- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 17, 2005

The Iraqi insurgency has “limited capacity” to ratchet up its attacks, the top U.S. military officer testified yesterday in an assessment that was more positive about enemy capabilities than statements from the Pentagon’s intelligence agency.

“There is something we know,” Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said of the stubborn insurgency that has killed hundreds of U.S. troops. “We essentially know what their capability is. … It’s limited. They have limited capacity.

“We’ve tracked the number of attacks per day, and what they can do is 50 to 60 attacks … with spikes,” Gen. Myers said. “And that seems to be their capacity.”

His testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee seemed to differ with some portions of testimony Wednesday from Vice Adm. Lowell Jacoby, director of the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA).

Adm. Jacoby painted the picture of a much more vibrant enemy that can adapt and grow.

“The insurgency in Iraq has grown in size and complexity over the past year,” Adm. Jacoby told the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence in a written statement. “Attacks numbered approximately 25 per day one year ago. Today, they average in the 60s. Insurgents have demonstrated their ability to increase attacks around key events such as the Iraqi Interim Government transfer of power.”

The size and scope of America’s enemy in Iraq were major points of inquiry this week as President Bush’s top national security officials testified before Congress on the fiscal 2006 defense budget.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld declined to publicly release the intelligence community’s estimate of insurgent numbers, although he did say it is well below the 40,000 estimate given by a senior Iraqi official.

The CIA and DIA have come up with different numbers, which are classified, Mr. Rumsfeld said.

Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, said the American public and U.S. lawmakers need a full understanding of the size of the enemy.

“Without knowing that, I think it’s very difficult for us to make an assessment of needs,” Mr. McCain said.

Said Mr. Rumsfeld: “It would be nice to have a hard number. But my fear is that the number would change from week to week.”

Gen. Myers added, “I’m not sure the insurgents know how many insurgents there are because … they don’t have a central organization. They’ve networked. They’re small cells.”

The four-star general and other defense officials predict the insurgency will fail because it is not a national movement with the support of a broad cross section of the Iraqi population.

The insurgents “have lost or are badly losing the hearts and minds issue with the Iraqi people, and we know that,” Gen. Myers said.

The United States generally divides the insurgency into two groups: foreign terrorists under the command of Jordanian-born operative Abu Musab Zarqawi, and Saddam Hussein loyalists who include members of the Ba’ath Party and career criminals let out of prison by Saddam before the war.

Gen. Myers also testified that the Pentagon has begun drawing down forces from the peak at the time of the Jan. 30 Iraqi elections.

The buildup to 150,000 troops was a temporary security measure for the elections and the goal is to have the force down to 138,000 by this spring, he said.

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