- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 8, 2003

The U.S. military’s aggressive counter-insurgency sweeps have sparked an increase in attacks on soldiers in and around Baghdad, but the military is adjusting its tactics, and the outgoing commander of Operation Iraqi Freedom says no additional American troops are needed in Iraq.

“The sense that I have right now is that it’s not time to send in additional troops,” Gen. Tommy Franks told ABC-TV hours before he stepped down as chief of the U.S. Central Command.

“What we want to do is we want to continue to move forward with establishing security by working with the Iraqis inside Iraq,” said Gen. Franks, who is retiring after a three-year term.

Central Command has been studying the 150,000-troop force structure in Iraq to determine whether it needs to be strengthened. Gen. Franks’ statement suggests that the command will not ask Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld for more personnel.

In Iraq, commanders are exploring new security measures to reduce risks to units as Iraqi guerrillas mount multiple attacks daily. The military began three major sweeps to capture or kill the paramilitaries, including the last campaign, Operation Sidewinder.

“We are seeking the enemy out,” said Maj. Gen. Carl Strock, deputy director of operations for the Coalition Provisional Authority, which is running postwar Iraq. “And when you get in that kind of a situation, you’re going to stimulate more action just by the nature of our tactics.”

“We’re not sitting still and waiting for them to come to us, and, hence, more things are going on,” he told reporters at the Pentagon via a teleconference hookup from Iraq. “I think that’s part of the reason you’re seeing an increase in the number of attacks.”

Gen. Strock said that soldiers are encountering “more sophisticated attacks,” and that “we’re adjusting to those tactics.”

He did not specify the changes in tactics. But other U.S. officials said the Army is looking at installing more protection at checkpoints and providing better body armor. One officer in Iraq said in an interview that not all soldiers are equipped with the best bulletproof vests. Some models can stop shrapnel and pistol fire, but not rifle shots, the officer said.

“Every time that we have a contact, we analyze and try to learn something from it,” Gen. Strock said. “So certainly every time one of our soldiers is attacked, we look at our procedures and whether or not we need to adjust those.”

Since President Bush declared an end to major combat operations in Iraq on May 1, American troops increasingly are the target of forces still loyal to ousted dictator Saddam Hussein. In what some soldiers consider an urban guerrilla war, 30 American and six British soldiers have died in hostile fire since Mr. Bush’s declaration.

Saddam’s whereabouts are unknown to the coalition, creating fear among Iraqis that he may one day return to power. Washington dismisses the scenario. But just the thought that Saddam might return is boosting the morale of those carrying out the attacks — former army members, the Fedayeen Saddam, the Ba’ath Party loyalists and Iraqi paramilitaries.

A U.S. official said the attacks, while not centrally controlled, are carried out by individual gangs, some of whom communicate with other groups to coordinate strikes. The weapons of choice are rocket-propelled grenades fired at moving convoys, or handguns fired at soldiers at short range.

At Baghdad University on Sunday, an Army civil affairs soldier was fatally shot at close range.

Yesterday, U.S. Central Command reported two more American fatalities. A 1st Armored Division soldier died in a Sunday night firefight with two gunmen in the Sunni Muslim neighborhood of Azamiyah. Another soldier died when his vehicle was struck by what the command called a roadside “explosive device.”

Asked about President Bush’s “bring ‘em on” taunt last week to Saddam loyalists, Gen. Franks replied yesterday, “Absolutely. Bring ‘em on.”

Asked about Saddam’s fate, Gen. Franks, who turned over command to Gen. John Abizaid, said: “I believe that in the reasonable near-term … that we will either capture or kill or have confirmation of the demise of the members of the top of the regime.”

The coalition last week announced a $25 million reward for information leading to Saddam’s capture or to proof that he is dead. It offered $15 million for the same information regarding his two sons, Uday and Qusai.

U.S. Marines and British troops are maintaining order in the more sedate southern Iraq. The Army’s 3rd and 4th Infantry divisions, the 1st Armored Division and the 101st Airborne Division are patrolling Baghdad and points west, east and north.

Commanders say virtually all the attacks are occurring in what soldiers call the “Sunni Triangle” stretching from the capital 100 miles north to Tikrit, Saddam’s hometown.

Two international peacekeeping divisions led by Britain and Poland are due in Iraq later this summer.

“Make no mistake,” Rumsfeld spokesman Larry DiRita said yesterday. “Saddam Hussein’s regime is gone, and it is not coming back. All of Iraq’s main cities and a large number of smaller towns now have councils, administrative councils, and slowly but certainly, Iraqis continue to take responsibility for their own circumstances in Iraq.”

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