View Full Version : U.S. Hands Over Some Positions in Iraq

05-01-04, 06:03 AM
U.S. Hands Over Some Positions in Iraq


FALLUJAH, Iraq - Led by a former Saddam Hussein general, Iraqi troops replaced U.S. Marines on Friday and raised the Iraqi flag at the entrance to Fallujah under a plan to end the monthlong siege of the city. A suicide car bomb on the outskirts that killed two Americans and wounded six failed to disrupt the pullout of Marines from bitterly contested parts of the city.

The two deaths raised the U.S. death toll to 136 for April, adding to what already was the deadliest month for American forces since President Bush launched the war in March 2003. More Iraqis have died _ some 1,360 according to a count by The Associated Press _ than any month since Saddam's fall.

U.S. officials provided no further details on the bombing.

The shift of security responsibilities to Iraqis _ with U.S. forces pulling back from most of their positions inside the city _ was a move toward ending the intense fighting that had evoked strong international criticism and from America's Iraqi allies.

Negotiations also were taking place in the southern city of Najaf, where tribal leaders and police agreed to a three-day truce as part of a plan to resolve a standoff between soldiers and militiamen loyal to radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

A defiant al-Sadr said: "America is the enemy of Islam."

Elsewhere, Iraqi police Col. Ahmad al-Khazraji was shot to death Thursday night in Baghdad, the U.S. command said. The body of a Baghdad local official also was found hung with a sign on his chest that said "al-Mahdi Army business," a reference to al-Sadr's militia.

Convoys of U.S. troops and equipment could be seen heading out of parts of Fallujah, replaced by red-bereted Iraqi troopers from the new force due to control the city.

Residents said that by Friday evening, U.S. troops had left several neighborhoods that had been the scene of heavy fighting, including Nazzal, Shuhada, Nueimiyah and the industrial area. As U.S. Marines withdrew, Iraqi police and civil defense units moved in.

At the checkpoint at main eastern entrance to the city, the commander of the Iraqi force, Maj. Gen. Jassim Mohammed Saleh, shook hands with Col. John Tullin, commander of the 1st Marine Regiment, as Iraqi forces raised their own flag over the checkpoint.

"You are our dear friends," Saleh told Tullin.

Saleh _ a burly ex-member of Saddam's Republican Guard with a Saddam-style mustache _ arrived in the city to the cheers of some residents.

"Initially it appears that the transition to the Fallujah Protective Army is working," said Marine. Lt. Col. Brennan Byrne. "It's a delicate situation. The Fallujah Protective Army is the Iraqi solution we've all been looking for in this area."

Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, coalition deputy operations chief, insisted the Marines were not "withdrawing" from Fallujah, one of the most hostile cities in the tense Sunni Triangle, but were simply "repositioning."

Asked if the Marines were leaving, Kimmitt replied: "Nothing could be further from the truth." He said the Marines would maintain a strong presence "in and around Fallujah."

"The coalition objectives remain unchanged _ to eliminate armed groups, collect and positively control all heavy weapons, and turn over foreign fighters and disarm anti-Iraqi insurgents in Fallujah," Kimmitt said.

Nevertheless, the move appeared aimed at reducing the American profile at a time of growing opposition among Iraqis to the U.S.-led occupation.

The security plan also marked a shift in U.S. strategy, which had marginalized former members of Saddam's Baath Party and abolished the Iraqi army last year.

The commander of the new Fallujah brigade, Maj. Gen. Jassim Mohammed Saleh, once served in Saddam's Republican Guard. He arrived in the city Friday wearing his old uniform to the cheers of bystanders.

Under the plan, a force of 600 to 1,100 Iraqis, many of them former soldiers from the Fallujah area, would initially man checkpoints. Marines will remain on or near the city's perimeter and at a later stage conduct their own patrols inside the city, a Pentagon official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Gen. John Abizaid, chief of U.S. military operations in the Middle East, said the United States was sticking by most of the objectives it outlined when the Marines stormed Fallujah on April 5 _ mainly to seize men who killed and mutilated four American contractors.

However, Abizaid conceded the killers probably had fled the city. And he also seemed to considerably soften previous demands that the guerrillas hand over foreign fighters and heavy weapons to U.S. forces.

