Coalition Overpowering Pockets of Resistance in Iraq
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, April 9, 2004 Coalition forces today unilaterally suspended offensive operations in Fallujah, Iraq, at the request of the Iraqi Governing Council, officials in Baghdad reported.
This move, they noted, will allow council members to meet with the city leadership and leaders of anti-coalition forces in an effort to quell the violence.
The coalition called the suspension at noon Iraq time so Iraqi government- provided supplies could be delivered to the area and to enable the city's residents to tend to the wounded and dead, according to a statement issued by Ambassador L. Paul Bremer III, Coalition Provisional Authority administrator.
Bremer stressed that coalition forces retain the right of self-defense during the suspension and "will remain fully prepared to resume offensive operations unless significant progress in these discussions occur."
During a Baghdad news conference, Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, deputy operations director for Combined Joint Task Force 7, echoed Bremer's assertion that coalition forces retain the right to defend themselves. "If they are fired on, they will fire back," he said.
Kimmitt told reporters offensive operations in several other "hot spots" within Iraq are "going well," and that the coalition expects to regain control relatively quickly of any Iraqi facilities occupied by militia forces loyal to Shiia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who is wanted by Iraqi authorities in connection with the murder of a rival cleric.
Besides Fallujah, Kimmitt said the only other Iraqi cities with "any measure of Sadr control" are Najaf and parts of Karbala. The coalition is intentionally keeping a low profile in both cities as respect for the Arbaeen religious observance starting today to commemorate the martyrdom of a Shiia religious leader.
Kimmitt said Sadr militia has been observed in some portions of Karbala, but that the coalition is taking "a very passive role" to avoid disrupting religious pilgrims, currently numbered at about 1.2 million.
"That was always the plan for Arbaeen, that coalition forces would take an outside approach toward the situation so that the vast number of pilgrims could conduct their observances with Iraqi security forces and local authorities taking the lead," Kimmitt said.
He said coalition forces also are remaining outside and on the edges of Najaf in a "force protection status" during Arbaeen. "We understand that the Sadr militia currently are the predominant force inside the city," he said.
In Kut, Task Force Stryker led an assault to regain control of the CPA compound and three bridges into the town, Kimmitt said. Elements of the 2nd Battalion, 6th Infantry Regiment, and 2nd Light Armored Cavalry Regiment destroyed the Sadr bureau in the city and were to continue operations through the night. Kimmitt said the coalition expects to regain firm control of all government facilities and Iraqi police stations in the city by April 10.
"We have seen numerous instances in which the people of Al Kut, once they realize that the Sadr militia is no longer in control, are coming outside their houses and waving to coalition forces," he said. "We are fairly comfortable that the town of Al Kut is well on its way to coming back under coalition control."
Kimmitt outlined the security situation in other areas within Iraq.
The northern area around Mosul is "quite calm" and "quite stable," he said.
The north central area, which includes Tikrit, Kirkuk and Samarra, has experienced "a slight uptick in the number of attacks," Kimmitt said, likely by former Saddam Hussein regime elements taking advantage of violence elsewhere in the country. Kimmitt said the 1st Infantry Division is conducting offensive operations to control this threat.
In the west, Ramadi is "quite quiet" today, Kimmitt said, after a local sheik came forward to name 11 insurgents who had been fighting coalition forces. The coalition captured and maintains custody of all 11 insurgents, he said.
The south-central region of Iraq from Baghdad south, a predominantly Shiite area where Sadr has been operating, has remained relatively quiet with only minor disturbances, Kimmitt said. In the Sadr City section of Baghdad, the coalition remains "in firm control," with Sadr and his followers posing no threat the Iraqi security forces and coalition forces can't handle, he said.
The southern region, where the Multinational Division Southeast operates, is generally quiet, Kimmitt said.
Italian troops in the region are continuing offensive operations against Sadr militia in Nasiriyah, "but the latest reports from the Italian brigade is that the resistance is minor and manageable," Kimmitt said.
Dan Senor, the Coalition Provisional Authority's senior spokesman, said pockets of resistance within Iraq should not overshadow tremendous strides made since the Saddam regime fell exactly one year ago today.
He said the insurgents fear the democratic process in Iraq and "are trying to accomplish with the barrel of a gun what they could never accomplish at the ballot box."
"The coalition liberated this country from a totalitarian regime," he said. "There is lots of progress, but still lots to be done."