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Iraq Insurgency Forces Are Switching Targets, Abizaid Says

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 4, 2004 – Baathists, Islamic radicals, and foreign fighters in Iraq have adjusted their sights in their efforts to torpedo the establishment of a democratic government in that country, a senior U.S. military officer said here today.

Since terrorists in Iraq have had scant success against U.S. and coalition troops, they're now focusing attacks on newly trained Iraqi security forces and other targets, U.S. Army Gen. John Abizaid told Senate Armed Services Committee members. There are now, he said, about 200,000 Iraqi security forces. Abizaid is commander of U.S. Central Command.

In addition to attacks on Iraqi police stations, the March 2 bombings in Baghdad and Karbala "certainly represent the worst of the terrorist threat that exists" within CENTCOM's area of operations, Abizaid said.

The Coalition Provisional Authority is to turn over power to a transitional Iraqi government June 30.

The Baghdad and Karbala bombings killed 180 people and wounded 500, Abizaid pointed out, noting that by such acts the terrorists hope to "derail the process of moving towards an Iraqi transitional sovereign authority."

Consequently, bolstering Iraqi security capacity, the Army general said, will be of paramount concern this year.

And, there's evidence, Abizaid pointed out, that former Saddam Hussein regime loyalists are cooperating with "professional" terrorists who are crossing into Iraq from the Syrian and Iranian borders.

In fact, "most of the (terrorist) infiltration continues to come from Syria into Iraq," Abizaid noted, with other troublemakers coming "from northern Iran into Iraq."

Yet, those foreign fighters aren't toting arsenals of weaponry, Abizaid noted. Rather, "they go to safe houses within Iraq, and then they become armed."

Still, most of the insurgent activity in the country, he remarked, "is primarily Iraqi."

Abizaid acknowledged anti-coalition elements want to stir up a civil war in Iraq, noting, "That certainly was the motivation in the (March 2) attack against the Shiia."

However, Abizaid said he remains optimistic that terrorists in Iraq will be defeated, noting, "There are many more people inside Iraq trying to hold it together than tear it apart."

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Gen. John Abizaid

Related Sites:
U.S. Central Command
Senate Armed Services Committee

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