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Operation Steel Curtain Concludes Along Iraq-Syria Border

American Forces Press Service

CAMP BLUE DIAMOND, Iraq, Nov. 22, 2005 – U.S. and Iraqi forces wrapped up Operation Steel Curtain today near the Iraq-Syria border, military officials here announced.

The 17-day offensive was conducted in the cities of Husaybah, Karabilah and Ubaydi, and was geared toward preventing al Qaeda in Iraq from operating in the Euphrates River Valley and throughout the country's Anbar province, officials noted.

As part of a larger operation called Operation Hunter, Steel Curtain made way for the establishment of a permanent Iraqi army security presence in the Qaim region. It also set the conditions for local citizens to vote in the upcoming Dec. 15 elections, officials said.

Steel Curtain ushered in the first large-scale operational use of the Iraqi army, officials said, employing about 1,000 soldiers in western Anbar province. The Iraqi soldiers conducted detailed clearing missions alongside their coalition counterparts and began establishing permanent bases within these three cities.

"Forces at these outposts will prevent the al Qaeda in Iraq-led terrorists from regaining a presence in these cities and threatening local residents with their murder and intimidation campaign," a coalition spokesman said.

"Desert Protectors," specially trained local Iraqis, were recruited from the Qaim region and worked alongside the Iraqi army and U.S. units throughout the operation.

"Their familiarity with the area and its people was crucial in identifying friend from foe and enabled their Iraqi and coalition partners to better understand the geographical complexities of the region," the spokesman said.

Officials reported that 10 Marines were killed in fighting during Steel Curtain. A total of 139 terrorists were killed and 256 were processed for detention during the operation.

"The porous Iraq-Syria border was identified as a main route for men, material and money to be transited into Iraq," the spokesman said, and the western Euphrates River Valley region was known to be a major artery for al Qaeda in Iraq terrorists.

Iraqi soldiers and U.S. forces moved in on Husaybah the morning of Nov. 5, followed shortly thereafter by Karabilah, Ubaydi and winding up clearing the Ramana region, west of Ubaydi on the northern side of the Euphrates River.

"Iraqi army soldiers and U.S. forces will continue to maintain presence and increase efforts in securing the Iraq-Syria border," the spokesman said.

(From a Multinational Force Iraq news release.)

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