Report: Improving insurgents may exploit U.S. troop rotation

Thursday, April 29, 2004

Sunni insurgents are demonstrating increasing capability against the U.S. military and coalition forces still hampered by poor intelligence.

A report by the Washington Institute asserted that Sunni insurgents and their Al Qaida allies continue to demonstrate increasing capability against both coalition forces and Iraqi security units. The report said the capability includes suicide strikes against Iraqi security facilities as well as coordinated military-type operations.

The report said the Sunni insurgency could exploit the rotation of U.S. troops as new inexperienced forces will have to learn about their adversaries in Iraq. The biggest problem, the report said, will be the lack of intelligence on Sunni capabilities and targets.

Author Jeffrey White assesses that the increased capability reflects a Sunni insurgency organization that is well-organized and intent on a campaign against Iraqis who have joined the U.S.-led coalition. White said the coalition has been unable to obtain and distribute the intelligence required to foil these strikes, Middle East Newsline reported.

"Despite the setbacks of November-December 2003, resistance elements have demonstrated the capacity to mount high-impact terrorist- and military-style operations while maintaining some level of more routine attacks," the report said. "Their targeting and planning capabilities also seem to be improving. They reflect the work of dedicated and embedded organizations with substantial capabilities."

"As fresh units are introduced, these forces will inevitably begin operations with less skill and knowledge regarding local environments," White, a former U.S. government intelligence analyst, said. "Even currently deployed units have not received advance intelligence on certain important incidents. As they withdraw to more secure locations outside towns and cities, U.S. forces will perhaps lose some awareness of, and sensitivity to, local conditions."

Written before the Shi'ite insurgency in April, the report said the Sunni resistance has rebounded from their losses in November and December 2003. White cited the flurry of attacks in Faluja and south of Baghdad in mid-February that killed about 125 people.

"The February 10-11 suicide bombings of Iraqi recruiting facilities were shocking, high-visibility events, killing as many as 100 army and police recruits and bystanders," the report said. "These incidents reinforced widespread perceptions that the coalition is unable to prevent attacks on important Iraqi targets, a fact that may have a chilling effect on recruiting for the new security forces."

Michael O'Hanlon, senior fellow at the Brooking Institution, said the Shi'ite revolt pointed out the inadequate U.S. force level in Iraq, which he said would require about 150,000 soldiers. O'Hanlon said that for the past year the U.S. military and other coalition forces were unable to perform what he termed were vital security missions, such as the guarding of Iraqi ammunition depots or border patrols.

"I'm still nervous that we haven't yet developed a serious strategy to restore order in the Sunni Triangle, where we have essentially taken ourselves out of many of these cities," O'Hanlon said. "The marines are now trying to correct that mistake and get back in at a terrible price to their own troops. But in terms of numbers of troops, my impression is we may still not be quite high enough." >

Copyright 2004 East West Services, Inc.

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