Major Combat Operations Over in Iraq
At the Pentagon, Army Maj. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, director of operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, offered his assessment that forces loyal to Saddam Hussein could no longer mount a major attack.
“I would anticipate that the major combat engagements are over because the major Iraqi units on the ground cease to show coherence,” McChrystal said.
While refusing to declare outright victory, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said Monday that major progress was being made toward stabilizing Iraq after last week’s chaotic collapse of Saddam’s government.
Although large-scale battles appeared to be over, McChrystal stressed fighting would continue.
“I think we will move into a phase where it is smaller, albeit sharp, fights,” he said.
Further evidence of the scaled-down nature of the military offensive came Monday when Pentagon planners announced a redeployment of forces in the Presian Gulf region.
A U.S. defense official said two of five aircraft carrier battlegroups in the region would soon be departing, the USS Kitty Hawk for its base in Japan and the USS Constellation to San Diego. Each carrier has about 80 warplanes, including 50 F/A-18 and F-14 strike aircraft as well as surveillance and other support craft.
The Air Force already has sent four B-2 stealth bombers home.
On the ground, the U.S. Army’s 4th Infantry Division rumbled into Iraq Monday with an eye towards bolstering efforts to stabilize areas of the country, rather than launching large-scale military battles.
Instead, Pentagon officials and experts point to a growing need for logistical and civilian support.
“Clearly, the requirements for civil affairs, engineer organizations, military police will be significant,” McChrystal told reporters. “In fact, that’s designed into the force flow. I think you’re seeing it right now.”
Analysts added that although large military operations may be complete, the next steps could be far more complicated.
“Among all the unanswered questions, the most complex and most relevant is how the Iraq people will help themselves establish some foundation for democracy,” said Phil Anderson of the Center for Strategic and International Studies told the Associated Press.