Resistance Elements 'Brought to Their Knees,' Odierno Says
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jan. 22, 2004 Former regime elements have been "brought to their knees" in the 4th Infantry Division area of Iraq, the division commander said in a news conference today.
Speaking with Pentagon reporters here in a video conference from Tikrit, Iraq, Army Maj. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno said capture of Saddam Hussein was a major defeat for the enemy. The most important result of the capture, he added, was the increase in intelligence coming from Iraqis on anti-coalition activities.
The general said attacks on the coalition are down, and the intensity is less than last month. The intelligence allows division soldiers to conduct precise raids "to kill or capture financiers, (improvised explosive device)-makers and mid-level leaders of the former regime. These groups are still a threat -- but a fractured, sporadic threat with the leadership destabilized, finances interdicted and no hope of the Baathists' return to power."
Odierno said that while the overall numbers of attacks are declining, the percentage of those aimed at Iraqi civilians and Iraqi security forces has risen. He said this is having a backlash against the former regime forces, and even Sunni Iraqis those most likely to support the former regime are showing signs of frustration. "I believe the Iraqis feel 'Why are they doing this?'" he said. "They are getting very frustrated with many of these attacks where a lot of civilians young children are being killed."
The division has set up joint operations centers in all the major cities in the area, and coalition personnel and Iraqi Civil Defense Corps personnel and police are working to gather intelligence and conduct raids. In his area of operations alone, the coalition has recruited 5,000 members of the ICDC, 18,000 Iraqi police and 2,000 Border Police. "These forces are conducting joint patrols with coalition forces as well as independent operations to defeat anti- coalition elements," Ordierno said.
Odierno said that as anti-coalition forces become more desperate, he expects a change in tactics. He said suicide bombers could become more of a problem in the future, and that foreign fighters are trying to organize in Iraq.
He also said the threat is changing. "I think the threat is moving to a somewhat nationalistic threat, and away from a former regime threat. There's still some reorganization going on as a result of how much we fractured them in the last 60 to 90 days. Not sure how many (enemy) are out there, but I do know the attacks have decreased significantly.
"It's clear they have financial problems," he continued. "What they are trying to do now is attacks that are criminally related, or (they) are trying to forge their way to establish their place in the future government."
The coalition continues to emphasize civil-military projects. Ordierno said that over 10 months, the division has completed nearly 2,000 improvement projects costing $41 million, with another 700 projects worth $42 million in progress. Soldiers have refurbished about 600 schools, 70 mosques, and 75 medical facilities. They also have improved 500 miles of roads, and built soccer fields and youth centers.
The 4th Infantry Division is readying a transition of the area's mission to the 1st Infantry Division. The division's area of operations includes the so-called "Sunni Triangle," the region west and north of Baghdad, which has seen the most attacks against the coalition.
Odierno said the two divisions' staffs already are working together, and he anticipates a "seamless" transition. He said he expects no drop-off in operational effectiveness, but added it will take time for 1st Infantry Division leaders to develop the personal relationships with Iraqis that are so crucial to progress in the region.