US military ‘never thought Iraq combatwould last a year’

5th July 2004, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, July 4 (AFP) - The former US military chief in Iraq said Washington never expected combat operations against insurgents to last as long as they have, in an interview with Le Figaro newspaper to be published Monday.

PARIS, July 4 (AFP) - The former US military chief in Iraq said Washington never expected combat operations against insurgents to last as long as they have, in an interview with Le Figaro newspaper to be published Monday.

"I don't believe we ever thought that our soldiers would still have to be fighting a year after" the fall of Baghdad, in April 2003, Ricardo Sanchez told France's best-selling daily, in comments translated into French.

Sanchez officially stepped down on Sunday from his post in Baghdad, which in recent months was darkened by the abuse scandal at US-run prisons in Iraq.

When asked by Le Figaro what kind of enemy US forces on the ground there faced, he said: "There is a real terrorist component.

"But this doesn't mean we should concentrate on the elimination of one individual like the Jordanian Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi," he added.

Both President George W. Bush and US authorities in Iraq have invoked Zarqawi's name in relation to at least 25 attacks there, including the March 2 suicide bombings in Karbala and Baghdad that killed some 170 people, still the bloodiest day of the insurgency.

But the real role played by the alleged Al-Qaeda operative in the insurgency is difficult to ascertain.

"A battle is being fought in Iraq between extremists and moderates", Sanchez told the paper. "The old loyalists of Saddam (Hussein's) regime are still active in several regions. And it is certain that extremist elements have entered the country in order to attack both American forces and the Iraqi people."

"I truly believe there is a difference between resistance by the insurgents and terrorism by foreign Islamic militants," the general added.

He said he hoped the government of the new Iraqi prime minister, Iyad Allawi, could "convince the insurgents to choose neutrality".

Sanchez refused to draw any parallel between the Iraq conflict and Vietnam, as many media observers and opponents of the US-led war, have done. "Here, we are not faced with a national uprising," he said. "In Iraq, there will be no getting bogged down."

Sanchez, 52, was replaced by General George Casey after the torture scandal at the US-run Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad broke. He returns to his former post as commander of the US Army 5th Corps in Germany.

 

© AFP

Subject: French news

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