Pentagon Has Clearer View of Iraq Insurgency; More Criminals Likely in Ranks
Byline: Rowan Scarborough, THE WASHINGTON TIMES
Military commanders say they have a better picture today than they did a year ago of the deadly insurgency in Iraq, thanks to better intelligence collection and analysis.
The Pentagon estimates the enemy force at 12,000 to 20,000 fighters. It is a heterogenous grouping of Saddam Hussein loyalists, criminals and foreign terrorists led by Jordanian-born Abu Musab Zarqawi.
A Pentagon official said there are questions about how many insurgents are hard-core fighters as opposed to "fence sitters" who might participate in an attack but then lie dormant for weeks at a time.
"There are many part-timers who will quit fighting under the right conditions," the official said.
Officials now think that criminals make up more of the insurgents than first thought, meaning many are driven by money, not ideology. And commanders are seeing more foreign fighters because fewer Iraqis are willing to commit themselves to attacks.
The suspicion that there is a large number of semicommitted insurgents was bolstered by the enemy's failure to disrupt the Jan. 30 elections, when 8 million Iraqis went to the polls.
"The evidence suggests the insurgency has been obviously less active in the past month than it was before," said Vali Nasr, a professor at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Calif., and author of several books on Islam. "It is possible to look at this and say it is weakening. …