Iraq Insurgents Face Relentless Pursuit With No Safe Haven
By John D. Banusiewicz
American Forces Press Service
BAGHDAD, Iraq, Nov. 15, 2004 With no other Iraqi city offering them the safe haven they found in Fallujah, insurgents face relentless pursuit by coalition forces, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the commander of Multinational Force Iraq said here today.
Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers and Army Gen. George W. Casey Jr. met with reporters at the end of a whirlwind 24-hour visit to Iraq by the chairman, who met with Casey and other commanders as well as with interim Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi and members of his cabinet.
Both military leaders said Fallujah had been unique in Iraq as a safe haven for insurgents, who controlled the city until the past week's Operation Al Fajr left thousands of them killed or captured and abandoned by their leaders.
"There is no place else in Iraq like Fallujah," Casey said.
Myers added that while Iraq still has insurgent hot spots, no other city is under insurgent control, as Fallujah was. "Everybody asks the question about Ramadi," he said. "But the thing about Ramadi is no, we're in Ramadi; there are a lot of bad guys there, but we're there.'"
Fallujah provided a place where insurgents could store weapons, make car bombs and meet without having to post guards, and they could communicate meeting times and places with ease, Casey said. "That's what Fallujah was, and that's gone," he added.
The ringleaders and other insurgents who escaped from Fallujah are now in strange environments where they aren't comfortable and now have to provide their own security, Casey said. "They're moving, and they'll make mistakes," he noted.
Though foreign fighters such as people associated with fugitive Jordanian terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi have been responsible for many violent acts in Iraq, they're not the main enemy, Myers said. "Threats change," he explained, "but over time it's the former regime elements that are the threat. They have been all along, (and) they've been the biggest piece all along."
Casey said that while a spike in violence was expected as Iraq's January election got closer, insurgents aren't capable of holding anything. "They have the capability of blowing up a car bomb and getting it on television," he said, and of planting roadside bombs. "But they don't have a command and control capability, and it's not an organized force."
Myers, whose last previous visit to Iraq came before sovereignty transferred from the Coalition Provisional Authority to Allawi's interim government, said much has changed in the meantime, especially with Iraqi forces now in the field and fighting.
"Iraqis are now starting to step up in a major way in providing security and other elements for their citizens," he said. "That's the big difference."
He praised Iraq's leaders as "courageous people," and he noted Allawi's vision for the country: a strong, democratic Iraq that is at peace with its neighbors and is a force for stability in the region. "That goes for all of us," Myers said. "That's why we're here in the first place."