UPI Pentagon Correspondent
Washington (UPI) Sep 15, 2006
The general in charge of U.S. military forces in Iraq defended his decision to take a battalion of soldiers out of violent Anbar province and move them into Baghdad for what will be a multi-month campaign to bring the capital city under control.
The decision to move a battalion of about 600 troops and their Stryker vehicles out of Anbar province to Baghdad came as the Marine Corps' top intelligence officer in Iraq filed a classified report on the increasingly violent in the vast, largely Sunni province. In the report, Col. Pete Devlin recommended an additional division of troops join the roughly 25,000 Marines who have been attempting for the last three years to secure and bring order to a hostile province roughly the size of Wyoming.
"We were able to go ahead and move those forces because Iraqi forces have stood up in Al Anbar as everywhere else that we've pulled forces from," said Lt. Gen. Pete Chiarielli, the commander of Multi-National Corps Iraq. "Now, the forces that we took out, out of Al Anbar, were nowhere near any of the locations that you would commonly look at for increased violence in Al Anbar. And so far the impact of moving those forces out, from my standpoint, has had no impact on some of the things that you read about every day."
"There's not a commander in the world who wouldn't say he could use more forces. But I believe we have the forces that we need in Al Anbar, understanding that Al Anbar today is a supporting effort to what we're doing in Baghdad," Chiarelli said. "I feel very comfortable that we're moving in the right direction in Al Anbar," he said.
The top Marine general in charge of Anbar security operations, Maj. Gen. Richard Zilmer, told reporters this week he has the right number of troops for the mission he has been given -- primarily training Iraqi forces and keeping a lid on violence until the Iraqi government can assert itself in Anbar.
But if outright victory against the insurgents becomes the new mission, he would need more troops.
"If there is seen a larger role for coalition forces out here to win that insurgency fight, then that is going to change the metrics of what we need out here," Zilmer said.
Chiarelli said winning is the goal in Iraq, but the war can't be won by the military alone.
"We are fighting to win, but we understand that winning is a combination of a whole bunch of things in this insurgency we're fighting," he said.
Chiarelli said he is disappointed the Devlin report was discussed with the press -- it has not been leaked -- but highlighted one of Devlin's findings: that the province will not be brought under control until it recovers economically and politically.
"If you read the report, Pete is right on target. I don't believe there is any military strategy alone, any kinetic operations that we can run alone that will create the conditions for victory which we must have. I think the real heart of what Pete was telling us is that there are economic and political conditions that have to improve out at Al Anbar, as they do everywhere in Iraq, for us to be successful," Chiarelli said.
The Catch-22 in Iraq, and especially in Anbar, the most dangerous place for U.S. troops to serve and where more than a third of U.S. deaths have occurred, is that economic and civic progress can not be made without at least the perception of security.
That is the central tenet of the clear-hold-build strategy: first areas must be "cleared" of insurgents or death squads, and then the area held as secure so basic services and infrastructure can be built. Some of the work is simultaneous, but U.S. military officials in Iraq report there must be a modicum of security before reconstruction work can take place. However, security cannot be achieved without reconstruction and jobs.
The latter part of the equation is largely up to the still floundering new Iraqi government, Chiarelli conceded.
"We need political support, we need economic support at Al Anbar. When we do that, it will have an effect on security in Al Anbar and drive down security," he said.
"Commitments have been made out in Al Anbar. I hope that those commitments come through and come through sooner rather than later, and when they do, they will go a long way to our combined goal of winning in Al Anbar," he said.
Baghdad, however, is now the focus of the U.S. military and Iraqi forces in Iraq.
"Baghdad, as I think you all know, is our main effort. And in military parlance, we have weighted that main effort with the movement of additional forces into Baghdad, both from other parts of Iraq and with the extension of the 172nd (Stryker Brigade) for four months beyond their year-long deployment," he said
"It's a city of 7 million people, and that is going to take time. Think of Chicago, and that's basically the situation we have here in Baghdad in a city the size of Chicago, where we're trying to knock down sectarian violence and go after those folks, those death squads that have caused this new form of violence, that if left unchecked, could lead to civil war.
"We always win our main effort, and that's what we're doing right now, we're going to continue to do that till we get the conditions in Baghdad where they need to be," he said.
Despite his focus on Baghdad, Chiarelli said U.S. forces have not given up winning the fight in Anbar, home to the notorious cities of Ramadi, Fallujah, Haditha, al Qaim, Husaybah and Rawah.
"We are not -- and I repeat, we are not -- looking to walk away from that province. That is just flat wrong. We are committed to the people of Al Anbar and will remain committed to the people of Al Anbar and do everything possible to make their life better," he said.
Chiarelli said he has lately come to believe that if there is a sectarian civil war in Iraq, the casualties will be far beyond what anyone now expects. He recently visited a 25-year old battlefield in Maysan province bordering Iran where it is said a million troops died during in the Iran-Iraq war.
"I would just be very, very careful that if we consider the fact that if we're not successful ... the lens we look at and think about the casualties that could occur in that civil war may be totally different than what would really happen, based on recent experiences in this country," he said.
earlier related report
"The multinational forces, the coalition forces will be needed in Iraq, for the logistical support, to overwatch the requirement," he said.
And US troops will not be able to leave "in the foreseeable future."
Although he said Iraq has a timetable for the readiness of Iraqi security forces to "assume battle state and assume security responsiblity in different provinces," he would not give a firm plan for the departure of US forces.
"We're not talking about a timetable," he said, speaking with CNN from Baghdad.
"We're talking about as we create the right condition in the country, then we will not need the coalition forces in the country," he said.
Al-Rubaie said that the escalating violence in Baghdad was the work of criminals, sectarian militias and Al-Qaeda taking advantage of the poor security situation in the capital.
"Basically, they are trying to create a maximum psychological impact by showing these horrible crimes, decapitation, killing, execution-style killing, mysterious killing and mutilation," he said. "This is Al-Qaeda is using this tactic to drive to demoralize our Iraqi security forces, and also to frighten the local people in Baghdad."
He confirmed that the government is ringing the city with a security barrier to limit access.
"To be quite honest with you, this, what I call the physical barrier around Baghdad, is already there," he said. "It's the soil and it's the river, some trenches as well.
"And there are a certain number of entry and entries in Baghdad that people are allowed to go into," he said.
Another 34 corpses were recovered in Baghdad Sunday, bringing the number of people killed since Tuesday to more than 180.
In an essay published Sunday in The Washington Post, Iraq's Deputy Prime Minister Barham Salih said it was up to Iraqis to stem the violence and build up a functioning economy.
"We Iraqis must recognize that it is up to us to resolve our problems," Salih wrote. "Outsiders cannot deliver for us."
But, he said, the work would require the "sustained support from the international community and particularly the United States."
Source: Agence France-Presse
Source: United Press International
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