Coalition Response Will Continue "Until Job is Done,"
The commander of all coalition forces in Iraq says that violence will
continue there "until [rebelling Shi'ite cleric] Muqtada al-Sadr turns himself
in or his militia is destroyed."
Briefing the media in Baghdad April 8, Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez said
coalition military forces "will conduct powerful, deliberate, very robust
military operations until the job is done. ... Let there be no doubt we will
continue the attacks until Sadr's influence is eliminated and Sadr's militia is
no longer a threat to Iraq and its citizens."
Asked how many coalition forces are in Iraq now, Sanchez answered that about
145,000 are currently there, with about 125,000 of those being U.S. troops. U.S.
forces, he said, are "in the middle of a major troop rotation, and this provides
an increased number of U.S. troops in the country. We are taking advantage of
these forces, and we will manage the redeployment to give us the combat power
that is necessary to accomplish the missions at hand."
Sanchez said the city of Fallujah is "under siege" and the people of Fallujah
"must make a decision. They must choose to move forward with the rest of the
country of Iraq, toward peace, stability and democracy. ... They've either got
to be ... supporting that future, or they've got to be against it. And if they
are for that vision of this country, then we will apply all the humanitarian
assistance and resources to improve their economic structures and their
infrastructure in order to get them toward that end."
In addition to Fallujah, neither al-Kut nor Najaf are under coalition control,
Sanchez said. "[W]e are in the process of conducting operations in order to
secure the city of Al Kut," he said, and "[w]e will retake the city of Al Kut
As for Najaf, Sanchez said coalition forces remain in the city, in their base
camps. "We have not left the city. ... We still have our forces in there," he
said. But militia forces control the inner part of Najaf, he said, including the
police stations and government buildings.
"And we are very, very cognizant as a coalition of the religious observances
that are ongoing right now and the holy shrine status ... of the city of Najaf,"
Sanchez was unambiguous in stating U.S. and coalition objectives in the face of
the current violence: "We will not let a small group of criminals and thugs
control the destiny of this country. We will not let terrorists inspire and
create sectarian violence. ... We remain resolute in our purpose, and the people
of Iraq can be assured of our resolve. We will maintain stability in Iraq and
continue the forward progress to democracy and to sovereignty," he said.