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WASHINGTON – A senior defense analyst who recently
returned from Iraq says U.S. commanders there expect
attacks by insurgents to last through 2005.

“I have not talked to any commander there who feels
that there won’t be incidents through the final
transfer of power (to Iraqis) in 2005,” said Anthony
H. Cordesman, senior defense analyst with the Center
for Strategic and International Studies here.

Despite last month’s capture of former Iraqi leader
Saddam Hussein, attacks on U.S. forces in and around
Baghdad have continued apace.

Tuesday’s bombings which killed six GIs brought to 519
the number of Americans who have died since the Iraq
war began. Most occurred after President Bush declared
an end to active combat May 1.

And U.S. forces have suffered five helicopter downings
in January alone.

Cordesman, a former Pentagon official, says the
stubborn fighting shows the resistance runs deeper
than just those loyal to Hussein.

“People are not loyal to Saddam as much as loyal to
their own view of nationalism or the Baath (Party) or
being Sunni (Muslim) – or seeing themselves threatened
and occupied,” he said in a WorldNetDaily interview.

He says a massive rotation of American troops planned
over the next few months could make them more
vulnerable to attack. Troops will be arriving and
departing in large numbers, making them easier targets
for resistance fighters. The turnover is also likely
to hurt local intelligence.

“The real problem now is that we’re rotating out
people who have a history of operational experience,
contacts with Iraqis, who know the ground,” Cordesman
said.

A couple of weeks’ overlap is planned by U.S. Central
Command, so as one unit rotates out and another
rotates in, they have time to share experience and
intelligence.

But “the quality of the continuity is going to
determine basically the success of the new units,”
Cordesman said. “And it also will be a very critical
factor in determining how many casualties they take.”

The Pentagon did not immediately return phone calls.

But a U.S. Army spokeswoman says efforts are under way
to help troops in Iraq beef up intelligence.

She says teams of senior military intelligence
specialists from Fort Huachuca, Ariz., have recently
been deployed to Iraq to give infantry and military
police units there “on-the-spot training” in human
intelligence-gathering methods.

High unemployment

Among factors fueling the unrest in Iraq is 50-60
percent unemployment throughout the country, Cordesman
says. And as the growing season approaches, Iraqi
farmers will for the first time have to do without the
subsidies they enjoyed under Hussein’s regime.

“Without being able to win hearts and minds – and at
this point in time, until you can give Iraqis a clear
political path, show them there will be a balance (of
power) between Sunni and Shiite and Kurd, until you
can reassure them in terms of economics and career,
until you can provide security, and until you can have
an information campaign that really convinces people
(the U.S. is not the enemy) – you’re going to find the
insurgency campaign almost certainly continues at some
level,” Cordesman said.

So far the U.S.-led coalition has faced mainly
low-intensity combat since the invasion. Cordesman
doesn’t expect that to change unless Shiites join the
resistance, which has been concentrated mostly among
Sunnis.

“Unless we lose the Shiites,” he said, “we’re not
talking about a threat that is so high that it
threatens the occupation.”

He warned, however, that gaps in human intelligence on
the ground due to the troop changeover will make the
resistance increasingly harder to put down.

Cordesman suggested administration officials have been
too quick to signal victory during lulls in attacks,
such as in the immediate days after Hussein’s capture.

“You’ll know you’re winning in low-intensity combat
when you have patterns (of no attacks) that last
consistently for weeks or months, not days,” he said.
“You know you’re winning when new patterns of attack
don’t emerge.”

He added: “You know you’re winning when the area that
you talk about being pacified is in fact pacified, and
not simply an area you’re occupying.”

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