Myers Praises British Troops; Says Must Be 'On Our Toes' for Iraqi Suicide Attacks
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Mar. 31, 2003 American and coalition troops in Iraq will be watchful to mitigate any further enemy suicide attack attempts, the U.S. military's top officer recently told British interviewer David Frost.
Frost had queried Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, whether the March 29 Iraqi suicide attack at Najaf that killed four 3rd Infantry Division soldiers represented "yet another hazard for the allied troops to deal with."
U.S. and coalition troops in Iraq can handle suicide tactics, Myers remarked during his March 30 interview with the "BBC Breakfast with Frost" program.
"Clearly British troops are familiar with that, with what they've been dealing with in the last couple of decades in various parts of the world (and) we're familiar with that," Myers asserted.
U.S. and coalition troops will adjust tactics, techniques and procedures to overcome that threat, the four-star-general emphasized.
The fact that Saddam Hussein's followers are resorting to such attacks, Myers pointed out to Frost, is "just a reminder that there are some very desperate people out there, and we've got to be on our toes."
Operation Iraqi Freedom continues to go according to plan, Myers declared, noting that paramilitary activity conducted by Saddam loyalists in southern Iraq isn't having much impact on overall U.S.-coalition military operations.
Saddam's Ba'ath party militia members have conducted hit-and-run attacks on U.S. and coalition supply lines, activity that Myers characterized as "harassment that has to be dealt with and is being dealt with very effectively by U.S. and British forces."
The Ba'athists also intimidate the Iraqi population, forcing people to fight for Saddam and dissuading desertions and surrenders through threat of death. Myers praised British and U.S. efforts in Basra to eradicate Ba'ath Party death squads that are executing people who don't support the regime.
"The way that's been handled in the Basra area is absolutely magnificent," the chairman declared.
Myers said he didn't know when the war would end, but predicted "the toughest fighting is ahead of us" as U.S. and coalition troops draw closer to the capital city of Baghdad.
Ultimate "victory is certain," the general emphasized, noting that U.S.-coalition war plans are designed to "spare Iraqi civilians from harm" and to safeguard, as much as possible, the lives of U.S. and coalition service members.
"This is not a war against the Iraqi people, in fact, it's just the opposite, it's the liberation of the Iraqi people," Myers pointed out. "We don't want to occupy Iraq."
The campaign in Iraq is not undergoing an unanticipated pause caused by unexpected Iraqi resistance, Myers emphasized, noting now it's time to exercise some patience.
"With the outcome never in doubt, we can afford to take our time and set the conditions on the battlefield," Myers pointed out, in planning to engage Iraqi Republican Guard divisions arrayed in and around Baghdad.
Myers noted U.S. and coalition forces are ready if the fighting moves into Baghdad and becomes urban.
"I can assure you that U.S. forces have leaned heavily on our U.K. counterparts, who have a lot of experience in this area," he said. "We're going to bring everything to bear there."
The U.S. military deeply appreciates "having a staunch ally like Britain solidly with us in this and sharing the risk and trying to do what's right," Myers emphasized, noting the British military greatly enhances allied efforts on the battlefield and during planning.
He expressed his "deepest sympathy for the families involved of those who have been lost in this conflict so far." He also lamented the loss of a British Tornado aircraft crew to accidental fire from a U.S. Patriot missile battery in Kuwait in the first few days of the war.
"It's the absolute saddest tragedy that any of us can experience, and I regret the [loss of the] lives of the crew of the Tornado," the chairman remarked.