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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Washington File

13 June 2003

U.S. Forces in Iraq Focus on Terrorists, Resisters, WMD Hunt

(Defense Department report) (650)
The U.S. commander of ground forces in Iraq says a terrorist
training camp in western Iraq has been attacked "very lethally"
and U.S. forces are "exploiting whatever intelligence value we can
from that site for future operations."
Army Lieutenant General David McKiernan, participating in a video
conference from Baghdad June 13, said it was still too early to tell
if non-Iraqi fighters defended the camp, but he said U.S. air and
ground elements struck the camp decisively.
Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Richard Myers told reporters at the
Pentagon June 12 that the fighters in the camp were well-trained,
equipped, and prepared for the confrontation with U.S. forces. He
described them as "one of the many types of groups that we're going to
have to confront" in Iraq for a while yet.
McKiernan described the current security situation in three key
sectors: north, south and central Iraq. The situation in the north is
relatively secure, he said, with a lot of businesses reopening, but
there are still some residual cells of opposition Ba'athists "that we
will continue to develop intelligence on and go and apprehend or
destroy."
He made reference to a military raid near Kirkuk by the 173rd Airborne
designed to apprehend suspected terrorists or regime holdouts. The
U.S. Central Command indicated that 74 suspected al-Qaeda sympathizers
were picked up in the raid, but McKiernan could not confirm that link.
McKiernan described the scene as generally secure in the southern zone
as well, with some remaining pockets of subversive elements that must
be identified and dealt with over time. "There are those in the south
who would work against the coalition," he said, "and so there'll be
some continuing flare-ups."
Central Iraq has been the scene for what McKiernan called two "hot
spots." The Fullujah-Ar Ramadi corridor has experienced some
aggressive patrols and raids by the 3rd Infantry, he said.
McKiernan said that the 4th Infantry Division and the Fifth Corps have
been involved in the ongoing "Operation Peninsula Strike" to the
northeast of Balad, and that many of the original 400 Iraqis who were
detained have been released because they had no intelligence value. He
also said 50 Iraqis were sent to Baghdad for additional interrogations
and twenty Iraqis were killed in the early phase of that military
operation.
McKiernan, who has been in Iraq since the start of "Operation Iraqi
Freedom," was also asked about the search for Iraqi weapons of mass
destruction (WMD). He indicated that the circle of Iraqis with
knowledge of the WMD program appears to be relatively small in number
and expressed his opinion that there are still hidden WMD, but that it
will take time to develop the intelligence needed to uncover it.
"I think we have a ways to go," McKiernan said, "and it will take some
time to uncover WMD in a country that's spent years ... perfecting
their techniques of hiding it." Through interrogations, he said, "we
get information that leads us to another source, that we have to go
locate certain facilities and ... check those out and see where it
leads us." While unwilling to go into detail, the briefer said, "there
is discussion from both the chemical and biological side that leads us
to intelligence that we have to confirm or deny."
The two alleged mobile biological weapons laboratories that were found
earlier in Iraq are still being analyzed, according to McKiernan. But
he also said there are many documents that have been seized which are
being exploited. "I really can't comment on what's come out of those
documents," he added.
He also said nothing significant has been found in various Iraqi
underground tunnel complexes, although document analysis continues.
(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S.
Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)



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