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US Commander: No Danger of Losing Control Over Situation in Iraq, Afghanistan - 2004-04-30


A top U.S. military commander is predicting a continued volatile security situation in Iraq but says coalition forces are prepared to deal with it.

One year ago, President Bush declared an end to the major combat phase of Operation Iraqi Freedom. At that point, 109 American soldiers had died in hostile action.

Now, a year later, U.S. forces have experienced their bloodiest month yet. More than 120 have been killed in combat in April, many of them the victims of roadside bombs.

Senior officials like Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld admit the situation in Iraq has not unfolded the way they had hoped.

Yet they insist the U.S. led coalition is committed to staying the course as the planned June 30th handover of power to a new Iraqi government nears.

General John Abizaid is commander of the U.S. military's Central Command, responsible for operations in both Afghanistan and Iraq.

Speaking from Qatar to reporters at the Pentagon Friday, he says he is not depressed about the situation nor does he believe the situation in Iraq is slipping dangerously out of control.

?We all need to have the patience to understand that these missions in Iraq and Afghanistan are hard. They're difficult,? General Abizaid said. ?They'll take time. But we are not in any military danger of loosing control over the situation in either Iraq or Afghanistan.?

General Abizaid predicts the security situation in Iraq will remain violent as the political turnover date approaches.

He says there are enough U.S. and coalition troops to deal with any threats.

But the Central Command commander says a top priority remains the re-building of Iraq's own security forces, which he says has lagged behind schedule.

?The immediate military tasks are first and foremost the rebuilding of Iraqi security capacity,? he said.

General Abizaid says some Iraqi security units have, in his words, been "unable to perform their missions." He says these need to be retrained or rebuilt and re-equipped.

He gives no further details. But he suggests the problem has been on the Iraqi side, telling reporters says there must be what he calls "reliable Iraqi leadership," from the national level to the lowest-ranked soldier.

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