Fallujah Standoff Can't Continue, CPA Official Says
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Apr. 16, 2004 The standoff between U.S. and coalition forces and insurgents at the Iraqi city of Fallujah can't continue much longer, the Coalition Provisional Authority's chief spokesman said today in Baghdad.
In Fallujah, about 35 miles west of Baghdad, "our Marines have been on the receiving end of shots and violence over the past week" since an April 9 cease- fire went into effect, Dan Senor told reporters at a news conference.
Baathist-regime supporters, foreign terrorists and other malcontents in and around Fallujah have been attacking since U.S. and coalition forces moved toward the city to subdue those responsible for the March 31 killing and debasement of four American contractors and the deaths of five soldiers killed by an improvised explosive device.
Insurgents in Fallujah appear "to be strengthening their defensive position," Senor pointed out, adding, "There's only so long that this situation can continue."
Senor said if the insurgents continue not to observe the cease-fire, the Marines may need to resume offensive operations. "We want to minimize bloodshed, He emphasized. "We want a peaceful resolution, but we can't do that at the expense of our Marines."
Elsewhere in Iraq, U.S. soldiers are deployed about 100 miles south of Baghdad around the city of Najaf to subdue militant Shiia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, wanted by the Iraqi government for the alleged murder of a fellow cleric last year.
Sadr, who repeatedly has called for U.S. and coalition forces to leave Iraq, controls a 3,000-to-6,000-member militia called the Mahdi army, which last week had forcibly taken over several Iraqi cities. Such militias are outlawed in Iraq, and several senior U.S. military officials have called for the destruction of the Mahda army.
Subsequent discussions to peacefully resolve the situations in Fallujah and Najaf, Senor noted, have yet to prove successful.
If discussions to peacefully resolve the Fallujah situation "don't bear fruit," Army Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt noted, then U.S. Marines are prepared to resume combat operations to defeat the insurgents. Kimmitt, who accompanied the briefing with Senor, is deputy operations director for Combined Joint Task Force 7.
The military situation across Iraq remains relatively quiet, Kimmitt noted. However, he pointed out that enemy forces continue to attack U.S. supply convoys along roads leading to and from Baghdad.
There appears "to be a concerted effort on the part of the enemy to try to interfere with our lines of communication (and) main supply routes," the general explained, noting the U.S. military has "alternative methods to get those supplies to our forces."
However, Kimmitt conceded that such enemy practices - if sustained over an extended period - could have an adverse effect on the Iraqi economy.
"Fewer supplies are going to be able to get to the people of Baghdad and the surrounding region," he noted, with the effect of raising prices. Kimmitt added that reconstruction projects critical to Iraqi economic development could be stalled.
Efforts to disrupt military supply lines "are clearly" aimed at the U.S. and coalition forces, Kimmitt observed. However, he said, such practices would actually "most harm the people of Iraq."