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New offensive against Al-Qaeda

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POSTED: July 3, 2007 5:02 a.m.
BAGHDAD — The U.S. military, which just days ago completed its latest troop buildup in Iraq, has launched a large offensive operation in several al-Qaida strongholds around Baghdad, the top U.S. commander said Saturday.
Gen. David Petraeus said the operation began in the last 24 hours, and will put forces into key areas surrounding Baghdad that, according to intelligence, al-Qaida is using to base some of it car bomb operations.
Petraeus, who met with Defense Secretary Robert Gates at a morning breakfast, also said that while he doesn’t have all the American troops he might want, he knows he’s got all he’s going to get.
“There’s never been a military commander in history who wouldn’t like to have more of something or other — that characterizes all of us here,” he told reporters traveling with Gates. “The fact is frankly that we have all that our country is going to provide us in terms of combat forces. That is really it right now.”
He said the buildup of nearly 30,000 additional forces that has just been completed allowed him to launch the latest assault. The move, he said, is allowing him to send operations for the first time into “a number of areas around Baghdad, in particular to go into areas that were sanctuaries in the past of al-Qaida.”
He added, “Our job now, frankly, along with the job of our Iraqi counterparts ... is to do everything that we can with the additional forces that we have.”
Underscoring the challenges ahead, Gates arrival Friday night for his unannounced visit, brought him to a city all but shut down by a security lockdown. Iraqi leaders imposed a strict curfew this week after a bombing of an important shrine north of the city.
It is Gates fourth trip to Iraq since he took the Defense Department over last December. He was meeting with military and political leaders to assess progress, and continue to urge the Iraqi government to move more quickly toward reconciliation and to stabilize their country.
Petraeus provided few details of the new offensive, but said he believes it will help the military make some progress in Iraq, where the war is in its fifth year and U.S. casualties have surpassed 3,500.
 

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