During his weekly press briefing in Baghdad, Multi—National Force Iraq spokesman Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch detailed the ongoing progress being made against Al Qaeda and Zarqawi — "the most prolific threat to he people of Iraq" — stating that Zarqawi has the most to lose with the formation of a national unity government because it is antithetical to his goal of establishing an Islamic caliphate. The general enumerated recent successful operations:
"The general also said the Coalition is conducting operations against Zarqawi every day, and he discussed the signature attack of al—Qaida ... suicide attacks. He said Zarqawi employs foreign fighters to conduct these types of attacks, and the Coalition has planned and conducted operations over the last several weeks to deny him that capability.
'We've had significant effect against the flow of foreign fighters over the course of the last year, and the result of that is a decrease in the number of suicide attacks inside of Iraq ,' Maj. Gen. Lynch said.
According to figures provided during the press conference, one year ago the government of Iraq , the people of Iraq , and Coalition forces were sustaining an average of 75 suicide attacks per month. 'Now,' said the general, 'we're averaging less than 25 attacks per month.'
The general described some of the intelligence that led to operations aimed at disrupting al—Qaida.
For instance, intelligence reports led Coalition forces to a safe house in Yusufiya, south of Baghdad April 8, and an operation launched there led to the death or capture of many foreign terrorists. Intelligence gathered at that location led forces north April 13 to another area in which more insurgents were killed or captured.
The April 13 mission led to another set of operations on April 16; again resulting in the death of two foreign fighters.
'[We] continued to gather intelligence, continued to analyze enemy capability, vulnerabilities and intentions; that led us to a major operation in Yusufiya on the 25th of April,' said Maj. Gen. Lynch. During that operation, an attack on another safe house, more terrorists were killed.
And most recently, on May 2, intelligence from a previous operation led Coalition forces to a safe house nearly 25 miles south/southeast of Balad, where 12 more foreign fighters were killed.
'All told, over the course of the period since April 8, 31 foreign fighters, people that Zarqawi had brought into Iraq to be suicide bombers, were killed, so they couldn't conduct the planned operation,' said Maj. Gen. Lynch. 'So that is, indeed, a capability that Zarqawi had that we have taken away from him.
'Our operations will continue,' added the general. 'We will continue to focus on his capabilities: foreign fighters that he's going to use as suicide bombers, munitions that he needs, freedom of movement that he wants. Our operations will deprive him of those. We're also going to focus on his vulnerabilities, continue to study his command and control networks, identify his leaders and take out his leadership network.'
John B. Dwyer 5 07 06