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US Commander: Attacks On Troops More Sophisticated, Coordinated - 2003-07-16


The commander of U.S. forces in Iraq says he believes coalition successes are forcing increasingly desperate supporters of the former regime to step up their guerrilla attacks.

General Abizaid admits the ongoing insecurity in Iraq is a problem.

But the newly-installed commander of the U.S. Central Command said backers of the ousted regime of Saddam Hussein are targeting the coalition's successes. "You have to understand that 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," General Abizaid said.

General Abizaid said those behind the escalating violence include remnants of the former Baathist regime and some foreign terrorist fighters. He said they are organized in small cells at the regional level and are now conducting what he views as a classical guerrilla-type campaign against the U.S.-led coalition. He said the attacks are becoming better coordinated and more sophisticated.

Nevertheless, he said American troops are performing magnificently - even though some have begun complaining about the length of their tours in Iraq.

But General Abizaid insists the soldiers should know it is better for the United States to fight the war against terrorism abroad - and not at home.

He also said Arab critics of the United States should know American troops will not be driven from Iraq. "War is a struggle of wills. You look at the Arab press, they say 'we drove the Americans out of Beirut, we drove them out of Somalia, you know we will drive them out of Baghdad.' And that's just not true," he said.

The General's comments came on a day of multiple attacks in Iraq. The mayor of an Iraqi city was killed after being accused of cooperating with American forces. One American soldier was killed and three others wounded when their convoy was attacked and a surface-to-air missile was fired at - but missed - a military transport plane.

General's Abizaid's characterization of the ongoing fighting as a classic guerrilla-type war contradicts the view of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

Mr. Rumsfeld told reporters just last month that what was happening in Iraq was not anything like a guerrilla war or what he described as an organized resistance.