Abizaid Warns Against 'Temporary Alliances of Convenience'
By John D. Banusiewicz
American Forces Press Service
BAGHDAD, Iraq, Nov. 14, 2004 Anyone in Iraq considering forming a temporary alliance with insurgents to gain some sort of tactical advantage will find the coalition won't view it as temporary, the commander of U.S. Central Command said here tonight.
Army Gen. John Abizaid had met earlier with Joint Chiefs Chairman Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers and Army Gen. George W. Casey Jr., commander of Multinational Force Iraq. Speaking with reporters later, the CENTCOM chief said there's no such thing as a temporary alliance with terrorists or insurgents as far as coalition forces and Iraqi leaders are concerned.
"The coalition and the Iraqi government will not tolerate temporary alliances of convenience," he said. "Once you align yourself with the insurgents, you've crossed the line and you go on the list. And the only way off the list is to be killed or captured."
Abizaid noted that insurgents in Fallujah were on their own in disorganized cells when U.S. and Iraqi forces began Operation Al Fajr Nov. 8, because their leaders had abandoned them.
But despite the lack of leadership and communication among insurgents in Fallujah, Abizaid acknowledged, the way ahead still be tough. No sooner is one cell dealt with than another pops up somewhere else in the city. "The insurgency is like water, and when you squeeze it, it kind of goes like water goes," he said.
A senior military officer here estimated that as many as 1,600 insurgents have been killed and more than 1,000 have been captured in recent fighting in Fallujah. If accurate, the number reflects more insurgents killed in one city in a week than U.S. forces have lost since Operation Iraqi Freedom began. "We've really knocked them for a loop," the senior officer said. "Now, the question is do we knock their leadership for a loop?"
Abizaid expressed optimism that operations in Fallujah will lead coalition and Iraqi forces to insurgent leaders, even though they disappeared before the fighting began.
"I think Fallujah will show us where the leadership is," he said. "I think there are quite a few people that are in our hands right now that will tell us an awful lot about their organization."
Despite the great care U.S. and Iraqi forces have taken in Fallujah to kill or capture insurgents while protecting the city and its people, a senior military official on background said he expects the Arab media will try in coming days to paint a different picture for the world. But of 17,000 buildings in the city, he said, 94 percent have not been damaged in the fighting.
And another senior officer told reporters that while it's not beyond the realm of possibility that some innocent civilians have been killed or wounded during Operation Al Fajr, so far not a single innocent civilian casualty has been reported.