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20 November 2003

U.S. General Says Intelligence is Key to Baghdad Military Operations

Defense Department Report, November 20: Iraq Security Update

The commander of the U.S. First Armored Division in Iraq says that the primary enemy in Baghdad continues to be former regime loyalists and that ongoing fighting in the capital is focused on routing them out of specific neighborhoods.

Speaking via video teleconference from Iraq's capital, Army Major General Martin Dempsey told reporters in Baghdad and Washington November 20 that his forces are trying to determine who the enemy is and how he operates.

Dempsey said the recent use of attack helicopters, fighter aircraft, and gunships to target fixed and mobile targets does not represent a change of tactics or a particular show of military force. Instead, he said, his goal is to let the enemy know "that although I'm on his home turf, he is not going to use that to his advantage."

Dempsey said it is difficult to make a definitive connection between recent suicide bombers and former regime loyalists, but he said "when they decide they're going to commit a sensational attack, one in which they're going to try to grab the headlines and one in which they're going to try to discredit our progress, because we're making enormous progress ... I think they go outside (Iraq) to get a volunteer, a jihadist ... a foreigner to come in and drive the car."

The commander of military operations provided some details about "Operation Iron Hammer," which has been under way for several weeks. It is a joint military operation involving the U.S. Army and Air Force as well as the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps and Iraqi police. Its purpose is to disrupt organized cells of resistance forces in the few neighborhoods that are still not secure.

The resistance cells have been carrying out hit-and-run attacks, primarily using mortars and rockets, Dempsey said. An effort to break up the cells and gain additional intelligence from cell members is "a work in progress," he said.

The joint military operation has resulted in the capture of armed bombs and fake passports, he said. Dempsey also reported the capture of leaders of a cell thought to be tied to the recent rocket attack against the al-Rashid Hotel during a visit by Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz.

When asked what he is doing to win the hearts and minds of the general population, Dempsey replied that he is trying to win the trust and confidence of the locals and provide the safe and secure environment that is needed for normalcy.

Asked why an empty, looted Iraqi die factory was struck twice by coalition forces, Dempsey answered: "I want to make sure the enemy knows ... there is no sanctuary in
Baghdad."