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Abizaid: Coalition Faces Guerrilla Warfare in Iraq

Abizaid Says Coalition Is Facing Guerrilla Warfare in Iraq

Says political success has led to increased violence

Coalition forces are facing a classic guerrilla-type warfare campaign being waged by Ba'athist remnants and some foreign terrorist elements throughout Iraq, and are adapting their tactics in order to end the attacks, says General John Abizaid, commander of the U.S. Central Command.

"We're fighting Ba-athist remnants ... that have organized at the regional level in cellular structure and are conducting what I would describe as a classical guerrilla-type campaign against us," he told reporters at the Pentagon July 16.

"We're seeing a cellular organization of six to eight people ... attacking us sometimes at times and places of their own choosing. And other times we attack them at times and places of our choosing. They are receiving financial help from probably regional-level leaders," he said.

Abizaid said there is also significant terrorist group activity in Iraq.

"Ansar al-Islam, which is a terrorist group that we hit very hard in the very opening stages in the war up in the area of northern Iraq and northeast of Sulimaniyah ... is reforming and is presenting a threat to us." They could be infiltrating through Iran, he added.

He also cited a threat from al-Qaeda or "al-Qaeda look-alikes" who are "making an opportunity to move against us."

But the primary resistance is from mid-level Ba-athist leaders, he said. "It is getting more organized, and it is learning. It is adapting to our tactics, techniques and procedures, and we've got to adapt to their tactics, techniques and procedures."

Abizaid said there are currently about 148,000 Americans and 13,000 coalition troops in Iraq, and "I believe that for the next couple of weeks, at least, that that needs to be the size of the force." He added, however, that the force structure must be continually re-evaluated.

He said the 3rd Infantry Division now in Iraq will "most likely" be replaced by Army units in the near future, but that it may not be an exact swap of forces. "It could be that we take other types of forces because as the situation in Iraq changes, we need different types of forces. And I wouldn't like to discuss specifically what those change capabilities might be, but you can imagine that as we go into this phase of the conflict, we're just not going to sit around leaving our tactical face unchanged."

Abizaid told a questioner that in order to keep the force structure stable until the security situation improves, "year-long deployments are possible for certain units." He noted that the 1st Armored Division went to Bosnia for a year. "So, we've done it before; we can do it again."

The most important goal, he said, "is causing the level of violence to go down so that governance can move forward. ... And there will be an increase in violence as we achieve political success because the people that have a stake in ensuring the defeat of the coalition realize that time is getting short as the Iraqi face becomes more and more prevalent on the future of Iraq. And that's precisely what's going on now."

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