Operation Phantom Phoenix targets al Qaeda havens

Map of Iraq. Click to view.

Despite the recent success in reducing the violence in Iraq, the fight against al Qaeda in Iraq and the Shia extremist terror groups is not over. Coalition and Iraqi forces have launched Operation Phantom Phoenix, a new operation targeting the terror groups throughout Iraq.

The scope of Phantom Phoenix is nationwide. The operation is “a series of joint Iraqi and Coalition division- and brigade-level operations to pursue and neutralize remaining al-Qaeda in Iraq and other extremist elements,” Lieutenant General Ray Odierno, the commander of Multinational Corps Iraq stated. “Phantom Phoenix will synchronize lethal and non-lethal effects to exploit recent security gains and disrupt terrorist support zones and enemy command and control.”

The specific geographical locations targeted during Phantom Phoenix were not identified. Iraqi and Coalition forces will “pursue al-Qaeda and other extremists wherever they attempt to take sanctuary,” Odierno said.

The region northeast of Miqdadiyah will be a primary focus of the operation. Al Qaeda in Iraq has established a “haven” in the region, and has used this base to funnel attacks against Awakening and Concerned Local Citizens groups attempting to establish in the Baqubah region.

The bulk of the recent uptick in violence in Baghdad is also believed to be staged from Diyala province, a senior military officer who asked not to be named told The Long War Journal. Al Qaeda in Iraq killed the leader of the Adhamiyah Awakening in Baghdad on Jan. 7, while suicide and small-arms attacks against Awakening groups has risen since al Qaeda’s leadership called for a campaign against the anti-al Qaeda forces.

Al Qaeda’s attempt to establish a new base of operation in the Mosul region is believed to have been blunted. Yet a series of bombings against Christian churches in the region are believed to be an attempt to stir up sectarian violence in the area, a senior military intelligence officer told The Long War Journal. Al Qaeda has also attempted to increase sectarian violence in the flashpoint city of Kirkuk, where Arab and Kurdish groups are vying for political power in the oil-rich city.

The Samarra region may also be a focal point of Operation Phantom Phoenix. The Samarra-Tarmiyah region is believed to be a command and control node for al Qaeda in Iraq’s central leadership. Multiple media cells and senior al Qaeda in Iraq leaders have been killed or captured in the region, including Abu Abdullah, a regional emir.

Phantom Phoenix may also target the Iranian-backed Special Groups, the Shia terror cells targeting Coalition and Iraqi security forces, Iraqi political leaders, and civilians. The cities of Diwaniyah, Amarah, Al Kut, and Basra have seen an increase in terror attacks and Special Forces raids over the past several months. The Iraqi Army and police have been building up capacity in the southern city of Basrah to counter the power of rival Shia militias.

For additional information on al Qaeda’s safe haven in Miqdadiyah, see Al Qaeda establishes “a haven in Diyala” [Dec. 30] and Seven al Qaeda killed in Miqdadiyah [Jan. 3].

For additional information on al Qaeda’s attacks on the Awakening forces, see The Awakening, al Qaeda clash in Iraq [Dec. 17], Al Qaeda continues attacks on Awakening security forces [Dec. 25], and Al Qaeda assassinates Awakening leader in Adhamiyah [Jan. 7].

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.



  • LT Nixon says:

    Diyala province has certainly been subject to some of the worst AQI violence in ’07. Hopefully, this operation will start to seriously cripple them even further like Operation Arrowhead Ripper did in June ’07.

  • Bill Roggio says:

    LT Nixon, the good news is AQI has been pushed back – at the beginning of 2007 Diyala was just about all AQI owned. Today the problem has been more localized.

  • bb says:

    Is there any evidence or suspicion that any of these attacks on the Awakening Councils are being done by Iranian Special Groups using Al Qaeda tactics to mask their own involvement? Like that market bombing in Baghdad was?
    I’m sure there are plenty of Shi’a who at a minimum don’t want the Sunni groups to get too full of themselves (including the PM) and at worst would prefer to reignite chaos (Sadr). How can the US be sure, one way or the other?
    I was very pleased to read the comments by Hakim over the weekend praising the Sunni groups — I know he’s the leader of SIIC, does that translate into a real ability to put pressure on Dawa oriented al-Malaki to speed up integration?

  • Neo says:

    “Is there any evidence or suspicion that any of these attacks on the Awakening Councils are being done by Iranian Special Groups using Al Qaeda tactics to mask their own involvement?”

  • Edward says:

    Thing is, wouldn’t they ‘have’ to claim responsibility either way in order to back the contents of the audiotape? After all, if it’s “the Shi’a” (who at least publically AQ presumably wouldn’t support) Iranians who’re hitting the Awakening and not AQ itself, wouldn’t that raise doubts about AQ’s ability to do so? Leaders have already called Osama “weak.”

  • Bill Roggio says:

    I’ve seen no indication of Special Groups involvement. If MNF-I found evidence, I have little doubt it would be released.
    The integration issue: the government is rightfully skeptical about integrating the Awakening/CLC movements into the security forces. In some cases, these groups were fighting Iraqi and US forces six to eight months ago. The Anbar Awakening has had the most progress because it has had the most time to develop and build up trust. This is a process that takes time. Insta-reconciliation is a fantasy.

  • Andrew R. says:

    Bill, speaking of problems with trusting the Awakening, I was wondering what thoughts you have on the apparently contradictory facts that 1) most of the non-AQ insurgents still categorically refuse to have any negotiations with the U.S., Maliki, et al. and denounce the Awakening, and 2) there’s strong evidence that lots of and lots of folks in the Awakening were until very recently taking part in the insurgency.

  • Bill Roggio says:

    MAny insurgent groups are cooperating with the Awakening or have formed CLC groups. The 1920s Revolution Brigades, the Army of Mohammad, and elements of the Islamic Army in Iraq are participating.
    The Iraqi government is putting its own money forward to pay for CLCs and have signed off on formation of units. hey are very hesitant in some cases to integrate in the security forces. The trust has to be built. It takes time.

  • What a difference a few days make. GWOT update II for this week.

    No, I do not mean the McCain defeat of Obama in new Hampshire chronicled by Sean or even my Victor Davis Hanson comment on same:
    Here isĀ Professor HansonĀ on the apparent winners, McCain and Hillary – http://victorhanson.com/articles/hanson010808.html


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