Abizaid Visits Fallujah, Calls Battle "Decisive"
By John Valceanu
American Forces Press Service
BAGHDAD, Iraq, Nov. 15, 2004 The battle against insurgents and terrorists being waged by U.S. troops, Iraqi military units and coalition allies in Fallujah, Iraq, is "decisive," according to the commander of the U.S. Central Command.
Army Gen. John Abizaid, leader of the combatant command overseeing all U.S. troops prosecuting the war on terror in Iraq and Afghanistan, visited Fallujah Nov. 14. During his visit, he addressed members of the U.S. 1st Marine Expeditionary Force Combined Operations Center, which is helping direct the battle.
"When we win this fight -- and we will win -- there will be nowhere left for the insurgents to hide," Abizaid said. "We will fight them until there are none of them left to fight."
The battle to root out and destroy Fallujah's insurgents, dubbed Operation Al Fajr, began less than two weeks ago. In that time, the coalition has gained control of the city and is now in the process of stomping out isolated pockets of resistance.
The 1st Marine Expeditionary Force is providing the bulk of combat power for the operation. They are receiving support from a variety of U.S. Army units and from Iraqi armed forces. Abizaid praised the contribution made to the effort by the Iraqi forces.
"I'm proud that we are fighting alongside our Iraqi comrades, our warrior brothers," Abizaid said. "They are brave warriors fighting for their country."
Abizaid also spoke of the progress made in Iraq by coalition troops. He addressed the sacrifice being made to secure freedom from terror for the Iraqi people and for the whole world. Coalition officials estimate, as of Nov. 14, about 30 U.S. servicemembers have been killed during the Fallujah battle and almost 300 have been wounded.
Though it is difficult to accurately gauge enemy casualties while the battle rages, coalition officials estimate that between 1,000 and 1,200 enemy fighters have been killed. About 1,000 enemy fighters have surrendered or been captured and are now in coalition custody.
"It is amazing to think of what we've accomplished," Abizaid said. "Our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines have made sacrifices, and we thank them. We are deeply grateful. But in their sacrifices, they have helped bring defeat to the enemy."
The enemy fighters faced by coalition troops in Fallujah are part of a larger, worldwide threat, Abizaid said. "The people who are fighting us here are the same as those who fight us in Afghanistan and who attack us in Saudi Arabia and who strike at us in our homeland," Abizaid said. "They have the same mind-set as the Nazis in World War II. And they will share the same fate."
By defeating the enemies of freedom in Fallujah and continuing to fight for freedom throughout Iraq, the coalition will help curtail the spread of terrorism, the general said.
"We must fight this fight here and now, or we will have to fight it in the United States," Abizaid said. "We will fight them to the end, and we will win. We will not allow the enemy to bring this fight to our home."
Abizaid said that success in Iraq will serve as a cornerstone for stability in the region. "Iraq will be one of the most prosperous, stable countries in this region once democracy takes hold," he said. "In the end, we'll go home, and it will be their country to put together the way they want to. But we will support them to make sure they are able to do that."