Skip to comments.Iraq battling more than 200,000 insurgents: intelligence chief
Posted on 01/04/2005 12:54:36 PM PST by Rennes Templar
BAGHDAD, Jan 3 (AFP) - Iraq's insurgency counts more than 200,000 active fighters and sympathisers, the country's national intelligence chief told AFP, in the bleakest assessment to date of the armed revolt waged by Sunni Muslims.
"I think the resistance is bigger than the US military in Iraq. I think the resistance is more than 200,000 people," Iraqi intelligence service director General Mohamed Abdullah Shahwani said in an interview ahead of the January 30 elections.
Shahwani said the number includes at least 40,000 hardcore fighters but rises to more than 200,000 members counting part-time fighters and volunteers who provide rebels everything from intelligence and logistics to shelter.
The numbers far exceed any figure presented by the US military in Iraq, which has struggled to get a handle on the size of the resistance since toppling Saddam Hussein's regime in April 2003.
A senior US military officer declined to endorse or dismiss the spy chief's numbers.
"As for the size of the insurgency, we don't have good resolution on the size," the officer said on condition of anonymity.
Past US military assessments on the insurgency's size have been revised upwards from 5,000 to 20,000 full and part-time members, in the last half year, most recently in October.
Defense experts said it was impossible to divine the insurgency's total number, but called Shahwani's estimate a valid guess, with as much credence, if not more, than any US numbers.
"I believe General Shahwani's estimation, given that he is referring predominantly to active sympathizers and supporters and to part-time as well as full-time active insurgents, may not be completely out of the ballpark," said defense analyst Bruce Hoffman who served as an advisor to the US occupation in Iraq and now works for US-based think-tank RAND Corporation.
Compared to the coalition's figure, he said: "General Shahwani's -- however possibly high it may be, might well give a more accurate picture of the situation."
Anthony Cordesman, an Iraq analyst with the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, put Shahwani's estimates on an equal footing with the American's.
"The Iraqi figures do... recognize the reality that the insurgency in Iraq has broad support in Sunni areas while the US figures down play this to the point of denial."
Shahwani said the resistance enjoys wide backing in the provinces of Baghdad, Babel, Salahuddin, Diyala, Nineveh and Tamim, homes to Sunni Arabs who fear they will lose influence after the elections.
Insurgents have gained strength through Iraq's tight-knit tribal bonds and links to the old 400,000-strong Iraqi army, dissolved by the US occupation in May 2003 two months after the US-led invasion, he said.
"People are fed up after two years, without improvement. People are fed up with no security, no electricity, people feel they have to do something. The army was hundreds of thousands. You'd expect some veterans would join with their relatives, each one has sons and brothers."
The rebels have turned city neighborhoods and small towns around central Iraq into virtual no-go zones despite successful US military efforts to reclaim former enclaves like Samarra and Fallujah, he said.
"What are you going to call the situation here (in Baghdad) when 20 to 30 men can move around with weapons and no one can get them in Adhamiyah, Dura and Ghazaliya," he said, naming neighborhoods in the capital.
The spy chief also questioned the success of the November campaign to retake Fallujah, which US forces have hailed as a major victory against the resistance.
"What we have now is an empty city almost destroyed... and most of the insurgents are free. They have gone either to Mosul or to Baghdad or other areas."
Shahwani pointed to a resurgent Baath party as the key to the insurgency's might. The Baath has split into three factions, with the deadliest being the branch still paying allegiance to jailed dictator Saddam Hussein, he said.
Shahwani said the core Baath fighting strength was more than 20,000.
Operating out of Syria, Saddam's half-brother Sabawi Ibrahim al-Hassan and former aide Mohamed Yunis al-Ahmed are providing funding and tapping their connections to old army divisions, particularily in Mosul, Samarra, Baquba, Kirkuk and Tikrit.
Saddam's henchman, Izzat Ibrahim al-Duri, still on the lam in Iraq, is also involved, he said.
Another two factions, which have broken from Saddam, are also around, but have yet to mount any attacks. The Baath are complemented by Islamist factions ranging from Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's al-Qaeda affiliate to Ansar al-Sunna and Ansar al-Islam.
Asked if the insurgents were winning, Shahwani answered: "I would say they aren't losing."
Oh brother. If it were that large, our forces would have been run out of the country by now.
doesn't have to be garbage. Let's learn a lesson from history, hundreds of years before the birth of Christ, Alexander the great and an army of 50k soldiers defeated a Persian army of 300k. The region's fighting qualities should not be overestimated though.
emphasize the sympathizers and de-empathsize the terrorists/fighters on that total....
I would guestimate that the total number of terrorists/fighters is under 15,000, most of which is not Iraqi....
Sounds like a bit of taqqiyah-speak to me.
Their spy chief is an idiot.
Just because we declared victory in May 2003 doesn't mean that the enemy declared defeat.
What is 200,000 based on? Really? It's based on nothing. I say there's 1,000,345. My number's just as valid as anyone's. The fact is we don't know how many there are, but it's a good guess there aren't 200,000. In fact, if there are 5,000 they're doing a piss poor job.
From the article, some of our people seem to agree with him.
So they join the movement that is causing all these problems in the first place rather than fight against it . . . What to do if there is no security, for example? Go pick up a machine gun and help destoy a police station, of course. Logic has never been the Arabs strong suit has it?
If they have 200,000, then only .01% of them have enough guts to even attempt fight.
#1- I don't know who "we" is, but the U.S. didn't declare victory in May 03.
#2- How does "not being a force of 200K" equal "enemy declared defeat?"
Yes, even if there's a thousand there still totally inept by any military standards.
Sure, a regime like Saddam's requires a lot of sympathizers to stay in business. The Ba'ath Party wasn't a team of fifty guys running Iraq from a hardened bunker. Those who lost their privileged positions when their boss was ousted would certainly be trying to help disrupt the new government - in the hope that they might one day return to power. But it's still a stupid (but typical MSM) way to look at it to say that there are "200,000 insurgents". More accurately, 23 million+ people are glad the Ba'athists are gone and glad the US is around to help.
Only 200,000 tangos?.....what the heck are all the other Marine platoons gonna do?
I'm afraid the Americans are too tender hearted to deal effectively with this kind of action. Besides, mere interdiction and hunting down of insurgent forces in Iraq is inadequate. Iraq must somehow be preserved from infiltration from Iran and Syria, and possibly Arabia.
Recently a special on TV featured the life of Hannibal. They mentioned that at the last of the three major battles with the Romans, the Romans lost more men than the Americans did in the entire Viet Nam War. Rome's response was to refuse to negotiate with Hannibal, refuse to ransom any hostages, banish any Roman troops who managed to flee away from the battle to Sicily, and raise and even bigger army. They refused to accept defeat, even when defeated.
Consequnetly, they won.
There are lessons for both sides in Iraq from this. I hope, as an American, we can learn to be more like Romans.
Are you sure these troop assesments weren't made by a General named George McClellen. ("I'm telling you that there are 200,000 rebels facing me right now on the other side of that river")
The key thing will be the election - if it does take place with little Sunni participation then we can probably expect continued irruptions from Syria and Saudi Arabia on behalf of the Sunni "insurgency." How they deal with those will be key to the survival of a Shi'a/Kurd government.
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