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Myers Says Portions of Iraq Still a War Zone, But Progress Being Made

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

NEW DELHI, India, July 29, 2003 – The area within Tikrit, Baghdad and Ar Ramadi "is still a war zone," said Joint Chiefs chairman Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers during a press conference here today.

Myers said that when President Bush declared major combat operations over in Iraq May 1, he was very precise in the words he used. The president, he said, recognized that it was still a "challenging" and "hard" environment in the country.

Myers is on a visit to Central and South Asia. He visited troops in Iraq July 27 and 28. "The day I got there, we had three soldiers killed," Myers said. "Their job was to guard a women's and children's hospital ... so the staff would feel comfortable coming into that facility."

The soldiers went inside the hospital on a break and while there someone dropped a hand grenade on them from the second floor. "That is not an act that the Iraqi people think is reasonable, because they want their women and children to have access to medical care," Myers said.

The chairman said the incident was tragic and expressed his sympathy to the family and friends of the soldiers, but, he said, "Militarily we won't be defeated in Iraq and we will stay there until the job is done."

Myers told the press that most of the resistance comes from remnants of the former regime. "That is not to say there are not other groups out there," he said.

He noted that Saddam Hussein loosed thousands of common criminals as the coalition approached Baghdad. And there are foreign fighters coming in to challenge the coalition. But most attacks are coming from Baathists that have the most to lose by not having the regime in place.

"We think we know how to deal with that," Myers said. "Our intelligence is focusing on that, and we're going to be successful."

He said by any measure, the situation in Iraq is improving. "The economic activity in Baghdad and other areas is robust," he said. The Iraqi Governing Council is starting to work.

On the "stability front" there are also encouraging signs of progress. The northern and southern parts of the country are stable, he said. Some 80 percent of the attacks against coalition forces are occurring in the so-called "Baathist Triangle" area bounded by Baghdad, Tikrit and Ar Ramadi. "But what is happening over time ... (is) the Iraqi people are coming forward more and more to make that security situation better," Myers noted.

Coalition forces are acting on these tips and finding ammunition caches, former regime officials and common criminals.

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