General Describes Remaining Terror Threat in Iraq

WASHINGTON, Nov. 5, 2010 — Though Amer­i­can com­bat oper­a­tions in Iraq have ceased, the fight­ing there is far from over, as ter­ror­ist groups remain a threat, a top U.S. offi­cer there said yes­ter­day.

Army Brig. Gen. Jef­frey Buchanan, direc­tor of strate­gic effects for U.S. Forces Iraq, dis­cussed ongo­ing sta­bil­i­ty oper­a­tions in Iraq, and how Iraq will con­tin­ue to ward off ter­ror­ists with­in its bor­ders, in a “DOD Live” blog­gers roundtable. 

Oper­a­tion New Dawn, the new mis­sion in Iraq fol­low­ing ces­sa­tion of com­bat oper­a­tions at the end of August, turns the focus from fight­ing insur­gents to offer­ing assis­tance to the Iraqi gov­ern­ment when request­ed. Cur­rent­ly, Buchanan said, 47,000 to 49,000 U.S. troops are in Iraq. 

“Under sta­bil­i­ty oper­a­tions, U.S. Forces Iraq has three major tasks,” Buchanan said. “The first task is to advise, train, assist and equip the Iraqi secu­ri­ty forces. Our sec­ond task is to con­tin­ue to con­duct part­nered coun­tert­er­ror­ism oper­a­tions. And our third task is to sup­port and pro­tect civil­ian work­ers from the Unit­ed Nations and the U.S. mis­sion in Iraq, the U.S. embassy, as they build civ­il capac­i­ty through­out the provinces.” 

Buchanan said there are still insur­gent threats in the coun­try from a num­ber of known ter­ror­ist groups, includ­ing Ansar al-Sun­nah, JRTN, the Islam­ic State of Iraq, Kataib Hezbol­lah, mem­bers of the Promised Day Brigade and al-Qai­da in Iraq. 

Though al-Qai­da in Iraq has remained at the fore­front of insur­gent activ­i­ty there and remains a dan­ger­ous threat, it has­n’t regained lost foot­ing, the gen­er­al said. 

“Al-Qai­da in Iraq con­tin­ues to try to dri­ve a wedge between the Iraqi peo­ple and their gov­ern­ment and the secu­ri­ty forces,” Buchanan said. “But their capa­bil­i­ties have been sig­nif­i­cant­ly degrad­ed over the past year. In par­tic­u­lar, [over] the past about eight months, the U.S. Forces Iraq and Iraqi secu­ri­ty forces work­ing togeth­er have had a sig­nif­i­cant effect on al-Qaida’s networks.” 

Despite recent bomb­ings in Bagh­dad, Buchanan said, the lev­el of vio­lence has con­tin­ued to decrease and now is only about 10 per­cent of what was going on in 2007. Though every casu­al­ty is a tragedy, he added, the num­bers of peo­ple hurt and killed have dropped. 

“Even if you look at the high num­ber of casu­al­ties we had on the 29th of Octo­ber, on the 31st of Octo­ber, and on the 2nd of Novem­ber through a num­ber of dif­fer­ent inci­dents, all involv­ing al-Qai­da, the over­all num­ber of casu­al­ties con­tin­ues to be down sig­nif­i­cant­ly com­pared to where it has been in the past,” the gen­er­al said. 

He also acknowl­edged that the fight isn’t over, and won’t be any time soon, but said his expe­ri­ence with Iraqi mil­i­tary and police forces has giv­en him “the utmost con­fi­dence in their abil­i­ties” to con­tin­ue to deter insurgents. 

“I think that [al-Qai­da] remains deter­mined to act,” he said. “When we, mean­ing the U.S. forces and Iraqi secu­ri­ty forces, can put con­sis­tent pres­sure on the var­i­ous parts of their net­work, they have not had free­dom of maneu­ver, and have not been able to oper­ate effec­tive­ly. But I think al-Qai­da remains a threat, and they will con­tin­ue … into the future,” he said. 

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs) 

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