Military Force May Be Next Option In Fallujah, Myers Says
By Sgt. 1st Class Doug Sample, USA
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, April 16, 2004 Further military action may be necessary in the city of Fallujah, where despite a cease-fire and strained negotiations, insurgents still are shooting at Marines, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said during an April 15 news conference in Baghdad.
Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, in Baghdad to meet with coalition military commanders, told reporters that although discussions in Fallujah are ongoing, "I think we have to be prepared and prepare ourselves that there may be further military action."
He said that negotiations in the city are ongoing. "We'll have to see how they play out. They can't go on, I don't think in my mind as a military man, forever," he said. "At some point, somebody has to make a decision on what we're going to do, and we certainly can't rule out the use of force there, again, depending on how the negotiations go."
The general also assured reporters there is "sufficient military force" to deal with both the situation in Fallujah and resistance in the south around Najaf. "That is not the issue, and we will deal with it," he said.
Myers, who was joined at the briefing by the Comined Joint Task Force 7 commander, Army Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez, said Marines in Fallujah are obeying the cease-fire, but are being fired upon.
"They can return fire in self-defense, which they do, but they're trying their best to follow the rules of the cease-fire," he emphasized.
The focus in Fallujah has been on radical Shiia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who is wanted by Iraqi authorities and who Myers said is trying to disrupt the stability in the city. "And if they have to kill innocent Iraqi men, women and children, they'll do that," he said. "Certainly they'll attack the coalition; they'll do other things that extremists and terrorists do. And it just can't be permitted," he said.
He said the U.S., coalition and Iraqi forces are committed to ending the attacks by Sadr's "militia and thugs" as well as by holdouts of Saddam Hussein's regime and foreign fighters. Myers pointed out that nobody wants Sadr brought to justice more than the Iraqi Governing Council and other Iraqi authorities.
"This was not a Shiia uprising," Myers said. "Sadr is a marginalized figure, and he's being marginalized more and more every day by his own actions. When the Iraqi people know the story, the full story of how he used his militia to kill Iraqis, I think they'll understand."
In an effort to tell the "full story," Sanchez said his forces are trying to communicate with the Iraqi people that this is "not about the coalition forces against the Iraqi people" and those responsible for the violence are attacking the democratic institutions of the country.
"They're attacking the religious, the political and the security structures of this country in an effort to take it back towards an oppressive era," Sanchez said. "We're communicating that to the people."
Myers also spoke on the issue of troop rotation in Iraq, after news that some 20,000 troops will be held over in the theater for as much as three months. He told reporters that he will rely on his military commanders on the ground to make that determination, and emphasized the decision will be dictated by the security situation in Iraq.
"The duration for that additional capability to be here in Iraq is to be determined," he said. "It will depend on events here on the ground. But I think what it shows is our resolve to see this situation through."
He said the Pentagon is looking at the next two rotations of forces into Iraq and Afghanistan, and is wrestling with how to rotate forces in and out of those theaters.
Meanwhile, Sanchez pointed out that the Pentagon never dissuaded him from asking for additional troops if needed.
"When we have needed those forces, we have asked for them in that time frame, and we have received the support that was necessary for us to execute our mission here on the ground," he said.