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Phantom Strike Squeezes Insurgents in Iraq, General Says

By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 16, 2007 – Operation Phantom Strike is squeezing insurgents in Iraq as the country’s security forces grow, a top U.S. general said here today. (Video)

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U.S. Amry Lt. Gen. Carter Ham, director for operations, J-3, on the Joint Staff, briefs Pentagon reporters, Aug. 16, 2007. Ham pointed out that there are military teams assisting at the Minneapolis bridge collapse, the Utah coal mine cave-in and the USNS Comfort is conducting humaritarian operations. Defense Dept. photo by R.D. Ward

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Phantom Strike, a joint operation launched this week by coalition and Iraqi forces, is using the information and intelligence gained through operations this summer to more effectively target insurgents throughout Iraq.

“Phantom Strike is about keeping the pressure on the enemy and building on the results of previous operations such as Phantom Thunder,” Army Lt. Gen. Carter F. Ham, director of operations for the Joint Staff, told reporters at the Pentagon.

The series of operations under the overarching title “Operation Phantom Thunder,” a precursor to Phantom Strike, was designed to protect the Iraqi people, ease reconciliation among the religious sects, defeat al Qaeda in Iraq and other extremists, and continue developing Iraqi security forces, the general said. And as U.S. forces continue to expand their operations, so do Iraq’s security forces, he added.

“It’s very rare today for any operation to not include Iraqi forces,” he said. “In fact, many are Iraqi-led, and some are Iraqi-only, though the Iraqi-only (operations) are usually accompanied by other (coalition) advisors.”

Iraqis led an operation to protect tens of thousands of Iraqi Shiite pilgrims who marched recently to a shrine in Baghdad’s Kazimiyah district for an annual ritual at a sacred imam’s tomb. The general noted that this public demonstration has been marked in recent years by violence leading to significant civilian casualties.

“This year, Iraqi police and the Iraqi army were able to execute their security plan. They controlled the crowds, and ultimately there were no civilian deaths due to insurgent attacks,” he said.

The general acknowledged that challenges exist in building Iraq’s security forces.

During a separate briefing this month, the general overseeing training for Iraqi security forces said the army is enduring a shortage of experienced military leaders, while law enforcement is troubled by sectarian divisiveness on a national scale and distrust by some local societies.

“But this is an event to (indicate) that some progress is being made, and I think it’s noteworthy,” Ham said about the incident-free pilgrimage.

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