- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 28, 2003

The top U.S. commander in Iraq said yesterday that he now has thousands of Iraqi border guards in place to try to stop the influx of foreign terrorists aiding guerrillas faithful to Saddam Hussein.

“We now have 47,000 border guards that are in place and actually exercising control of Iraq’s borders,” Army Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez said during a wide-ranging news conference in Baghdad.

He backed statements from his bosses, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Gen. John Abizaid, the chief of Central Command, that the 130,000 troops in Iraq are sufficient to pacify the country.

“Putting more soldiers on the ground is not going to solve the problem when I don’t have the intelligence to act on it,” he said.

Gen. Sanchez said one of his main security challenges is to obtain more intelligence information from Iraqi informants for Army units to use.

More than 60 U.S. troops have been killed since May 1 by a varied resistance movement primarily made up of Saddam loyalists. To defeat them, Gen. Sanchez’s soldiers have launched a series of pre-emptive raids, collaring hundreds of enemy fighters and seizing loads of weapons.

“This environment is an environment that requires intelligence and it requires the ability to move forces around the battlefield rapidly to counter those threats,” he said. “When you look at the troop-to-task ratio and the missions that have been assigned to this command, it is clear to me that at this point in time, given the missions and given the tasks, it is not a function of additional soldiers.”

Pentagon officials said last month that the killing of Saddam’s two ruthless sons, Uday and Qusai, had emboldened more Iraqis to come forward with tips on the enemy’s whereabouts. But, Gen. Sanchez said, the flow is not adequate.

“What we do need is the linkage to the Iraqi people,” he said. “We need some Iraqi cooperation.”

One growing problem is the number of Islamic terrorists entering the country to fight a jihad, or holy war, against the Americans. Military analysts say Iraq’s border — a mix of mountain ranges, desert and wetlands — is virtually impossible to plug. They note that the United States cannot stop illegal immigrants from crossing into the American Southwest.

But Gen. Sanchez hopes Iraqi border guards can stem the flow.

“I think we clearly understood from the very beginning that the introduction of coalition forces into this environment would, in fact, engender some sort of terrorist activity,” the three-star general said. “It has manifested itself and we’re prepared.

“We need these Iraqi forces that we’re working so hard to stand up right now in the form of the civil defense corps, in the form of police forces and the border control forces, to be able to establish the linkages to the Iraqi people that can then give us the intelligence that we need.”

In recent weeks, top Bush administration officials have acknowledged failure to accurately predict the security picture in Iraq once Saddam was ousted.

Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage said this week that the United States “underestimated” two factors: that Saddam’s long hold on power had “instilled into the hearts and into the souls of the Iraqi people a greater degree of terror than we understood” and “the nature or the extent to which Iraq had become full of criminal enterprise.”

Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz has said the war plan did not envision thousands of Saddam loyalists choosing to fight a guerrilla war against the occupation.

Gen. Sanchez spoke on another day of acts of violence against coalition troops.

An angry mob trapped a British convoy in the town of Ali as Sharqi. Lt. Cmdr. Richard Walters said the soldiers moved around the crowd, but were stopped by another group blocking the road, the Associated Press reported from Baghdad.

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