Bombs Create Illusion of Powerful Insurgency, Commander Says
By John D. Banusiewicz
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Dec. 16, 2004 Car bombs and other attacks are creating an illusion that the insurgency his forces are fighting is powerful, the general in charge of coalition forces in Iraq said at a Pentagon news conference today.
Army Gen. George W. Casey Jr., commander of Multinational Force Iraq, said the enemy "is not 10 feet tall."
"They don't have to do much," he said. "A car bomb a day in Baghdad or on the airport road sends a symbol that the insurgency is very powerful, when in actuality I don't believe that they are. It's a classic technique of the urban insurgent. They are trying to provoke us to do something that will make us look like we're overreacting to them."
The ongoing work toward defeating the car-bomb threat and other insurgent tactics continues, Casey said But he noted the enemy adjusts to changes in coalition tactics.
"We will get to a point where the airport road is secure and our people and the people in the embassy are protected against car bombs," he said. "But as with any battle, it's an action-reaction-counteraction cycle that we go through with the enemy and the enemy does to us."
Iraq plans to elect a national assembly Jan. 30 that will draft a new constitution for the country, and general elections are planned around the end of next year. Casey expressed optimism that the elections will take place, and gave reporters his view of what winning the war means.
"My view of winning is that we are broadly on track to accomplishing our objectives, which is a constitutionally elected government that is representative of all the Iraqi people and with Iraqi security forces that are capable of maintaining domestic order and denying Iraq as a safe haven for terror," the general said. "And I believe we will get there by the end of December '05, and I believe we are on track to get there by December of '05."
He acknowledged that elements trying to derail Iraq's progress toward democracy "will fight us every step of the way," and that the path would continue to be difficult. But he repeated he believes credible elections will be able to take place, noting that today in 14 of the country's 18 provinces, the security situation already is adequate for that to happen.
Casey said the safe haven that terrorists and insurgents lost when Fallujah returned to legitimate authority is an important factor, and problems in Mosul don't equate to a new safe haven being formed.
"For me, a safe haven is a place where insurgents and terrorists can go and plan, and build improvised explosive devices, and bring in recruits and receive them in, give them training, link them up with operations, stage for operations, rehearse operations, with impunity," he said, noting that those havens had existed in Fallujah, Samarra and Najaf.
"They don't have that any more," he continued. "So they've lost the ability to operate any place with impunity. So what's going on in Mosul, in my view, is not a safe haven. It's an area where insurgents have gone and have had some success against the local security forces. Now our folks, operating with additional Iraqi security forces, have restored the status quo. But I will tell you more work needs to be done there to improve the security situation prior to elections, and it will be done."
Casey said the level of violence in Iraq has dropped "dramatically" since the terrorists and insurgents were routed in Fallujah. Violence now is at about the same level it was around the time sovereignty passed to the interim Iraqi government in late June, he added.
Though insurgents and terrorists continue their efforts, "they are not necessarily operating effectively against coalition forces," Casey said. "In fact, when we look back, the numbers of attacks don't necessarily produce a very high volume of casualties. In fact, a lot of the attacks are in fact ineffective against coalition forces. They are, frankly, more successful against civilians and, in some cases, against Iraqi security forces."
The four-star general outlined what has been done and will be done to take Iraq to the next milestone represented by the Jan. 30 election.
"I think you know a few weeks ago I asked for some additional forces before the election period," he said to reporters. "We felt we needed to keep up the momentum, to keep the pressure on the insurgents that moved away from Fallujah after the Fallujah operation took place. And those forces are going to help us both keep the pressure on them and then get a more secure environment prior to the elections."
Another part of the equation is that more Iraqi security forces the Iraqi army, police officers and police commandos -- are graduating from training, the general pointed out. "So there will be a concerted effort across Iraq, particularly in the greater Baghdad area and the Mosul area and in the Al Anbar province, all the way up to Jan. 30," he said.