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Persistent Presence Creates Secure Environment, Spokesman Says

By Sgt. Sara Wood, USA
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 23, 2005 – Operations that have been ongoing in the Iraq's Anbar province since September have had a significant impact nationwide and have limited the ability of terrorists to conduct suicide attacks, a U.S. military spokesman said today in Baghdad.

Since operations began, 700 terrorists have been killed and 1,500 have been detained in Anbar, said Army Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, Multinational Force Iraq spokesman. Also, 243 weapons caches have been found and 440 mines and improvised explosive devices have been found and cleared, he said.

The U.S. and Iraqi militaries have left behind a persistent presence in the province, ensuring a secure environment for citizens to participate in the democratic process, Lynch said. Iraqis are scheduled to elect a permanent government under their new constitution Dec. 15.

Securing the environment is one main goal of the operations, Lynch said, along with defeating terrorists and foreign fighters, disrupting the movement and communications of insurgents, and restoring Iraqi control of the border.

Throughout the operations, military officials think through the humanitarian aspects of the missions, Lynch said. In Anbar, more than 6,000 families have been displaced due to operations, but there was a plan for those civilians before operations began, he said.

"The civilians were taken out of harm's way," he said. "They were nourished and cared for during the conduct of the operations, and now they have returned home."

Attack levels across Iraq have been decreasing in recent months, Lynch said, and the U.S. and Iraqi militaries control the supply routes, limiting the movement of terrorists.

Through these operations, al Qaeda in Iraq leadership has been weakened, forcing fugitive Jordanian terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi to be more active and bringing him that much closer to capture, Lynch said.

"We come close to Zarqawi continuously," he said. A $25 million reward awaits the provider of information that leads to Zarqawi's death or capture.

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