U.S. plans campaign to subdue Faluja

Monday, April 5, 2004

BAGHDAD The U.S. Army has drafted plans for a sustained operation to pacify Faluja, the heart of the Sunni insurgency in Iraq.

U.S. officials said the plans were drafted in coordination with the Defense Department, Central Command and the Coalition Provisional Authority. They said the mission would include both combat and civil operations in an effort to restore order to Faluja.

"They're doing that planning now," U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, deputy operations director of coalition forces, said.

[Over the weekend, Shi'ite supporters of the Iranian-backed Muqtada Sadr held demonstrations against the United States throughout central and southern Iraq.

The supporters, who confronted U.S. tanks in Baghdad, called for the release of a Sadr aide as well as the reopening of a newspaper published by the militia chief, Middle East Newsline reported.

The demonstrations turned violent, and at least 22 Iraqis, eight U.S. troops and one Salvadoran soldier died. ]

On Wednesday, nine U.S. nationals were killed in and around Faluja. Five U.S. soldiers were slain in a roadside bombing against their M113 armored personnel carrier. Four U.S. security guards were killed and their bodies mutilated when they were trying to guard a food convoy that had entered the city.

The plan to reestablish control over Faluja was drafted by Lt. Gen. James Conway, the commander of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, officials said. They said Conway was also reviewing the conduct of Iraqi security forces and Faluja officials during and following the mob killing.

Officials said the CPA and the U.S. Marine Corps rejected calls for an immediate invasion of Faluja. Such a move, they said, could have resulted in massive civilian casualties as well as violent unrest against the coalition throughout Iraq.

"We will not rush in to make things worse," Kimmitt said. "A pre-emptive attack into the city could have taken a bad situation and made it even worse."

Officials said the army has long sought a sustained operation in Faluja.

They cited the Sunni insurgency attack on police and Iraqi Civil Defense Corps headquarters in Faluja in February in which about 25 people were killed. Since then, Iraqi police and security forces have been kept off the streets while U.S. troops remained stationed outside of Faluja.

"This was a city that profited immeasurably and immensely under the former regime," Kimmitt said. "They have a view that, somehow, the harder they fight, the better chance they have of achieving some sort of restorationist movement within the country."

The Pentagon has also selected Maj. Gen. David Petraeus to oversee training and formation of Iraq's military and security forces. Until early 2004, Petraeus was in Iraq as commander of the army's 101st Airborne Division.

Copyright 2004 East West Services, Inc.

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