On June 15, 2007, Generals David Petraeus and Ray Odierno launched the largest coordinated military operation in Iraq since the initial U.S. invasion. The campaign, called Operation Phantom Thunder, aims to expel al Qaeda from its sanctuaries just outside of Baghdad. Denying al Qaeda the ability to fabricate car bombs and transport fighters through the rural terrain around Baghdad is a necessary prerequisite for securing the capital city, the overarching military goal for Iraq in 2007.

Phantom Thunder consists of simultaneous offensives by U.S. forces throughout central Iraq. The Division north of Baghdad cleared the long-festering city of Baqubah and its outlying areas. The Division east and southeast of Baghdad is clearing the critical al Qaeda stronghold in Arab Jabour, immediately south of the capital. It is also destroying al Qaeda's ability to transport weapons along the Tigris River and to send reinforcements from the Euphrates to the Tigris. The Division west of Baghdad is clearing al Qaeda's sanctuaries between Fallujah and Baghdad, all the way to the shores of Lake Tharthar northwest of the capital. Meanwhile, the Division in Baghdad continues to clear important areas of the city and areas to its immediate north and west.

Phantom Thunder is not a new strategy or a new plan. U.S. commanders have been preparing Phantom Thunder since the effort to secure Baghdad began in February. General Odierno, who commands Coalition combat forces in Iraq, has been carefully positioning the additional brigades that the President sent to Iraq. General Odierno has, brigade by brigade, encircled Baghdad. U.S. troops have not, literally, cordoned off the city. Rather, General Odierno has stationed Coalition forces on every major supply line, river, or road in a circle around Baghdad. Much of the fighting outside of Baghdad between February 15 and June 15 has aimed at positioning U.S. troops in these areas and reconnoitering them. Many of these areas received little or no attention from U.S. combat forces in 2006.

Coalition and Iraqi forces have also been securing Baghdad's vital and unstable neighborhoods before and during Phantom Thunder. General Odierno's careful disposition of forces inside of Baghdad from February to June has restricted insurgent movement within the city, and has squeezed the enemy into ever smaller operating areas within the capital. As the offensive outside the city continues, it is increasingly difficult for the enemy inside the city to receive supplies or reinforcements..

Editor's note: The Iraq Report will be published at www.weeklystandard.com approximately every two weeks and will chronicle and analyze ongoing coalition military operations both in Baghdad and throughout Iraq. To read the full report in pdf click here or on the image below.

Previous Iraq Reports:

Iraq Report I: From "New Way Forward" to New Commander, March 1, 2007

Iraq Report II: The Baghdad Security Plan begins., March 15, 2007

Iraq Report III: The Anbar Awakening., April 5, 2007

Iraq Report IV: The Battle for Diyala, May 7,2007

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