U.S. defense officials say coalition forces in Iraq are continuing massive raids, in an effort to clamp down on armed groups attacking U.S. and British soldiers. At least 22 U.S. soldiers have been killed since May first, when President Bush declared an end to major combat operations in Iraq.
Air Force General Richard Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters at the Pentagon, U.S. soldiers are involved in Operation Sidewinder, the third in a series of military operations focused on rooting out Iraqi irregulars attacking coalition forces.
"The purpose of Sidewinder is to establish a secure and stable environment within the area of operations by clearing, destroying or seizing paramilitary forces, Baath loyalists, weapons and ammo caches," he said. "Elements of the Fourth Infantry Division have already conducted 27 raids associated with Operation Sidewinder, since it began on Sunday. As a result of those raids, 61 individuals have been detained, and several machine-guns and assorted other ammunition confiscated."
The current operation follows Operation Desert Scorpion, which was also designed to crack down on armed Iraqis trying to harm coalition soldiers.
During that operation, defense officials say, more than 1,300 Iraqis were detained, and about 500 AK-47's were confiscated, along with more than 200 hand grenades and about 100 rocket-propelled grenades.
Defense officials say soldiers also recovered more than $9 million and 1.5 billion Iraqi dinars.
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld says supporters of Saddam Hussein have faded into the general population and have become what he called a "terrorist network."
"We are dealing with those remnants in a forceful fashion," he said. "Just as we have had to deal with the remnants of al-Qaida and Taleban in Afghanistan and tribal areas near Pakistan. Those battles will go on for some time. The liberation of Iraq is complete. The regime has been removed from power and will not be permitted to return. But our war with terrorists in Iraq, Afghanistan and across the globe continues. It will not be over any time soon."
Secretary Rumsfeld says he does not believe armed loyalists to Saddam Hussein are fighting a "guerrilla war" against coalition forces, or that U.S. soldiers are involved in a "quagmire" in Iraq.
Mr. Rumsfeld did call the failure so far to find Saddam Hussein and his sons "unhelpful."
The defense secretary said U.S. military officials are currently assessing how many troops will need to stay in Iraq and for how long.
Mr. Rumsfeld says the assessment should be finished by mid-July.