Tags: First | Phase | Major | Iraq | Campaign | Almost | Over:

First Phase of Major Iraq Campaign Almost Over: U.S.

Sunday, 24 June 2007 12:00 AM

BAQUBA, Iraq -- U.S. forces believe the initial combat phase of a major offensive to clear al Qaeda from the Iraqi city of Baquba is nearly complete and any militants left could be confronted in the next 24 hours.

The operation in and around Baquba, capital of volatile Diyala province, is a major part of one of the biggest combined offensives by U.S. and Iraqi forces against the Sunni Islamist group in Iraq since the invasion of the country in 2003.

"We will either make enemy contact quickly, or we won't," Colonel Steve Townsend, commander of the 3rd Stryker Brigade, told Reuters and another news agency late on Saturday.

"My company commanders' gut feel is that there won't be a big fight here," he said after a briefing late on Saturday with combat captains in the bombed-out remains of a building, once used by al Qaeda as a clinic, on Baquba's outskirts.

Townsend said latest intelligence indicated some fighters were still inside an American cordon, which has been steadily tightened since the operation was launched on Tuesday, cutting off options for the militants to escape.

"They don't have any choice but to fight ... or put down their weapons and melt into the population," Townsend said.

"The fight so far has gone a little easier than I expected. That does not mean there isn't any fight left in them."

The campaign in Diyala, north of Baghdad, as well as offensives in other regions around the capital, is expected to last several weeks.

U.S. forces have came under sporadic attack as they work through Baquba's west and have also been hampered by networks of booby-trapped houses and deeply buried roadside bombs.

Barriers and checkpoints, manned by Iraqi security forces, will be put up around three of the most troubled districts in west Baquba to prevent al Qaeda slipping back into the city that they had declared the capital of the Islamic State of Iraq.

Baquba is an al Qaeda stronghold that also become a sanctuary for militants escaping a security crackdown launched in Baghdad in February.

Tens of thousands of U.S. and Iraqi soldiers are engaged in the simultaneous offensives in and around Baghdad to deny al Qaeda sanctuary in farmlands and towns from where they launch car bombs and other attacks in the capital and elsewhere.

U.S. and Iraqi forces say they have killed 90 al Qaeda fighters around Baghdad, 55 of them in Operation Arrowhead Ripper that covers Baquba. Townsend said he would have liked to have caught or killed more.

With more U.S. soldiers engaged in offensives around the country the death toll for U.S. forces has begun to rise in June after hitting a two-and-a-half year monthly high in May of 126, the third highest monthly total since the start of the war.

Eighty U.S. soldiers have been killed so far in June, 28 of them in the past week.

U.S. military commanders have said the combined operations were taking advantage of the completion of a build-up of U.S. forces in Iraq to 156,000 soldiers.

U.S. President George W. Bush has sent 28,000 more troops to Iraq to buy time for Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki to reach a political accommodation with disaffected minority Sunni Arabs, who are locked in a cycle of violence with majority Shi'ites.

© reuters 2007. All Rights Reserved.

© 2019 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

   
1Like our page
2Share
Pre-2008
BAQUBA, Iraq -- U.S. forces believe the initial combat phase of a major offensive to clear al Qaeda from the Iraqi city of Baquba is nearly complete and any militants left could be confronted in the next 24 hours. The operation in and around Baquba, capital of volatile...
First,Phase,Major,Iraq,Campaign,Almost,Over:,U.S.
555
2007-00-24
Sunday, 24 June 2007 12:00 AM
Newsmax Media, Inc.
 

Newsmax, Moneynews, Newsmax Health, and Independent. American. are registered trademarks of Newsmax Media, Inc. Newsmax TV, and Newsmax World are trademarks of Newsmax Media, Inc.

NEWSMAX.COM
America's News Page
© Newsmax Media, Inc.
All Rights Reserved