Following are highlights of the March 23 press conference at the Pentagon with Secretary Rumsfeld and Adm. Edmund P. Giambastiani Jr., vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
“It seems to be comforting to some to hope that there might be some way to placate this enemy, that somehow if we acted differently, the violence, the conflict ahead might just go away. But this enemy seeks no armistice with free people. They've called America an enemy of God. They have said of Americans and Europeans, quote, "Their wives will be widowed and their children will be orphaned," unquote, and that, quote, "jihad against the United States does not stop with its withdrawal from the Arabian peninsula," unquote. The question of our time is whether we face this enemy on their terms or on our terms, on their territory or on our territory, where they are on offense or where they are on defense.” (briefing transcript)
Secretary Rumsfeld, opening remarks, March 23, 2006
- A competent, inclusive government in Iraq that is seen by Iraqis as governing from the center will be good for Iraq and will reduce the level of violence.
- Saddam’s regime was vicious and repressive. Those Iraqis who took risks were punished. It will take time for Iraqis to develop skill sets to negotiate, politick and compromise. The task before them is monumental, but the Iraqi people are showing courage volunteering for their security forces and for public office, and negotiating a government that their country’s citizens have faith in.
- Withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq is conditions-based. It is anticipated that the level of U.S. forces will go down as an Iraqi government is formed and becomes accepted, and as the Iraqi Security Forces continue to assume more battlespace, bases and responsibility.
- The performance of the Iraqi Security Forces continues to improve ; they successfully helped keep safe millions of pilgrims as they marched to Najaf during the Arba’een religious holiday. (Read more about the Shi’ite pilgrimage from the March 20 MNF-Iraq release.)
- Stress on the U.S. military is being eased by the way the force is being managed. Military personnel are being moved out of civilian positions back into military positions; the Army is aggressively modularizing their force and increasing the number of combat brigades that are available; the Department has been successful in reducing the extent to which Guard and Reserve are being called upon.
Operation Swarmer: The combined operation involving Iraqi army, Iraqi police commandos and Coalition forces wrapped up March 22 without any casualties and with all of the tactical objectives met. The mission began with the helicopter transport of approximately 1,500 Iraqi and Coalition soldiers and Iraqi police commandos into a 10-by-10 square mile area northeast of Samarra on March 16. The initial insertion aircraft and subsequent air security provided by the 101st Combat Aviation Brigade moved the force comprising units from the 1st Commando Brigade, the 1st Brigade, 4th Iraqi Army Division and the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division. The combined force moved through the area using intelligence and planning provided primarily by the Iraqi Security Forces. The operation resulted in 104 suspected insurgents currently being detained and questioned, and 24 caches discovered. (MNF-Iraq release)
Northern Lights: Iraqi army and Coalition forces, approximately 1,400 personnel, kicked off Operation Northern Lights on March 22 to disrupt anti-Iraqi forces and to find and destroy terrorist caches in the Abu Ghraib area west of Baghdad. The operation is based on intelligence, including tips from local Iraqis, that terrorists are operating in the area and are stockpiling roadside bomb and truck bomb-making materials to prepare for future attacks in Baghdad. (MNF-Iraq release)