Abizaid Visits Multinational Division, U.S. Marines in Iraq
By John Valceanu
American Forces Press Service
BAGHDAD, Iraq, Feb. 12, 2005 The commander of the U.S. Central Command stressed the importance of passing along knowledge from experienced troops rotating out of the country to newly arrived replacements during a visit today with multinational and U.S. Marine troops.
Army Gen. John Abizaid, right, shakes hands with members of the
coalition's Multinational Division Central South Camp Echo in Diwanyiha, Iraq, Feb.
12. Abizaid, head of U.S. Central Command, visited the division to see how they were
doing and to thank them for their efforts. Photo by John Valceanu
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Army Gen. John Abizaid, who is responsible for all troops operating in the Middle East, as well as parts of Asia and Africa, visited the Multinational Division Central South in Diwanyiha and the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force in Fallujah as part of his tour of Iraq. His stop came at a time when many units are rotating in and out of Iraq. For example, the Marines are scheduled to leave in about six weeks.
"All new units that come to a combat zone have to learn the mistakes the hard way," Abizaid said. "Troops that have been out here for a long time need to do everything they can to minimize those hard lessons by passing on to the new troops what they know about the enemy, what they know about the terrain, what lessons they've learned."
The recent Jan. 30 Iraqi elections and the emerging new Iraqi government have created a situation fraught with many uncertainties, Abizaid said.
"The whole force right now is going through a period of transition. U.S. Army divisions are changing out. The Multinational Division Central South is having a lot of changeover in people primarily for rotational purposes," the general pointed out. "It's a time of great hope and of great concern. It's one of these moments in history where you come to some very unique circumstances."
With U.S. troop levels going down after a plus-up for added security before and during the Iraqi elections, Abizaid cautioned against confusing numbers with capabilities.
"Numbers never quite work in the military game. Capability works," he said. He added that he was "convinced that combat capability, especially based on the growth of Iraqi security forces," would provide adequate security.
During his visit to the multinational division, Abizaid thanked the Polish, Ukrainian, Romanian, Salvadoran, Bulgarian and other coalition allies who make up the division and are helping to bring peace and stability to Iraq.
"We appreciate your efforts," Abizaid said. "This is a historic time. You are helping a new government and a free people to emerge."
During an interview with Polish television station, Abizaid gave special thanks to the Polish troops, who make up the multinational division's largest number of troops.
"I appreciate the tremendous support of the Polish armed forces have provided to this mission from the very beginning," he said. "I think the people of Poland probably understand better than anybody in Europe that you have to fight for your freedom, and that we are all here fighting for the freedom of Iraqis."
The CENTCOM commander also had words of appreciation for the Marines, who fought the intense, decisive battle of Fallujah in November 2004, ridding that city of entrenched terrorists and insurgents.
"I appreciate the risks you've taken and the sacrifices you've made. You have to know that your effort is appreciated by the American people, and that it's worth it," Abizaid told a group of Marine commanders and senior staff officers.
"Your role in it has been absolutely phenomenal. You guys have done a tremendous job. You have to be immensely proud of yourselves," he continued. "The Second Battle of Fallujah will go down with the great battles of the United States Marine Corps. I honor you for what you have done."