Most Iraqi Provinces Ready for Elections, General Says
By John D. Banusiewicz
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Dec. 15, 2004 Noting that "we could probably have elections tomorrow" in 14 of Iraq's 18 provinces, U.S. Central Command's No. 2 officer today pledged continued efforts to stabilize the country's remaining security problems in time for Iraqis to elect a national assembly Jan. 30 as scheduled.
Still, Air Force Lt. Gen. Lance L. Smith told reporters at a Pentagon news conference today, it's "absolutely clear" that elements in Iraq are doing everything they can to derail the process.
"The insurgents will make every effort to try and make these elections as difficult as possible and try to force a delay," he said. "And our job is to try and make sure that that doesn't happen, and we will continue to try to stay offensive and go after these people that want to disrupt the election, and then at the same time, work with the Iraqi security forces to ensure that they have both the number of forces and the training and the capability to provide security when we actually get to the elections."
Smith said that while fugitive Jordanian terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's network is at work in Iraq, he believes its numbers are "quite small." Elements of deposed dictator Saddam Hussein's regime make up a "considerably larger" portion of the enemy that U.S., Iraqi and coalition forces are fighting in Iraq, he said.
The general said former regime loyalists fall into three categories: those attacking and killing people, those passively sitting by or supporting the activists, and those who "are just sitting on the fence and don't know which side to go."
"And I would say that there are a great number of folks in those areas that you've always heard about -- in Fallujah, Ramadi, Tikrit, in large numbers in Mosul -- that fit into one of those three categories," he said.
Regardless of their affiliation, enemy forces have made increasing use of improvised explosive devices and have adapted to changes in tactics designed to counter the IED threat, the general said.
"It is a thinking enemy," he said. "So he changes his tactics, and he becomes more effective. He learns you don't try to blow the bomb up when the truck's next to it. You blow it up two or three truck lengths ahead of it, and he's becoming more effective." Smith noted, however, that half of the IEDs planted in Iraq are found and disarmed before they have a chance to go off. He also said an IED task force works to develop ways to counter changes in enemy tactics, but the leap-frogging may well continue.
"We've had a number of technologies that we've tried out in the theater, some more successful than others, but no silver bullet," he said. "I don't know that we'll ever find a silver bullet to this. This is a very simple technology, but it is also very adaptive technology. They may use doorbells today to blow these things up. They may use remote controls from toys tomorrow. And as we adapt, they adapt."
Armor on vehicles is one way to lessen the effects of IEDs, and Smith explained that enemy tactics over time have greatly increased initial requirements for armored vehicles.
"This requirement has increased as the enemy's tactics have increased," he said. "We've now got a very large requirement. We didn't have the same requirement a year ago, and that has increased as the enemy has changed his tactics. He has recognized that he cannot take us on in a direct fight. He loses every time. So he has chosen to operate in our rear areas and use improvised explosive devices to attack us in the rear area.
"And in doing that," the general continued, "it's changed the way we have to armor our vehicles that normally would operate pretty freely in the rear area and wouldn't require armor."
Meeting the increased requirement for armor is an ongoing process, Smith noted. "We are growing to the capability that I think we need to have, and doing it pretty rapidly," he said.