Some Iraqi Cities Not Ready for Local Control, Kimmitt Says
By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Feb. 16, 2004 Places in Iraq like Fallujah are not ready for local control, and U.S.-led coalition forces will not leave an area that's not secure, Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt said today during a briefing in Baghdad.
Fallujah is where gunmen conducted a well-organized guerrilla-style attack on the local jail Feb. 14, killing about 25 people, mostly police, and wounding more than 30. The attackers freed dozens of prisoners at the police station.
"There's no timeline for local control," said Kimmitt, deputy director of operations, Combined Joint Task Force 7. "In fact, places like Fallujah are not ready for local control."
Each city's situation will determine when coalition forces move to the outskirts of the city, allowing Iraqi security forces to take responsibility, Kimmitt noted. "When the conditions in the city are right, the level of insecurity is down to a certain level, and Iraqi security forces are ready, then the coalition forces will make that determination," he said.
Pointing out that a clock or a calendar doesn't make the determination for local control, Kimmitt emphasized, "It's made by conditions."
In contrast to the hotbed of anti-coalition activity in Fallujah, Kimmitt said, about 90 percent of the country doesn't experience daily incidents, terrorist acts or shots fired. He said those are the areas that will be considered first for implementing local control.
"It's tragic what happened at the Iraqi police station in Fallujah, and we feel for all the families who have lost loved ones in that attack," the general said.
Kimmitt said the Iraqi forces were competent, but were pinned down initially during the attack. But they came back very quickly, he said, and killed and wounded quite a few of the enemy.
"It's important to understand that the entire operation conducted against the Iraqi police station took only 15 minutes," senior coalition spokesman Dan Senor noted. "This was a very well-trained unit that came in and did their business and got out very quickly."
Senor said the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps was pinned down at first. "By the time they were able to reestablish control of their own area and go over and reinforce the (Iraqi Police Service), the attackers had gone," he said.
Senor said most of the prisoners released in the raid were common criminals, and that's why there were being kept in the local jail. But he noted that four prisoners were being kept in the Fallujah jail who had been picked up in connection with an attack on an ICDC bus the week before.
"Our first reports indicate that those were the target prisoners they were trying to release," Kimmitt said.
The coalition called the mayor of Fallujah in for questioning about the incident. Kimmitt said he doesn't know if the mayor is in coalition custody. "If those questions lead to his innocence, I suspect that he will be released," the general said. "If those questions lead to coalition forces to suspect that he may somehow have been involved in the loss of life of 25 Iraqi police service members inside the town of Fallujah, I suspect we're going to be holding him for quite some time."
Kimmitt gave high marks to the ICDC's performance in the deadly raid. "We were very pleased with the way the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps unit inside Fallujah responded, and they were pleased with the way they responded," he noted. "No assistance was asked for and no assistance rendered."
Kimmitt said the investigation is trying to determine if the attackers had inside connections that cut communications lines. "We've taken some people in Fallujah into custody for interrogation as part of this investigation," he said.
Some initial reports that said some of the attackers who were killed or captured were foreigners. But Kimmitt said reports received by the coalition indicate that they were all Iraqi citizens. "That may turn out not to be the case after the investigation," he said, but right now the sensing of the commander on the ground was that these were all Iraqi citizens.
Kimmitt was handed a message during the briefing that said an improvised explosive device exploded at a school in central Baghdad today at about 2 p.m. local time (6 a.m. EST). Initial reports indicate that two civilians were killed and three were wounded.
"We also understand that when we sent an explosive ordnance team to assist, a second IED was found undetonated nearby," he said. "The coalition explosive ordnance team successfully defused and removed the second device."
A church-affiliated group was ambushed Feb. 14, Kimmitt said. One American citizen was killed, and two were wounded. The wounded were taken to the 31st Combat Hospital in Baghdad, where they were treated and released, Kimmitt said.