Iraqis Must Step Forward in Anbar Province, General Says
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
CAMP FALLUJAH, Iraq, Aug. 13, 2006 The Iraqi people must step forward and accept their freely elected government if there is to be peace in the country’s troubled Anbar province, the coalition’s commander in the region said here today.
Marine Maj. Gen. Richard C. Zilmer met with reporters traveling with Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Marine Gen. Peter Pace.
Zilmer said relations between the coalition and the province’s population, as well as the security climate in former hot spots such as Fallujah and Qaim, have improved. But though these “atmospherics” have changed for the better, big problems do remain, and it is up to the Iraqis to solve them, he said.
Roughly the size of North Carolina, Anbar is the largest province by area in Iraq and is home for between 1.3 million and 1.4 million people, mostly gathered in the Euphrates River valley. The largest city and provincial capital – and his command’s biggest challenge -- is Ramadi, Zilmer said.
Insurgents have a major presence there, he explained, and coalition and Iraqi forces are moving into parts of Ramadi where they didn’t in the past. They have freed hospitals and the province’s university from being staging areas for terrorists, and Zilmer said the operations will expand.
The general said he sees “dramatic improvements” in the Iraqi army. Two Iraqi divisions are in the region – the 1st and the 7th. Results from coalition military transition teams and coalition units partnering with Iraqi battalions, brigades and divisions “have been very positive,” Zilmer said.
But the same is not yet true of the police, the general noted. “At the end of the day, the ability of the police to provide for the local security of the province will be critical to the success of Anbar,” he added.
Part of the problem in Anbar is a difficult relationship between Iraqi officials in Baghdad and provincial officials in Ramadi, Zilmer said, and his command is working to help bridge the gap that exists between the national and provincial governments.
Zilmer said he has the troops he needs to provide security and train the Iraqi security forces, but that ultimate success or failure in the region is a matter for the Iraqis.
“There will not be a coalition victory against the insurgents,” he said. “That is a problem for the national security forces and the national government. We cannot win the insurgency. What I can do is provide the conditions for them to be successful, and I have the troops I need to do that.”