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Baghdad Commander Optimistic, Details Operation Iron Grip

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 31, 2003 – The commander of U.S. troops in Baghdad, delivered an upbeat assessment today of the future in and around Iraq's capital city.

In a Baghdad press conference, Army Brig. Gen. Martin Dempsey, commander of the 1st Armored Division, said he is optimistic about the future of Iraq. "We have only one New Year's resolution. And that is, as the word suggests, to remain resolute in our work to establish a safe and secure environment for the Iraqi people," Dempsey said.

The general briefed reporters on Operation Iron Grip, the ongoing division effort against cells of Saddam Hussein regime loyalists. The primary targets are the former regime cell structure. Intelligence gleaned from Saddam's capture told the division that 14 cells operate in the city, linked by a financial and planning network. Operation Iron Grip is aimed at disrupting and ultimately destroying the cells and the network.

The division has captured 185 enemy personnel as part of Iron Grip. Dempsey said the roadside bomb or improvised explosive device is the weapon of choice for the cells. He called them psychological weapons and said they are meant to terrorize people, and that they pose as much danger to innocent civilians as to coalition soldiers. The general said he believes there is "an element of central planning, and central training, and central supplying" for improvised explosive devices. He added, though, that the number of attacks in Baghdad has dropped since Saddam's capture.

Intelligence efforts have helped the division stave off attacks, and tips from Iraqi citizens have allowed the division to cut into the plans of the cells. Dempsey said the former regime cells wanted to energize more than 100 men to conduct attacks throughout Baghdad on Christmas, for example. With the tip and subsequent operations only about 25 enemies actively participated in anti-coalition attacks. There were nine rocket-propelled grenade hit-and-run attacks "probably carried out by six to eight individuals organized into three or four teams," he said.

Dempsey said division soldiers work just as hard on other aspects of improving life in Baghdad, including fuel distribution, sewage, school renovations, and working with the Iraqi advisory councils to prepare them for self-government.

He said the division is becoming more sophisticated in assessing intelligence. He said specialists are able to compare and corroborate information. Documents, human intelligence, signal intelligence and other information are placed in databases, allowing operations specialists to access it. "(This) allows us to go into a deliberate and precise targeting process," the general said.

Dempsey said the division will not rest on its laurels. "We have a goal in the division to reinvent ourselves based on the common intelligence picture that we develop," he said. "One of the things that we learn is that when you decide that you've got it right, it's time to look to see what you probably should do differently."

He said operations in Iraq are very dynamic. The environment changes frequently. "We don't stay wedded to any tactic or technique," he said. "We constantly try to figure our what's next."

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