Securing Bagdad: Stryker Unit in 'Defining Battle' of Iraq
Gen. Peter Chiarelli Discusses the Stryker Brigade Campaign
BAGHDAD, Iraq, Aug. 8, 2006
Lt. Gen. Peter Chiarelli, the commanding general of the multinational forces in Iraq, had the difficult duty today of telling 3,700 soldiers why they were going to have to stay in Iraq a while longer.
A few weeks ago, hours before they had expected to go home, the soldiers heard from their commander that their tours of duty were being extended. Chiarelli's aim today was to have them understand the mission they had been assigned.
ABC News correspondent Martha Raddatz, continuing her reports from Baghdad, was with the general when he broke the news to the troops.
Chiarelli is charged with carrying out the new, sweeping plan to regain control of Baghdad. It is considered one of the most critical missions ever undertaken by U.S. forces. This is so critical, 3,700 soldiers assigned to the Stryker Brigade were told just moments before heading home from a year in Iraq that they would have to remain in the region for up to four more months.
Today Chiarelli met with some of the soldiers to explain. The following is a transcript of a portion of the meeting:
"I just want to tell you guys how proud we are of you and the way that you handled this. And I know it was a kick in the stomach. There's no doubt about it. Twelve months in this place is long enough for anybody. I know. I've done it before. "I know what that means to you personally, 'cause you get over a hump and you're looking forward to going home and I know what that does to your families back home.
"And I hope you know that this decision was not made lightly. It was not made lightly. As Gen. Casey says, 'This will be the defining battle,' so to speak, of this particular campaign. We've got to take back Baghdad.
"And really the only force in the United States Army, and I really believe this, the best, the most capable force to do that is the Stryker Brigade. And that's hard for me to say wearing these boots. But the fact of the matter is, because of who you are and what you do and what you represent and what you bring to the fight, your speed in moving around in urban areas, your tremendous capability to gain and process intelligence, there's no doubt in my mind that you will make the difference.
"Now, this is going to be a campaign like none other than you've ever participated in. We started in Dora yesterday and we cleared somewhere in the vicinity of about 4,000 homes. Not a single shot fired. Not a single incident. And the people basically said to us, 'We were expecting you two days ago.'
"They were happy to see us there. They went to bed last night with a cordon around their area -- a series of checkpoints and they knew that they were safe and secure. And that's what we are going to do throughout the city over time.
"But once we go in and clear an area and make it safe for the people, we're going to roll in on that seventh or eighth day with the kind of things we hope will pull the population of Baghdad to the side of their government -- to give their government legitimacy.
"We are going to go -- we'll roll in with all the quick-win projects, everything from debris removal from houses that have been knocked down to trash collection to going around finding point brakes for sewers and for water mains and fixing them.
"You'll go into areas of Baghdad that have no sewers whatsoever, just large standing puddles of sewage. And we'll be moving into those every day for the first 30 to 40 to 90 days, cleaning 'em up every day so the people have a sense of normalcy and safety in their neighborhoods. "Then we'll roll on in and begin long-term projects to employ the people. My No. 1 goal is after you've completed the clearing of an area and continue to secure the area is to roll on in and employ those who are out of work. To pump some money into the economy, to get the businesses up and running that are in the local area and what we'll see is an expanding cordon around the city until, before too long, we've got the entire city cordoned and secure.
"Now, will that mean that there will be no more attacks? Absolutely not. There still will be -- there will be folks that are able to get in, but there will be fewer folks that will be able to get in and do that, No. 1, because we have the Strykers available and their tremendous maneuverability and capability and No. 2, because we think by that time we'll have the people of Bagdad on our side.
"They'll support their government. They'll support the legitimacy of their government, and they will help us ensure that we don't revert back to where we are today. "And it's because of you that we can do this. I'm totally convinced. I'm totally committed. We will have just over 400 Strykers in the city in the next three or four days, and it's going to make a heck of a difference. So I thank you. I ask that you thank your families. I have a goal when I want to get you back and I will do my darndest. This is event-based. It is not -- we're not keeping you over here one day longer than we feel that we need to. That's my promise to you. Questions?" Soldier: "Why did you wait so long to tell us?"
Chiarelli: "We didn't want to do it. We didn't want to do it. It's the hardest decision, I know that Gen. Casey has [to] make. It's his decision to go ahead and hold you here. Absolutely was. And it was our desire to see you pull out. That was -- I can't answer any more honestly than that. I mean, if I really had known prior to that, would I have let 345 of your guys fly back to Alaska?"
Soldier: "I hope not."
Chiarelli: "I hope not too. But the conditions in Baghdad just turned, just turned south on us."