Negotiations Continue As Marines Take Fire Around Fallujah
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, April 12, 2004 Coalition Provisional Authority and Iraqi officials are continuing negotiations with insurgents in Fallujah and southern Iraq, CPA officials said in Baghdad today.
Fighting across Iraq has caused about 70 U.S. and coalition combat deaths since April 1, Army Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt told reporters at a Baghdad news conference. The general estimated enemy casualties to be "10 times" over coalition forces' losses during that period.
At present, Kimmitt added, "there's no reliable figure" on the number of civilian casualties incurred during the Fallujah fighting. Kimmitt is deputy operations director for Combined Joint Task Force 7.
U.S. Marines deployed around Fallujah are taking a watch-and-wait attitude during the cease-fire, Kimmitt said, while enemy forces in the area continue to snipe at the Marines.
Kimmitt said the coalition's cease-fire should not be construed as an indication that enemy resistance in Fallujah has eroded the Marines' will and ability to fight. "With regards to the question whether the Marines have stopped fighting because they've run out of fight, I can tell you that there is nothing further from the truth," the general emphasized. "The fact is that the Marines are ready, on order, to continue the operations to complete the destruction of enemy forces in Fallujah."
The Marines, he added, are "more than capable, they are more than equipped, they are more than armed" to do the job.
U.S., coalition and Iraqi officials, Kimmitt explained, are "working a political track to achieve the ultimate end-state, which is to restore legitimate Iraqi control" of Fallujah.
A reporter noted Baathist insurgents in Baghdad are distributing leaflets warning Iraqis not to support U.S. and coalition efforts. That, Kimmitt observed, is "just another tactic on the part of the enemy to try to cow the population into relenting on their deep aspiration to move toward sovereignty and democracy and individual rights."
Insurgent elements in Iraq, Kimmitt emphasized, will "use any tactic they can - - whether it's combat, whether it's intimidation, whether it's terrorism -- to try to derail the process."
He said coalition and Iraqi security forces "remain resolved to attacking these elements, defeating these elements, killing these elements, and moving forward."
Insurgents in Iraq "are trying to use mob violence to determine who will have power in Iraq rather than relying on elections," said CPA senior spokesman Dan Senor, who accompanied Kimmitt at the briefing.
Insurgents who killed and debased four U.S. contractors in Fallujah, plus other disruptive elements such as outlaw Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's militia, represent a societal "poison" left over from decades of dictatorial rule in Iraq, Senor pointed out.
It is "critical," Senor said, to confront insurgent elements in Iraq "now, rather than after" the slated June 30 handover of sovereignty to an Iraqi government. Otherwise, "the task will only become more difficult down the road," he concluded.