Myers Says 85 Percent of Iraqis Likely to Vote in October
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jun. 1, 2005 Some 85 percent of Iraqis said they will vote in October elections to ratify a new constitution in October, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said at a Pentagon news conference today, citing recent polling data.
"Political progress is key, of course, to success in Iraq," Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers noted.
He said the insurgents have been forced on several occasions to change their tactics, but the Iraqi people are hanging on to their dream of a free country.
"First, the insurgents tried to drive out the coalition from Iraq, but we're still there," Myers said. "Next, they focused on Iraqi security forces, but (Iraqis) continue to sign up in record numbers. And then they attempted to intimidate the Iraqi people, but they went to the polls and voted for a representative government."
Myers also said the overall number of insurgent incidents in the country is down, but the death tolls from those that happen have been higher because of the increase in the number of terrorists "willing to commit suicide and the move to these vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices."
Myers said Americans should be encouraged by the number of independent Iraqi security-force operations. The last few weeks have seen five independent Iraqi operations and 30 Iraqi/coalition operations, he noted, "a much different mixture than we had just several months ago."
Operation Lightning - an Iraqi operation designed to quell the violence in Baghdad - marks the first time the Iraqis have had the personnel to carry out such an operation. Ten Iraqi army battalions are involved in the operation, along with 11 special police battalions. All told, 40,000 members of the Iraqi security forces are participating. "It's the first time they've had the capability to do it," Myers said. "I think we should be encouraged by that."
At the same news conference, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld addressed reports that al Qaeda operative Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the most wanted terrorist in Iraq, may be injured.
Rumsfeld said coalition officials assume Zarqawi was wounded in actions in western Iraq, and that he is still in the country. News reports said Zarqawi had received medical treatment in a "neighboring country."
"Any country that decides it wants to provide medical assistance or haven to a leading ... al Qaeda terrorist, is obviously associating themselves with al Qaeda and contributing to a great many Iraqis being killed, as well as coalition forces, in Iraq," Rumsfeld said.