- The Washington Times - Friday, September 15, 2006


U.S. troops were shifted from Iraq’s Anbar province, where the insurgency is still strong, to Baghdad because quelling sectarian violence in the capital is a higher priority, a senior U.S. commander said yesterday.

“The main effort is Baghdad, and we must ensure that we weight the main effort,” said Lt. Gen. Peter Chiarelli, using military terminology for drawing on available troops elsewhere in order to bolster the military effort in Baghdad.

Gen. Chiarelli, who is responsible for U.S. military operations throughout the country, said he may see Anbar through “a different lens” than even the U.S. commander in charge of the province.

In addition to extending the combat tour of the Army’s 172nd Stryker Brigade and sending it from northern Iraq to Baghdad, a smaller unit was moved this summer from near Rawah, in Anbar province, to the capital. The 172nd was replaced by another Stryker brigade in the north, but the unit in Rawah was not.

Gen. Chiarelli said Gen. George Casey, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, is “totally focused on ensuring that we keep what we need in Baghdad to do the job that we need to have done.” He added that he thinks that efforts to stabilize Anbar, which stretches west from Baghdad to the Syrian and Jordanian borders, are “moving in the right direction.”

“The forces that were taken out of al-Anbar and moved to support the Baghdad security plan were part of the process that I talked about, of winning the main effort,” he said, adding that they were moved from a location that is “nowhere near any of the locations that you would commonly look at for increased violence in al-Anbar.”

In a Sept. 1 report to Congress on conditions in Iraq, the Pentagon said that from May 20, when the new Iraqi government was seated, through Aug. 6 there was an average of more than 30 attacks a day in Anbar — more than any other province in the country and slightly more than in Baghdad.

Of the approximately 147,000 U.S. troops in Iraq, about 30,000 are in Anbar.

On Tuesday, the commander of U.S. forces in Anbar, Marine Maj. Gen. Richard Zilmer, told reporters his main mission is to train Iraqi security forces, not to defeat the insurgency. “Now, if that mission statement changes — if there is seen a larger role for coalition forces out here to win that insurgency fight,” then it might require an infusion of U.S. troops, Gen. Zilmer said.

Gen. Chiarelli, however, said no one should doubt that the goal in Anbar is to win.

“We are fighting to win, but we understand that winning is a combination of a whole bunch of things in this insurgency we are fighting,” he said, mentioning a requirement for more economic and political progress. Local Iraqi leaders in Anbar tell him, Gen. Chiarelli said, that their top need is “jobs for the angry young men.”

Gen. Chiarelli also said he agrees with the central conclusions of a recent intelligence assessment by the top Marine intelligence officer in Anbar, Col. Pete Devlin, who wrote that more economic and political progress must be made to break what amounts to a military stalemate with the Sunni Arab-led insurgency there.

Gen. Chiarelli called on the Iraqi national government to do more to improve economic conditions in Anbar.

“Commitments have been made out in al-Anbar; I hope that those commitments come through and come through sooner rather than later,” he said. “And when they do they will go a long way to our combined goal of winning in al-Anbar.”



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