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Coalition Forces Remain on the Offensive, Enemy Tactics Change

By Sgt. 1st Class Doug Sample, USA
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 30, 2003 – Coalition forces remain on the offensive against anti- coalition elements, and continue stability and support operations in Iraq to enable the restoration of a free Iraq, reported Army Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, deputy director of operations, Combined Joint Task Force 7, today from Baghdad.

However, he stated that anti-coalition attacks against "soft targets" and civilians continue to rise. Those tactics, Kimmitt said, have led to more aggressive military operations by U.S. and coalition forces.

"In terms of tactics, we have said for the last couple of weeks that we see the enemy starting to attack soft targets, Iraqi targets, rather than military targets. We think this is a change on part of the enemy," Kimmitt said. "He (the enemy) realizes that attacking a military target will probably lead to his death or capture."

He noted that going against soft targets is "probably an easier way to achieve what the enemy is trying to achieve. He's attempting to intimidate the people of Iraq, and he's attempting to try to break the will of the coalition. He will be unsuccessful at both."

Kimmitt reported that in the past 24 hours, the coalition has conducted 1,682 patrols and 25 raids, and captured 72 anti-coalition suspects. In the north, he said the 101st Airborne Division is conducting Operation Eagle Curtain intelligence-based raids, cordons and searches that have detained eight individuals.

He said that U.S. and coalition forces "can't sit back" and let the former regime elements, foreign fighters, subversives and the extremists "rip this country and take control. We can't let that happen."

Instead, U.S. commanders are acting on "actionable intelligence" and conducting combat operations that "go after" the enemy, Kimmitt pointed out. "In those engagements we will lose American soldiers, we will lose coalition soldiers. But the alternative is to sit back and do nothing and watch the overall security situation deteriorate."

The task force operations deputy reported two more U.S. soldiers were killed and another wounded today in a rocket-propelled grenade and ground-fire attack on a convoy from the 3rd Armored Calvary Regiment in western Iraq.

Kimmitt said that in each of those attacks, "when a soldier is wounded, when a soldier is lost, it is a dreadful event and we grieve with their fellow soldiers and their families and their relatives." But "we have a mission here to provide a safe and secure environment for the people of Iraq, and we will not be pulling away from that mission."

This latest violence occurred a day after two Japanese diplomats and seven Spanish intelligence agents were killed in other attacks near Baghdad. Despite the recent deaths, Kimmitt maintained that the military's assessment remains that the vast majority of the country is in fact safe. "That you have these incidents throughout the country, that would try to give the impression that this country is unsafe, but I think the facts on the ground demonstrate otherwise," he said.

Dan Senor, senior spokesperson for the Coalition Provisional Authority, agreed that the attacks against U.S. and coalition forces, which he said are isolated, do not reflect what is really happening on the ground.

Many soldiers and coalition civilian personnel are interacting with Iraqi citizens and working "hand in hand, side by side" with the reconstruction. Senor reported that about 14,000 reconstruction projects have been completed, at a rate of almost 100 per day across the country.

Iraqi security recruits are increasing, he noted. "And this is not gunpoint conscription like the days of Saddam Hussein," Senor explained. "These are people who are speaking with their feet, acting with their feet, signing up saying they want to be a part of protecting a new Iraq. And those are relationships and interactions that are certainly important for our morale."

Senor said the message the CPA continues to see is that the overwhelming majority of Iraqis are grateful for the liberation and that they don't want the coalition to leave until the security situation improves and the country is passed over to a stable democratic environment.

And Senor also said that as tragic as the incidents were against the Japanese and Spanish coalition members, both governments have made "very strong" statements that they intend to be engaged in the reconstruction of Iraq.

He pointed out "that's why while the implication of this incident are tragic, one should also note the comments coming out of the governments that were affected: 'We intend to stay the course,' their will is stiffened, and the reconstruction moves on."

Kimmitt said military analysts still believe links between attacks on coalitions forces are weak at best. "The analysts who are working on this question day and night still don't believe they are seeing any central direction for these activities, that most of them are small cellular type. Are there linkages between families? Are there linkages between organizations? Are there linkages between former regime elements? That's what were trying to find out," he said.

Senor added that news reports and scenes of Iraqis celebrating the deaths of U.S. troops are "isolated pockets" that do not represent the mindset of the overwhelming majority of Iraqis. Responding to how such celebrations may affect troop morale, Kimmitt said that soldiers in Iraq would love that every Iraqi "embraced them every time they turned the corner. This would mean that the mission is a success."

Soldiers understand, "sometimes painfully, that part of the job is to get out there, show their presence, even though they may not always get a most welcome embrace every time they walk up and down the street," he said. "They know ultimately that their mission is to bring peace to this country, and not every day are we going to see a peaceful country."

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