US troops will never overcome insurgents, warns senior officer (TELEGRAPH UK) By Toby Harnden in Baghdad and Philip Sherwell in Washington 01/30/05)
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The insurgency in Iraq will last at least a decade and American
troops alone will not be able to defeat it, a senior US military
officer in Baghdad has predicted.
Speaking on the eve of Iraq´s first free election for 51 years, the
officer conceded: "Iraqis are the ones who will have to defeat the
insurgency, not multi-national forces.
"It is not necessarily a growing insurgency but it is a resilient
one," he told The Telegraph. "We´re looking at a long-term
insurgency, probably at a lower level of violence than now.
Historically, you look at a decade – and this is no different."
Iraq has been put under a virtual three-day lockdown for the
elections, with unprecedented security measures bringing life to a
standstill. There is a dusk-to-dawn curfew and travel between
provinces is banned. Iraqi police officers will form an inner
security ring at polling stations, bolstered by an outer ring of
Iraqi troops, and American rapid reaction forces can be deployed if
"Undoubtedly, insurgents are going to attack polling sites with
suicide belts wrapped around them,´´ Gen John Abizaid of US Central
Command told an American newspaper. Another senior officer disclosed
that 400 Iraqi civilians, officials and security officers had been
killed so far this month as part of a campaign of intimidation
against voters. He said that insurgents had stepped up their attacks
on polling stations, with 45 targeted on Friday alone.
Yesterday, in what coalition commanders feared was a taste of
violence to come, eight people died in a suicide bombing in the town
of Khanaqin, north-east of Baghdad. In all, at least 18 people lost
their lives at the hands of insurgents. Other attacks have been
foiled, including one in Basra.
The Iraqi government also said that it had arrested three senior
aides of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the alleged leader of al-Qa´eda in
Iraq. Supporters of the terror mastermind, however, claimed that they
had killed a candidate from the list of Ayad Allawi, the interim
prime minister, and threatened to release a video recording of the
death on the internet.
The US military official maintained that the insurgency was
ultimately "doomed" to failure and said that a successful vote today
could lead to a noticeable reduction in violence by April. The Iraqi
forces were becoming more capable by the day, he said, and would
eventually take responsibility for security: "From having the
intelligence about who the insurgents are, to having the ability to
identify and turn them in - all those things, Iraqis do best."
The cautiously optimistic assessment has led to the Pentagon drawing
up "best case" plans to cut US troop numbers in Iraq by half over the
next 18 months as part of a wide review of the American military, The
Telegraph has learned.
It is hoped that a new strategy for training Iraqi troops – in which
thousands of US military advisers would be attached to local units
as "mentors" - will lead to dramatic improvements in security.
President George W Bush is insistent that America will not "cut and
run", but the administration is keen to have an exit strategy ready
before the US mid-term elections in late 2006 - as long as
the "mentoring" strategy works.
"The administration does not want to go into the mid-term elections
where they are now," said Dan Goure, a Pentagon adviser and director
of the Lexington Institute defence think-tank. Generals and Pentagon
civilian planners were working to cut numbers from about 120,000 -
though there are 155,000 covering the elections - to 60,000.
Up to 10,000 American troops could be assigned long-term to Iraqi
units, although US forces would still provide logistics back-up, air
support and heavy armour. (© Copyright of Telegraph Group Limited
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