"Clearly, we will not tolerate the presence of foreign fighters," Abizaid said. "We will insist on the heavy weapons coming off the streets. We want the Marines to have freedom of maneuver along with the Iraqi security forces."

Foreign fighters, too, may have fled the city, a top U.S. military official in Baghdad said Thursday. Others question whether foreign fighters ever joined the battle in Fallujah, characterizing it instead as a homegrown uprising. And weapons coming "off the streets" appears to be a backing off previous demands to "turn over" arms to the Marines.

Abizaid said he does not need more American troops in Iraq, but he pointedly urged Muslim nations to send forces. He said about a dozen Iraqi security battalions that failed to perform in central and south-central Iraq are being retrained and thus unavailable for "any major challenges" until at least November.

Saleh, the Iraqi general running the new force, was checked out by the Marines and they had full confidence in his background, Kimmitt said.

A former general in the Iraqi army, Mohammed al-Askari, said Saleh served in the Republican Guards in the 1980s. He later commanded an Iraqi army division and headed the army's infantry forces.

Sheikh Dhafir al-Obeidi, delivering a Friday sermon at Fallujah mosque, didn't directly mention the peace deal, but called on Fallujah residents to "leave behind all differences and join hands."

In an apparent move to speed the Fallujah agreement, U.S. authorities Thursday released the imam of the city's main mosque, Sheik Jamal Shaker Nazzal, an outspoken opponent of the U.S. occupation who was arrested in October.

The chief of Fallujah's hospital, Rafie al-Issawi, said at least 731 Iraqis, many of them civilians, were killed since the siege began on April 5. Earlier figures were disputed by Iraq's health ministry and an exact toll was not known. At least 10 Marines died in the siege.

At least 738 U.S. troops have died in Iraq since the war began in March 2003. Up to 1,200 Iraqis also have been killed this month.

In Najaf, the truce emerged as negotiations continued to end the standoff with militiamen loyal to al-Sadr.

Ahmed Shaybani, a spokesman for al-Sadr, told The Associated Press that talks were under way between Najaf police and tribal leaders. He said a proposal emerged for al-Sadr followers to hand security to Najaf police and al-Sadr's Mahdi army to leave the city.

Shaybani said the proposal would be accepted if Americans agreed not to enter Najaf and did not act in a hostile way toward its holy sites. Al-Sadr would remain in the city.

Despite U.S. troops on the edge of Najaf with orders to kill or capture him, al-Sadr has gone freely back and forth to nearby Kufa every Friday for the noon prayers for the past three weeks.

Preaching at a mosque in nearby Kufa, al-Sadr did not soften his stance.

"Some people have asked me to tone down my words and to avoid escalation with the Americans," al-Sadr said. "My response is that I reject any appeasement with the occupation and I will not give up defending the rights of the believers. America is the enemy of Islam and Muslims and jihad is the path of my ancestors."

AP correspondents Katarina Kratovac and Jason Keyser in Fallujah, and Denis D. Gray and Scheherazade Faramarzi in Najaf contributed to this report.



05-01-04, 06:04 AM
Fallujah pullback opportunity, not necessarily agreement to end fight: Abizaid

WASHINGTON (AFP) - The withdrawal of marines from Fallujah is "an opportunity, not necessarily an agreement" to end fighting for the city, the commander of US forces in Iraq (news - web sites) said, warning that military action may still be needed to root out foreign fighters.

General John Abizaid said the United States will not tolerate foreign fighters in the city, and will insist on heavy weapons coming off the streets and on freedom of movement for marines and Iraqi security forces.

He said it should be understood that "what we have there is an opportunity, and not necessarily an agreement."

"The opportunity is to build an Iraqi security force from former elements of the army that will work under the command of coalition forces and that will be mentored and work next to coalition forces," he told Pentagon (news - web sites) reporters in a video teleconference from Qatar.

"And I think we must be very careful in thinking that this effort to build an Iraqi capacity will necessarily calm down the situation in Fallujah tonight or over the next several days," he said.

Abizaid said all military options remained "on the table."

"It may still be necessary to conduct very robust military operations in Fallujah. We hope we don't have to do that," he said.

