Iraqis Tired of Attacks, Want Stability, General Says
By Sgt. 1st Class Doug Sample, USA
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Aug. 6, 2004 Iraqi citizens are getting weary of the terrorist attacks that appear to be increasing and growing more lethal, a military spokesman said today from Baghdad.
During an interview with the Pentagon Channel and American Forces Press Service, Army Brig. Gen. Erv Lessel, deputy operations director for Multinational Force Iraq, said polls show Iraqis want the terrorism to end.
"They're tired of the killings, they're tired of the kidnappings and the bombings, and they want some stability," he said. "They want jobs, they want electricity; they want to return to a normal, peaceful life."
Lessel added that most Iraqis see the best chance for that way of life is putting "their hope and confidence in the Iraqi government and the Iraqi security forces."
He said the Iraqi people would much rather see Iraqi security forces on the streets than multinational forces. "They feel more comforted by those that can speak the same language and that can understand them," he explained, "and they are willing to provide them with more actionable intelligence that will actually help our efforts."
Lessel said the increase in the number and lethality of attacks means insurgents are making every attempt possible to bring down Iraq's new government. "Everyone needs to remember that these insurgents, really their No. 1 goal is to bring down and destroy the legitimate and sovereign government of Iraq," he said. "And to do that they want to destabilize the country by attacking the infrastructure, by attacking its security forces, and also by attacking the multinational forces."
The general said efforts to enable Iraq's security forces to counter those attacks are going well. Training and equipping of Iraq's security forces continues, and more Iraqis are being trained and sent to duty, he said. Iraq's security forces can expect a significant amount of new equipment over the next two months, he added.
Just today, Lessel said, the military announced a large shipment of equipment had arrived for Iraqi forces. The shipment includes pickup trucks, body armor, AK-47 assault rifles and ammunition. Such equipment, he added, will help Iraq's security forces continue to grow in strength and capacity and to become more capable.
Lessel said the Aug. 5 attack by some 100 militia members loyal to radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr on an Iraqi police station in Najaf proved that capability.
He said Iraq's police force was able to fend off the attack without multinational force support. With the help of the Iraqi National Guard, he added, police were able later to fend off a second attack by more than 300 militia members. It was only with the chance of a third attack that multinational forces were called in, he said.
"This is a great example of how the Iraqi security forces are becoming more capable, and able to defend themselves," the general said.
Lessel expressed hope that the trend will continue, and that as Iraqi security forces begin to control their cities and towns, multinational forces can begin to withdraw.
"Our overarching goal is to try to get more of this localized control in all of the cities throughout the country over time," he said.
However, he added, the multinational force will stay in Iraq until Iraqi security forces can take care of the entire country and more support no longer is needed.
"At that point, when there is a stable environment and a legitimate government that is supported by the people, then at that time we can probably call this mission complete," he said.
Until that day, Lessel said, the multinational force will continue its mission of providing a secure and stable environment and to rebuild the country.
He said a "big focus" now has been on infrastructure security and that U.S. troops are working with Iraqi security forces to provide infrastructure protection throughout the country. He also noted that U.S. forces, along with other aid agencies, are making tremendous progress toward rebuilding the country -- "everything from health facilities, schools, power plants, to all the infrastructure projects across the country," he explained.
"We continue to make great progress, and that progress is accelerating," he said. "It's a long row to hoe, but we are making progress."