The U.S. military says it has arrested two key members of the Iraqi insurgency led by Abu Musab Zarqawi. And military officers say those two men, and other captured insurgents, are providing a wealth of information about the insurgency, information that is being used in counter-insurgency operations, including a major offensive in northwestern Iraq.
The military says the recent high-level insurgent arrests have provided "significant insight" into the terrorist network's operations, logistics, and locations. One result is the offensive in al-Anbar province involving more than one-thousand coalition troops, mostly from the U.S. 2nd Marine Division.
And the division's chief of operations, Colonel Bob Chase, says newly captured insurgents are providing still more information about their operations, resulting in an expansion of the offensive's objectives. "We have found with a lot of these so-called fighters that once you capture them, they are very quick to turn to save themselves," he said. "And they are giving us a lot of information which is providing us more places to go ahead and attack and go ahead and develop target packages on."
Colonel Chase reports that the mid- and higher-level insurgent leaders are more likely to provide information than lower-level insurgents, who, he says, are often more ideologically committed than their leaders. "These are not ten-feet-tall dedicated, die-hard terrorists for the most part, particularly the higher in the level," he said. "Certainly, the low level (insurgents) appear to be people that are dedicated to a cause, but the mid- and high-level (insurgents) are very quick to turn on each other."
According to statements issued by the U.S. military in recent days, that fits a pattern.
The military says that late last month troops in western Iraq captured a key coordinator of the Zarqawi organization identified as Ghassan Amin. The statement says the troops made the capture after two other raids that same morning, one of which uncovered what the military says was a car bomb factory, containing a large cache of weapons, ammunition and explosives, as well as four cars in the process of being fitted with bombs.
The military says local residents in the town of Rawah accuse Ghassan Amin of terrorizing the area, stealing cars and kidnapping people for ransom to finance terror operations. According to the military, Ghassan Amin confessed to meeting with terrorist leader Abu Musab Zarqawi, and to allowing him to stay with some relatives for several days.
In another raid reported by the U.S. military, troops captured a man known as Abu al Abbas last Friday in Baghdad. He is described as a key planner and coordinator of attacks, including the assault on the Abu Ghraib prison in early April, and a series of deadly car bombings in Baghdad on April 29th that killed dozens of people.
The military says it captured many valuable documents during the arrest, and that Abu al Abbas confirmed he was planning the assassination of a member of Iraq's new government.
The U.S. military does not usually release such detailed information about captures and the results of interrogations. In Baghdad, the spokesman for the coalition's Strategic Command, Lieutenant Colonel Michael Caldwell, says these reports are part of an effort to get out a message about progress in fighting the insurgency, even as it continues to carry out deadly bombings almost daily.
"What is important is that we have the Zarqawi network on the run, basically, and Zarqawi himself is a fugitive in this country," he said.
Lieutenant Colonel Caldwell says the insurgents still have the ability to produce a surge in attacks, as they have during the last few weeks. But he says they have failed in all their political objectives, including their efforts to retain control of Fallujah and to prevent the Iraqi election. He says, "killing innocent Iraqi civilians is not victory."