As Threats in Baghdad Shift, Coalition Shifts

By Jim Garamone

March 18, 2004 – As the threats shift in Baghdad, coalition forces are shifting to counter them, said Army Maj. Gen. Martin Dempsey during a press conference today in Baghdad.

Dempsey commands the 1st Armored Division, which has control of the capital city. He said the Iraqi security forces are playing a greater role in the defense of their own territory.

The coalition forces in Baghdad have launched Operation Iron Promise, which Dempsey said is designed to counter the new threats he has seen in the capital over the last few months, indicating linkage between international terrorism and Iraqi extremism.

"In other words," he said, "there remains a domestic problem, but it’s also taken on a characterization of international terrorism."

The soldiers of the division, working with Iraqi security forces, are attacking the source of the threats. In just one brigade’s area, Dempsey said, the division had 22 individuals with these links. "Of those 22 targets that we identified, we captured 16 of them in the past 24 hours," he said.

The raids are small, precise operations designed to create the least disturbance. "We’re fairly confident that of those targets we captured, we will be able to now exploit the intelligence we gain and make our way into this linkage that I’m describing," he said.

The international component of the threat in Iraq, the general said, is personified by a raid the 1st Armored carried out in Abu Ghuraib. The soldiers captured a Jordanian about to set up an ambush on Iraqi police, Dempsey said. He was affiliated with fugitive terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

In another incident, domestic terrorists were affiliated with extremist religious elements. "We continue to work the intelligence to determine how they work together, and they clearly do work together," Dempsey said.

Dempsey said terrorism won’t go away if the United States simply stops trying to combat it. "The terrorists have a view of the world that is far different from ours," he said.

"If you want the future of your region to be one where you remain in approximately the 7th century, where computers are banned, satellite television is banned, (and) the role of women is completely denied, then I suppose when sovereignty is restored to Iraq you may cast your vote in that direction," he said. "But I happen to believe in my heart that the majority of the Iraqi people will vote quite the contrary to that."

The Iraqi security forces are taking over more and more of the mission in Baghdad, Dempsey said. On the police side, the goal is for 19,000 Iraqi police in the city. There are currently 10,000 with another 2,000 in training. Six battalions of the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps are in the city and they are being trained and equipped. "They’re trained up through the platoon level," Dempsey said. "Within about the next month they’ll be trained fully at the company level."

The new Iraqi army also is starting to come on line. "We mentor an Iraqi army battalion up in Taji," the general said. "By July there will be two additional battalions up there, for a total of three."

While training is important, the general said, the coalition units must work together. "We have to get to the point here where the Civil Defense Corps and the police are comfortable working the streets of Baghdad together, and the (Iraqi) army in support of that as necessary," he said.