U.S. soldiers of Task Force Olympia in northern
Iraq are bracing themselves for "spectacular attacks" as the desperation of enemy forces
continues to grow, Army Brig Gen. Carter Ham said Tuesday.
"There is evidence that we are likely to see an increase in activity based on
[an increase] in terrorists, foreign fighters, extremists, criminals [and]
former regime elements," Ham said during a press briefing in Baghdad, hooked in
to the Pentagon. "They are attacks against coalition and attacks on symbols of
progress, whether economic or otherwise."
The use of recent terrorist tactics is "evidence of the desperation of our
enemy," Ham said.
While the most recent attacks, including Tuesday's attack in Mosul in which a
grenade tossed in a governing council building injured seven Iraqis, have not
been of the magnitude of the Feb. 1 twin bombings in Irbil that killed more
than 100 people at the offices of the Iraqi Patriotic Union of Kurdistan and
Kurdistan Democratic Party, Ham said he is bracing for a surge, especially as
the U.S.-led coalition moves to handing over power this summer.
The threats and attacks also have revealed mounting evidence that Ansar
al-Islam, a terrorist group linked by U.S. officials to al-Qaida, operates in
the northern region, he said, declining to provide details.
He foresees no immediate change in the task force's missions and security
presence come June 30, when the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority
transfers sovereignty to the interim Iraqi Governing Council.
However, his troops will be working "as expeditiously as we can to train
Iraqi security forces so they can assume their rightful role," he said.
On Feb. 5, Task Force Olympia assumed control of the northern provinces of
Mosul, Al Qayyarah and Tall Afar, from the Army's 101st Airborne Division out
of Fort Campbell, Ky.
The transition left Ham with about one-third the number of U.S. troops as
were with the 101st — now 8,000 U.S. forces, of which 6,000 are Stryker Brigade
Combat team infantry soldiers.
But Ham has a growing number of Iraqi security forces who are taking over
jobs once performed by coalition members, he said.
Still, there are shortcomings associated with the Iraqi forces in training,
equipment and, most notably, the attitude of the Iraqi people to accept and
trust the new Iraqi police, army and border patrol units.
"The principal shortfall is not tactical, but the culture of the people in
trusting the security forces" who under the former government had been
associated with oppression, Ham said.
He also is working to stymie tensions between U.S.-led forces and the peshmerga,
Kurdish militiamen who fought against Saddam Hussein and backed U.S. forces,
and now wants to maintain their independence as a paramilitary force.
But the U.S.-led coalition strongly opposes that, and Ham said he is working
to fold the forces into the Iraqi border patrol, army or civil defense forces.
Sound Off...What do you think?
Join the discussion.
This article is provided courtesy
of Stars & Stripes, which got its start as
a newspaper for Union troops during the Civil War, and
has been published continuously since 1942 in Europe and
1945 in the Pacific. Stripes reporters have been
in the field with American soldiers, sailors and airmen
in World War II, Korea, the Cold War, Vietnam, the Gulf
War, Bosnia and Kosovo, and are now on assignment in the
Stars & Stripes Website
Copyright 2004 Stars & Stripes. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.