Global Policy Forum

Iraq Chief Gives a Sobering View About Security


By Edward Wong

New York Times
October 6, 2004

In his first speech before the interim National Assembly here, Prime Minister Ayad Allawi gave a sobering account on Tuesday of the threat posed by the insurgency, saying that the country's instability is a "source of worry for many people" and that the guerrillas represent "a challenge to our will."

Hours later, the American military said it had launched its second major offensive of the last week, sending 3,000 troops, some of them Iraqis, in a sweep across the Euphrates River south of Baghdad. Led by the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, the troops overran a suspected insurgent training camp and detained 30 suspects, the military said in a written statement. They also seized control of a bridge believed to be part of a corridor allowing insurgents to move between strongholds in central Iraq, the military said.

The push followed a much larger and deadlier weekend offensive in the insurgent-controlled city of Samarra, 60 miles north of Baghdad. American and Iraqi officials have been saying they intend to take back rebel territory this fall to lay the groundwork for general elections scheduled for January. The operation on Tuesday took place in northern Babil Province, a region that once served as a munitions-production base for the old Iraqi Army and has become a field of loosely knit insurgent cells in towns like Mahmudiya and Latifiya. Bisecting the area is Highway 8, a crucial north-south artery nicknamed the Highway of Death because dozens of people have been ambushed and killed in small market towns along its length by insurgents and bandits.

In his speech, Dr. Allawi, who has cast himself as a tough leader since taking office in late June, insisted that elections would go ahead in January as planned, but he acknowledged that there were significant obstacles standing in the way of full security and reconstruction. The nascent police force is underequipped and lacks the respect needed from the public to quell the insurgency, he said, and American business executives have told him that they fear investing in Iraq because of the rampant violence here.

His tone was a sharp departure from the more optimistic assessment he gave to the American public on his visit to the United States last month. At his stop in Washington, Dr. Allawi made several sweeping assertions to reporters about the security situation in Iraq, including saying that the only truly unsafe place in the country was the downtown area of Falluja, the largest insurgent stronghold, and that only 3 of 18 provinces had "pockets of terrorists."

He did not directly contradict those statements on Tuesday, but his latest words reflected a darker take on the state of the war. "It is true that the security situation in our country is the first concern for you, and maybe for your inquiries, too," Dr. Allawi said in the 100-member National Assembly, which asked him combative questions after his speech in the nearly hourlong session.

The insurgents "are today a challenge to our will," he continued. "They are betting on our failure. Should we allow them to do that? Should we sit down and watch what they are doing and let them destabilize the country's security?" Though Dr. Allawi joined President Bush last month in boasting of having 100,000 fully trained and equipped Iraqi policemen, soldiers and other security officials, he acknowledged Tuesday that there were difficulties in creating an adequate security force. "It's clear that since the handover, the capabilities are not complete and that the situation is very difficult now in respect to creating the forces and getting them ready to face the challenges," he said.

He added that "the police force is not well equipped and is not respected enough to lay down its authority" without backing from a strong army. Dr. Allawi's talk, given inside the fortified government headquarters on the west bank of the Tigris River, comes at a crucial juncture for the American enterprise in Iraq. Insurgents have stepped up a deadly campaign of car bombings and assassinations even as American-led forces push back into guerrilla territory. The successes of the American offensives in Samarra and Babil Province will ultimately depend on whether the Iraqi security forces can combat the insurgency on their own after the American troops withdraw to their bases.

More Information on Iraq
More Information on Iraq's Government


FAIR USE NOTICE: This page contains copyrighted material the use of which has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. Global Policy Forum distributes this material without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. We believe this constitutes a fair use of any such copyrighted material as provided for in 17 U.S.C § 107. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.