American General: Insurgents Will Not Stop Iraqi Elections
By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jan. 5, 2005 Multinational forces are getting better at finding and foiling bomb attacks in the Baghdad, Iraq, area, the U.S. general responsible for that area said today.
Speaking to reporters in Baghdad and at the Pentagon via a video link, Army Maj. Gen. Peter Chiarelli, commander of 1st Cavalry Division, said the overall security situation in Baghdad is improving over time, but attacks are likely to increase in the days leading up to scheduled Jan. 30 elections.
Still, Chiarelli said, there's time left for multinational and Iraqi security forces to continue to improve the situation, and he said he's got a message for the insurgents who are trying to disrupt the elections.
"We will find you; we will watch where you move; we will listen to you speaking to each other; we will fight; and we will defeat you," the general said in comments directed toward the enemy fighters. "You cannot sleep, eat, move or meet without the clear understanding that you may be killed or captured at any moment. Cease your operations now and you'll be choosing to live. Cease now and Iraqis can join in the progress being made in Baghdad."
The coming elections will offer the Iraqi people the opportunity to "set the course for generations to come," he said. "The stark differences the Iraqi people face between the insurgent enemy and the prospect of a democratic future are indisputable."
So it's critical they go forward, he said. U.S. forces are playing a support role to the Iraqi security forces that are planning security for election day. "The Iraqis will provide security, operate polling stations, count ballots and announce results," Chiarelli said. Multinational forces will "stand ready to assist with security matters as determined by the Iraqi government."
Part of the improving security situation can be attributed to U.S. forces' increasing skill in halting attacks from homemade bombs, called improvised explosive devices in military parlance. Chiarelli said today that his forces are now able to stop about half the potential IED attacks, either by finding such devices and detonating them safely before they can explode and kill people or by breaking up and arresting the cells of insurgents who make and set them up.
Chiarelli called these devices "vicious" weapons when they are set up in vehicles as car bombs. But, he added, "for every one that you've seen go off, I've found another one or broke up a cell that is placing another one."
He said he believes Iraqis recognize the progress that is being made in securing their environment, and that goes a long way in counteracting the intimidation factor of such attacks. Iraqis also recognize and appreciate improvements to their infrastructure and economic situation.
In the notorious Sadr City area of Baghdad alone, multinational forces have employed 18,000 Iraqis on $161 million worth of projects "putting in new sewers, putting in new electrical lines, putting in new water mains, picking up the trash." And similar projects are being started in nearly every area of Baghdad.
Improved conditions in the city give the Iraqi people "hope for the future in the work they see going on," Chiarelli said.
The improvements also are resulting in an increase in intelligence information being provided by Iraqis. Military officials in Baghdad have set up an anonymous tip line, and Chiarelli said the number of calls to the tip line "has gone up significantly" in recent weeks. "And I happen to believe, as we get closer and closer to the elections, that will in fact continue to increase," he said.
The number of "walk-ups" -- Iraqis approaching U.S. soldiers on patrol and offering information about weapons caches or insurgent activities -- has gone up, as well. Chiarelli said these are "all positive signs."
The central theme running through Chiarelli's comments is that U.S., other multinational and Iraqi government troops care about the welfare of the Iraqi people -- and the insurgents and terrorists are only motivated by their own evil self-interests.
He pointed out that terrorist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi isn't even Iraqi, yet he has involved himself in the situation in Iraq solely to bring harm to the Iraqi people.
"The insurgent or terrorist is only intent on one thing: the grab for power at any cost. The insurgent has no plan for the betterment of Iraq or its people. He destroys. He kills innocent civilians," Chiarelli said. "There is no glory or honor in what some call the resistance."