U.S. reports Iraqi insurgents
are 'more organized'

Friday, July 18, 2003

The United States has seen what officials describe as a significant improvement in the capability of Sunni insurgents in Iraq.

Officials said the insurgents have become better organized, equipped and coordinated over the last few weeks.

[On Thursday, the U.S. military reported capturing a large amount of plastic explosives in raids by the U.S. Army's 4th Infantry Division, according to Middle East Newsline. A military statement said that in 14 raids the division seized 50 crates of C4 military-grade plastic explosive, 250,000 blasting caps, nearly 300 assault rifles and 500 grenades.]

"It is getting more organized, and it is learning," U.S. Central Command Gen. John Abizaid said. "It is adapting. It is adapting to our tactics, techniques and procedures, and we've got to adapt to their tactics, techniques and procedures."

"At the tactical level, they're [insurgents] better coordinated now," Abizaid told a Pentagon briefing on Wednesday. "They're less amateurish, and their ability to use improvised explosive devices and combine the use of these explosive devices with some sort of tactical activity."

The Defense Department has concluded that the next three months will be crucial in efforts to stabilize Iraq. A team of independent experts from the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies sent by the Pentagon concluded that the the U.S. military has until November to stem the Sunni insurgency and impose order on Iraq.

Officials reported increased coordination between loyalists of the deposed regime of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, Wahabi combatants supported by Saudi Arabia and criminals who are paid to attack U.S. troops. They said the insurgents have improved their use of mortars, rocket-propelled grenades and surface-to-air missiles, particularly against the army's quick-reaction forces.

The general said much of the insurgency war is being conducted by Islamic combatants, particularly Al Qaida or its supporters. Abizaid said the Al Qaida-aligned Ansar Al Islam has been infiltrating northern Iraq from Iran and has become a threat to the U.S. military presence. The bulk of the insurgency threat, he said, continues to stem from Saddam loyalists, particularly members of the former ruling Ba'ath Party.

"And then it's unclear, but it's troubling that Al Qaida either look-alikes or Al Qaida people are making an opportunity to move against us," Abizaid said.

Abizaid expressed confidence that the U.S. military can respond to the improvement in the Sunni insurgency capability. The general said he does not have evidence that the insurgents are being directed by a national command.

"But there is some level of regional command and control going on," Abizaid said. "And when I say regional, probably you look over at the Al Ramadi area, there's probably something going on over there, if you look up in the Tikrit-Baiji area, there's something up there, Mosul. That they are all connected? Not yet. Could they become connected? Sure, they could become connected."

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