Rumsfeld: Attacks on Americans in Iraq Likely to Continue, Even Increase
By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jul. 13, 2003 The closer coalition forces get to completely dismantling the remnants of Iraq's ousted Baath government, the "more vicious" attacks on American forces in that country are likely to become, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said today.
Since President Bush declared an end to major combat in Iraq, at least 79 American troops have been killed and nearly 400 others injured. The most recent American casualties came just this morning, when a soldier was killed and two others were injured "when a tractor trailer crashed into their military vehicle," according to a U.S. Central Command release.
Unfortunately, Rumsfeld contended on Sunday's NBC News "Meet the Press," this trend is likely to continue until Saddam Hussein's remaining supporters are rooted out.
"(The president) said major combat operations have ended," Rumsfeld said. "He did not say the war had ended. He did not say there would be no one else killed."
He agreed with comments by Ambassador L. Paul Bremer, American civil administrator in Iraq, that "it's going to be a rough summer." Rumsfeld said officials have even surmised attacks might increase in July, "which is an anniversary for a lot of Baathist events."
The secretary blamed the attacks on supporters of the former regime who are afraid of the American policy of "de- Baathification" and are determined to do something about it. "There's still a lot of people from the Baathist (party) and Fedayeen Saddam (death squads) who are there, who are disadvantaged by the fact that their regime has been thrown out and would like to get back," Rumsfeld said, adding, "But they're not going to succeed."
There is debate among the intelligence community on the level of organization within the resistance, Rumsfeld said. Clearly, he explained, there is some level of organization in regions and cities. But there's "no conviction" among intelligence experts that resistance is being coordinated on a national level.
What is clear is that the remnants are targeting areas in which the coalition and Iraqi people are successful in working together, Rumsfeld said. Recent attacks have targeted a university and an Iraqi police station.
To combat this resistance, the United States launched new Operation Ivy Serpent July 12. According to CENTCOM officials, the operation is concentrated in the region between the cities of Bayji, Huwayiah and Samarra.
"Coalition members encourage the local Iraqi leadership to take the initiative and aid in the capture of subversive elements that attempt to hinder the rebuilding of Iraq," stated a CENTCOM release.
Fear that Hussein might regain power is an important factor in preventing some Iraqis from embracing progress. "Here's a man that for 30 years was killing people -- hundreds and hundreds and tens of thousands of people -- Iraqi people he killed. So there is fear he might come back," Rumsfeld said.
"He isn't going to come back," he added. "Let there be no doubt about that."
In spite of this fear, many Iraqis are committed to improving their lot and their country. "There are a great many Iraqi people who are signing up to be policemen, signing up to go back in the army, opening schools, opening universities, opening hospitals," the secretary said. "And there's a lot of progress taking place on the ground."
The United States is currently spending about $4 billion per month to maintain the roughly 147,000 American troops on the ground in Iraq. Rumsfeld said this troop level is "unlikely to go up" but could conceivably if the security situation in the country changes. "If they're needed, they will be there," he said.