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Number of Attacks in Iraq Constant, Enemy Tactics Change

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 6, 2003 – While the number of attacks against coalition troops in Iraq has remained constant, the tactics enemy forces use have changed, coalition officials said today.

The nature of enemy action against coalition forces has changed since the end of major combat operations May 1, said coalition officials in Baghdad. Enemy forces are moving away from small-unit infantry attacks against coalition forces. Regime holdouts are moving toward more hit-and-run attacks, using improvised explosive devices, mortars or rocket-propelled grenades.

"They are using different tactics so they do not need to engage our forces directly," said a Combined Joint Task Force 7 spokesman in Baghdad. "If they stay to fight, they die."

The change in tactics did not create a rise in the number of incidents. Officials said roughly half of the attacks against coalition forces are small, with fewer than six people ambushing coalition convoys or patrols. The other half is a mix of improvised explosive devices, remotely fired rockets or mortar attacks. The targets often are Iraqis rather than coalition personnel. "These elements are trying to discourage the population from cooperating with the coalition," the spokesman said.

The number of attacks fluctuates. The beginning of May saw six to 30 attacks each day. The upper number has dropped; in October, the average has fluctuated from the mid-teens to low 20s.

"I think what we all need to understand is that (with) some of these improvised explosive devices, all that is required is someone with a paper bag or a plastic bag to drop it as a walk-by," said Army Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, commander of Combined Joint Task Force 7, during a press briefing Oct. 2. "I don't know that my security measures are too lax or too weak at this point. I think what it requires is for us to remain vigilant constantly, which is what we are trying to do. It requires us to work with the local population."

And coalition personnel are working with local Iraqis. The coalition "offensive" is often fought by building schools, stocking hospitals or repairing power pylons rather than with bullets, coalition officials said. Coalition Provision Authority officials said more than 8,000 separate projects all over Iraq are aimed at improving life for the average person.

But there will still be casualties, Sanchez warned. "I have repeatedly stated that as long as we are here, the coalition, and specifically the American forces, need to be prepared to take casualties," he said.

Coalition forces are still encountering Baathist remnants, he said. The area west of Baghdad and through Tikrit is especially dangerous. "We should not be surprised if one of these mornings we wake up and in fact there has been a major firefight with significant casualties, or a significant terrorist attack that has killed significant numbers of people," Sanchez said. "This is still a war zone."

Coalition forces are working to minimize casualties by examining what the enemy is doing and modifying coalition tactics.

"We synchronize our operations with the Iraqi security capacities that are out there, to try to accomplish our mission at least cost," Sanchez said. "Every single day, my focus is to attempt to accomplish that mission very aggressively, but yet be able to preserve the human cost to the American people."

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