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U.S. Rules of Engagement 'Well In Place' In Iraq, Sanchez Says

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 26, 2003 – U.S. combat troops in Iraq are trained to obey established rules of engagement designed to protect their lives as well as those of Iraqi noncombatants, Army Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez said Sept. 25 at a Baghdad news conference.

"My soldiers on the ground every day (in Iraq) are making decisions to engage or not engage, and to capture or kill people," Sanchez pointed out to reporters, noting that commanders and other leaders make those decisions "based on the circumstances."

A reporter had asked Sanchez, the commander of Combined Joint Task Force 7 in Iraq, if he could clarify the policy regarding when U.S. troops are authorized to use deadly force while patrolling Iraqi cities, road checkpoints, and performing other duties, given recent accidental deaths of Iraqi citizens.

The three-star general replied that, generally, "Whenever we are engaged, or we feel there is a self-defense threat, we will respond with the necessary level of force," to include the possible use of air-to-ground support.

If the enemy attacks U.S. troops, Sanchez continued, "we will bring the maximum amount of combat power that is necessary to defeat that enemy force, wherever that enemy force is located."

Regarding road checkpoints in Iraq, the general noted, "we have reviewed our rules of engagement," which now allow U.S. troops to first fire warning shots at vehicles suspected of trying to run through road checkpoints or attack the service members manning them.

"So those rules of engagement are well in place," Sanchez noted, adding that U.S. military personnel have been trained to follow those rules and that the rules are under constant review.

Terrorists operating in Iraq "continue to attack the international community, the Iraqi people and the coalition," the general said, noting such attacks seem to occur in up-and-down cycles.

While he said there isn't a security crisis in Iraq, Sanchez cautioned, "We are going to see some (more) of this terrorist activity over the course of the coming weeks and the coming months."

It will take teamwork among U.S., coalition and Iraqi police and civil defense forces, the general noted, "to identify who these people are, so we can eliminate these noncompliant elements."

More and more Iraqis, Sanchez pointed out, are participating in security operations in their country.

"We continue to field Iraqi capacity to allow them to take over responsibility for their own internal security," Sanchez said, noting, "Every day we make progress towards this goal."

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