Gen. John P. Abizaid Stakeout after House Armed Services Committee Tesitmony
General Myers: -- As everybody saw, we had a great hearing with General Abizaid and obviously tremendous member interest in the operation, this major rotation that’s taking place and the state of the handoff to the Iraqi government and the Iraqi military forces. General thank you for being with us today, I think we had a very good review of all the pertinent facts and circumstances.
Abizaid: Mr. Chairman, thanks very much. As I told the committee I certainly appreciate all the support you’ve given us and the Committee’s given us in allowing our young men and women to get the job done in Afghanistan and Iraq. I'd also like to say that I want to extend my condolences to people of Iraq with regard to the terrible terrorist attacks that took place yesterday that took the lives of more than 140 innocent people. This Zarqawi network of terrorist ideology that stands behind him is absolutely one of the most despicable enemies this nation and the Iraqi people have ever faced. And together we’ve got to root them out, we’ve got to find them and we’ve got to bring them to justice. And we’ll do that with the Iraqis.
Q: Sir, with regard to those attacks you mentioned you had some advanced intelligence that you passed on to the Iraqis. How specific was it?
Abizaid: Well Bradley, you know how intelligence is, I mean you get intelligence that something is going to happen and then you do your best to prevent the influences and the various sources - none of it was good enough to say when it would happen, where it would happen, how it would happen, but it was clear that Zarqawi and his al-Qaida friends and his Iraqi intelligence service facilitators have gotten together and decided to do precisely what he said in his letter, which is whatever they can to foment civil war.
Q: You mentioned that Special Operations forces were actually able to raid some operatives the night before and you said prevented some of the carnage [inaudible].
Abizaid: There is no doubt that we disrupted a plan that had even greater dimensions than what we saw on the ground. Clearly there was a plan for Basra that was disrupted, and clearly there was a desire to bring in vehicle borne explosive devices – car bombs – and use them and to the best of our knowledge that only happened in one instance. So we think we have some disruptive effects, but continue to put a lot of pressure against Zarqawi and the terrorists and the various foreign fighters that we see in Iraq and we’ll do that in conjunction with the Iraqi security forces.
Q: [Inaudible] in Baghdad or somewhere else.
Abizaid: Baghdad and Karbala.
Q: When the Zarqawi letter first came out there was speculation that there would be strong links with al-Qaida. Today you mentioned [Inaudible] evidence of a linkage with Iraqi security services. Does that appear to be stronger dynamic now that you’re concerned about?
Abizaid: The dynamic that’s shared by people that want to make the Iraqi government fail is one that spans ideologies. You have extremists of the former regime on the one side and you have the extremist network of professional terrorists like Zarqawi, Ansar al Islam, and al Qaida on the other. For people to think that they're not linking with one another is certainly not correct. They are linking with one another. They represent a danger to the Iraqi government and they represent a danger to the people of the region.
We must move together to suppress this ideology and this desire to cause civil war and we can only do it together.
Q: How strong is the intelligence that you alluded to today linking him to the attacks?
Abizaid: I personally believe that there is no doubt that Zarqawi is behind this.
Abizaid: Clearly it is obvious that not only are they targeting the Shia [inaudible] in an effort to foment civil war, by causing a lot of casualties among innocent people that are celebrating the Ashura holiday, but they're also targeting - and I think there's no doubt about it - Shia leaders, Sunni leaders, any leader that will emerge in a leadership role in the new Iraq. What the terrorists fear is that a government of moderation will form in Iraq and allow for Iraqis to develop a better future. And they'll fight every step of the way to prevent that from happening.
So I think that means to us that as we move towards a political situation or solution we’ll have continued violence.
Thanks very much.