Top Marine in Iraq says his mission is not to defeat the insurgency

September 12th, 2006  
Team Infidel

Topic: Top Marine in Iraq says his mission is not to defeat the insurgency

Media: The Associated Press
Date: 12 September 2006

WASHINGTON_The senior commander of U.S. forces in western Iraq said Tuesday
that if his mission changed from training Iraqi security forces to defeating
the insurgency then he probably would need more U.S. troops.

For now, Marine Maj. Gen. Richard C. Zilmer told reporters in a telephone
interview from his headquarters in Fallujah, he has enough troops to do the
training mission. In the long run it will require greater progress toward
political reconciliation among rival Sunni and Shiite sects before the
insurgency is undermined, he said.

"I've got the force levels I need right now," Zilmer said. "My mission out
here, along with the rest of the force, is to develop the ISF (Iraqi
security forces), and I think we have the appropriate force levels to do
that. Now, if that mission statement changes _ if there is seen a larger
role for coalition forces out here to win that insurgency fight _ then that
is going to change the metrics of what we need out here."

The interview with Zilmer was hastily arranged by Pentagon officials in
response to a series of news reports about a classified report by the chief
of intelligence for the Marines in western Anbar province, a volatile,
predominantly Sunni Muslim region.

Zilmer said he agreed with the assessment in that report, by Col. Pete
Devlin, who works for Zilmer, and he did not dispute news reports that
characterized it as depicting Anbar as locked in a military stalemate with
inadequate political progress.

The classified report was first reported by the Washington Post.

The New York Times reported Tuesday that the Devlin report concluded that
the political and security situation in Anbar will continue to deteriorate
unless it gets a major infusion of aid and substantially more U.S. troops.

Zilmer would not discuss specifics of the Devlin report. But he said he did
not want more U.S. troops so long as his mission did not include defeating
the insurgency, which in Anbar, according to him, is dominated by Iraqis
affiliated with the al-Qaida in Iraq group.

The Devlin assessment was made in mid-August.

Before his hastily arranged telephone interview, Zilmer issued a written and
a video statement.

"Recent media reports fail to accurately capture the entirety and complexity
of the current situation," Zilmer said in his written statement.

He added that the assessment "which has been referred to in these reports,
was intended to focus on the causes of the insurgency. It was not intended
to address the positive effects Coalition and Iraqi forces have achieved on
the security environment over the past years."

Zilmer acknowledged, however, that "there is an active insurgency in Anbar.
The enemy we face has no concern for the welfare of the Iraqi people, nor
any peaceful vision for their future. We believe the Iraqi people want
something more and are willing to fight and die for it."

There are about 30,000 U.S. forces in Anbar, which also includes restive
cities such as Ramadi and Haditha and borders countries which such as Jordan
and Syria which have in the past served as infiltration points for foreign

Zilmer said that although progress has been made in recruiting Iraqi police
and army, he said that political and economic progress in the province was
"much more challenging."

"In areas where the presence of Iraqi Security Forces is combined with an
effective local civil government, we have seen progress made. Not just in
the area of security, but in economic development and the establishment of
social order and public services," he said.

But such conditions are few and far between in Anbar, where the U.S.
military often mounts operations to root out insurgents in Ramadi, the
province's capital.

Anbar is a mostly desert province with few natural resources, making any
form of economic growth difficult without help from an often reluctant
government in Baghdad.

"For lasting progress to take place, comparably effective advances must be
made in the development of governmental and economic institutions at the
local, provincial and national levels. Only then, will the people of Al
Anbar be able to realize their goal of long-term security, prosperity and
confidence in their government," Zilmer said.

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