Rumsfeld: Iraqi Attacks May Have 'Element of Organization'
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
LISBON, Portugal, Jun. 9, 2003 Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld does not believe that the recent spate of attacks on U.S. soldiers in Iraq is the result of any "well-organized nationally directed campaign," he said June 9.
But, he noted, there are people who say that in certain parts of Iraq "it looks as though it has an element of organization to it as opposed to being random."
The attacks on coalition forces north and west of Baghdad are not just a criminal enterprise, Rumsfeld said on the plane flying here. He said his impression is that the attacks are coming from the paramilitary Fedayeen Saddam, die-hard Baath Party members, Iraqi Republican Guards and other sympathizers with Saddam Hussein's former regime.
He said coalition forces do not have the same problems in the southern part of the country, because most of the battles were fought there. "The regime sympathizers (in the north) did not get into a battle and, therefore, a lot of them didn't get killed as they did down south," he said. "So there are probably more of them per square mile in the northern portion of the country between Baghdad and Tikrit than there are in other portions of the country."
Rumsfeld said the United States is talking to 41 countries about support to the coalition effort in Iraq. On June 6, he said there was the possibility of up to three divisions' worth of troops would ultimately join the U.S., British, and Australian coalition.
The secretary said he had a meeting June 8 with Indian officials and sounded out the possibility of India providing troops in Iraq. "We feel good about it," he said. "We're hopeful that we'll get a sizable set of forces in Iraq. The first ones would likely be in September."
He said the composition of U.S. forces in the country which now number about 145,000 is being changed. "We've been adding ground forces in Iraq," he said.
U.S. Central Command has moved out air and naval forces from the region. CENTCOM is "mixing and matching" for the forces it will need in the months ahead. The secretary said that at this stage there isn't a great need for heavy armor, artillery or rocket battalions.
"There is a need for presence ground forces," he said. And those ground forces will be heavy with military police, civil affairs personnel, interpreters and infantrymen.
Rumsfeld also addressed the perception that many Iraqis are not cooperating because they still fear Saddam Hussein. He said the Iraqi people were afraid of the vicious and repressive dictator. "And if they fear he might come back, they might be somewhat slower to say what they know," he pointed out.
The thought of Saddam returning to power may be fueling the attacks on coalition forces, but they will not succeed, the secretary said.
In the meantime, coalition forces will "just keep looking for him. We'll find him," Rumsfeld said.