The general, who heads the US Central Command, singled out the need to get rid of foreign fighters -- and in particular Abu Mussab Zarqawi, who he said had used Fallujah as a base of operations.

"This idea that there will be a safe haven for him (Zarqawi) is absolutely unacceptable. Nor will we or our Iraqi partners allow foreign fighters to freely roam the country and attack indiscriminately and use Iraqi civilians as shields from which to conduct military operations," he said.

He said even the best Iraqi forces would be unable to bring Zarqawi's fighters under control.

"So we will have to eliminate that enemy in a way that does not allow that force to challenge us throughout Iraq and other places at other times. No doubt some will infiltrate out, and some will find other means to escape," he said.

Strikingly, Abizaid made no specific mention of former members of the old regime's security apparatus who are believed to be leading the insurgency in the Sunni heartland, including Fallujah.

The omission suggested that commanders hope the new force led by a former Iraqi major general will neutralize Baathist insurgents.

The general said he did not know Major General Jassem Mohamed Saleh, who will lead the Iraq Protection Army, a new Iraqi security force that will take over positions inside the city from the marines.

Iraqis cheered and waved flags as Saleh entered the city Friday, as marines began their withdrawal from the city, pulling down barbed wire defenses from around the soda factory that had served as their headquarters in the city's southern industrial area.

"Yes, there is some room for optimism there," Abizaid said. "But the details of how we will build an Iraqi security capacity there will take some time. We need to have some patience."

"It is a possible breakthrough, but certainly the conditions that must be met are foremost on our minds, and that has to do with the restoring of law and order in Fallujah," he said.

Asked about the fate of those who killed four US contractors in the city March 31, setting off the confrontation, Abizaid said getting them was a "non-negotiable objective."

"Now, I think it would be a stretch for you to say they are in Fallujah. I can't tell you that, nor can anyone else," he added.



05-01-04, 06:05 AM
Former Iraqi brass pledges to guard Fallujah


FALLUJAH, Iraq ---- A dozen former Iraqi generals and intelligence officers met Friday with U.S. military leaders and pledged to lead a brigade of up to 1,000 Iraqi soldiers to replace the Marines fortifying this city's borders.

But U.S. military officials cautioned that the arrival of Iraqi forces in this embattled city does not necessarily mean peace. It was a warning made painfully clear when a suicide car bomb on the city's outskirts killed two Americans and wounded six.

The two deaths on the final day of April raised the U.S. death toll to 136, making it the deadliest month for American forces ---- as well as for Iraqis ---- since President Bush launched the war in March 2003.

Negotiations also were taking place in the southern city of Najaf, where tribal leaders and police agreed to a three-day truce as part of a plan to resolve a standoff between soldiers and militiamen loyal to radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

The shift of security responsibilities to Iraqis ---- with U.S. forces pulling back from most of their positions inside the city ---- was a move toward ending the intense fighting that has evoked strong international criticism.

Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, coalition deputy operations chief, insisted the Marines were not "withdrawing" from Fallujah, but were simply "repositioning." Asked if the Marines were leaving, Kimmitt replied, "Nothing could be further from the truth."

Choosing his words carefully while describing the new arrangement that other officials Friday called "delicate," Marine Col. John Toolan said Friday that the transition will take some time.

"I've been saying all along that this was all about leadership," Toolan said following a 30-minute meeting with former military leaders of deposed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. "And, finally, we've got someone stepping up."

That someone is Maj. Gen. Jassim Mohammed Saleh, who will lead the newly formed 1st Battalion of the Fallujah Protection Brigade.

Saleh said his brigade, which seemed to come out of nowhere during the course of the past week, is part of the "new army of Iraq."

"We are very happy (to) cooperate with the Marines and Army," he said.

After shaking Saleh's hand and telling him they would speak again soon, Toolan said the brief meeting was meant to confirm the Iraqis' commitment to taking over the cordon around Fallujah, which thousands of Marines shed blood to establish and fought hard to hold for nearly a month.

Toolan said he was confident in the generals and their forces, but he refused to say when the troops would be in the city or when the Marines would pull back, though some troops started packing Friday.

Even while the generals talked of today's operations and reporters bantered about the sudden outbreak of peace in Fallujah, fighting continued Friday along the city's troublesome northern and western regions along the Euphrates River.

