Coalition Forces in Iraq Taking Down Enemy ‘Cell by Cell’
By Fred W. Baker III
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jul. 18, 2007 Coalition forces in Iraq are taking down the insurgency cell by cell, killing key foreign leaders in the recent surge of operations, a senior spokesman in the region said today.
“We are on the offensive. We own the initiative, and we’re pressing al Qaeda in Iraq and also the secret cells and the rogue elements of (the) Jaysh al-Mahdi (militia). We’re also seeing an increase in the capacity and capability of Iraqi security forces,” said Navy Rear Adm. Mark I. Fox, the communications chief for strategic effects with Multinational Force Iraq. Fox was speaking via telephone from Iraq to online journalists and “bloggers.”
Fox said the July 4 capture of Khalid Abdul Fatah Daud Mahmud al-Mashadani, thought to the most senior Iraqi in the al Qaeda in Iraq network, highlights the significance of coalition forces’ operations to kill foreign al Qaeda leaders.
In recent weeks, combined forces also have killed three other key foreign al Qaeda leaders sent to northern Iraq to help build the organization, the spokesman said.
“We’ve had a number of very successful operations taking down node by node and cell by cell the al Qaeda network,” Fox said.
He told the bloggers that local citizens, and even members of tribes who formerly opposed coalition forces, are losing patience with al Qaeda because of the group’s indiscriminate bombings that are killing hundreds of Iraqis. Rogue elements of the extremist group are shooting rockets into neighbors randomly, killing innocent civilians.
Some of the tribes that used to shun coalition forces are now working with troops to repel al Qaeda. “It hasn’t taken all that long for the people of Iraq to learn that their interests are not best served by these extremist groups,” Fox said.
“These extremists are wearing out their welcome,” he said. “Al Qaeda is a small element, but they are disproportionately responsible for the … fueling of sectarian violence.”
There has been “significant” progress in areas of the Diyala province, regions south of Baghdad, Anbar province and in Mosul, Fox said.
Fox said the surge is building confidence in both the coalition and the Iraqi forces, leading them to greater operational successes and the discovery of weapons caches. “We are seeing a record number of caches due to a high level of interaction and trust and confidence in the Iraqi forces and coalition forces,” he said.
But while the fighting has had many successes, Fox said, true success will be in the political reconciliation of local tribes into the Iraqi government.
Some groups that fall under the Jaysh al-Mahdi militia may be reconcilable, Fox said. “We’re trying to isolate extremists, the people who will not be reconciled, and expand as wide a group who will reconcile and be willing to play a political role,” Fox said.
Also, Fox told the bloggers, the Iraqi security forces are beginning to police their own, ridding their ranks of those committed to sectarian division. He conceded some problems with loyalty, especially with the police force, but said the Iraqi army is making progress.
“We are seeing increasing evidence, in particular on the side of the Iraqi army, of them protecting the people that they’re sworn to protect -- in many cases paying the ultimate price,” Fox said.
In June, Iraqi security forces suffered three times the casualties as coalition forces, he said.
“They have skin in this game,” the admiral said.