Multifaceted Approach Key to Success in Iraq, General Says
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Dec. 28, 2004 Success in Iraq involves far more than combat operations and warfighting, the 1st Cavalry Division's assistant commander for support told reporters in Baghdad today.
Army Brig. Gen. Jeffrey W. Hammond said the potential in Baghdad "is absolutely unbelievable," with a combination of good people, plentiful resources and land "that has everything to offer."
Tapping into this potential requires a multifaceted approach, Hammond said. So while they continue combat operations directed against insurgents, the 1st Cavalry Division's nine combat brigades in Baghdad also are focused on improving essential services, building Iraq's security forces, creating economic opportunities and providing assistance to Iraq's government.
"Our brigades operate in all these areas daily and simultaneously," Hammond said.
Focusing only combat operations and developing the Iraqi security forces would fall short of "swaying" the Iraqi people "in our direction," he said, and that's why the division devotes much of its effort to what the general called "other lines of operation."
"It's all about the power of perception and the influence of ammunition," he said. But the ammunition Hammond is talking about isn't the kind use in weaponry. "The real ammunition here," he said, is money, food, primary health care, education and schools, fuel, employment and recognition and respect.
"But above all," Hammond continued, "I think information is ammunition." It's "talking to people, laying out evil and good and letting them make the choice."
Hammond said genuine progress is being made that will help people make that choice, both in terms of essential services and Iraqi security forces.
He cited Sadr City as an example of "what the future Iraq can look like." The city, once a terrorist safe haven, is now a model for the rest of Iraq, with 18,000 Iraqis at work on 70 different projects, repairing infrastructure in an environment with reduced violence.
"Right now we see people working, there is visible progress, there's a reduction in violence, and there are remarkable repairs to the infrastructure," he said. "Things are moving."
The improvements are having a major effect on the local residents, he said. "People are upbeat, they are positive, they are working, and they are seeing the future that they are choosing one that is better than the fighting action they've seen in the past."
On the security front, Hammond said the Iraqi security forces are coming into their own, thanks largely to a training concept in which 540 1st Cavalry Division soldiers have embedded themselves as trainers within Iraqi National Guard units.
Hammond said the Iraqis will take the lead in providing security during Iraq's national elections next month.
"This is an Iraqi election by the Iraqis and for the Iraqis," he said. "It is not our intention to protect, guard, secure polling places or to move ballots or anything else. Our ambition is to be on the sideline, ready to go if called upon to assist in security matters."
Hammond said violence is expected during the elections. "We anticipate that the enemy will express his will in the election process through attacks, intimidation, assassinations and other methods designed to destroy life in Baghdad," he said. "He has a vote in things."
But in that event, Hammond said the 1st Cavalry Division is ready to respond. Its staff has prepared contingency plans in case it's called to assist. In addition, the division beefed up its security posture, extending 3,500 members of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team through the elections and incorporating two battalions from the 82nd Airborne Division.
Hammond said the division's goal is "to support an environment in which the elections can take place and the people have the free will to express their right to vote."
Despite strong progress among the Iraqi National Guard and police forces and ongoing efforts by the coalition, Hammond said he's not kidding himself that it's possible to "sanitize" Baghdad against insurgents.
"The challenge is there. It's a day-to-day challenge," he said. And that's why, he explained, the division remains committed to its multifaceted mission in Iraq.
"Every day of the week, these soldiers here are out there doing their job, fighting a battle, assisting in some sort of reconstruction effort," he said. "And they do it every single week, (keeping) constant pressure on the enemy."