Magazine article Insight on the News

Trans-Atlantic Tensions Likely to Keep Rising

Magazine article Insight on the News

Trans-Atlantic Tensions Likely to Keep Rising

Article excerpt

Byline: Jamie Dettmer, INSIGHT

LONDON - Some military experts here believe the admission was belated and that an acknowledgement of the clearly organized guerrilla resistance now under way in Iraq should have come earlier. The assessment last month by Gen. John Abizaid that the United States indeed is engaged in a nasty and likely protracted low-grade fight in Iraq may not have come as music to the ears of the Bush administration, but at least it was honest.

And it needed to be made because, for all the efforts by military planners to bring home units that fought in the war to oust Saddam Hussein, including the Army's indefatigable 3rd Infantry Division, it is becoming clear that some GIs are facing deployment of a year's duration. The increasing death toll hardly is going to go unnoticed by the American people, and the financial costs reaching nearly $4 billion a month are going to exercise Congress in the coming months.

Whether the Pentagon erred in expecting an easier occupation some military critics both in the United States and Europe argue it did and that from the get-go U.S. military planners relied on an inadequately sized force is moot now. The bigger question facing the Pentagon and the White House is how the "classical guerrilla-type campaign," as Abizaid described the resistance, can be defeated and how long that may take.

British Defense Ministry sources say they expect the fight to drag on for 18 months or so and that assessment is based on a speedy overhaul of Iraq's economy. Pentagon officials disagree, believing the deaths of Saddam Hussein's sons likely will demoralize Iraqi opponents of the United States. But if the British are right, a protracted fight not only will put a strain on U.S. forces deployed in Iraq but likely will add to trans-Atlantic tensions as Washington seeks to reduce the U.S. burden by putting pressure on its NATO allies to provide assistance in the form of European troops.

Few sources here, political or military, think there is going to be a shift in opinion at NATO headquarters and that reluctant Europeans suddenly will effect a U-turn and expand their limited role in Iraq. In July, NATO Secretary-General Lord Robertson told U.S. lawmakers during a trip to Washington that NATO would not go beyond providing logistical support for a Polish-led force in Iraq. "After that it may well be that some of the nations would want to do more, but I think we should focus on making a success of what we're doing at the moment," he added. …

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