In western Iraq, for the third time in the last six weeks, a battalion of U.S. Marines swept the area to find terrorists and their weapons. The marines have found over fifty weapons cashes so far this month, and killed or captured several hundred terrorists, both foreign and Iraqi. Two American battalions are currently sweeping the area between Baghdad and the Syrian border. Hundreds of foreign terrorists cross the border each month, and provide an increasing proportion of the manpower used for attacks on government and coalition troops.
The terrorists have resorted to brutal treatment of local Iraqis (largely Sunni Arabs, many of them pro-Saddam or pro-al Qaeda) in order to maintain some control along the border. Local tribal and religious leaders have asked the government to clear out the terrorists, but recruiting local police has been difficult. Without enough local police to keep the terrorists out, when American troops leave, the terrorists just come back.
Bringing in outside police units has been slowed because there are not enough reliable (trained and well led) police to go around. But this time around, emphasis is placed on trapping the terrorists, not just running them out of villages, towns or remote rural compounds. The degree to which these terrorists are hard core can be seen by the fact that few of them have been captured. They dont surrender, and fight to the death. In one battle yesterday, at Karabilah, an isolated village near the Syrian border, about a hundred terrorists fought to the death when surrounded by marines and Iraqi troops. Four local Iraqis, held captive and tortured, were found and rescued by the marines. Photos and vids of other Iraqis, being tortured and murdered, were also found, along with car bombs and roadside bombs. A car bomb workshop was found as well.
At least half of the terrorists encountered in western Iraq are foreigners. The Iraqi terrorists have been on the run as areas they set up housekeeping in are detected and raided. While the terrorists can scare Iraqis into not resisting with weapons, they cannot prevent them from tipping off police about where the bomb factories and weapons caches are. The terrorists torture and murder locals suspected of being informants, or who are kin to informants. The current American operations are meant to crush the terrorist groups that are too large for the locals to handle. Smaller groups of terrorists would be outnumbered by police, or groups of armed locals.
In Mosul, American troops captured Muhammad Khalaf Shakar, an al Qaeda leaders and close associate of Abu Musab al Zarqawi. Shakar was betrayed by an informer, and increasingly common problem terrorists are facing. The informants, and few captured terrorists, indicate that most of the car bombs and roadside bombs are coming out these western Iraqi locations.
Operation Lightning, which began on May 22nd, continues in and around Baghdad. The 40,000 Iraqi police and troops have rounded up over a thousand terrorists suspects, and brought peace to many neighborhoods. It only takes a dozen or so armed men to terrorize a neighborhood, and make it hospitable for anti-government forces. When the local bad guys are rounded up, or chased into the western desert, the police can patrol the neighborhood, and establish relationships with the locals. This makes it more difficult for the terrorists to come back, as the police will immediately find out, and go after the terrorists before they can establish any control.
The government is broadcasting the pictures and videos captured from the terrorists, showing how Iraqis are tortured or killed (often by beheading) for resisting. The fact that many of the terrorists are foreigners, especially Saudis, makes many Iraqis angry. These self-righteous foreigners preach how they are in Iraq to liberate Iraq from foreigners. Yet the terrorists are never seen doing any good works, like the Americans, only killing and torturing Iraqis. This is turning Iraq into the most anti-al Qaeda country in the Middle East. That, in turn, is resonating in other Moslem countries, where Islamic terrorism is becoming less popular, as more of it is directed against Iraqis.