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Abizaid: Iraqi Forces Assisting Security/Stabilization Efforts

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 25, 2003 – In coming months, more new Iraqi civil defense forces will be assisting U.S. troops in security/stabilization efforts in that country, the U.S. Central Command chief told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee here today.

Army Gen. John Abizaid and Ambassador L. Paul Bremer III, the senior U.S. civilian in Iraq, were on Capitol Hill to answer senators' questions about the president's $87 billion supplemental budget proposal for Iraq security operations and reconstruction.

Arizona Sen. John McCain asked Abizaid if enough U.S. troops and Iraqi defense forces were available to corral Baathists and other anti-coalition forces seeking to undermine security and rebuilding efforts.

Abizaid responded that Iraqi troops are working side-by-side with American units in military operations against insurgents -- such as during a current operation in the Ar Ramadi area west of Baghdad. Many Iraqis in the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps are working with U.S. troops in that area, and more such homegrown troops are on the way, he added.

"In about four months, we'll have about 20 battalions that are fairly capable" serving alongside U.S. forces, the general explained.

Such an expanded Iraqi contribution, Abizaid continued, "gives us the opportunity to maintain a stable environment and also to conduct combat operations" in Iraq.

"I'm confident we've got enough (U.S.) troops at the right time, right now," he added.

Bremer acknowledged that U.S. casualties in Iraq are "painful." However, he said, those losses constitute part of the price of assisting the Iraqi people to move from a totalitarian state to a democratic government. And, a free and economically viable Iraq, Bremer noted to the senators, will contribute to peace in the Middle East region and U.S. national security.

The majority of Iraqis approve of the U.S.-coalition military campaign that ousted former dictator Saddam Hussein, Bremer noted, pointing to a just- released Gallup Poll of Iraqi citizens.

That poll, Bremer noted, "shows that almost two-thirds of Iraqis continue to say that getting rid of Saddam makes the sacrifices of the war and the aftermath worthwhile."

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