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Coalition Focuses on Pockets of Resistance

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 15, 2003 – The focus of coalition operations in Iraq is on eliminating remaining pockets of resistance, said U.S. Central Command officials during a briefing in Qatar today.

Coalition forces are also looking for regime leaders and are increasing the military contributions to humanitarian assistance operations, said Army Brig. Gen. Vincent Brooks, the deputy chief of operations at the command.

"Coalition maneuver operations remain focused on increasing security in urban areas throughout Iraq, while assessing and addressing humanitarian need," Brooks said.

The work of clearing sectors of Baghdad and Tikrit continued. Coalition troops regularly have found large caches of weapons and stockpiles with the assistance of the Iraqi people.

Brooks said 5th Corps forces found a cache of 90 cases of dynamite, plastique explosives, six homemade bombs and 23 cases of rocket-propelled grenades in Baghdad. "Then they were led by Iraqi people in the area to 10 smaller caches of weapons in the area," he said.

The general said coalition forces are still in conversations with former regime commanders to seek any "final surrenders" that they may make. "These are not large pockets of military resistance," Brooks said. "The military capability throughout Iraq has been destroyed or has simply walked away."

Special operations forces are expanding security in northern Iraq cities of Mosul, Irbil and Kirkuk. Brooks said the northern oil fields are secure and that the last burning well in Iraq was extinguished.

The general said cooperation with Iraqis is enhancing operations. In the western part of the country, Iraqis led coalition forces to three death squad members, he said, and looting and lawlessness have died down throughout the country.

The Iraqi people have gone beyond celebrating their safety to working with the coalition to repair the infrastructure, their government and public works in their country, Brooks said. He named a number of activities from repairing power plants and water systems to setting up local civilian councils and police departments where the Iraqis are moving toward ensuring their own safety and security.

Brooks said the coalition maritime component is working to open the channel, blocked by 36 derelict vessels, from Umm Qasr to Az Zubayr.

"Each one of (the vessels) has to be examined, removed of any demolitions or unexploded ordnance, cleared for mines and physically moved to clear the channel into Az Zubayr," he said. Opening the channel will help the logistics situation in the country much, Brooks noted.

The general said coalition is working closely with the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance. ORHA, a U.S. interagency group led by retired Army Lt. Gen. Jay Garner, is working to help organize Iraq to turn the country over to the Iraqi people.

"For now, the way the work goes is through CENTCOM and the coalition land component command," Brooks said. "In time we'll transfer some activities to ORHA. At an even further time those activities will be transferred to the Iraqi people by way of an interim administration."

Coalition officials remain convinced that they will find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Brooks said as stability becomes more widespread, more people will come forward with information on these weapons.

Coalition forces have people at units to assess the dangers and test for the weapons. Levels above the units will confirm the presence of these weapons. Brooks said this is a long and involved process and the military will approach this problem carefully.

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