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U.S.-Coalition Offensive Efforts in Iraq Bearing Fruit, Sanchez Says

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 7, 2003 – Recent U.S.-coalition operations against insurgents in Iraq are succeeding, a senior U.S. military commander said today during a briefing from Baghdad.

"The only way you win in combat is to stay on the offensive," Army Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez, commander of Combined Joint Task Force 7, told reporters, noting that insurgent actions against American and coalition forces have dropped off in recent weeks.

In order not to aggravate Iraqi citizens during U.S.- coalition military operations against insurgents, Sanchez noted it's important that those operations are "focused" and "based on intelligence" in coordination with pro- coalition Iraqis and their security forces.

The general said more and more Iraqis are coming forward to provide U.S. and coalition officials with information about possible insurgent groups and weapons caches. And "we have in fact had a significant reduction in the numbers of engagements over the last two or three weeks," Sanchez pointed out, noting, "today, we sit at (an average of) under 20 engagements in a day."

That number favorably contrasts with statistics drawn from early November, Sanchez continued, when the average number of engagements between the enemy and U.S.-coalition forces reached almost 40 engagements daily.

However, Sanchez acknowledged, "You've got to retain the consent of the (Iraqi) people." That's why, he added, "there's a mix" between U.S.-coalition offensive operations and civil-military and medical projects to help the Iraqi people.

Iraqi citizens must be treated "with the dignity and respect that they deserve," Sanchez noted, especially in the aftermath of military operations "after we've eliminated anti-coalition forces from their midst."

It's also important, Sanchez said, that Iraqis be "at the forefront" of anti-coalition security efforts in their country. To this end, more and more Iraqis are being recruited into the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps, he noted.

The general said that progress is also being made at controlling people traffic and preventing the movement of contraband at the Syrian and Iranian borders. Almost 13,000 Iraqi border police, he pointed out, are on the job.

And although the numbers of engagements between U.S.- coalition forces and insurgents are currently at a downturn, Sanchez predicted that the violence could go up in the weeks and months ahead as the Coalition Provisional Authority prepares to transfer power to a new Iraqi provisional government by June 30, 2004.

In the meantime, "we will continue to conduct offensive (military) operations to keep the enemy off balance and to defeat him," Sanchez concluded.

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