Exploding mortars, probably the same 82 mm shells that insurgents have volleyed at Marines day after day, crashed to the ground where Marine patrols have ventured in the past week.

A 15-minute firefight raged near the old bridge over the Euphrates near where four American security contractors were slain March 31. Heavy machine guns ripped away furiously for so long that Marine gunners across the river commented that their barrels were probably melting.

And late Friday afternoon, mosques broadcast military marches advocating jihad and speakers called Fallujah the "city of heroes" for battling the Marines.

Marine leaders in the field urged their men not to let their guard down, even though it looked like they would soon be pulling back.

Toolan said the arrival of Iraqi forces does not guarantee peace.

"It still remains a concern that not all the cells operating in the city are buying into their effort," Toolan said of continued fighting Thursday afternoon and night.

He and other officials said there was still much talking to do before taking action.

According to a draft statement issued Friday by I Marine Expeditionary Force officials in Fallujah, the new Iraqi force will work with the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps and Iraqi police to replace the Marines at checkpoints and strategic points along the cordon around Fallujah.

"The mission of the battalion will be to assist in returning peace and stability to the city of Fallujah, facilitate the flow of support, and foster the rapid reconstruction and employment of citizens inside the city," the statement read.

The arrangement was touted as a "new model of cooperation" that recognized the "security of Al Anbar (province) will ultimately be an Iraqi responsibility. This will be an important step in the transition from Coalition to Iraqi authority."

While the sudden development of an Iraqi force to take over Fallujah may have surprised some on the ground, where Marines have said for weeks that they were ready and poised to crush the thousand or more insurgents dug in the city at all cost, there was a growing realization among Marines and their leaders that a victory in Fallujah would have to have an Iraqi face.

"The way I look at it, it had to happen this way," said Lt. Josh Jamison, the young leader of Fox Company's 2nd Platoon, the first infantry platoon to lose a Marine during the initial cordon April 5 and the first to fight its way into the city from the northwest April 6.

"We could have attacked them and killed them all ---- and, believe me, all my boys are still ready and capable of doing it," Jamison said Friday after being shown on a map the town some 10 miles from Fallujah where his 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment would soon pull back to. "And Fallujah would pretty much be in rubble. What would we have then?"

Security in Fallujah has to be something the Iraqis do for themselves, Jamison said, adding that the Marines would not be too far off if the new Iraqi forces needed help.

"This is really good because we're not really going anywhere," he said. "We're still right here. So if they mess it up or if the Iraqis need us, we're more than ready to come finish the job. I think the people of Fallujah believe that now."

Other troops occupying hard-won positions in the city at first seemed to treat the news that they might be pulling out in a matter of days with some natural skepticism. Plans change every day, they say; besides, insurgents were still shooting at them.

But by Friday evening, many seemed encouraged by the news.

"I still think we should push forward," said Lance Cpl. Ayron Kull, 20, of Niles, Mich., who was just coming off a shift monitoring the late-afternoon firefight in the city Friday.

"But maybe it's good. Let's give the Iraqis a chance. Maybe they can do it and we won't have to come back here and start all over again."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Staff writer Darrin Mortenson and photographer Hayne Palmour are reporting from Iraq; they are with the Marines from Camp Pendleton. Their stories and photos are collected at www.nctimes.com/military/iraq.



05-01-04, 06:07 AM
Dust abatement success for expeditionary airfields <br />
Submitted by: 3d Marine Aircraft Wing <br />
Story Identification Number: 20045155517 <br />
Story by Sgt. J.L. Zimmer III <br />
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AL ASAD, Iraq(May 1, 2004) --...

05-01-04, 06:10 AM
Marines Find Faith Amid the Fire
Four members of Echo Company are baptized on the battlefield in Fallouja -- at a school from which they've been fighting insurgents.

By Tony Perry, Times Staff Writer

FALLOUJA, Iraq — On Monday, Echo Company battled insurgents for two hours. One Marine was killed and 15 were wounded in the latest and bloodiest of numerous skirmishes.

Then four Marines — from the battle-hardened company, part of the 2nd Battalion, 1st Regiment of the 1st Marine Division — asked a Protestant chaplain to arrange a battlefield baptism.

