Top US Generals Offer Bleakest Assessment Yet on Iraq


Richard Moore

Original source URL:,,2031172,00.html

    "Smart" Rebels Outstrip US
    By Paul Beaver and Peter Beaumont
    The Observer UK
    Sunday 11 March 2007

Top American generals make shock admission as Iraq leader pleads with 
neighbouring countries to seal off their borders.

The US army is lagging behind Iraq's insurgents tactically in a war that senior 
officers say is the biggest challenge since Korea 50 years ago.

The gloomy assessment at a conference in America last week came as senior US and
Iraqi officials sat down yesterday with officials from Iran, Syria, Jordan and 
Saudi Arabia in Baghdad to persuade Iraq's neighbours to help seal its borders 
against fighters, arms and money flowing in. During the conference the US, 
Iranian and Syrian delegations were reported to have had a 'lively exchange'.

In a bleak analysis, senior officers described the fighters they were facing in 
Iraq and Afghanistan 'as smart, agile and cunning'.

In Vietnam, the US was eventually defeated by a well-armed, closely directed and
highly militarised society that had tanks, armoured vehicles and sources of both
military production and outside procurement. What is more devastating now is 
that the world's only superpower is in danger of being driven back by a few tens
of thousands of lightly armed irregulars, who have developed tactics capable of 
destroying multimillion-dollar vehicles and aircraft.

By contrast, the US military is said to have been slow to respond to the 
challenges of fighting an insurgency. The senior officers described the 
insurgents as being able to adapt rapidly to exploit American rules of 
engagement and turn them against US forces, and quickly disseminate ways of 
destroying or disabling armoured vehicles.

The military is also hampered in its attempts to break up insurgent groups 
because of their 'flat' command structure within collaborative networks of small
groups, making it difficult to target any hierarchy within the insurgency.

The remarks were made by senior US generals speaking at the Association of the 
US Army meeting at Fort Lauderdale in Florida and in conversations with The 
Observer. The generals view the 'war on terror' as the most important test of 
America's soldiers in 50 years.

'Iraq and Afghanistan are sucking up resources at a faster rate than we planned 
for,' one three-star general said. 'America's warriors need the latest 
technology to defeat an enemy who is smart, agile and cunning - things we did 
not expect of the Soviets.'

Other officers said coalition rules of engagement were being used against the 
forces fighting the insurgency. 'They know when we can and cannot shoot, and use
that against us,' said one officer, reflecting the comments of US soldiers in 
the field. Another said recent video footage of an ambush on a convoy, posted on
the internet, was evidence that insurgents were filming incidents to teach other
groups about American counter-measures.

The concerns emerged as Iraq's Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, issued a stern 
warning that unless Iraq's neighbours - including Iran and Syria - united to 
help to shut down the networks supplying both Sunni and Shia extremists, Iraq's 
sectarian bloodshed would engulf the Middle East.

Speaking at the beginning of the conference of regional and international powers
in Baghdad, Maliki warned: 'Iraq has become a front-line battlefield. It needs 
support in this battle, which not only threatens Iraq, but will also spill over 
to all countries in the region.' Shortly after he spoke, mortar shells landed 
near the conference site and a car bomb exploded in a Shia stronghold across the

Maliki asked for help in stopping financial support, weapons smuggling and 
'religious cover' for the relentless car bombings, killings and other attacks 
that have increasingly been inflicted on Iraq, as the minority Sunnis, who 
dominated the country under Saddam Hussein, have fought the Shia majority who 
now run the government.

Terrorism, Maliki said, 'was an international epidemic, the price of which was 
being paid by the people of Iraq'. He also warned Syria and Iran not to use Iraq
as a proxy battlefield against the US: 'Iraq does not accept that its 
territories and cities become a field where regional and international disputes 
are settled.'

Maliki said he hoped that today's conference could be a 'turning point in 
supporting the government in facing this huge danger'. The one-day gathering is 
also seen as a chance for conversations on its fringe between Iran and the US 
over the deepening Iranian nuclear crisis - opening the way to end the 28-year 
diplomatic impasse between America and Iran since the US hostages crisis. The 
chief US delegate has left open the door for possible one-on-one exchanges about

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