Iraqi Forces Fought Well in Fallujah, U.S. Generals Say
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Nov. 19, 2004 Iraqi military forces distinguished themselves during fighting against insurgents during the recent Fallujah operation, senior U.S. Army and Marine Corps generals told House members here Nov. 17.
The five Iraqi battalions engaged in Fallujah "performed very well" against enemy forces, Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Michael W. Hagee testified at a House Armed Services Committee hearing.
Operation Al Fajr, Arabic for "dawn," was launched Nov. 8 to root out and subdue insurgents who had been using the Iraqi city of Fallujah as a haven and base of operations since April.
Interim Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi gave the green light for Iraqi and U.S. soldiers and Marines to go after the insurgents. Fallujah was mostly secured after a week of fighting. Hagee observed that the Iraqi troops worked well with the American soldiers and Marines.
The Iraqis were warfighters who were not afraid to close with enemy troops in Fallujah, the Marine four-star general told the committee.
Army Chief of Staff Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker, who accompanied Hagee at the House hearing, observed, "The solution to Iraq is Iraqi ownership of their nation." A "great portion of that" ownership, Schoomaker pointed out, is predicated on Iraqis "developing effective security forces."
The Army general noted that growing Iraqi security forces provide "a tremendous plus-up in your capability" to field anti-insurgent forces across Iraq, as well as providing cultural insights that are very useful on the battlefield. Iraqi troops "see things and recognize things that we will never be able to recognize," Schoomaker explained.
Hagee supported Schoomaker's opinion of the positives of working with Iraqi troops, noting he'd been told of a recent case where Iraqi security troops working with Americans had sensed an impending suicide vehicle-borne improvised explosive device attack.
The Iraqis, Hagee recalled, had noted something suspicious and insisted on stopping the driver, thereby thwarting the attack.
"We would not have recognized that. They did," the top Marine pointed out.
Iraqi military performance in the recent Fallujah operation, Schoomaker observed, "is significantly better than it was in April" when Iraqi troops engaged insurgents in Fallujah during a truncated campaign. Today, U.S. military and allied instructors are ensuring that new Iraqi military members are properly trained, equipped and led, he said.
"I think we're on the right path here," the Army general told the committee, "and it is very much a part of the future of Iraq that we get this part right."