"I've been talking to God a lot during the last two firefights," said Lance Cpl. Chris Hankins, 19, of Kansas City, Mo. "I decided to start my life over and make it better."

To give the occasion even greater significance, the Marines chose to have Wednesday's baptism in the courtyard of a bullet-riddled school that they used in their fight with insurgents.

Two Marines died and several were injured in the same courtyard when a mortar round landed among their group April 12. A small memorial has been erected in the courtyard to the two: Lance Cpl. Robert Zurheide, 20, of Tucson and Lance Cpl. Brad Shuder, 21, of El Dorado Hills, Calif.

After Monday's battle, a memorial was added in the courtyard for the Marine killed in that fight: Lance Cpl. Aaron Cole Austin, 21, of Amarillo, Texas.

Battlefield baptisms are not unusual among front-line troops, said Navy Lt. Scott Radetski, the battalion's Protestant chaplain. So many service personnel on deployment request to be baptized that the military even has a two-page sheet on how to create a battlefield baptismal font, called the Field Immersion Baptismal Liner Instructions.

Radetski said he performed one ceremony in Kuwait when Marines were waiting to move into Iraq. Three Marines at another encampment in Fallouja also have asked to be baptized.

"When chaos shows its head," Radetski said, "we need an anchor for our faith. You need that rock that God promises to be. I consider it an honor to fulfill their request."

For Wednesday's ceremony, Radetski had boxes containing MREs, or meals ready to eat, arranged to simulate a smallish bathtub. A large piece of plastic was placed inside, and water from 14 five-gallon Marine Corps cans was poured.

Sgt. Andrew Jones, 25, of Sullivan, Ind., said he had been considering getting baptized before he left for Iraq. His combat experiences convinced him that the time was right.

"With everything that has happened here, all the good friends I've lost, I thought it was a good place to be reborn," Jones said.

The fight Monday, in which insurgents hurled grenades and fired rockets and machine guns at the Marines, left many of the young men of Echo Company shaken and emotionally drained.

Protestant and Roman Catholic services held in the Marine encampment hours after the battle drew heavy attendance. On Wednesday, little of the initial pain was evident.

Capt. Douglas Zembiec, commander of Echo Company, said he had tried to console his Marines while reminding them that they have to continue to do their jobs, including launching a possible assault on insurgent strongholds in the center of Fallouja.

"There's no room for self-pity out here," he said. "It will get you killed faster than the enemy."

The four Marines — Hankins; Jones; Lance Cpl. Kenneth Hayes, 22, of Redding; and Lance Cpl. Michael Fuller, 20, of Spring, Texas — stripped to their skivvies and removed their combat boots before being dunked individually by Radetski.

Two dozen Marines stood quietly. Radetski, honoring the four Marines' request, said the baptism was also being performed to show respect for the fallen and wounded Marines.

The elementary school shows the ravages of three weeks of fighting.

Its windows are broken, debris is strewn about, furniture is broken and books thrown to the dusty floor. Bullet holes cover all surfaces. Windows are boarded or sandbagged to hinder snipers.

Insurgents are holed up in houses a few hundred yards away, their weapons aimed at the school, hoping to kill Marines with a well-timed shot.

Still, the four Marines thought that the courtyard was the ideal spot to make a public profession of their religious belief.

"What better place to do this than here, in the middle of hell," Fuller said.



05-01-04, 06:13 AM
Reserve grunts adopt Iraqi villages, schools <br />
Submitted by: 1st Force Service Support Group <br />
Story Identification Number: 2004430132935 <br />
Story by Sgt. Matt Epright <br />
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CAMP TAQADDUM, Iraq(April...

05-01-04, 09:51 AM
Issue Date: May 03, 2004

Fallujah’s ‘three-block war’

By Gidget Fuentes
Times staff writer

FALLUJAH, Iraq — Each time they round a corner while on patrol, Marines here aren’t sure what they’ll encounter. A family needing medical care. Maybe a group of angry Iraqi men demanding the Marines leave the city. Or a band of insurgents armed with rocket-propelled grenades, hiding in the shadows of a building and itching to open fire.
In Fallujah, it could be any one of the three.

