ABU DHABI Ñ The United States believes about 5,000 Sunnis are
participating in the insurgency war in Iraq.
Officials said the estimate was conducted by U.S. Central Command, which
maintains 156,000 troops in Iraq. For the last two months, U.S. Army units
have been waging operations against insurgents in the so-called Sunni
Triangle north of Baghdad, Middle East Newsline reported.
A U.S. Central Command official placed the number of anti-coalition
forces in Iraq between 4,000 and 5,000. In a background briefing at Central
Command Forward headquarters in Doha on Sunday, the official said the
estimate is based on the operations of insurgents in several parts of Iraq.
Central Command has determined that the Sunni insurgency has included
members of Fedayeen Saddam, Baath Party combatants and the Iraqi
Intelligence Service. The senior offiical said the role of Saddam's
intelligence service has been far bigger than originally envisioned.
"Iraq is more than a guerilla war," the Central Command official said.
"It is a low-intensity conflict where you have to fight terrorists, you have
to fight guerrillas, you have to fight criminals and you have to achieve
stability. It's a multifaceted effort, and most of the country is stable."
U.S. officials said the Sunni insurgency has not blocked efforts to
stabilize the country. They said the United States has organized more than
50,000 Iraqis as part of the nation's new military, police force and
"You've got to win over the goodwill of the population over time in
order to be able to defeat [the Baathist holdouts] militarily," the official
On Sunday, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, who returned from
Iraq, said that in the last week alone the U.S. military seized 660
surface-to-air missiles from Iraqi insurgents. Wolfowitz said a turning
point in the insurgency war could be the capture or killing of Saddam.
[On Monday, U.S. troops found 40 anti-tank mines and dozens of mortar
rounds in Tikrit. The military said the amount of explosives would have
sufficed for a month of attacks against U.S. troops.]
Many of the attacks have been organized by senior Iraqi officers under
Saddam with the rank of colonel and lieutenant colonel. The officers were
said to have access to weapons and funding and often relay them to Iraqi
civilians in exchange for pay.
"It's disturbing that there are that many in the country, but we're
making inroads against the big threats against us," Wolfowitz said. "Maybe
they'll give up when Saddam Hussein is gone."