U.S., Iraqi forces say small progress made in operation to control Baghdad

August 16th, 2006  
Team Infidel

Topic: U.S., Iraqi forces say small progress made in operation to control Baghdad

Media: The Associated Press
Date: 16 August 2006

BAGHDAD, Iraq_The nightlife is zero and most shops are shut, but U.S. and
Iraqi forces said Wednesday a three-day security sweep has cleaned up a
mostly Sunni neighborhood in west Baghdad, notorious for kidnappings,
murders and bombings.

U.S. and Iraqi military commanders said the operation in Amariyah is a small
step in an uphill campaign to halt the wave of sectarian and insurgent
violence in the capital _ neighborhood by neighborhood.

Some 12,000 Iraqi and U.S. troop reinforcements are pouring into Baghdad as
part of the new security crackdown that began this month amid a surge in
Sunni-Shiite violence and fears of a civil war.

On Sunday night, it was Amariyah's turn to be sealed up in a
cordon-and-search operation.

"Since we began the operation, not one person from Amariyah has died, not
one act of violence has occurred. We have demonstrated that it can be done,"
Col. Robert Scurlock Jr., commander of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st
Armored Division, told reporters.

"The purpose is to eliminate terrorists and deaths squads," he said.

About 1,500 violent deaths were reported in the Baghdad area alone in July,
most of them in the wave of sectarian killings between Shiites and Sunnis.
Deputy Health Minister Adel Muhsin said about 3,500 Iraqis died violently
last month nationwide _ the highest monthly tally of the war.

Nonetheless, U.S. and Iraqi officers expressed confidence they can stem the
tide of sectarian violence, which accelerated after the Feb. 22 bombing of a
Shiite shrine in Samarra.

"All across Baghdad, we're seeing progress," U.S. spokesman Maj. Gen.
William B. Caldwell said. "Operations like the one in ... Amariyah ... will
progress into other districts around the capital."

He said the neighborhoods were selected for security operations were the
ones "that have shown propensity for the most violence."

Amariyah is one of them. Once known for modern houses built on land given by
Saddam Hussein to middle-ranking government officials, Amariyah wears a
tired look today like most of the capital.

Reporters driven to the area by the U.S. Army in an armored bus saw
shuttered shops, their glass fronts marked by "Xs" with duct tape.

Dilapidated sofas _ musty foam spilling out of torn covers _ were dumped on
the sidewalk. Razor wire coils blocked entrances to streets. Sand walls hid
the facade of many homes. Checkpoints manned by U.S. and Iraqi soldiers in
armored vehicles circled the neighborhood.

Shootings and kidnappings have been common. Many of the victims were Iraqi
security personnel gunned down at checkpoints and civilians considered as
U.S. collaborators. Scurlock said many of the killings in the area are aimed
at intimidating people _ Shiites and Sunnis alike who support the

The killings are carried out with impunity. Earlier this year a pair of
killers walked into the office of a businessman who supplied construction
material to the U.S. military, told him to rest his forehead on the desk and
shot him in the back of the head before driving away.

Being on the western outskirts of Baghdad, it is easy for Sunni insurgents
to slip away and take refuge in cities to the west like Ramadi and Fallujah,
where support for the insurgency runs high.

The cleaning-up of Amariyah was done methodically. The area was cordoned off
by troops and a curfew imposed. Iraqi soldiers searched every house while
U.S. troops kept guard outside, Scurlock said.

By Wednesday, 6,000 homes and buildings were searched.

Some Amariyah residents said they believed the operation had been successful
in reducing violence _ at least for now.

"I think the security situation has improved. We haven't seen corpses on the
streets, which were a daily scene," said Saad Jawad al-Azawi, a 45-year-old
taxi driver. "I hope our area will have a permanent patrols of joint
U.S-Iraqi forces."

U.S. and Iraqi soldiers also took a census to register residents of
Amariyah. Authorized weapons _ every household is allowed one rifle for
protection _ were also recorded, as were cars. Unauthorized weapons were
confiscated -- 28 guns and 47 hand grenades. Eight suspects arrested.

"It doesn't matter how many guns we found. It gave people the confidence in
the Iraqi army and security forces," Scurlock said.

Brig. Gen. Abdul Jaleel Kahlaiaf, commander of the Iraqi army's 1st Brigade,
6th Division, acknowledged there is no guarantee that violence will not
flare-up again in Amariyah.

"The police in Britain cannot give you a 100 percent guarantee, or in Egypt
or in America," he said. "But Amariyah will be secured if people cooperate."

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