It stands in stark contrast to the lightning-fast rush to Baghdad last spring — maneuver warfare dominated by mechanized units that blazed north from Kuwait, destroying Iraqi units and rolling toward the heart of Saddam Hussein’s power structure.

As Marines maintain their grip on the city in response to the recent rash of attacks from insurgent forces, the pace is anything but fast.

They hand out water and Meals, Ready-to-Eat to local families. They wait. They turn back anxious Iraqi men outside a checkpoint at the city limits. They wait some more. They fend off an ambush by a small band of AK47 and RPG-wielding fighters. They patch up their wounded. And again, more waiting.

They’re not on the offensive, but they’re not on the defensive. It’s what former Commandant Gen. Charles Krulak called the “three-block war” — a mission that can change quickly from house-to-house combat to peacekeeping to humanitarian operations, all within a three-block radius.

Fallujah “is like the three-block war in microcosm,” said Lt. Col. Brennan Byrne, who commands 1st Battalion, 5th Marines, from Camp Pendleton, Calif., part of a growing Marine Corps and Army force encircling the embattled city.

Since offensive combat operations here were halted April 9, Marines have been clearing out weapons caches and insurgents, battling enemy snipers and fighters sneaking into their zones, and helping feed families staying behind despite U.S. military pleas for them to leave for safer ground.

In each situation, the actions and decisions of junior Marines and noncommissioned officers can make or break the larger mission.

“These guys are making decisions which have influences far beyond me and my generals,” Byrne said of his Marines. “We have come to rely very heavily on the well-developed judgment of junior Marines.”

Here, then, is a look at life inside the three-block war in Fallujah.

Block 1: Safe passage, soccer

It looks like a standoff that could turn ugly, white surrender flags on one side and locked-and-loaded weapons on the other.

Forty-two people, members of four families, gather on a street in a rubble-strewn neighborhood in Fallujah’s industrial section. Two white flags billow in the midday breeze. The families want cigarettes, food and water, and safe passage out of the city.

Sgt. Christian Driotez, 30, of Los Angeles, tells them that women and children can leave, but not military-age men. The families opt to stay, and are given 21 cases of military rations and 84 bottles of water. Navy hospital corpsmen bandage some ulcerated feet and hand out medicine to several ailing women.

Two hours later, with waves and calls of “Shakran” — Arabic for “thank you” — the families return home.

“It feels good, because you see how excited everybody is,” says Cpl. Kenny Thorpe as the 23-year-old communications technician from Longview, Texas, shares cigarettes with some of the Iraqis.

Three days later, just blocks from a Fallujah hot zone where 1/5’s Marines often take fire from hit-and-run insurgents, the air is filled with smiles, laughter and soccer balls.

While some Marines scan nearby buildings and streets, watchful for sniper or rocket attack, Navy corpsmen tend to a toddler with a stomach ailment and replace bandages on a woman’s injured foot. Others, including Lance Cpl. Ryan Hackney, join several men in a pick-up soccer game. Maha, a cheerful Iraqi girl with a ponytail and white ribbon in her hair, takes turns kicking another soccer ball to three Marines while a gaggle of young and older women, hair covered by delicate scarves, giggle outside a concrete gate.

For about a half-hour on a sunny afternoon, laughter, not bullets, ring in the air.

Block 2: ‘Smash-mouth combat’

Even as Marines visit with the families, danger isn’t far off. Two armed men hunker along some berms a block or two away.

As several Marines give chase on foot, the gunmen flee into a maze of cramped streets, but they don’t get far. Snipers spot the gunmen and another group of Marines intercepts them and takes them for questioning.

It’s a firefight averted, but the Marines have clashed with Iraqi insurgents almost daily since the main offensive was halted.

“Fallujah has been a return to full-up Marine Corps smash-mouth combat,” Byrne said.

Enemy snipers and shooters have been regular nuisances. “They get up on the rooftop and they shoot here and there, just enough to annoy us,” said 1st Sgt. Charles Blumenberg, 42, the senior enlisted Marine for Alpha Company, 1/5.

Blumenberg, from Chiefland, Fla., sports a scar on his neck from a shrapnel wound. “A lot of times, they are just spraying and praying, as we call it.”

For many, Fallujah is their first combat experience — and Marines often describe their first firefight as “surreal,” or “like Black Hawk Down.”

