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Rumsfeld, Myers Detail Iraq Progress

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 23, 2004 – Terrorists and former regime elements used 66 of the 77 mosques in Fallujah as ammunition bunkers and to plan attacks, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said during a press conference today.

Officials said Iraqi soldiers searching the mosques found explosives for making improvised explosive devices, suicide-bomber vests, rocket-propelled grenades, shoulder-fired weapons and small arms and ammunition.

Joint Chiefs Chairman Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers just returned from a visit to Iraq said once the January 30th elections are over in Iraq, the United States can look at the troop numbers in the country.

Myers said that the conditions on the ground will determine the number of troops in Iraq, but said that when people think about troop requirements, they shouldn't just focus on the United States. "Obviously, we're a big part of the troop-contributing nations over there, but Iraq would be next and the coalition would be after that," he said.

Reports from Iraq indicate that Iraqi troops fought well in the recent offensive in Fallujah, Myers said. It comes down to leadership, he said, and the Iraqis are working to build leaders particularly at the colonel and general officer level. "I think we can anticipate them being able to handle more of their own affairs," Myers said. "And that, of course, is, in the end, going to be the goal."

Retaking areas from insurgents remains the key to the elections in January, Rumsfeld said. In Fallujah the process is working, he said, adding, "Operations in Fallujah and elsewhere demonstrate anew the extremism of those opposing Iraqi democracy.

"Over the past two weeks, a single military unit found 191 weapons caches, and 431 improvised explosive devices in one sector of Fallujah alone," Rumsfeld noted. "Soldiers and Marines have found large IED-making facilities, and facilities for making vehicle-borne bombs. They have discovered torture rooms, including one that had a human-size wire cage, and others with bloody handprints on the wall."

The secretary said that attacks will continue, "and perhaps intensify as the Iraqi election approaches." He said extremists have much to lose, "but if the coalition is steadfast, and it will be, eventually we will see the last vestiges of this dying order fade away."

Myers said that intimidation is the preferred tactic of the enemy. "The horrific murder of (British-Iraqi aid worker) Margaret Hassan (around Nov. 16) and other brutal slayings demonstrate the insurgents' determination to go to absolutely any length to prevent Iraqis from stepping forward to assume critical roles at all levels of government," the chairman said.

"Yet courageous Iraqis continue to volunteer to serve in the Iraqi government, and their leadership is absolutely key to their success in Iraq," he continued. "The preponderance of enemy forces are, we think, former regime elements who will stop at nothing to prevent a free and democratic Iraq, yet they have no alternative solution except to rule by terror and by fear."

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Biographies:
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld
Gen. Richard B. Myers, USAF


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