2003 June 20 Friday
Sergeants More Pessimistic Than Generals In Iraq

The Washington Post has an article by Daniel Williams and Rajiv Chandrasekaran entitled U.S. Troops Frustrated With Role In Iraq.

"The way it seemed is, once Iraqis got over being grateful for getting rid of Saddam, they found out quickly they don't want the Americans, either," said Sgt. Nestor Torres, a military policeman with the 3rd Infantry Division in the restive town of Fallujah, 35 miles west of Baghdad. "Everyone is blending in with everyone else, so you can't tell the friendly ones from the hostile."

Torres is a bodyguard for the division commander, Maj. Gen. Buford C. Blount III. "When I look around, I've got to wonder who wants to shoot my boss," Torres said.

Contrast the views of the various sergeants quoted in that article with those of Generals McKiernan and Odierno:

Army Lt. Gen. David McKiernan, commander of Coalition Joint Task Force Seven, has a more optimistic view of the progress in hunting down the remaining resistance in Iraq.

In the central part of Iraq, we have currently two what I would call hot spots that you're well aware of: one is to the west of Baghdad, out of the Fallujah-Ar Ramadi corridor. We have, over the last couple of weeks, moved forces from the 3rd Infantry Division into that area and are aggressively conducting patrols and raids and developing intelligence. And over the last few days, that area has quieted significantly. We're also continue (sic) to make contact with tribal sheiks and local interim governance to try to bring security to that area.

The other hot spot is north of Baghdad, and that's an area we call the peninsula, which is slightly northeast of the city of Balad, where we've been conducting an operation under Fifth Corps and the 4th Infantry Division over the last two or three days called Operation Peninsula Strike. And based on some confirmed intelligence, we've gone in and conducted some search and cordon operations and some raids, which we've detained over 400 Iraqis -- many of them, though, we've released in short order because they did not have any intelligence value, they just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. But we do have over 50 Iraqis that we still have in our hands that we are moving over to our confinement facility here in Baghdad, and we'll do some further interrogations on.


Q: Hi, General. Eric Westervelt, National Public Radio. Can you talk about the security situation in Fallujah? And has the deployment of the Spartan Brigade of the 3rd ID had any demonstrable impact on the security situation there? And what remains your biggest security challenges in that area?

McKiernan: Well, I think it has had a large impact. When you have presence of coalition forces in that size, I think it's going to have a very positive impact. Now, the difficulty with all these situations is, in many cases you have those that don't actually live in that area that will come in and use that as a base of operations or use it as an area to conduct attacks or snipings at coalition forces. So you have to be very careful and very methodical how you go through that area, to separate out the bad guys from those that are innocent and just live in that area. But I would tell you that the impact of that brigade combat team has been felt out in Fallujah. It's been fairly quiet the last couple of days. I would hesitate to predict it will stay that way forever, but it's been quiet for the last couple of days, and it's been a success.

Major General Ray Odierno, the commander of the 4th Infantry Division sees the Iraqi resistance as militarily insignificant.

Q: Martha Raddatz from ABC News. Could you give us more information on the resistance you're facing? You're saying you're facing almost daily contact with paramilitaries, Fedayeen Saddam. How big a problem is this? If you can quantify it in any way about how much resistance you're getting; how many more people are out there who you believe are resisting? And also, if you could give us more detail about these new groups -- I believe you said Snake Party and New Return -- how they formed, and how big they are and where they are?

Odierno: We are seeing military activity throughout our zone. But I really qualify it as militarily insignificant. They are very small, they are very random, they are very ineffective. I believe there's three groups out there right now. Basically, there is a group of ex-Saddam Ba'ath Party loyalists. In addition, there are some Islamic fundamentalists. And then there are just some plain Iraqis who are poor and are being paid to attack U.S. forces. All of these attacks are uncoordinated. They are very ineffective and, in my mind, really do not have much effect on U.S. forces.

And if you are -- on a daily basis, you will see that 99 percent of the area is free, clear, and the citizens go about every day, doing their business, without interruption.

Q: If I could, the military insignificance -- I believe 11 soldiers have been killed in the last three weeks. So clearly they're having a rather profound effect.

And also, you talk about them not being organized, and yet you say they're just plain Iraqis who are being paid. Who's paying them, if they're not organized?

Odierno: My guess is, they're being paid by ex-Ba'ath Party loyalists, who are paying people to kill Americans.

And I want to make sure -- first, I want to comment on the 11 individuals that have been killed. I will never downplay Americans being killed in combat. It is a very significant sacrifice, especially for their families. And that is significant to an individual's family, and I would never say anything different from that.

But from a military perspective, it is insignificant. They're having no impact on the way we conduct business on a day-to-day basis in Iraq.

Odierno says the Baath Party loyalists are attacking out of desperation because US forces are bringing so much pressure to bear on them.

Q: General, Jim Mannion from Agence France-Presse. These attacks appear to have escalated or increased in number just in the past few weeks. Is that associated in any way with the decision to ban the Ba'ath Party and to disband the Army? And is there a risk with these raids of increasing opposition to the U.S. forces?

Odierno: I have a little different view of it. I think the raids that we're conducting, we have put a lot of pressure on them, and I think they're feeling the pressure. And I think we're having a significant effect on their ability, which is causing them to come out and maybe increase their attacks even though they have been ineffective. So I think they're desperate. I think they're becoming less and less organized. The more money we seize, the more individuals we take into custody, we continue to really, I think, have an impact on the medium to senior level of the individuals that remain. So I think we are, in fact, having a significant impact on them. I think that's causing them, then, to come out and be a little more desperate in their attacks on U.S. forces.

The Baathists are having their money depleted by US military operations that capture their cash stores. Eventually this should lead to a reduction in attacks.

Whose assessment is more accurate? The NCOs down in the ground making the day-to-day operations happen? Or the generals who have data flowing up to them to give them the big picture?

Meanwhile, some of the Mullahs are doing what they can to stir up trouble.

''The Jews are buying real estate, homes, shops and agricultural fields, using fake names, to do to us what they did with Palestine,'' said the preacher at the Mother of All Battles Mosque in Baghdad, Thaer Ibrahim al-Shomari. ''Be careful, and don't rush to sell. The country is dear and the land is dear.''

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2003 June 20 05:35 PM  MidEast Iraq Military Needs

Bob said at June 20, 2003 6:04 PM:

Maybe they are both right. The generals see a situation where the opposition is no threat to the overall operation, and the sargeants operate in a situation where the opposition is a real threat to their own safety.

I doubt many of the 11 dead are generals.

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