Rumsfeld praises Iraqi military in capture of Samara

Thursday, October 7, 2004

U.S. officials praised Iraqi Army and Iraqi National Guard units, saying they demonstrated both combat and support capabilities during the capture of Samara.

The officials cited in particularl Iraqi support operations, counter-insurgency raids and intelligence missions in the city, located north of Baghdad. In all, they said, about 2,000 Iraqi troops were sent to Samara.

"They [Iraqi military and security forces] just did in Samara very well," Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said. "The army has been doing a good job."

In an address to the Council on Foreign Relations on Oct. 4, Rumsfeld cited Samara as an example of the success of the Iraqi army and security forces. Rumsfeld said the Iraqi forces who entered Samara were well-trained and well-equipped.

Officials said the Iraqi Army's special forces unit performed well in combat operations against Sunni fighters, including those linked to Abu Mussib Al Zarqawi, regarded as the most lethal insurgent in Iraq . They said the Iraqi National Guard participated in raids of insurgency hideouts and helped maintain security in parts of Samara. This included ensuring the return of basic services and reconstruction efforts in the city.

The Iraqi units were trained for weeks to help in capturing Samara, officials said. They identified the units as the army's 7th Battalion, the Iraqi National Guard Unit 202 and the 1st commando battalion of the Interior Ministry.

The combination of Iraqi forces in Samara, officials said, would also be used against other rebel-held cities. Faluja and Ramadi have been under the control of Sunni insurgents since 2003.

"We are trying to work out a way for Iraqi forces to enter the city [Faluja] peacefully and take control," Iraqi President Ghazi Yawar told the Dubai-based Al Arabiya satellite television. "We are trying to keep coalition forces outside the city for support."

Officials said more than 150 people were killed in the fighting in Samara. They said 105 foreign insurgents were captured, including Egyptians, Sudanese and Tunisians, and estimated that 500 foreign combatants were in the city.

"In the last month or two, my guess is that the coalition forces probably have killed 1,500 Iraqi insurgents and a reasonable fraction of [Abu Mussib Al] Zarqawi's senior people," Rumsfeld said.

On Tuesday, the U.S. Marine Corps, Iraqi Army and Iraqi National Guard launched an offensive against insurgents in Baghdad. Officials said about 160 suspects were detained in a mission that included the capture of a bridge across the Euphrates River used by insurgents to enter Baghdad and Faluja.

The United States and its allies have equipped Iraq's military and security forces. In the latest move, the Iraqi Border Patrol battalion received 40 Jeep Liberties and 1,500 body armor vests on Sept. 29 as part of a drive to prevent infiltration from Iran and Syria.

Officials said they did not expect any immediate improvement in border security, particularly along the Iranian and Syrian border. Last week, Iraq, Syria and the United States agreed to cooperate on border security and intelligence sharing.

"They [Syria] have used their border with Iraq to facilitate terrorists moving back and forth, money moving back and forth, and they've been unhelpful," Rumsfeld said. "There have been meetings lately, and whether they'll change their way and be more helpful prospectively, time will tell. But I'd like to see it."

Copyright 2004 East West Services, Inc.

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