Negotiating in Fallujah 'Worth a Try,' Leaders Say
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Apr. 27, 2004 Negotiating with Fallujans to try to defuse the situation in the Iraqi city is "worth a try," defense leaders said during a press conference today.
American Marines supported by Iraqi Civil Defense Corps personnel ring Fallujah. The Marines declared a unilateral cease-fire April 9 and representatives of the Iraqi Governing Council negotiated with Fallujan leaders to try to establish coalition control without fighting.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said Coalition Provisional Authority and coalition military leaders have closely monitored the talks. But this is not open-ended.
"If at some point the military decides that the string has run out, then they will tell us that and take appropriate action," Rumsfeld said. "At the present time, I think it's accurate to say that their conclusion is that they see sufficient prospects that it leads them to believe that this is a useful thing to be doing."
"It's worth a try," Joint Chiefs Chairman Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers said.
Rumsfeld said he believes that it's possible that the coalition and the Fallujan leaders can work something out. Coalition officials estimate that there are between 1,000 and 3,000 hard-core fighters in the city of about 300,000 people. Coalition officials said these fighters are remnants of the former regime's Republican Guard, intelligence services and Special Republican Guard. Foreign fighters also make up a significant part of the enemy forces.
Myers also addressed the idea that up-armored humvees do not provide enough protection to U.S. service members. According to Army sources, the reinforced vehicles include 200-pound steel-plated doors, steel plating under the cab and several layers of bonded, ballistic-resistant glass. The up-armored humvees provide protection from assault rifles, artillery airbursts and have front and rear anti-mine protection.
Myers said evidence shows the up-armored humvees do reduce injuries to service members hit by improvised explosive devices. But, he cautioned there is no vehicle including an M-1A1 tank that can entirely protect service members riding in it.
U.S. Central Command requested more up-armored humvees, and the Army ramped up production from 220 to 300 per month. Overall, CENTCOM wants 4,402 up-armored humvees in Iraq by the end of September 2004 and is on the way to making that goal.
The Army will continue buying the vehicles at the present rate through March 2005.