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Pentagon Leaders Describe Offensive Operations in Iraq

By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 29, 2003 – U.S. and other coalition forces in Iraq can't defend themselves everywhere all the time, so they've been going on the offensive, a top Defense Department spokesman said today.

Lawrence Di Rita, special assistant to the secretary of defense, said during a Pentagon press briefing that he thinks it's useful to "zoom out" and discuss some of the "significant gains" that have been made in military operations in Iraq since the end of major combat.

For instance, coalition forces have conducted 2,000 patrols - many jointly with Iraqi police forces - and 30 raids over the past 48 hours, said Air Force Lt. Gen. Norton Schwartz, director of operations for the Joint Staff, who briefed with Di Rita.

These raids have resulted in "241 arrests for various criminal activity, from car theft to murder, and demonstrate that law and order are gradually being restored in Iraq," Schwartz said.

Schwartz described the two major operations coalition forces have undertaken since June 15.

Thirteen raids have been conducted under the auspices of Operation Desert Scorpion, which began June 15 and is ongoing. These raids have resulted in the capture of 38 detainees and the seizure of $8 million, millions of Iraqi dinars, and "substantial amounts" of British pounds and euros.

A sub-operation to Desert Scorpion, Operation Sidewinder, ran from June 29 to July 7. In this operation, 4th Infantry Division troops were "tasked to secure Highways 1 and 2 north of Baghdad from Baath attacks against coalition and other civilian traffic," Schwartz said.

This mission led to the capture of 282 detainees and the seizure of 217 rocket-propelled grenades, 200 mortar rounds, 132 small arms and various documents.

The second major operation, Soda Mountain, ran from July 12 to 17. Operation Soda Mountain's goal was to "to increase reconnaissance and presence throughout the whole of Iraq to deter, disrupt and rapidly defeat attacks on coalition forces," Schwartz explained.

This operation brought about 141 raids, which resulted in 611 detainees, including 62 former-regime leaders. Forces also seized 4,297 mortar rounds, 1,346 RPGs, and 635 small arms. A sub-operation, dubbed Ivy Serpent, is ongoing. Ivy Serpent has led to 226 detainees, 800 mortar rounds, 50 small arms and 26 RPGs being taken by coalition forces in a series of 27 separate raids.

"These major operations, as well as the daily patrols and training and assistance that our forces perform each and every day, are slowly but deliberately building a more stable and secure Iraq," Schwartz said.

He also noted that coalition forces are working closely on many fronts with Iraqis to increase security. The general described several areas of Iraqi cooperation.

  • Four thousand Iraqi militiamen will be trained by American forces "in the next several weeks and will work under U.S. command in regions around the country as part of the civil defense force."

  • Twelve thousand Iraqis will be trained this year for the new Iraqi army, growing to 40,000 in two years.

  • American soldiers are training and equipping Iraqi police forces at several locations around the country.

  • Soldiers of the 101st Airborne Division are training an Iraqi facility protection force to provide security at power plants, water-treatment plants and other public works facilities.

In related news, since the demise of Saddam Hussein's sons Uday and Qusay, American military forces in Iraq have seen a lessening in the number of attacks but an increase in the level of sophistication of these attacks, Schwartz said.

Attacks on Americans have gone "from what began largely as small-arms attacks to attacks with use of rocket-propelled grenades and now the use of improvised explosive devices," he explained. "That reflects a level of sophistication (that) has matured over time."

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