Sunday, March 11, 2007

'Smart' rebels outstrip US

Top American generals make shock admission as Iraq leader pleads with neighbouring countries to seal off their borders

Paul Beaver in Fort Lauderdale and Peter Beaumont
Sunday March 11, 2007
The Observer

"The US army is lagging behind Iraq's insurgents tactically in a war that senior officers say is the biggest challenge since Korea 50 years ago.

The gloomy assessment at a conference in America last week came as senior US and Iraqi officials sat down yesterday with officials from Iran, Syria, Jordan and Saudi Arabia in Baghdad to persuade Iraq's neighbours to help seal its borders against fighters, arms and money flowing in......

In a bleak analysis, senior officers described the fighters they were facing in Iraq and Afghanistan 'as smart, agile and cunning'.
In Vietnam, the US was eventually defeated by a well-armed, closely directed and highly militarised society that had tanks, armoured vehicles and sources of both military production and outside procurement. What is more devastating now is that the world's only superpower is in danger of being driven back by a few tens of thousands of lightly armed irregulars, who have developed tactics capable of destroying multimillion-dollar vehicles and aircraft.

By contrast, the US military is said to have been slow to respond to the challenges of fighting an insurgency. The senior officers described the insurgents as being able to adapt rapidly to exploit American rules of engagement and turn them against US forces, and quickly disseminate ways of destroying or disabling armoured vehicles.

The military is also hampered in its attempts to break up insurgent groups because of their 'flat' command structure within collaborative networks of small groups, making it difficult to target any hierarchy within the insurgency.

The remarks were made by senior US generals speaking at the Association of the US Army meeting at Fort Lauderdale in Florida and in conversations with The Observer. The generals view the 'war on terror' as the most important test of America's soldiers in 50 years.

'Iraq and Afghanistan are sucking up resources at a faster rate than we planned for,' one three-star general said. 'America's warriors need the latest technology to defeat an enemy who is smart, agile and cunning - things we did not expect of the Soviets.'

Other officers said coalition rules of engagement were being used against the forces fighting the insurgency. 'They know when we can and cannot shoot, and use that against us,' said one officer, reflecting the comments of US soldiers in the field. Another said recent video footage of an ambush on a convoy, posted on the internet, was evidence that insurgents were filming incidents to teach other groups about American counter-measures......"

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