By Donna MilesMay 1, 2007
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, May 1, 2007) - A major clearing operation that wrapped up last week in Baghdad succeeded in preventing 3,200 roadside bombs, jailing 42 terrorists, and seizing enough weapons and explosives to outfit an enemy infantry battalion, the commander of the 2nd Infantry Division's 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team reported yesterday.
Col. Steven Townsend described sweeping success in Operation Arrowhead Strike 9, which kicked off March 20 to clear west-central Baghdad's Mansour security district.
The unit's ninth brigade-level operation since arriving in Baghdad in December "significantly reduced insurgent activity" in the region in support of the Task Force Dagger ground forces operating there, Townsend told Pentagon reporters via videoconference from Camp Liberty.
The "Arrowhead Brigade" Soldiers worked hand in hand throughout the 36-day campaign with the 2nd Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, which controls the battle space, and Iraqi forces.
Col. Townsend tallied the operation's gains: three confirmed terrorists killed in close combat, 161 suspects detained for questioning, 42 of whom were placed in long-term detention. Two kidnap victims were rescued, after being found chained in empty houses. "Both had been tortured and would surely have been executed eventually," Col. Townsend said.
The most impressive yield of the operation came in terms of 92 weapons caches found during the operation, he said. The troops captured and destroyed 356 small arms, mortars and/or rocket-propelled grenades, 147 explosive munitions, three car bombs, two suicide vests, and 143 completed or partial roadside bombs.
Some of these munitions were from Iran, China and former Warsaw Pact countries, but it wasn't possible to tell how long they had been in Iraq, he said.
In addition, troops captured a roadside bomb electronics factory that held components for up to 3,200 additional bombs, and destroyed three homemade explosives factories found in abandoned homes, Col. Townsend said.
But the real significance of Operation Arrowhead Strike 9, he added, extends far beyond the actual weapons, bomb-making materials and suspects captured. "All of this success enabled the Daggar Brigade and the Iraqi Karkh Area Command to make progress in a more meaningful way," he said.
Col. Townsend cited signs of that progress. Killings and mortar attacks in the district have "dropped off significantly" and Iraqis are moving on with their day-to-day lives. They're cleaning trash and sewage from the streets, reopening markets and moving about on the streets in greater numbers.
They're also taking a stand against violence, he reported, providing more leads through phone and e-mail tip lines.
"This success did not come without a cost," he noted. Two Arrowhead brigade Soldiers and an Iraqi Army soldier died during the operation, and a Stryker vehicle was lost to a roadside bomb.
Since moving into Baghdad to replace the outgoing 172nd Stryker Brigade, the Arrowhead Brigade has assumed a two-fold security mission, Col. Townsend explained. It serves as Multinational Division Baghdad's strike force, a mobile, offensively oriented force that disrupts insurgent activity and clears areas of the capital where insurgents are operating. At the same time, it serves as Multinational Corps Iraq's operational reserve, ready to respond to threats anywhere in Iraq.
Its most important job, he said, is to reinforce troops operating on the ground.
"In my view, it is the battle space owners who do all the heavy lifting here in Baghdad," Col. Townsend said. "They are living among the people, patrolling the toughest places in Baghdad day in and day out, and working on supporting Iraqis' efforts in all four of our main lines of operation: security, transition, economics and governance."
The "Arrowhead Brigade," home-based at Fort Lewis, Wash., holds a long list of "firsts" in the Army, Townsend noted. It was the Army's first Stryker brigade, its first Stryker brigade to deploy for combat and its first Styker brigade to return for a second deployment to Iraq.
Nearly half the unit's 4,000 soldiers are veterans of its first deployment, he said.
(Donna Miles writes for American Forces Press Service.)