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Enemy Will Not Break Coalition's Will, Sanchez Says

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 11, 2003 – Anti-coalition forces "will fail" to break the will of the coalition and of the vast majority of the Iraqi people, Army Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez said in Baghdad, Iraq, today.

Sanchez, the commander of Combined Joint Task Force 7, said the pace and intensity of operations against anti-coalition forces has increased. "The trend (of engagements) has gone up," Sanchez said during a press conference. "It was in the mid-teens about 60 days ago, and it is now about 30 to 35 engagements in a day."

The general said the anti-coalition forces have attacked the real signs of coalition progress in Iraq. He blamed most of the attacks on former Baathist regime members who gained under Saddam Hussein's regime. He said those members are embracing terrorist techniques "designed to attract media attention, to intimidate the Iraqi people, and, just as importantly, to create a picture of chaos in the country."

Sanchez said that militarily, the regime terrorists have no chance to defeat the coalition. "I would like to remind those who might attempt to undermine or subvert the progress of the Iraqi people through violence that although the coalition can be benevolent, this is still the same lethal formation that removed the former oppressive regime," he said. "And we will not hesitate to employ the appropriate levels of combat power in order to safeguard the interests and safety of the Iraqi people, as well as our coalition service members."

Sanchez's warning comes three days after coalition forces used 500-pound precision-guided bombs to attack guerilla arms caches and hide-outs in the Baathist Triangle. "We are going to accomplish our task here," he said. "And if that's what's necessary, that's what we'll employ."

The general said that most of Iraq is calm, peaceful and rebuilding. "Over 90 percent of the engagements that occur in this country are occurring essentially in the heartland of the country," he said. "This is Al Anbar, from Al Qaim to the Euphrates River valley, into Baghdad, and then up the Tigris River valley, up towards Tikrit. That's where over 90 percent of the engagements occur."

Sanchez said it is not just military power, though, that will win the war. He said reconstructing Iraqi society and rebuilding the infrastructure that Saddam Hussein neglected is proceeding apace. Examples include military units helping to build a pediatric center in the north, establishing an adult education center near Mosul and building playgrounds for children in Baghdad. More than $18 billion will flow to longer-term projects that will increase power production, water treatment facilities and sewage plants, he said.

Turning over the security mission to the Iraqis will also further coalition objectives, Sanchez said. Earlier in the day, Joint Chiefs Chairman Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers told NBC's "Today" program that after just seven months, Iraqi security forces are the largest element of the coalition, with 131,000 members.

And, Sanchez said, those forces are becoming increasingly effective. "I would like to publicly commend the continued exceptional performance of the Iraqi security forces, Sanchez said. "Last night the Iraqi police, with support from the coalition, captured another ambulance that was a vehicle-mounted improvised explosive device. This is the second time in recent weeks that terrorists and foreign fighters have attempted to use an ambulance for terrorist acts against the people of Iraq."

Members of the Iraqi police and the Civil Defense Corps have been working with coalition forces to locate weapons caches and individuals threatening violence. Continued training at a higher level is now needed, he said.

"We are working to build the leadership structures within those Iraqi security forces in order for us to continue to hand over responsibility to them," he said. "We are working now to build battalion- and brigade-level leadership structures, and we will begin to put senior Iraqis in charge in the different cities across the country."

Sanchez used the Veterans Day holiday to personally salute the service members from 33 nations participating in the coalition. "They are today's veterans," he said. "Their valor and professionalism is honorable. I'm fiercely proud to lead these fine men and women. They deserve our highest respect and our admiration. They are all heroes."

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