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CENTCOM Says Iraqi Die-hards Number Around 5,000

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

DOHA, Qatar, July 28, 2003 – A U.S. Central Command official estimates the number of anti-coalition forces in Iraq to number between 4,000 and 5,000.

The official spoke on background at the Central Command Forward headquarters here July 27.

The backgrounder followed a meeting with Joint Chiefs Chairman Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers. Myers is traveling to the "heart of Baathdom" in Tikrit, Iraq - Saddam Hussein's hometown.

The number of Iraqis fighting against the coalition is at best an estimate. The official said the guess takes into consideration the various different "actions" going on it Iraq.

"Iraq is more than a guerilla war," said a senior CENTCOM official. "It is a low-intensity conflict where you have to fight terrorists, you have to fight guerrillas, you have to fight criminals and you have to achieve stability. It's a multifaceted effort, and most of the country is stable."

The military effort will focus its capacity on the mid-level Baathist threat, he said. The command's intelligence experts have found that the Iraqi Intelligence Service has a role in this much bigger than was once thought.

The official said that colonels and lieutenant colonels are orchestrating the action at regional and local levels in the country. They have access to funds and access to arms and weapons. In many cases they are hiring poorer Iraqis to launch attacks.

But the big question needing an answer isn't strictly military: Do the people living in the triangle between Baghdad, Tikrit and Ar Ramadi support the Baathists or the coalition? "You've got to win over the goodwill of the population over time in order to be able to defeat (the Baathist holdouts) militarily," the official said.

Officials contrast the support of the Baath Party with the support the coalition is already receiving from the Iraqi people. Officials said there are about 36,000 local Iraqi police back on the streets. There are thousands of local guards for areas. Many Iraqis are interested in enlisting in a new Iraqi army and many are lining up for the Iraqi civil defense force. Officials conservatively put the number of Iraqis under arms on the coalition side at 50,000.

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