Hussein on Lam, Myers to Check 'Pulse' of Iraq Coalition
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
DOHA, Qatar, July 27, 2003 Saddam Hussein is on the lam and if he is still in Iraq the United States will get him, said Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Air Force Gen. Richard Myers, yesterday.
Myers is traveling to Iraq to get a feel for the "pulse" of coalition operations in the country. He said he has been encouraged by reports coming out of Iraq that show political, economic and security progress.
Myers is going to meet with American commanders and troops in the triangular area bounded by Baghdad, Tikrit and Ar Ramadi. That part of Iraq is a stronghold of the former regime and there are thousands of Baath Party loyalists still in the area. More than 80 percent of the incidents directed against coalition forces happen in that region. Myers said he has limited time in the country and that going to such an area will give him a better appreciation of the situation in Iraq. He said the area is the scene of some of the coalition's "biggest challenges and also some of the greatest success."
Joint Staff officials said the security situation varies over the country. In the north and south, the situation is relatively stable. True, Saddam Hussein's sons, Uday and Qusay, were killed in the northern city of Mosul, but attacks against coalition forces there have been relatively rare. The Baghdad, Tikrit and Ar Ramadi triangle is "the heart of the heaviest resistance in the country," Myers said, and other Joint Staff officials said restoring order in this area will have profound effects in Baghdad.
Joint Staff officials said the tactics employed by U.S. units in the triangle have changed as raids against the Baathist dead enders have gone on. Officials said soldiers and special operations forces learned much in early operations directed against the remnants of Saddam's force. "They adapt their tactics and techniques and we adapt ours," Myers said. "One thing about that is, as we saw in the major combat portion of this effort, we can (adapt) better and faster than any other force on Earth. We are very good at this."
The area is the scene of extensive patrols and raids directed against Baath Party loyalists. With each raid, Joint Staff officials said, coalition forces learn more and can tailor the next raid to incorporate lessons learned. "We need to help people to understand how much progress has been made in the 100 days since the end of major combat ops," Myers said. "There has been terrific success."
Officials pointed to 36,000 trained Iraqi policemen back on the beat working against common criminals. They estimate that more than 95 percent of the schools are open and students are attending. This goes from teaching the youngest children to reopening Baghdad University - an organization free from Hussein's death grip for the first time since 1979.
Officials said that coalition forces are making headway against an antiquated infrastructure that has never seen proper maintenance schedules followed. Myers gave one example; while in Iraq in May, he visited a hospital that was built in the 1950s and never upgraded. What got built under the Baath Party were hundreds of castles that benefited only a small number of Iraqis.
Myers said he will meet with 4th Infantry Division Commander Maj. Gen. Raymond Odierno and Combined Joint Task Force - 7 commander Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez. He will also meet with troops in the area. "We're going to talk about how we are doing and what we can do to help," Myers said. "You get a better appreciation with eyes on the situation."
Myers also wants to thank service members who are making a difference in Iraq. "Across the board every good thing that has happened is due to our service members - whether it is rebuilding schools or guarding bank vaults so people can get money to continue. It's guarding medical facilities retraining police and (being) involved in direct security issues," he said. "All of that is getting better everyday."
Myers will not put a timeline on how long forces will be needed in Iraq, but he said the coalition is making progress. He said economic life is returning to normal. "When I was here in May a very unscientific test showed about a third of the shops were open as we drove through Baghdad," Myers said. "I understand now that almost all the shops and stalls are open."
The chairman said the number of coalition troops in Iraq is what was planned for major combat operations. "The numbers had been planned for some time," he said. "That ought to give people the indication that whoever was doing the planning had a pretty good estimate for what it was going to take."
Myers praised the redeployment and rotation plans. He said they provide predictability for service members and for their families. He noted one aspect of the plan that might not have gotten too much play - the emphasis on improving the quality of life for service members based there. "It'll never be a plush tour," Myers said with a wry smile, "but there are a lot of things we can do to enhance the quality of life." One thing he suggested was better Internet access so families can keep in tough more easily. Better facilities, better food and better quarters would also help.
Myers said that the American troops have good morale and understand why they need to be in Iraq. "The vast majority of Iraqis do not support the resistance," Myers said. "The group that is fighting the coalition is the group that has been holding sway in Iraq for a long time. The Iraqi people certainly don't appreciate that."
He said that even in the hardest areas of Iraq, once the population sees how U.S. service members conduct themselves, over time, the Iraqis "will understand why we're there. We're not there for oil; we're not there for land or power. We're there to help create a new Iraq. One where everyone can share in the prosperity."