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Iraq Mission Represents High Stakes in Anti-Terror War

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 25, 2003 – The outcome of U.S-coalition efforts to resuscitate Iraq's economy and help its citizens establish a representative government may mark a turning point in the war against global terrorism, senior U.S. officials said Aug. 24 on Sunday talk shows.

The senior U.S. civilian in Iraq, Ambassador L. Paul Bremer III, and Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, both said continuing U.S. and coalition casualties in Iraq, including recent Baghdad bombings of the Jordanian embassy and U.N. headquarters, point to terrorists' determination to create chaos and sabotage rebuilding efforts in Iraq.

The Aug. 19 U.N. bombing "does look like kind of a wake-up call to the Iraqi people and to the international community," Bremer said on Fox News Sunday.

That attack wounded more than 100 people and killed more than 20, including Brazilian Sergio Vieira de Mello, the top U.N. envoy in Iraq. Half of the bombing's casualties were Iraqi U.N. workers, according to news reports.

Bremer noted that Saddam Hussein operatives -- as well as foreign fighters opposed to western ideology who've come into Iraq from Syria, Iran and other nearby nations to stir up trouble -- are responsible for attacks on U.S. and coalition troops.

And foreign terrorists may be the perpetrators of recent bombings in Iraq, Bremer pointed out, including the Aug. 7 Jordanian embassy bombing that killed at least a dozen people.

Whether supporters of the deposed Hussein regime or jihadists fighting a holy war against the West, the terrorists "hate the vision we have for Iraq," Bremer asserted on Fox.

Regarding foreign fighters coming to Iraq, "it certainly is attracting a lot of them," he noted, adding this "shows what the stakes are. We've got to win this fight."

Appearing on NBC's Meet the Press, Myers echoed Bremer's analysis, pointing out that foreign terrorists are traveling to Iraq to fight U.S. and coalition forces "because the stakes are so high."

The terrorists believe that if they win in Iraq, then "they can get the international community out of the Middle East and let terrorism have its way," he said.

"And that's just not going to be," Myers stressed, adding, "It's more a question of wills now."

Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld recently told reporters that top U.S. military commanders in Iraq say they can accomplish the mission there without additional American troops.

However, Rumsfeld also said the issue of U.S. force levels in Iraq currently at about 140,000 troops -- is continuously under review.

Myers, who recently visited Iraq, said on Meet the Press that American forces there "are supremely confident in their ability to deal with the (terrorist) threat."

And he pointed out if Army Gen. John Abizaid, the commander of U.S forces in Iraq, "wants more (American) troops, he can have more troops," noting "there are more troops (available) to send."

The Joint Chiefs chairman observed that 50,000 Iraqis "are armed and working with us to bring security and stability" to Iraq. He added that number "will continue to grow, and dramatically, between now and the next month and the month after."

Most of Iraq which is the size of the state of California -- is relatively peaceful, Myers pointed out.

Yet, he said that soldiers he's talked to who patrol former Saddam strongholds around Tikrit and Balad maintain they're making a difference.

"They say: 'We are having an effect on this country,'" Myers recalled, noting the soldiers said Iraqis routinely thank the U.S. troops for their efforts.

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