“CAMP LIBERTY, Iraq, Dec. 14, 2004 – Pockets of resistance remain in Fallujah, but the vast majority of insurgents have been cleared out, said the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during a visit here today.

Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers said at a news conference that the Iraqi security forces and coalition troops are doing a good job of clearing out the remaining pockets. He said that the people of Fallujah should be able to start returning home soon.

Myers is leading a United Service Organizations tour to the region to thank troops for their sacrifices.

The chairman said the Iraqi government has the final say on when Fallujah residents can return to their homes. Holding up the process is unexploded ordnance and the remaining insurgents. He said residents can start returning as soon as explosive ordnance disposal personnel finish their work.  Thousands of internally displaced refugees are waiting to go back to the city – which once was an insurgent hotbed.

The insurgents used mosques, schools, government buildings and ordinary homes as arsenals. There are also a few unexploded pieces of coalition ordnance. Coalition forces are rendering the ordnance safe and hauling it away as fast as possible, officials here said.

The Iraqi government and the coalition already have begun the rebuilding the city. More than 300,000 people lived in Fallujah before the war. Most are Sunni Muslim, and many have tribal ties to Saddam Hussein and his henchmen. The coalition hopes that by providing rebuilding resources and hiring local people to perform the jobs, the population will realize it has a stake in a new Iraq.

Myers said that he was not surprised by the insurgency. He said the insurgents have only “”fear and intimidation”” to offer. He said these men want the return of the old order, “”and that’s flat not going to happen.””

Their strategy, he said, is to attack innocent men, women and children in hope of disrupting the Jan. 30 national assembly election. The national assembly will write the new Iraqi constitution. And national elections are scheduled for next December.

Myers said that “”it’s up to the Iraqi political scientists”” how they want to run the elections. He said from a military point of view, the sooner the
insurgents realize they do not have the people with them, the sooner the insurgency will die down.