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US Commander Sees No Need To Ask For More Troops In Iraq

US Marines in the Anbar Province, Iraq. Photo courtesy of AFP.
by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) Sep 18, 2006
The commander of US forces in the Middle East said Monday he sees no need to ask President George W. Bush to send more troops to quell the violence in Iraq. General George Abizaid left open the possibility of asking for more troops but said he and General George Casey, the US commander in Iraq, have concluded they have enough reserve forces in the theater.

"We don't see a need to commit them to the fight yet and until those forces are committed, we don't see a need to ask for more under the present circumstances," Abizaid said in an interview with CNN.

"But on the other hand, this notion that troop levels are static is not true, never has been true and it won't be true. We'll ask for what we need when we need them," he said.

Abizaid also rejected a suggestion that he and his commanders are under political pressure not to ask for more troops.

"If I were afraid, I wouldn't be in this job. And I'm not afraid of asking for what I need," he said. "I absolutely, positively want to win, just like General Casey and all the other commanders in the field want to, and we'll ask for what we need." The Pentagon said Monday there are currently 147,000 US troops in Iraq, up from a low of about 127,000 troops in June. Pentagon officials have attributed the increase to an overlap of troops rotating in and out of the country.

US forces have been concentrated in Baghdad to quell a wave of sectarian violence that has set Shiite militias against Sunni insurgents in attacks that have claimed thousands of lives.

A Marine Corps intelligence assessment that leaked last week warned, however, that the western province of al-Anbar is in dire straits and an additional division would be needed secure it.

Asked whether he had given up on Anbar province, Abizaid said, "Absolutely not. But the clear priority for military action right now is Baghdad, for obvious reasons."

He insisted that the key was for the Iraqi security forces, which now number nearly 300,000, to take on more and more responsibility.

"It's a hard thing to do," he said. "It's hard to have a US formation in the same area that could do the job and an Iraqi unit that's not quite as ready doing the same job and letting them get through it. But they've got to get through it."

He also argued that military force alone was not enough.

"You've got to have governance moving forward. You've got to take down the militias. You've got to apply military forces when you need to," he said.

Abizaid and other commanders of US forces around the world were in Washington to review the state of the so-called "global war on terrorism," a Pentagon spokesman said.

Abizaid's portfolio includes Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, the Horn of Africa, and Lebanon. If the United States came to blows with Iran over its nuclear program, he would be the commander in charge.

Abizaid would not comment on US war planning for Iran, but he warned against underestimating the might US forces in the region.

"We've got 200,000 (troops) in my area of operation. Not all of our sea power, not all of our air power, by any stretch of the imagination, is committed to my area," he said.

"Any opponent that would think that we're over-stretched and we can't deal with our military obligations would be making a dreadful mistake," Abizaid said.

On Afghanistan, he played down the resurgence of the Taliban even though he admitted it is better organized and more lethal in the south than it has been.

"I don't think it's a major comeback and I don't think that what the Taliban brings to the table is militarily threatening to the NATO forces or to American forces," he said.

But he voiced concern about a Sepember 5 peace agreement reached by the government of Pervez Musharraf with pro-Taliban tribal leaders in semi-autonomous regions of Pakistan near the border with Afghanistan.

"I'm not certain that these current agreements will work out to our mutual benefit," Abizaid said. "We'll have to wait and see."

The hunt for Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, his number two Ayman Al-Zawahiri and Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar remains a high priority for the US military.

"I would tell you that when we get good targeting information on any one of those three people that you mentioned, that we will go where we need to go to go find them and go get them," he said.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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Over 20,000 American Troops Injured In Iraq
Washington (UPI) Sep 18, 2006
The trends in U.S. casualties suffered in Iraq through August continued into September. The rate at which U.S. troops were being killed continued to slowly fall, but the rate at which injuries were suffered, including serious ones, continued to rise. And since the beginning of this month, U.S. casualties in the war have passed another grim benchmark: More than 20,000 U.S. troops have now been wounded while serving in Iraq.

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