Marine general says insurgency is withering on the vine
North County Times:
The insurgency in Iraq's Anbar province is "withering on the vine," the new commanding general of Camp Pendleton's I Marine Expeditionary Force said Wednesday.There is much more including his take on the Osprey now in service with Marine units in Iraq. He is high on the new craft. Helland will also be responsible for some important decisions on the Haditha cases that are coming up this Spring. His take on the insurgency is one of the most upbeat I have seen by the US military.
In his first interview since assuming command of the 50,000-troop force, Lt. Gen. Samuel Helland gave an optimistic view of the war based on a visit to Anbar this month in advance of 11,000 local troops scheduled to deploy in the coming weeks.
Helland said he found a sense of normalcy on the streets throughout his visit."In Anbar we are being very, very successful," the Minnesota native said during a luncheon with reporters at a base officer's club. "We are defeating the enemy, forcing them out of the region, and they are withering on the vine."
Five weeks from now, Camp Pendleton and Miramar Marine Corps Air Base troops will deploy from Regimental Combat Teams 1 and 5, and a headquarters group will go to Anbar province to replace the North Carolina-based II Marine Expeditionary Force.
What those troops will find in former insurgent-laden cities such as Ramadi, Fallujah and Haditha will be a much more peaceful environment, Helland said.
"People are on the streets, telephones are working and buses are starting to run again," he said. "People want to get back to normal. Instead of us finding (weapons) caches, they are turning them in.
"They are cooperating with the Iraqi police and the military is now able to move out of the cities."
Underscoring Helland's remarks was a published report Tuesday from Marine Col. Stacy Clardy, head of a combat force now in Iraq, that said the number of "enemy incidents" in Anbar has fallen by 75 percent since the first of the year.
How much longer the Marine Corps will remain in the Anbar region, where they have been responsible for security since the March 2003 invasion of Iraq, is unclear heading into 2008.
Helland assumed command of the 50,000-strong I Marine Expeditionary Force this month, taking over for Gen. James Mattis, who is now working for the Joint Forces Command in Norfolk, Va.