ARLINGTON, Va. — U.S. and coalition forces can go anywhere in Ramadi they please, but about half of the city remains dangerous, the top commander of Multi-National Force-West said Monday.
“We control the entire city — if I desire to go anywhere in the city,” said Marine Maj. Gen. Richard Zilmer.
But Zilmer said that “maybe as much as 50 percent” of Ramadi is still dangerous.
“The enemy still has the ability to move around; he will go where we are not, and we understand that, but if we must go someplace, then — again — there is no challenge to us that prevents us to go anywhere we need to go,” he said.
Ramadi has long been an insurgency hot spot. In May, Brig. Gen. Carter Ham of the Joint Staff told reporters that the city was in “contest.”
“There are clearly areas in which it is tough for the legitimate leaders in that city to operate and we’ve got to help them regain that ability to do so,” Ham said.
Since last summer, U.S. and coalition forces have worked to establish security throughout Ramadi, Zilmer said Monday.
The arrival in Ramadi of the Germany-based 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division in June allowed U.S. and coalition forces to set up checkpoints to screen all traffic on major roadways going into and out of the city, he said.
U.S. troops also built forward operating bases that double as Iraqi police stations in the city’s worst neighborhoods to develop a “full-time dismounted presence throughout the city,” he said.
The efforts since summer have paid off, Zilmer said.
“Early last summer, the [insurgent] attacks which we call ‘complex attacks,’ would last sometimes for 30 minutes to two hours,” he said. “The level of the attacks we’re seeing right now is significantly less than that.”
While the shopkeepers are returning to Ramadi and the city’s police department is getting bigger, there is still a long way to go, he said.
“It has been a fight in Ramadi and it is still a dangerous — parts of it are very dangerous,” Zilmer said.