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23 April 2003

Coalition Ground Forces Working to Get Iraqi Utilities to Function

(U.S. general details coalition ground force's efforts in Iraq) (710)
By David Anthony Denny
Washington File Staff Writer


Washington -- Despite continuing combat operations in Iraq, U.S. and
coalition forces are moving rapidly to focus on civil-military affairs
and to restore basic services such as water and electricity to the
Iraqi people, according to the U.S.land component commander.

Speaking April 23 via telephone from Baghdad to reporters at the
Pentagon and in Kuwait city, Lieutenant General David McKiernan said
the tactical situation in Iraq today "is in a blurred transition
between combat operations and post-hostilities operations. We're still
fighting pockets of resistance throughout Iraq, and we're still
dealing with paramilitary forces.

"And we're still expanding the ground component battle space. ... But
rapidly we are transitioning to a focus on civil-military operations
and an effort to restore basic services to the Iraqi people that are
either at or better than their pre-war standards," he said.

McKiernan refuted the perception that there had been a pause in combat
operations, as was reported early in the campaign. "There never was a
day, there never was a moment when there was not continuous pressure
put on the regime of Saddam [Hussein] by one of [the coalition]
components: air, ground, maritime, Special Forces and so on," he said.

Ground forces will leave Iraq, McKiernan said, "when the mission is
complete. I won't decide." But when the mission is complete, "given
what the president decides, the secretary of defense decides and what
my boss decides, then we will remove forces," he added.

Asked to give details of remaining combat operations, McKiernan
categorized three types of threats: pockets of continued regime
resistance, for example, in the Tikrit area the evening of April 22;
activity by paramilitaries, many of them not Iraqis; and suicide
bombers.

Queried whether lootings of the Iraq central bank and antiquities
museum occurred for tactical reasons, McKiernan said the "fundamental
answer ... is that we had to fight our way into Baghdad. ... I can
tell you from being here that those lead formations, both Marine and
Army, that maneuvered into Baghdad, first of all were killing bad
guys, and secondly were protecting Iraqi people. And so if some of the
facilities became subject to looting over that period of time by
Iraqis, I will tell you that our priority was to fight the enemy and
to protect the Iraqi people."

Responding to the question of whether he had sufficient forces to work
with, McKiernan answered that "there aren't enough soldiers or Marines
to guard every street corner in Iraq, so there's some risk-taking in
some areas. ... But I am satisfied that I have enough forces on the
ground to execute the campaign very decisively to this point. And we
have the additional forces we need for Phase 4 flowing in now."

Asked whether it was true that some Mobile Exploitation Teams (MET)
tasked with searching for weapons of mass destruction (WMD) sites had
been taken off that assignment and reassigned, McKiernan said that no,
the MET under his command are still focused on WMD.

As to whether Iranian Shi'ites are trying to foment an uprising by
Iraqi Shi'ites, McKiernan said, "Right now the Shi'a and any
Iranian-influenced Shi'a actions are not an overt threat to coalition
forces, but we're watching all these competing interests. And if the
truth be known, there's probably a little bit of democracy in process
right now."

Asked about coordinating military operations with U.S. civilian
administrator Jay Garner's efforts to re-start civil administration in
Iraq, he said "The priorities that I've set for my formation has to do
with basic life-support services: turn the power on, get the water
pressure up, work medical care, work the transportation systems, and
get basic security and order back into the streets in all these urban
areas so that businesses can start to flourish again, so people can
come back to work. ... [Both civil and military elements] will work as
a team. ... And at some point the weight of effort shifts from
military to civil, and that's when I will partner up with [Garner] to
make that happen as quickly as we can."

(The Washington File is a product of the Office of International
Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site:
http://usinfo.state.gov)