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Iraqi Cooperation Makes Precise Strikes Possible, Sanchez Says

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 13, 2003 – Thanks to Iraqi cooperation, coalition forces are making precise offensive strikes to capture or kill former regime forces and anti-coalition fighters, the military commander in the country said today.

Speaking in Baghdad, Army Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, commander of Combined Joint Task Force 7, said the coalition is receiving "actionable" intelligence from the Iraqi people, and that is making for success for the coalition.

In the west of the country, Iraqi police and soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division captured the cell that was responsible for attacking a Spanish convoy Nov. 29, killing seven Spanish officials. As a result of intelligence provided by local Iraqis, the coalition launched Operation Panzer Squeeze and conducted 18 raids. Forces captured the 15 targets of the operation and a total of 41 enemy personnel, including the regional cell leader who masterminded the attack, Sanchez said.

"We've been able to make some effective headway against these terrorist elements and anti-coalition elements, primarily because of the cooperative efforts on the part of the Iraqis -- both the civilians and the Iraqi security forces that are operating out there in this battle space in cooperation with coalition forces," he said. "Our common aim is clear, and that is to eliminate the remnants of the former regime and any others who attempt to destabilize the country and preclude the establishment of a safe and democratic Iraq."

During the past week, the coalition conducted more than 150 offensive operations and almost 12,000 patrols, the general said.

In other offensive operations, troopers of the 101st Airborne Division captured a former regime brigadier general who was leading the Fedayeen Saddam paramilitary group in the city of Mosul. Soldiers captured 55 other suspected former regime elements in a series of simultaneous cordon-and-knock operations against 34 different targets across the city, Wednesday, Sanchez said. In such operations, soldiers seal off an area based on intelligence on the whereabouts of targeted people, then go door-to-door to find them.

In Baghdad, more than 300 Iraqi Civil Defense Corps personnel, an Estonian platoon and two battalions from the 1st Armored Division conducted a brigade-size cordon-and-search operation of an apartment complex on the northwest side of Baghdad. The units searched 2,400 apartments and 53 additional buildings to find former regime elements and others working against the Iraqi people. Labeled "Operation Bulldog Mammoth," the effort led to soldiers confiscating large amounts of weapons, ammunition, body armor and Saddam Hussein paraphernalia, and detaining 30 people.

"These operations are ongoing, and more will follow," Sanchez said. "The message to anti-coalition and anti-Iraqi elements is very clear: The Iraqi people are fed up with terrorism, and together with coalition forces we will root out those anti-coalition elements trying to stop progress in the country."

He said the message these operations send to the Iraqi people also is clear. "We will act with precision, we will act with accuracy in our efforts to capture or kill those who try to harm the Iraqi people and coalition forces," he said. "We stand with you as we rebuild this country together."

The general said there were three suicide attacks against coalition forces in the past week. He said the coalition will learn who was behind the attacks and will launch precise strikes to find them. He said force protection precautions put in place worked, and he praised commanders and soldiers for their actions.

Sanchez has said he expects the level of violence to go up in the next four to five months. He said he came to that conclusion after studying what is happening in the country and what the goals of former regime forces and anti- coalition forces are. These forces are desperate to stop the planned installation of an interim Iraqi government in June, Sanchez said.

"They are working hard to disrupt economic progress, working hard to disrupt the push to sovereignty," he said. The former regime and anti-coalition elements do not want that turnover to occur, because the possibility of them regaining control and power in Iraq will be reduced, he explained.

Sanchez briefly dealt with reports that the first battalion of the new Iraqi army had massive resignations. He said the problem is one of allowances to married soldiers.

The soldiers receive $60 per month, with a graduated scale for higher ranks. Most of the resignations about 150 came from married soldiers with families. Sanchez said the resignations affected only that one battalion and have not spread to the other battalion now undergoing training. Coalition personnel are examining the pay system to alleviate the problem, he said.

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