The commanding general of coalition forces in Iraq says the insurgency is fueled largely by foreign fighters and money, rather than by ideology. The general spoke via satellite link with reporters at the Pentagon.
Lieutenant General John Vines says the most violent group in Iraq's ongoing insurgency is made up of foreign jihadists who don't hesitate to use their financial resources to get Iraqis to attack other Iraqis.
"We believe that this insurgency is driven in large measure by money," he said. "As little as a $100 will buy an IED."
"IED" is the abbreviation for the military term Improvised Explosive Device, a bomb planted along a roadside, in a marketplace or in a vehicle.
"What we find is that there's monetary value assigned to attacks against the coalition," he continued. "In some cases, as little as $150 is paid to someone to put in an improvised explosive device, to put perhaps a mine or two or three artillery shells into a hole with a remote detonator."
General Vines says his information comes from people who have been captured. "When we detain persons who were involved in that, they're sometimes forthcoming and they tell us exactly what they were paid and why they were doing it," he said. "And so in many cases we find that it has no ideology. Those who seek to regain power hire people for money to attack the Iraqi security forces, as well as the coalition."
General Vines, who is the operational commander for all coalition forces in Iraq, says the foreign fighters are a small but deadly group, who get help from elements in Syria who facilitate the arrival in Iraq of an estimated 75 to 150 insurgents every month. He said there is no evidence the Syrian government itself supports the insurgency, but he called on that government to do more to prevent its territory from being used in that way. According to the general, the foreign fighters' main countries of origin include Sudan, Yemen, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.
The general said other groups involved in Iraq's insurgency include Sunni extremists, former elements of the Saddam Hussein regime and Iraqis who simply want all foreign forces out of the country. He noted that the month of May was the deadliest in Iraq since the end of major combat two years ago, and he said he expects the number of insurgent attacks to remain about the same for the next few months, until the process of writing a new constitution and electing a new government is completed.
General Vines said he can not recommend any reduction in the approximately 135,000 U.S. troops in Iraq at this time, but he expressed the hope that some reduction could start early next year. He said the decision will be based on the military and political situation in Iraq at that time.
General Vines called it 'astonishing' that most Iraqis do not realize that foreign fighters are coming to their country to kill innocent people, in an effort to seize power. He also said many Americans have become complacent about the war in Iraq, which he said is crucial to ensuring that terrorists do not again attack the United States.