At a Pentagon news conference, Rumsfeld said that insurgents holed up in the city west of Baghdad are determined to resist.
Rumsfeld said it will take time to restore law and order in the city, and that U.S. and Iraqi forces are working together:
"At the request of the interim Iraqi government, coalition soldiers are today assisting Iraqi forces in conducting coordinated offensive operations in and around the city of Fallujah to restore law and order to this troubled area," Rumsfeld said.
"If Iraq is to be free, and a peaceful society, one part of the country cannot remain under the rule of assassins, terrorists, and the remnants of [ousted President] Saddam Hussein's regime," Rumsfeld said. "Every effort has been made to persuade the criminals running roughshod over Fallujah to reach a political solution, but they have chosen a path of violence instead."
Thousands of U.S. and Iraqi troops are involved in the massive assault. News correspondents report the troops backed by tanks and other armored vehicles were fighting from positions on the outskirts of the city.
The top U.S. commander in Iraq, General George Casey, said the assault is proceeding on schedule, but he predicted a "major confrontation" would develop.
(AP/Reuters/AFP)For related stories, see "U.S. Forces Launch Ground Assault On Al-Fallujah" and
"U.S. Explains Al-Fallujah Operations To Foreign Officials".