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US Commander Seeks More Troops for Iraq's Diyala Province

09 March 2007

The commander of coalition forces in northern Iraq says he has requested more forces to help prevent Baghdad-based insurgents from fleeing to neighboring Diyala Province. The general reported the request during a news conference via satellite with reporters at the Pentagon Friday. VOA's Al Pessin reports.

Major General Benjamin Mixon says he has already reinforced his units in Diyala, and has asked multi-national headquarters in Baghdad for more troops.

"I have moved additional forces and capabilities into Diyala over the last couple of weeks as we began larger offensive operations in Baquba and other portions of the surrounding area," he said. "Could I use more forces in Diyala? No question about it."

"And I'm in discussions of that with [Lieutenant] General [Raymond] Odierno [the number two coalition commander in Iraq] as he attempts to balance the requirements in Baghdad," he added.

General Mixon would not say how many troops he wants, but he said it is not so many that it would require more forces to be sent from the United States. The U.S. military is in the process of pumping 17,000 additional troops into Baghdad, and another three thousand into western al-Anbar Province.

On Thursday the top coalition commander in Iraq, General , said he is already planning to send more troops to what he called other areas "of concern," including Diyala Province.

During Friday's news conference, General Mixon, the northern Iraq commander, said any insurgents that try to seek refuge in Diyala, or use it as a base for operations in Baghdad, will be disappointed.

He said, "It is a natural part of an insurgency that the insurgent will try to move [to] where he feels no pressure. But we're keeping the pressure on them. And I think by what they have seen us do over the last month and a half - I have sent reinforcements down in Diyala - they've seen a different picture."

"I expect over the next week or so they will see an even [more] different picture. And I am sure that they will understand that we are going to go after them vigorously in Diyala," he continued.

The general says his forces are also establishing permanent joint U.S.-Iraqi posts in key areas in order to ensure that insurgents do not return after they are pushed out. He says there has been a 30 per cent increase in violent incidents in Diyala recently, most of them initiated by the coalition, with more than 175 insurgents killed.

General Mixon says his forces focus on disrupting groups that plant roadside bombs in the province, or provide them for use in Baghdad.

The general says he has also augmented the U.S. military training teams that live and work with Iraqi units, and that most of the Iraqi troops in his area are now under their own commanders.

But General Mixon repeated what other senior officers and U.S. officials have said frequently - that long-term success in Iraq depends as much on economic development and good governance as it does on security.

The general called on Sunni and Shiite community leaders in Iraq and around the world to help end the violence and move the country toward reconciliation and development.

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