- The Washington Times - Monday, February 2, 2004

The commander of allied forces in Baghdad said yesterday that turning over the city’s security to newly trained Iraqi units should produce more arrests of foreign fighters believed behind a series of deadly bombings.

Maj. Gen. Martin Dempsey, who heads the 1st Armored Division, said his soldiers cannot normally pick out a Yemeni, Afghan or Jordanian. But Iraqis making up the new police force and separate Iraqi Civil Defense Corps (ICDC) can do so.

“The sooner we get Iraqis involved in their own security, in my view the sooner we’re able to defeat those coming in from outside because they know who they are, and in every case it’s not entirely clear to us,” Gen. Dempsey said in a video teleconference for Pentagon reporters.

“A couple of days ago, we found a Jordanian with an RPG [rocket propelled grenade]. I can’t tell you from a visual acquisition of a car driving down the street who’s who. They can.”

Yesterday, Iraqi police also apprehended an Afghan and an Iranian trying to place a bomb on a road leading to an oil refinery.

Officials say scores of foreign fighters have infiltrated the country to kill Iraqis as well as coalition members. The military believes they are the ones carrying out suicide car bombings, as opposed to pro-Saddam Hussein Iraqis. But the Bush administration’s official position is that there is no conclusive evidence to identify which group is executing suicide attacks.

Gen. Dempsey, whose division is relinquishing control of Baghdad in the coming weeks to the 1st Cavalry Division from Fort Hood, Texas, announced on Sunday that American soldiers are methodically pulling out of the city. Security will be left almost entirely to U.S.-trained Iraqi police and the ICDC.

Yesterday, he provided more details. His division has reduced the number of city bases from 60 to 24, while at the same time breaking up eight of 14 anti-coalition guerrilla cells operating in Baghdad.

“The insurgency in Baghdad is much less organized than it was a month ago and it is much more fearful than it was a month ago because our operations are much more precise and much more effective,” Gen. Dempsey said.

The general repeated earlier reports that the Dec. 13 capture of Saddam included the seizure of documents that gave soldiers a clearer picture of the insurgency inside Baghdad.

His soldiers are moving to the city’s perimeter, a sufficiently close location from which units can spring back inside if needed. The bulk of anticrime and counterinsurgency work will be done by the 8,000-person Iraqi police force and some 4,000 ICDC officers.

“My personal opinion is I think the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps and the police are a powerful team for this kind of urban warfare and urban security challenge,” Gen. Dempsey said.

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