September 23rd, 2006 03:47 EST
Iraq's Insurgency Must Be Overcome by More than Military Power
Washington – The commander of multinational forces in Baghdad, Iraq, says the insurgency and sectarian violence in the Iraqi capital city cannot be quelled solely by military means.
Army Major General James Thurman told Pentagon reporters via videoconference September 22 that political and economic factors are also critical to the effort to restore security in Baghdad.
With the Iraqi Council of Representatives back in session, he said, “we’re optimistic that the government will move forward to deal with the militias and provide the unified support that the Iraqi forces require, and [that] set those conditions for economic improvement.”
Enemies of democracy in Iraq are determined to disrupt the government, Thurman said, yet Iraqi government officials continue to strive to meet security needs and work through what he called the “tough issues.” He said the new Iraqi defense minister is committed to and is working hard to meet current security requirements and the coalition forces are assisting him in that endeavor.
Thurman said private militias are a likely source of the killings and kidnappings that plague the city since they “are operating outside the rule of law” and demonstrating contempt for that concept. It is a problem the Iraqi government must deal with immediately, he said.
No one in Iraq is exempt from the rule of law, he added, and any individuals who commit violence against Iraqis, who are found responsible for death squad activities, who attack coalition forces, or plant bombs will be arrested.
OPERATION TOGETHER FORWARD PHASE TWO
Thurman also talked about the second phase of Operation Together Forward that is focusing on the removal of death squads and terrorist cells in specific Baghdad neighborhoods identified by the Iraqi government in August. (See related article.)
This operation -- designed to search for contraband, illegal weapons and evidence of terrorist activity, clear away illegal weapons and secure neighborhoods so that essential services can be restored -- has dictated the shifting of more coalition and Iraqi security forces from other missions. “Our operations recently moved to east Baghdad,” Thurman said.
As various neighborhoods are swept and secured, he said, the level of sectarian violence tends to decrease while the number of attacks against coalition and Iraqi forces rises. This is occurring, Thurman said, because the anti-Iraqi forces are being challenged “where they live and operate.”
When security forces enter violent hotspots in Baghdad, along what he described as Shi’ite and Sunni fault lines, the number of neighborhood murders usually drops by 50 percent.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine General Peter Pace also commented on Iraq during a town hall meeting with military and civilian employees at the Defense Department on September 22. He said the future of Iraq lies with the Iraqis themselves.
He also said there are signs that some of the tribal leaders are becoming “fed up” with the ongoing violence.
If the tribal leaders band together and work collectively with the central government toward a peaceful solution, Pace said, progress would be achieved. As he has said previously, the warring factions have to decide if a future for their children is more important than old hateful grudges.
Pace told reporters on Capitol Hill September 21 that the main strategy in Iraq now is to reduce the sectarian violence in Baghdad.
Once security and unity are achieved, Thurman said, the Iraqis can move forward and set about turning back “30 years of neglect.”
For more information, see Iraq Update.
A transcript of Thurman’s briefing is available on the Department of Defense Web site.
(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)
By Jacquelyn S. Porth
Washington File Security Affairs Writer