Service Members Involved in 'Noble Cause,' Chairman Says
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Nov. 11, 2003 American service members are involved in a "noble cause" in protecting the United States from the threat of terrorism, Joint Chiefs Chairman Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers said today.
Myers gave round-robin interviews to the television networks' Veterans Day morning shows. He said that terrorists, specifically al Qaeda, have vowed to do away with the American way of life. He said American service members are a "new generation of heroes" who are taking the fight to the terrorists in Iraq, Afghanistan and other areas around the world.
The fights in Iraq and Afghanistan are crucial to U.S. national security, the chairman said, and service members fighting this battle understand that. "Ask any troop and they'll tell you that they understand exactly what we're fighting for," he said. "It's important for the survival of our way of life."
Myers said the military cannot do the job alone, and stressed the importance that Iraqis take on more responsibilities. Myers told NBC's "Today" program that Iraqi security personnel are now the largest group in the coalition. He said 131,000 Iraqis are now members of the police, the Civil Defense Force, the Facilities Protection Service, the Border Guard or the new Iraqi army. This is up from 118,000 last week, with most of the growth occurring in the Facilities Protection Service.
Involving the Iraqis, the chairman added, is important to Americans on the intelligence side of affairs. Myers said Iraqis are stepping forward with information about weapons and anti-coalition individuals. He said that on Nov. 10, infantrymen from the 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry, 173rd Airborne Brigade, acting on a tip from an Iraqi, found more than 6,000 pieces of ordnance in a cache near Kirkuk. The paratroopers uncovered 5,000 artillery rounds, 1,500 mortar rounds and more than 500 rockets.
Kirkuk is in the northern Kurdish part of the country, but Iraqis in the Baathist Triangle between Baghdad, Tikrit and Ramadi also are cooperating with the coalition, Myers noted. Soldiers from the 4th Infantry Division found rockets, munitions, mortars and small arms at caches in various places around the area. The Iraqis who are cooperating are working to build a new Iraq, free from the influences of Saddam Hussein's Baathist regime, Myers said.
The chairman said that coalition leaders most notably Army Gen. John Abizaid, the U.S. Central Command chief have been speaking with the leaders in the Baathist Triangle. "He's met with the leaders of the area -- the tribal sheiks and the other leaders -- and talked to them about being part of the new Iraq and not supporting former regime elements," Myers said. "Clearly, we take the fight to the enemy when it is appropriate; we also want to work with these people to get them to buy into the new Iraq."
Myers said the Iraqi leadership in the area "want to be part of the solution and not part of the problem." The general said no one should doubt for a minute that U.S. forces are ready "to take the fight to those who would do damage to the Iraqi people or harm the coalition."
Myers said the former regime members are tenacious and still maintain the hope of reinstalling the Baathist government. He said the Saddam loyalists are changing their tactics, but the coalition is also changing its tactics, techniques and procedures.
The chairman said coalition officials believe Saddam is still in Iraq. He said a special task force has been designed to "pick up high value targets," but cautioned that once the coalition gets Saddam, "it will be helpful, but it will not conclude this particular conflict."
Myers said it is appropriate that on Veterans Day, Americans remember those who fought for the United States and for freedom the world over. "We've got hundreds of thousands who fought recently, again, for our freedom," Myer said. "It just reminds me and, I hope, the American people, of what heroes these people really are -- the ones who raise their right hand and swear to support and defend the Constitution and then go out into harm's way and do exactly that."