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Coalition Response Will Continue "Until Job is Done," General Says

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 imminently."

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 said.

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.



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