Lance Cpl. Patrick Tedders, of Hollywood, Fla., mentioned the popular action film as he recalled his first firefight, describing it as “shooting and moving, ‘Matrix’-style.”

“They’ve had their baptism of fire when we came to Fallujah,” said 1st Lt. Adam McCully. The 27-year-old from Amherst, S.C., is Alpha Company’s executive officer.

“It’s the whole three-block war. It’s just different from what you imagined.”

Block 3: Turning over the reins

The Corps’ mission throughout Anbar Province, the region west of Baghdad, is to create a peaceful environment safe enough for government and business affairs to take root. To do that, the military is counting on Iraqi security forces, which include the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps, Iraqi Border Police and Iraqi Police, to take the reins.

Getting them to that point will require much work and a great leap of faith that the security forces will be ready, willing and able to take the lead.

Reports of Iraqi police abandoning their posts or failing to show up for work continue, and some police are suspected or implicated in anti-coalition attacks. The recent terrorist bombings of police stations and a training academy in Basra worry officials about progress elsewhere in Iraq.

But officials continue training and equipping ICDC battalions and police forces in many cities — a process just beginning in Fallujah.

The aim is to begin joint Marine-Iraqi patrols like those already under way in other cities and towns. “Right now, we’re just in Day 1 and Day 2 of trying to get them to come to work,” Byrne said.

But military commanders said that step won’t occur until significant amounts of weapons are handed over to U.S. forces.

“The next several days will be the truth-tellers,” Byrne said April 21.

So for now, the three-block war continues.



05-01-04, 11:26 AM
The hairs on the back of my neck are standing up on this turn of events. We may have just "re-inforced" the insurrgents ourselves with former cohorts.
I hope it doesn't come back to bite our men in the behind somewhere down the road.

05-01-04, 11:51 AM
Cease-fire strategy spurs strikes on Iraqi insurgents

By Rowan Scarborough

The U.S. military is using the tenuous cease-fire in Fallujah to monitor insurgent movements and then strike with air power inside the city when provoked.
The tactic is killing scores of Iraqi holdouts and their foreign allies, as U.S. forces capitalize on intelligence assets and night-vision equipment to hit enemy guerrillas when they cluster in one or two buildings. Marine Corps commanders have the authority to call in air strikes if the enemy appears to be preparing to attack, as well as when they fire.

The Pentagon seems satisfied with this strategy for the short term, as long as the frontier city of 300,000 west of Baghdad remains sealed off, denying the insurgents fresh reinforcements and new weapons.
The net result today is that the Marines have a large cluster of insurgents — likely 1,500 or more — bottled up in certain sectors of the city that can be monitored. If rules of engagement are met, commanders call in precision munitions from Air Force AC-130 and Cobra helicopter gunships.
"The Marines, they understand the rules of engagement," Maj. Gen. John Sattler, director of operations for U.S. Central Command, told reporters in Washington yesterday. "Although this is a cease-fire, they're not purely defensive rules of engagement. In other words, if in fact the insurgent forces start to make attempts to set up weapons systems, to resupply units that are within the town, the Marines have it within their rights to go in and take pre-emptive measures, i.e., strike against these units."
Far from a passive stance, Lt. Gen. James T. Conway, the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force commander, is using the timeout to methodically thin the enemy. His superiors seem pleased.
"The people on the ground have indicated to me that they believe what they're doing and the pace at which they're doing it is net in the interests of their goals," Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said this week.
President Bush said yesterday, "Most of Fallujah is returning to normal."
Retired Air Force Col. Robert W. Chandler, who has authored four books on national security issues, sees the battle for Fallujah in a much bigger light.
"This could be one of the most important events that happens in the war on terror," Col. Chandler said. "If you believe as I do the only way to win the war is to democratize the region ... you can't kill them all. If I can't help change the face of the Middle East, then I lose the war."
Agreeing to let the Iraqi Governing Council and Fallujah's elders negotiate with the insurgents does carry risks.
The anticoalition forces are using the time to reposition into defensive stances. They are also turning the city's mosques into arsenals and turrets from which to fire on Marine ground troops and aircraft.
The Marines are entitled then to strike the holy sites under the Geneva Convention. But, images of mosques full of craters make bad publicity for the Americans when the pictures are shown on Al Jazeera and other pan-Arab TV channels.
But the Marines yesterday seemed in no mood to back off a tactic of hitting the insurgents whenever they take up hostile positions — mosque or no mosque.
"Over the course of the last couple days, to include today, in those cases where the enemy has reached out and attempted, either through harassing fire against the Marine forces or they've attempted to reinforce their lines, the Marines have exercised that right and taken them under fire with both direct fire from their own organic weapon systems as well as utilizing both rotary-wing and fixed-wing close air support," said Gen. Sattler.
He said there are now basically two choices: renew urban combat, during which the Marines will try to be as precise as possible so as not to hit civilians; or achieve a negotiated settlement.
"I think that if the negotiations work, they surrender their weapons and they turn themselves in to proper authorities, that's the best solution here in Fallujah," Gen. Sattler said. "We get the town back, we reinstate the rule of law, and we move on."



