By Sgt. Sara Wood, USA
WASHINGTON, Sept. 15, 2006 – The U.S. military's goal is to win the fight against insurgents in Anbar province and across Iraq, but leaders recognize that winning will take more than just military operations, a top U.S. general in Iraq said today. "We are fighting to win, but we understand that winning is a combination of a whole bunch of things in this insurgency we're fighting, and as I've indicated time and time again, this is different than any other fight I believe the United States of America has ever found itself in," Army Lt. Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli, commander of Multinational Corps Iraq, said in a news conference from Iraq. "And I, quite frankly, think that ... many of the characteristics of this fight will be characteristics of future fights if we get into them."
In a telephone interview with reporters earlier this week, Marine Maj. Gen. Richard Zilmer, commander of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, said the mission of the forces in Anbar province is primarily to train Iraqi security forces, and not to defeat the insurgents militarily. Zilmer was responding to media accounts about a classified report from Zilmer's senior intelligence officer, which reportedly gave a grim assessment on the political and security situation in Anbar.
Chiarelli said today that Zilmer's comments were accurate, in that military operations alone will not achieve victory in Anbar. Success there and throughout Iraq will depend on political and economic development and on the development of Iraqi security forces able to take responsibility for security in their own country, he said.
"I don't believe there is any military strategy alone, any kinetic operations that we can run alone, that will create the conditions for victory which we must have," Chiarelli said. "There are economic and political conditions that have to improve out at al Anbar, as they do everywhere in Iraq, for us to be successful."
Chiarelli stressed that the U.S. is not walking away from Anbar province and will do everything possible to end the violence in that region.
The level of U.S. forces in Anbar province is sufficient, especially given the conditions in Baghdad and the focused operations there, Chiarelli said. U.S. commanders on the ground agree that ending violence in Baghdad is the main U.S. effort right now, and forces in Iraq are aligned accordingly, he said.
"In military parlance we always weight our main effort, and that's what we're doing right now," Chiarelli said. "We're going to continue to do that till we get the conditions in Baghdad where they need to be."
The Baghdad security plan is making progress, Chiarelli said. Sectarian violence has decreased, and areas are already seeing economic development. Baghdad is a large city, and operations there will not be short-term, he said, but U.S. forces continue to work with Iraqi forces and political leaders to reduce violence and improve services and conditions for the Iraqi people.
"We're very, very pleased with what has occurred with the Baghdad security plan, and we look forward in the months ahead to seeing conditions in Baghdad continue to improve," he said.