Myers: Troops Got 'Very Close' to Zarqawi, Have Him on Run
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Feb. 24, 2005 U.S. forces got "very close" to Abu Musab al- Zarqawi and are keeping the fugitive Jordanian terrorist with ties to al Qaeda on the run, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said Feb. 23 on Fox News Channel.
Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers said he believes Zarqawi, a former senior aide to Saddam Hussein who tops a new U.S. list of most-wanted supporters of the Iraqi insurgency, "is checking into lots of different motels every night" because "he's got to stay on the move."
The U.S. and Iraqi crackdown on insurgents has resulted in "lots and lots" of Zarqawi's followers, including his lieutenants and people he trusted, being rounded up and detained in Iraq, the chairman said. "And so his effectiveness has to have been diminished somewhat," he said.
Myers said Operation River Blitz, which kicked off Feb. 20 to help increase security in and around Ramadi and throughout Iraq's Anbar province, is focusing on areas where insurgents are intimidating the local population and trying to prevent a peaceful transition of power between the interim Iraqi government and the Iraqi transitional government.
Members of the 1st Marine Division of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force and Iraqi security forces stepped up security operations in the region, introducing a curfew from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. and controlling access into the city.
The province "has been a problem area," Myers said, subject to two primary threats he said make up the insurgency: Zarqawi-type extremists with jihadist ties and former regime elements made up largely of Sunni extremists. Also a threat, he said, are "hired guns," who support the insurgency for purely economic reasons, and criminals.
Despite widespread media coverage of insurgent activity, Myers said the number of attacks has remained "fairly constant" since last spring, except for a few spikes. "It looks like they're capable of 50 to 60 attacks per day, over half of which have no effect, and many of which are thwarted by coalition and Iraqi forces," he said. "So they seem to have limited capacity and capability."
Myers credited increasing capabilities among the Iraqi security forces with reducing the insurgents' effectiveness. "They're becoming much more effective in stopping vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (and) at protecting their police stations and other government institutions," he said.
The U.S. government is offering rewards of $50,000 to $25 million for the 29 people on the list, which the U.S. Central Command published earlier this month. The Iraqi government has issued arrest warrants for all 29, a statement from the command says.
The network of Zarqawi is suspected of killing more than 500 Iraqis in the last year in attacks aimed at fomenting a civil war. The reward for information leading to his capture is $25 million.