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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
05BAGHDAD4034
2005-09-29 13:03:00
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Baghdad
Cable title:  

FALLUJAH: GEN CASEY MEETS LOCAL LEADERS, URGES

Tags:   PREL  KDEM  IZ  XL 
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						C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 BAGHDAD 004034 

SIPDIS

CENTCOM FOR POLAD

E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/29/2015
TAGS: PREL KDEM IZ XL
SUBJECT: FALLUJAH: GEN CASEY MEETS LOCAL LEADERS, URGES
CONTINUED COOPERATION IN STRATEGIC CIT

Classified By: POLITICAL COUNSELOR ROBERT FORD, REASONS 1.4
(B) AND (D).



1. (C) SUMMARY: General Casey, MNF-I Commanding General,
met September 22, 2005, with Fallujah leaders at the
downtown Civil-Military Operations Center. He stressed his
continued personal commitment to Fallujah's reconstruction
and improved security; progress had been made since his
last visit but more remained to be done. General Casey
urged Fallujah leaders to cooperate with CF and vote in the
upcoming referendum and election. Fallujah leaders
conveyed concerns about the pace of rebuilding, stalled ITG
compensation (none for damaged businesses so far),
inadequate resources for police, integration of ex-military
officers into the new army, among other issues. Fallujah
City Council Chairman Sheikh Kamal (a principal imam)
predicted all Fallujans would vote in the referendum and
December election. He also criticized ongoing military
operations elsewhere in the province that he claimed would
be disruptive to Sunni political engagement. Notably, one
Fallujah resident later told Poloff that the MNF-I
withdrawal from Najaf was clear evidence that the American
forces would, ultimately, withdraw from Iraq. Fallujah's
mufti, Sheikh Hamza, formally requested the release of
detained imam Sheikh Ahmed Qassem -- MNF-W's number two
high-value target. END SUMMARY.



--------------------------


GEN CASEY: PROGRESS,
MORE TO DO TOGETHER


--------------------------





2. (C) Key Fallujah leaders met for 75 minutes with MNF-I
Commanding General, General George Casey, and II MEF (Fwd)
Commanding General, Major General Stephen Johnson,
September 22, 2005, at the Fallujah Civil-Military
Operations Center in central Fallujah. The group included
the city's mufti, Sheikh Hamza, city council chairman,
Sheikh Kamal, and various other tribal and religious
leaders. GEN Casey noted that progress had been achieved
in the city since his last visit; still, more work
remained. He stressed that CF remained committed to the
city, and urged city leaders to cooperate to achieve long-
term success. The coalition had invested significant
resources into the city's rebuilding, totaling
approximately USD 300 million; this figure likely
represented more U.S. reconstruction investment than in any
other Iraqi city except Baghdad.



--------------------------


MUST BEAT BACK AL-QAIDA
AND THEIR SUPPORTERS


--------------------------





3. (C) GEN Casey called upon the group to help beat back
Al-Qaida and their supporters' influence in the country,
which he said represented Iraq's biggest threat to
stability. He also urged them to vote and "take charge" of

their future.



4. (C) MNF-I's CG also defended CF actions in Tel Afar as a
necessary step to ensure residents there the opportunity to
vote in the referendum and election. Other cities had been
taken over by Al-Qaida; CF and ISF would work together to
guarantee that these communities could vote, he added.



--------------------------


CITY LEADERS CITE CONCERNS;
SEEK COALITION FOLLOW-UP


--------------------------





5. (C) Fallujah leaders requested GEN Casey's assistance on
several issues, including:

-COMPENSATION: Mufti Hamza stressed that ITG funds had not
yet been secured to help rebuild businesses, particularly
in the city's industrial sector (previously home to 70
percent of city jobs).

-SCHOOLS: Complaints were registered about some schools
that continue to be occupied by ISF and are in need of
repair.

-EX-MILITARY OFFICERS: Fallujah's large population of
former military officers want to be reintegrated into the
national army. Since being fired in 2003, many have been
without income. (NOTE: locals state that approximately
2,500 ex-officers and 20,000 ex-soldiers still call the
Fallujah-area home. The city served as a key recruiting
location under Saddam. END NOTE)

-POLICE BUDGET: Only recently had salaries for Fallujah
police been resolved by MOI (after many months); city
police chief, Brigadier General Salah, urged CF support to
secure a budget for equipment and other incidental police
costs. One resident complained to GEN Casey: "The ITG
doesn't even provide gas for the police chief, how are they
going to help on compensation issues?"

-CHECKPOINTS: Leaders complained that strict entry control
prohibited relatives and others from visiting the city for
important events. (NOTE: Badges remains a hot civic
topic, even while most residents concede that the
checkpoints help serve to protect the city. END NOTE)



--------------------------


REFERENDUM/ELECTION: BIG TURNOUT?


--------------------------





6. (C) Sheikh Kamal stated that "everyone" in Fallujah
would participate in the upcoming referendum and election.
However, he criticized ongoing military operations in Sunni
areas, claiming they would prevent Sunnis from voting.
Kamal questioned how residents in these areas could vote
"when their cities are under siege?"



7. (C) Fallujah's mufti, Sheikh Hamza, urged the coalition
to focus on reconstruction efforts in the city's industrial
section and compensation for damaged businesses. He stated
that most shops and merchants were "in dire need of
assistance." Hamza also criticized ongoing U.S. operations
to detain Fallujans. As mufti, he said he had called upon
all residents to return to the city after the November 2004
battle, including those who might have been engaged in the
"resistance" prior to Al-Fajr. He said the coalition had
agreed to focus on Fallujah's new chapter, not its past;
this agreement had been violated, the mufti argued, by
punishing residents for past -- not present -- insurgent
ties. He also requested that GEN Casey release a detained
Fallujah imam, Sheikh Ahmed Qassem (MNF-W's number two
high-value target). (NOTE: This is the second formal
request by Sheikh Hamza regarding the detained imam.
Marines continue to question the detainee. END NOTE)



--------------------------


LOCAL CONTROL: NAJAF PRECEDENT


--------------------------





8. (C) In a follow-on discussion with Fallujah Poloff and
Marine FAO, Fallujah resident Engineer Farouk said GEN
Casey's visit sent an important signal to residents.
Farouk added that "everything has changed from last year.
When you came into our country, we thought you occupiers
were not going to leave. Maybe it has taken two years to
figure out the truth, but we know you intend to ultimately
leave." When asked to explain the shift in the Sunni-Arab
mindset, Farouk stated flatly: "Najaf. That's how. You
left Najaf and the place stayed under Iraqi control."



--------------------------


COMMENT


--------------------------





9. (C) Predictably, most of the meeting with GEN Casey
reflected the usual gripes we often hear in city meetings.
Fallujah leaders did not engage in much big-picture
dialogue. They clearly welcomed the chance to meet with a
top coalition leader. Local friction with ISF represents a
growing problem; as police are stood up, consideration
should be given to the departure of the Public Order
Brigade. More ITG compensation for damaged businesses will
be key in coming months to help the city regain lost jobs.
PM Jaafari's government has yet to provide any funds for
Fallujah's rebuilding. Referendum and election
participation in the city looks promising; Fallujah leaders
echo the same prediction: everyone will turnout. Arab and
other media in Fallujah on referendum and election days
will probably have a very different set of pictures from
December; there is an opportunity we could exploit there.
Sunni Arab attention on the successful return of "local
control" in Najaf might reflect a maturing appreciation for
underlying coalition aims in Iraq.
Khalilzad