View Full Version : Abizaid: Troops should expect year-long Iraq tours

07-17-03, 05:44 AM
July 16, 2003

Abizaid: Troops should expect year-long Iraq tours

Associated Press

U.S. forces are facing a “classical guerrilla-type war situation” in Iraq against opponents ranging from members of Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party to non-Iraqi fighters from terrorist groups, the new American commander said Wednesday.
The statement from Gen. John Abizaid was the first acknowledgment from a top military official that the attacks on American forces were anything more than scattered, sporadic incidents. He said attackers were becoming better organized.

Abizaid also said U.S. troops should be ready to spend a year on duty in the region, though military planners are working to bring home some units quickly, such as the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division.

“Looking at what I contemplate being the force levels for a while, probably for the next 90 days, we need to probably say to our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines, ‘Here’s the maximum extent of your deployment. If we can get you home sooner, we will,”’ Abizaid said in a briefing at the Pentagon.

Yearlong deployments, a norm during the Vietnam War, have been rare in recent years. The 1st Armored Division served in Bosnia for a year during the 1990s, Abizaid said.

“So we’ve done it before, and we can do it again,” he said.

The vast majority of the Air Force and Navy units that fought in the war left the area weeks ago. The 3rd Infantry’s return is an especially sore point, because soldiers and their families believed they would return home once major fighting in Baghdad ended.

Abizaid took over last week as head of U.S. Central Command, the regional military command overseeing the conflicts in both Iraq and Afghanistan. He had been the No. 2 general at Central Command during both wars, serving under retiring Gen. Tommy Franks.

While the attacks on U.S. forces are becoming increasingly sophisticated, they are nothing the American troops can’t handle, Abizaid said.

“They’re not driving us out of anywhere,” the general said.

Wednesday’s unsuccessful attack by a surface-to-air missile on a C-130 cargo plane landing in Baghdad was at least the second in as many weeks in Iraq, Abizaid said. He said he was recently riding in a C-130 that swerved and dropped flares and chaff to avoid a possible missile attack.

Terrorist groups operating inside Iraq include Ansar al-Islam, an al-Qaida-linked organization whose camp in northern Iraq suffered devastating attacks from U.S. forces in the early stages of the war. Ansar al-Islam appears to be regrouping in Iraq, possibly buoyed by members coming from Iran or from elsewhere after fleeing during the fighting, Abizaid said.

Other non-Iraqi fighters appear to have ideological sympathies for al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, if not orders from him to attack Americans, Abizaid said.

The biggest problem in Iraq concerns midlevel Baath Party officials trying to bring Saddam back to power, Abizaid said. Those men have organized in regional cells with weapons and financing to carry out attacks against U.S. troops, the general said.

Copyright 2003 The Associated Press.