Insurgents Have 'No Chance,' CENTCOM Chief Says
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, June 26, 2005 Insurgents "don't have a chance" provided the United States stays the course in Iraq, Army Gen. John Abizaid said today on CBS's Face the Nation and CNN's Late Edition.
Abizaid, commander of U.S. Central Command, said good progress continues in Iraq. "The enemy can't win," he said. "The enemy can grab headlines, they can try to break our will. But there's no way the United States military in either Afghanistan or Iraq is going to be pushed into the sea."
But the war does not have a military solution, Abizaid said. Rather, all aspects of national power - economic, diplomatic and the military - must combine to fashion a political solution. "We're the shield behind which the politics will take place," he said. "And ultimately, if the government is legitimate, if the Iraqis are seen fighting and dying for their own country, the insurgents don't have a chance."
The insurgent strategy, Abizaid said, is to create the impression that the coalition is not winning. The attacks against innocent Iraqis, he added, are aimed at the U.S. will to stay the course.
"When I talk to my commanders in the field ... you get a clear sense of confidence and progress," Abizaid said. "And what is most encouraging to me ... is that Iraqi commanders were confident. They knew their capabilities were increasing, they were engaging more frequently and steadily in combat. They are not ready to stand alone yet, but they will be."
Abizaid said progress from the fall of Saddam Hussein to today is measurable. Since 2003, "Saddam has fallen, a government has been elected, a new cabinet has been seated (and) the constitutional process is going forward. These are revolutionary events, and they won't come without violence," he said. "If we stay on track, if we stay patient, if we stay confident, if we recognize that it's going to be hard and tough, if we stick with the program, ... we'll be successful."
The insurgents are in a "no-win" situation, he said. "They can cause casualties, they can grab headlines, but as long as the politics move forward," they cannot win, the general said.
Abizaid said that by spring or summer next year, the Iraqi forces should be trained enough to assume the lead in the counterterrorism effort.
The general said American and Iraqi leaders are talking with all groups in Iraq as the political process moves forward. This includes Sunni groups. And the Sunni population - roughly 20 percent of the nation - provides the base for the insurrection. He said some of the people officials are talking with have ties to the insurgency. "It's very, very important that we have opportunities for dialogue with all aspects of the society there," he said. "The Sunnis need to be part of the political future. This doesn't mean we are talking with people like (Abu Musab) Zarqawi or people in his organization."
Abizaid addressed polls showing American support for Operation Iraqi Freedom is dropping. He said public support for the troops is important. "Soldiers don't want to be looking over their shoulders wondering what folks back home are thinking," he said. "They want to know that people understand what we're fighting for, why we're fighting and how we can win this thing.
"It's a challenge to talk about this most complicated region and this most complicated war and put it in the common sense necessary for folks back home to talk about it," he continued. "The vast majority of troops in the field know that we are winning and know it is better to fight abroad than to fight at home."
Abizaid stressed the difficulty of the battle in Iraq. He said an insurgency is the most difficult campaign, and one that needs to include all aspects of governance. That is happening, he emphasized. "The problem is our patience level is low," he said. "We seem to think we're in a sprint. This is not a sprint, this is a marathon."
The general said the effort is in the 21st mile of that marathon, and the U.S. population must not "hit the wall," but rather should finish the race.