- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 30, 2006

The Pentagon is predicting that a key element of the Iraq insurgency will maintain its level of violence this year, but then begin to weaken in 2007, says a report to Congress.

The “rejectionists,” a term the Pentagon uses to describe Sunnis who worked in the regime of Saddam Hussein and Shi’ite opponents to American presence in Iraq, are trying to infiltrate and subvert agencies of the emerging government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Sunni factions have joined forces with al Qaeda in Iraq, the foreign terror cadres led by Jordanian-born Abu Musab Zarqawi.

The command in Iraq “expects that rejectionist strength will likely remain steady throughout 2006,” stated the report, “Measuring Stability and Security in Iraq,” released yesterday, “but that appeal and motivation for continued violent action will begin to wane in early 2007.”

“Enemy elements remain resilient, capitalizing on established networks to prevent capture and to conduct attacks,” the report stated.

Both Sunni and Shi’ite rejectionists have attacked each other in a complex battlefield where criminals also add to the mix of violence.

“To categorize the violence in Iraq as a single insurgency or a unified ‘opposition’ is both inaccurate and misleading,” the report said. “Some security strategies used by the coalition and Iraqi Security Forces may work broadly against all groups. At other times, tactics, techniques, and procedures must be adapted to the particular enemy. It is unlikely that the coalition and Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) will make progress against each of these violent factions at the same pace.”

From time to time, Bush administration officials have delivered conflicting remarks on whether the Syrian government is actively aiding the flow of jihadists into Iraq. Some have said the government is helping, while others have said the support is more passive.

But the Pentagon report states flatly that “many foreign fighters continue to arrive in Iraq via Syria, a flow that began with Syrian government assistance before and during” the coalition invasion in 2003.

The report said most Sunni groups oppose al Qaeda in Iraq, but either lack the money and manpower to take it on or see its attacks as helping them achieve their political goals.

The United States will complete training and equipment of the Iraqi Security Forces by December and then will focus on procedure for replacing losses. The quarterly report said the ISF has added 36,100 soldiers and police since the last update in February, bringing the total force to more than 263,000.

Standing up a competent ISF is the essential ingredient of President Bush’s strategy for democratizing Iraq and calling American troops home. The report said U.S. commanders are methodically turning over more territory to the ISF and putting them in the lead in counterinsurgency operations. More than half of all operations in Baghdad, one of the country’s most violence-prone provinces, are being led by Iraqis.

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