IRAQ: US troops are the primary targets

February 22, 2006

Doug Lorimer

Pentagon statistics on attacks by Iraqi resistance fighters that were declassified for a US Senate hearing have revealed that the vast majority — about three-quarters — were aimed against US and allied foreign occupation forces, rather than the puppet Iraqi security forces.

The statistics were included in a report written by Joseph Christoff, director of international affairs and trade at the US Government Accountability Office, who testified before the Senate foreign affairs committee on February 8.

The February 9 New York Times reported that the statistics "portray a rebellion whose ability to mount attacks has steadily grown in the nearly three years since the invasion" by US-led foreign forces.

Pointing to a chart outlining the monthly number of resistance attacks between June 2003 and December 2005, Christoff told the senators: "It's not going down. There are peaks and valleys, but if you look at every peak, it's higher than the peak before."

The NYT reported that the chart "shows that the number of attacks in December [2005], nearly 2500, was almost 250 per cent of the number in March 2004. But the trend line began even before March 2004, when the number of attacks was already nearly double what it had been in July or August 2003."

In a paper presented to the hearing, Christoff cited a senior US military officer saying that "attack levels ebb and flow as the various insurgent groups — almost all of which are an intrinsic part of Iraq's population — re-arm and attack again".

Associated Press reported on February 9 that "All signs point to a major drawdown of US troops in Iraq in 2006 — perhaps to fewer than 100,000 by year's end". There are currently 136,000 US troops in Iraq, according to the Pentagon.

However, AP noted that such a reduction in the number of US troops in Iraq is predicated "on deploying more trained Iraqi army and police units to maintain security and to fight the insurgents".

However, AP reported on February 7 that in testimony before the US Senate armed service committee that day, Joint Chiefs of Staff head General Peter Pace revealed that there was still only one puppet Iraqi army battalion, roughly 700 troops, capable of fighting without the US military's "help". This was the same number given by US generals to Congress last September.

The reason why the other 117 "battle-ready" Iraqi Army battalions are unreliable was summed up in a comment made to AP by US Marine Colonel Daniel Newell, head of a squad of about three-dozen military advisers to a puppet Iraqi Army division: "Unfortunately, the [Iraqi] officers here are much like their soldiers. They're not in it for any sense of patriotism. They're doing this to get paid."

General Pace told the senators that the proportion of US National Guard and Army Reserve troops deployed in Iraq would be reduced over the course of the next 12 months from 30% to 19%, largely as a result of the withdrawal of non-combat units.

CNN reported on February 8 that in a briefing to reporters at the Pentagon that day, Admiral Michael G. Mullen, the chief of naval operations, said the US Navy will start playing a bigger role in Iraq by adding more sailors to the 4000 sailors already operating in the country.

"The move is designed to ease the pressure on the stressed and stretched army in Iraq, which has soldiers doing everything from combat, medical and security duties to countless support operations", CNN reported. It added that "Mullen would not say how many sailors he is expecting to put into Iraq or when they will start filling the various duties. He did say the number of sailors would be less than 12,000."

While the Pentagon feeds stories in Washington about US troop withdrawals from Iraq this year, the US occupation forces are actually constructing permanent bases there.

In a February 11 dispatch from the Asad air base in Iraq's western Anbar province, London Telegraph correspondent Oliver Poole reported that since the middle of last year, "reports began to emerge that plans had been drawn up to create four 'super-bases', giant camps that would house tens of thousands of US soldiers similar to other sprawling military facilities around the world. Although no official confirmation will be given of where super-bases will be located, at al Asad there is every impression that one is in the process of being created."

Poole observed that the base "increasingly resembles a slice of US suburbia rather than the front line in a war zone. Its restaurants include a Subway and a fast food pizza shop. There is a coffee shop, football pitch and even a swimming pool."

The base is now so extensive, Poole reported, "that it has two bus routes inside and the sight of workers constructing new billets for more troops is common. Last month, red 'Stop' signs — the ubiquitous feature of American street furniture — went up at all road junctions."

Poole added that the US marines stationed at the base "confidently predict that they will be rotating through the base for at least a decade".

From Green Left Weekly, February 22, 2006.
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