BAGHDAD, July 17 (UPI) — U.S. paratroopers and Iraqi infantry combined old and new means of intelligence gathering in their recent push against al-Qaida in Iraq.
Operation Ithaca last week racked up 29 enemy killed and 23 captured as troops employed high-tech unmanned aerial vehicles and old-fashioned tips from civilians to pounce on insurgents skulking around villages in Diyala province.
“We had some very specific intelligence that was provided to us from the local populace,” said Lt. Col. Andrew Poppas, a squadron commander with the 82nd’s 73rd Cavalry Regiment.
Poppas said the tips often came in the form of handwritten notes slipped to his GIs or to soldiers with the 5th Iraqi Army Division. Unmanned aerial vehicles were used to confirm the information and then monitor the movements of the al-Qaida terrorists-turned-targets.
Helicopters and Air Force F-16 and A-10 warplanes also supported the ground troops, the Defense Department said in a statement Tuesday.
Ithaca appeared to be the kind of battle that U.S. planners had in mind for the vaunted surge aimed at securing Iraq’s major cities — forcing insurgents into the countryside where larger and more-mobile U.S. units could bring air power and UAV surveillance to bear.
The statement noted that no U.S. casualties were reported and the 5th Division performed well. The operation also secured the release of eight Iraqi hostages as well as the seizure of three arms caches.