Combat Ops Continue in Iraq, Humanitarian Aid Pours In
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, April 12, 2003 U.S. and coalition troops are searching out and eliminating pockets of Saddam-regime diehards, while providing much needed humanitarian relief to the Iraqi people.
That's the message Army Brig. Gen. Vince Brooks, U.S. Central Command spokesperson, delivered today at a press conference in Qatar.
For example, in the Al Kut area southeast of Baghdad "there are still some indications that there may be a regime presence and we're turning our attention in that direction," Brooks noted.
And U.S. and coalition troops continue attacks to defeat any remaining enemy forces north of Baghdad, the general pointed out, while American troops comb the city for regime holdovers.
As combat continues in a number of areas in Iraq, "our efforts in increasing humanitarian assistance become more and more important," Brooks remarked. He noted that providing that aid proves challenging in areas lacking electric power or other infrastructure due to regime negligence.
Yet, food, water and medical supplies are flowing into Iraq, Brooks declared. Last night, he noted, the first humanitarian-focused flights carrying such supplies landed at Baghdad International Airport.
Two coalition aircraft delivered those supplies - provided by the Kuwaiti government and the International Red Crescent (part of the international Red Cross movement) - Brooks pointed out.
"We view this as a very important step, and one which will be followed by many more in the days and weeks ahead," the general declared.
Packaged water continues to be sent up north after arriving at the port of Umm Qasr, he noted. This is in addition to military water purification equipment in Umm Qasr providing water supplies that are also trucked north.
More and more countries are providing humanitarian aid to Iraq's people, Brooks remarked, pointing to a recent delivery of 50,000 tons of wheat to Umm Qasr from an Australian ship.
And he noted that the United Arab Emirates is providing 70 metric tons of food, water and medical supplies.
Brooks said assessments are ongoing throughout the liberated portions of Iraq to re-establish the country's infrastructure in partnership with the Iraqi people.
For instance, the general pointed to efforts under way in Umm Qasr to get the railway system back on track. A rejuvenated Iraqi railroad "is just one of the ways we'll move supplies north toward An Nasiriyah and beyond," he said.
U.S. and coalition battle plans, he noted, deliberately avoided destruction of Iraq's railroad system to ensure it would be ready for use after hostilities.
And U.S. and coalition troops continue to distribute captured enemy supplies, such as cooking oil, flour and soap, to the Iraqi people, Brooks said.
The general acknowledged there are "varying views" among some humanitarian, nongovernmental and international organizations about the security situation in Iraq.
However, "the reality is we are delivering humanitarian assistance right now and have been doing so for a great number of days," Brooks pointed out.
"We aren't going to wait for everyone in the world to be in agreement that all is secure," the general remarked, pointing out "there's work that needs to be done right now and that work is ongoing and will continue to occur."
As more and more countries continue their assessments of the situation in Iraq, Brooks believes there will be more deliveries of humanitarian aid.
"We know that the United Nations also is doing assessments [to provide aid to Iraq]," Brooks pointed out. "And there will be a number of organizations that will respond to whatever the United Nations says exists in Iraq.