Western Iraq Insurgents in Disarray, Says 82nd Commander
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, March 10, 2004 Anti-coalition forces in western Iraq are "pretty much in disarray," Army Maj. Gen. Charles H. Swannack Jr., commander of the U.S. 82nd Airborne Division, told journalists today during a Baghdad press conference.
Deployed to Iraq since September, Swannack's Task Force All-American patrols the Anbar province in western Iraq, which includes the cities of Fallujah and Ramadi. All of his 18,000-member force is slated to complete re-deployment back to Fort Bragg, N.C., sometime in May, and will be relieved by 24,000 Marines.
"Systematically, we have captured or killed the individuals directing the insurgency (in western Iraq)," Swannack said. The Jan. 11 capture of former Baath Party senior official Khamis Sirhan al-Muhammand near Ramadi, he noted, greatly assisted U.S.-coalition and Iraqi efforts to pacify western Iraq.
Swannack said his command continues to hunt down remnant Saddam Hussein regime followers and foreign terrorists "trying to create and sustain this insurgency."
Today in western Iraq, that insurgency is "very minimal," the general said. "Attacks on coalition forces out there are down," he noted. "Serious injuries and fatalities are down this month."
Consequently, Swannack said, he doesn't "see much substance occurring in terms of the insurgency. So, that's why I say it's in disarray."
Swannack noted his command had averaged just 20 telephone calls each week in October from Iraqis willing to help the coalition rid their country of former Saddam regime diehards and other terrorists. "Now, we're averaging over 300 tips per week" from local Iraqis, he said.
The general did say he was concerned about terrorists gaining a foothold near Iraq's borders.
"We do still work very hard to secure the borders with Syria, Jordan and Saudi Arabia," the two-star general stated. "We still need some equipment and means to do that better, even though we stood up the (Iraqi) border police. And I believe right now our biggest fight is in regards to disallowing terrorist organizations to get established out there in the west."
Swannack praised the efforts of his troops, coalition forces, and Iraqi security forces. He also expressed his condolences for the supreme sacrifices of those who gave their lives in Iraq.
"Democracy and freedom has never been cheap," he said.
Obstructionists of a democratic Iraq, Swannack noted, need to realize that the winds of change are wafting across the country.
"Those fighting against the Iraqi people and (the) coalition need to listen, need to pay attention and understand that the Iraqi people want freedom, they want prosperity, and they want democracy."
U.S., coalition, and Iraqi security forces "will not allow this progress toward democracy to stop," Swannack vowed.