CENTCOM's Gen. Franks: 'Iraq's Best Days Are Yet to Come'
By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May. 9, 2003 Fifty-two days after President Bush gave the go-ahead for military action in Iraq, the Army general who led the campaign stood in the Pentagon today and spoke of the mission's successes.
Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld tells reporters about the progress coalition forces are making in Iraq during a Pentagon press briefing with U.S. Army Gen. Tommy Franks, on May 9, 2003. Franks is the commander, Central Command. DoD photo by R.D. Ward.
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
"Today, the Iraqi people no longer live in fear of a regime of Saddam Hussein," Gen. Tommy Franks, commander of the U.S. Central Command, told reporters. "Key regime figures are being brought to justice every day, one by one."
Other high points of coalition intervention in Iraq:
- Coalition forces have removed "hundreds of tons" of weapons and ammunition from schools, residential neighborhoods and religious sites.
- Iraqi children are returning to school.
- Basic services, such as healthcare, water and electrical power, are being restored throughout the country.
"And nations in the Red Sea and the Gulf region are no longer threatened by a regime in Iraq that attacked neighbors twice in the last 20 years," Franks said.
Coalition forces are also working with the government of Kuwait to find some 600 Kuwaiti citizens still missing from Iraq's 1990 invasion of its southern neighbor. According to CENTCOM officials in southern Iraq, experts are "exploiting" a mass grave found near Samawah. Evidence at the site led the experts to believe the remains could be those of missing Kuwaitis.
Franks noted that Iraqi citizens are forming local governments and town councils. "Iraq's best days are yet to come," he said.
He echoed President Bush's May 1 comments aboard the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln returning from the Gulf that major combat operations in Iraq are over. But, Franks cautioned, American troops "still stand in harm's way."
An American soldier from the Army's 5th Corps was killed in a bold daylight shooting in eastern Baghdad May 8. CENTCOM officials in Iraq said the soldier was directing traffic at about 1 p.m. local time "when he was approached and shot by an unknown attacker with a pistol." The attacker escaped.
"I have every expectation that we will continue to see pockets of resistance, and we will see pockets of instability, and we will come across difficult situations in the weeks and in the months ahead," Franks said. "But our forces are up to the task."
During the same briefing, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said defense leaders track the status of 27 metropolitan areas in Iraq with a color-coded system. Each city is assigned colors to indicate the status of such things as the security situation, clean water and electrical power.
Red indicates the situation is worse than it was at the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Green means it is at pre-war levels, and blue stands for better-than-pre-war levels. Rumsfeld explained that white stood for "unobserved," but that all areas have been observed by now.
"The reds have disappeared as of this morning," he added.