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Enemy Attacks Drop 70 Percent Since Iron Hammer's Start

By John D. Banusiewicz
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 20, 2003 – Enemy attacks against the coalition in and around Baghdad have dropped by 70 percent since Operation Iron Hammer began Nov. 12, the commander of the 1st Armored Division said today.

Army Brig. Gen. Martin E. Dempsey told reporters in Baghdad and the Pentagon press corps here by video teleconference that information gathered over several weeks -- mainly from Iraqi citizens -- and pattern analysis of enemy actions have combined to make Iron Hammer "an intelligence-based, precise combat operation."

The general said Iron Hammer is a joint operation involving the Army, the Air Force and the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps and police. "Fundamentally, we want to communicate to the enemy the high cost of continuing to resist, as well as to assure the good citizens of Baghdad of our resolve," Dempsey said. The operation involves cyclical processes that comprise three phases, he said.

Dempsey explained that gathering and fighting for intelligence is the first phase. Next comes "force-oriented reconnaissance," he said, followed by attacks. He noted the distinction between reconnaissance in general and the force-oriented reconnaissance that makes up the second phase of Iron Hammer operations.

"I make that distinction because reconnaissance can be aimed at terrain and other things as well," he said. "But in this case, we're looking for those individuals who are fighting us. And then we will attack again, based on that intelligence, as well as exploiting the intelligence that we've gained in the earlier phases.

"Each phase is event-driven, not time-driven," the general continued. "And so we'll base our decision on when to move from phase to phase based on our determination that we've got what we want out of that phase."

Of Baghdad's 88 neighborhoods, the general said, six to eight are "less secure than we want them to be." Ethnic, religious, tribal and economic differences among those neighborhoods prevent the use of a single set of steps in approaching the security problems from neighborhood to neighborhood, he added.

"Each neighborhood requires a degree of determination and a degree of patience and a degree of precision in order to make sure that the outcome is what we want it to be, which is a safe and secure environment," Dempsey said.

One operation challenges, he said, is trying to get at enemies who attack coalition forces with mortars and rockets. He called them unsophisticated "hit- and-run attackers" who often operate from trucks that allow rapid escape, or set up their rockets on a timer, laid up against the side of a berm or on a roof's rain gutter, so the attackers are out of the area when their attack actually takes place.

Still, with more and more human intelligence -- mainly from Iraqis - Iron Hammer is succeeding in identifying and defeating the cells of resistance responsible for most of the attacks against coalition and Iraqi targets, Dempsey said.

He showed reporters a videotape taken from an Army AH-64 Apache helicopter. The crew witnessed a rocket attack and tracked the truck from which it was launched, watching as it stopped at several places and waiting until it was in a part of the city where attacking it would not put the citizens of Baghdad at risk, Dempsey said. At that point, when the truck was at the attackers' safe house where the attackers met some comrades, the Apache engaged it, killing two insurgents and wounding three others. Eight were captured.

Dempsey said that while the specific tactics of the anti-coalition attackers do not seem to be organized or directed by any central command, evidence does indicate some sort of coordinated supply and financial support.

Dempsey emphasized that nothing in Operation Iron Hammer is done as a "show of force"; every target is chosen for a reason, he said. As an example, he cited the destruction of an abandoned dye factory that was attacked twice from the air, even though it was widely known as a useless building. Though it was nothing more than a frame, Dempsey said it had been used "on countless occasions" as a sanctuary for attacks against the coalition, and he explained why the building was attacked twice.

"Well, if you shot a target like that once -- the enemy's a pretty cagey fellow. He probably says, 'Well, they're done for tonight, aren't they?' And so you fly away. He comes over. Next thing you know, you're getting shot at again from the same building," Dempsey said. "We went back and shot it again. What I want to make sure the enemy knows is that there is no sanctuary in Baghdad."

Dempsey said success in bringing safety and security to all of Baghdad requires that the city's citizens have trust and confidence in the coalition's sincerity. He noted closure during Iron Hammer of $1.4 million in programs to restore infrastructure to the University of Baghdad, and a meeting the coalition organized that brought together 500 Iraqi farmers to form a cooperative group that will give them a voice when the new Iraqi government takes over.

"If I can get the trust and confidence of the people of Baghdad that I am here for the reason they say I'm here to provide a safe and secure environment so they can establish governance and move into the future then God bless us all," Dempsey said. "And that's what I'm looking for."

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