and set the long-term goal of enabling reconstruction development in the critical southern area.”
NATO’s International Security Assistance Force and Afghan army units are conducting operations in the Sangin district of Helmand province, securing the district center of what was formerly a Taliban stronghold.
“While the threat of the Taliban’s spring offensive still exists, to date we have not seen enemy operations on the scale that they predicted,” Barbero said.
The general said that success in Afghanistan will not be achieved by solely engaging and killing insurgents. “It will be achieved by separating insurgents from the population and by demonstrating the effectiveness of the government of Afghanistan,” he said.
Barbero also shed light on an ongoing military operation on the Solomon Islands, an archipelago off Australia’s eastern coast that was recently ravaged by a tsunami.
“Several weeks ago, Pacific Command’s U.S. Naval Ship (USNS) Stockham began providing assistance to the people of Solomon Islands,” he said. “To date, she has provided 80 hours of helicopter lift, moving nearly 20,000pounds of supplies, transported 149 aid people on the island and casualty-(evacuated), or rescued, 20 civilians.”
This operation is planned to provide assistance through the end of this week. This type of aid work “often occurs well below the radar,” Barbero said.