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11/18/03 - ABIZAID ON IRAQI SECURITY - 2003-11-18

Iraqis are increasingly working with coalition forces to bring stability to their country. General John Abizaid, head of the U.S. Central Command, says that more than one-hundred-thousand Iraqis are now directly involved in providing police services, guarding borders, and forming Iraq’s new army. They include thirty-thousand in the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps:

“They are a local militia as such, and they’re projected to get up to around forty-thousand by mid-year [2004]. We’ve got the border police and the border patrol about four-thousand [in] strength now, moving up to twenty-five thousand. We have Iraqi police services...up to around sixty-two thousand, and they’ll move to seventy-one thousand. We have Facilities Protection Forces that free our forces up from having to do static guard duties. They’ll eventually be as high as fifty-thousand. And we have the new Iraqi army that’s being formed, that’s currently at one battalion strength, and it’s going up to thirty-five thousand [in] strength.”

While growing numbers of Iraqis provide security for their people, there is a small but dangerous group seeking to thwart the movement to a democratic Iraq. Those intent on fighting the coalition and Iraqis include former Saddam Hussein loyalists, criminals hired by the Baathists, and what General Abizaid says are “a small, yet important and well-organized group of foreign fighters”:

“Some of whom have been operating in Iraq for a long time, many of whom are infiltrating across various borders.... So, in all, I would say that the force of people actively armed and operating against us does not exceed five-thousand... But when you understand that they’re organized in cellular structure, that they have a brutal and determined cadre, that they know how to operate covertly, they have access to a lot of money and a lot of ammunition, you’ll understand how dangerous they are.”

For more than two decades, Iraq was ruled by a brutal dictator. Saddam Hussein is gone and he will not return. Iraqis, assisted by coalition forces, will prevail. “It will require a lot more tough military work,” says General Abizaid. “But it can be done, and it will be done.”