'Conditions, Not Calendar' to Determine Coalition Exit
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jun. 12, 2004 The coalition presence in Iraq will be determined "by conditions, not by the calendar," said Army Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt during a press conference in Baghdad today.
Kimmitt, the deputy chief of operations for Multinational Forces Iraq, said that coalition forces will draw down in Iraq as conditions permit and not by an arbitrary date on a calendar.
Coalition forces have remained active in the country, Kimmitt and coalition spokesman Dan Senor said. Over the past 24 hours, coalition forces conducted 1,900 patrols, 20 offensive operations and 29 Navy and Air Force sorties, captured 39 anti-Iraqi elements, and released 10 detainees.
A total of five U.S. service members were wounded by improvised explosive devices in the country in the past 24 hours, Kimmitt said.
Unknown terrorists assassinated Iraq's Undersecretary for Multinational Affairs and International Organizations Ambassador Bassam Kubba today. He was the first member of the new government to be killed.
"This sinister and cowardly attack is part of ongoing attempts by anti-democratic forces to create chaos and instability by targeting officials of the new interim government and infrastructure facilities," Iraqi officials said in a news release. "Such terrorist acts are perpetrated at a time when a great deal of progress has been achieved with the formation of the new interim government and the unanimous vote for (U.N. Security Council Resolution) 1546 which endorses the political process in Iraq."
Kimmitt said the 1st Armored Division continues operations in and around Najaf to isolate Shia extremist Muqtada al-Sadr and his militia. Iraqi police are taking on the militia inside Najaf, Kimmitt said.
A reward program is also paying off in Najaf. To date, Kimmitt said, Iraqis have turned in 48 mortars, 877 AK-47 assault rifles, 223 rocket-propelled grenade launchers, 774 RPG rounds and 1,830 mortar rounds. Coalition forces have paid out around $350,000.
Kimmitt said the continued attacks on the infrastructure are disheartening to coalition officials. He said the terrorist attacks on electrical plants, power pylons and the oil infrastructure show the terrorists are making direct attacks on the Iraqi people.
"It is not the multinational forces that will suffer if the fuel stops, the electricity dims or if there are mile-long gas lines," Kimmitt said. "These are clearly attacks on the Iraqi people. It's the longstanding policy that the terrorists try to intimidate, frustrate and isolate the people of Iraq. It's very important that the people of Iraq clearly understand what's going on here and they band together to clearly reject the terrorists."
Kimmitt and Senor said that initially there will be little difference in the coalition forces' mission after the return of sovereignty June 30. The Iraqi security forces cannot now defend their country, Kimmitt said. As the training continues and as the Iraqi forces become better equipped, then the missions will shift from coalition forces to Iraqi security forces, said he noted.
One aspect of the return to sovereignty is already in place: the consultations and discussions between the coalition and the Iraqi government. Kimmitt said the partnership between the coalition and the Iraqi government will deepen.
The general said that the coalition exit strategy from the country lies in developing "credible, capable Iraqi security forces capable of providing for the defense of their nation. That clearly is the best way, and the quickest way, to provide for the coalition forces to withdraw from Iraq."