Monday, August 13, 2007

U.S. launches new Iraq-wide simultaneous offensive; Says 'Operation Phantom Strike' targets al-Qaeda and 'Iranian-supported extremist elements'

Above: A soldier from the 82nd Airborne Division pulls security during a door-to-door search in the Adhamiyah district of Baghdad; A Marine with 12th Marine Regiment puts his working dog through its paces in Fallujah; Soldiers with the 1st Cavalry Division dismount during a night raid in Taji; A U.S. Special Operations Forces member prepares his gear for an evening mission in western Iraq; Iraqi Army soldiers pose with a detainee in Baqubah during a joint operation with the 1st Cavalry Division. The first four pictures are from late July or early August. The detainee picture is from late June. Under emergency powers, Iraqis may be detained upon suspicion, and held without trial indefinitely.

US forces launch new offensive in Iraq

U.S. and Iraqi forces launched an offensive against al Qaeda and "Iranian-supported" Shi'ite militants across Iraq on Monday in anticipation of an expected surge in violence.

U.S. commanders fear militants will step up attacks on U.S. soldiers or launch a "spectacular" attack on civilians to try to influence the debate over the war in Washington, where a keenly awaited progress report on the new U.S. military strategy in Iraq is due to be presented to Congress in September...

The U.S. military described Operation Phantom Strike as "a powerful crackdown" jointly carried out by Iraqi troops.

"It consists of simultaneous operations throughout Iraq focused in pursuing AQI (al Qaeda in Iraq) terrorists and Iranian-supported extremist elements," it said in a statement.

The U.S. military says Iran has stepped up its support for Shi'ite militias, giving them more weapons and training, to hasten the departure of U.S. troops. Iran denies giving any aid.

The statement gave no details of the operation or how many of the 162,000 U.S. troops now in Iraq were involved.

Read the rest at Reuters/Alternet

US mounts major Iraq assault

United States troops in Iraq launched a major assault against al-Qaeda-linked militants and alleged Iranian-aided extremist groups on Monday...

"My intent is to continue to pressure AQI and other extremist elements throughout Iraq to reduce their capabilities," said Lieutenant General Ray Odierno, the number two commander of US forces in Iraq.

The US military declined to elaborate, citing "security concerns".

"But I can say this effort will be a top priority for combat units operating in Iraq for this period leading up to Ramadan," a spokesperson said, referring to the Muslim month of fasting due to begin in the second week of September.

US authorities regularly accuse Iranian elements, including Tehran's elite Quds Force, of arming, funding and training Iraqi extremist groups to carry out attacks on its troops in Iraq -- charges denied by Tehran.

Read the rest at the Mail and Guardian