05-01-04, 03:45 PM

05-01-04, 04:26 PM
Some marines angry over deal to pull out of Fallujah

CAMP FALLUJAH, Iraq (AFP) Apr 30, 2004

A decision to let former members of Saddam's army handle security in Fallujah has infuriated some of the US Marines who pulled back from the powderkeg city after weeks of violent battles.
"Now it's going to get worse," said Lance Corporal Julius Wright, 20, one of the marines who withdrew from positions on the frontlines of the embattled Iraqi city that had been under a US siege since April 5.

The marines started a gradual withdrawal to a wider perimeter Friday as the first 200 members of the new Fallujah Brigade moved into parts of the city.

US commanders hope the Iraqi force, made up mainly of former members of ousted dictator Saddam Hussein's disbanded army, will be able to restore some form of law and order to Fallujah, a city partly controlled by anti-coalition forces.

Senior US officers acknowledge they are not fully convinced the deal will work out, and that Marines are prepared to retake their frontline positions if it doesn't.

Many of the grunts, on the other hand firmly believe the idea is doomed.

"Honestly, I don't think they're going to be able to do it," said Corporal Elias Chavez, 28.

"We had the insurgents cordoned off, they couldn't go anywhere, we had a chance to get them."

"Now they can flee wherever they want, and we're still going to have to deal with them," said Chavez, expressing doubts the new force, largely made up of Fallujah residents, would apprehend anti-coalition fighters.

"A lot of them have ties to anti-coalition forces," he said in reference to the Fallujah Brigade.

Colonel John Coleman, chief of staff of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, said it is not necessarily a bad thing having some of the more moderate insurgents switch sides. "We'd actively reach out to those people," he told reporters at Camp Fallujah, the main marine base just outside the city.

Some of the grunts who camped out for weeks in abandoned factories and warehouses on the outskirts of the powderkeg city, coming under fire daily, feel they spilt blood in vain.

Scores of Americans died in fighting in Fallujah, which also killed hundreds of Iraqis.

Now that the marines are pulling out without having defeated the insurgents, the deployment "was a waste of time, of resources and of lives," said Chavez.

"Everyone feels the same way, especially those who know someone who was killed," he said.

Wright agreed.

"We pulled out when we should of went in."



05-01-04, 07:27 PM
Reserve Weapons Co. on the Prowl in Iraq <br />
Submitted by: I Marine Expeditionary Force <br />
Story Identification Number: 20044298833 <br />
Story by Cpl. Matthew J. Apprendi <br />
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CAMP TAQADDUM, Iraq(April 23,...

05-02-04, 07:17 PM
I see Cpl Chavez and I have the same opinion, and I feel for the Bro who has to go through that . Like I said in my early post it might not be VietNam all over but its still political BS and they wont let the marines finish the job after they have seen their brothers die ......and for what????? if you dont finish the job its just like he says "all for nothing" We use to say " It don't mean nuthin" but in reality it really did mean something, down deep in our guts we all knew it did, might have been the Macho thing that made us always say " it dont mean nuthin" ??
anyway it still ****'s me off!!

05-02-04, 07:45 PM
If I were the Marine Lt. General in charge, I would track all who leave the city as the &quot;indigenous&quot; troops take over. If there are foreign fighters in Fallujah, they might leave in small numbers,...