Counter-Terrorism: June 14, 2005

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Iraq, beset by a massive suicide bomber offensive in Baghdad, found a way to effectively fight back with Operation Lighting. On May 22nd, the Iraqis brought together seven army infantry battalions, and nine Special Police battalions, plus contingents from five American brigades, and proceeded to lock down the entire city. In addition to dozens of new check points, the police commandos started working down a list of dozens of newly identified terrorists, and locations they operated out of. This list was compiled from information captured in April and May, plus stuff extracted from captured terrorists, and lots of tips from Iraqi civilians. The United States contributed computer support and aerial reconnaissance to help put together the hit list. After three weeks of  effort, the number of car bombs going off was down 38 percent, and the number of these weapons discovered before they could go off was up 23 percent. There was also a ten percent decline in the number of roadside bombs going off, and 18 percent fewer ambushes of convoys and patrols. 

The terrorist organizations were obviously disrupted. This was done with 61 raids on specific locations, and 251 cordon and search operations in neighborhoods or areas where terrorist activity was know, or suspected. A lot of the intel information did not provide a specific building address, but rather a stretch of a particular street, or part of a neighborhood. These raids and searches led to 992 arrests and the discovery of 45 weapons caches (often containing bomb making materials, including finished bombs.) Also captured was lots of cash (over $100,000 worth) and many documents (paper and electronic.) Some of the raids resulted from specific information picked up in earlier raids or searches. 

American troops mostly provided backup or security for the Iraqis, who actually went in and did most of the searches and made the arrests. Thus there were no language problems, and the Iraqis, naturally, were more likely to spot something that was out of place. 

Operation Lighting is the largest operation the Iraqi security forces have conducted so far, and is something of a test of the recruiting, training and leadership of the force. It appears to be working. The suicide bombers are increasingly blowing themselves up at check points, unable to get through to their targets. The Iraqi people are angry at the terrorists, and now blame these foreigners for the countries security problems. The Sunni Arab groups (former Saddam supporters) providing cover and other aid for the al Qaeda terrorists, are themselves split over this connection to the hated terrorist group. Al Qaeda glories in the mayhem it is creating, but the war in Iraq is increasingly one between Iraqis and al Qaeda terrorists from other Arab countries. Not exactly what Osama bin Laden had in mind as an aftermath for September 11, 2001.

 


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