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US to recruit more Iraqis to help
( 2003-10-29 15:03) (Agencies)

The United States will recruit more Iraqis to gather information about opposition fighters and may increase security measures to protect troops, President Bush said as he outlined ways the military was switching tactics to deal with a rise in deadly attacks.

"We're constantly looking at the enemy and adjusting," the president said at a Rose Garden news conference Tuesday. "Iraq is dangerous, and it's dangerous because terrorists want us to leave, and we're not leaving."

Bush and Pentagon officials said Americans may install more security barriers and take other measures to "harden" potential targets after suicide bombings killed more than three dozen people in Baghdad on Monday. More importantly, the United States will step up its efforts to involve Iraqis in the hunt for Saddam Hussein loyalists and foreign fighters, Bush said.

"We've got to make sure that not only we harden targets, but that we get actionable intelligence to intercept the missions before they begin," the president said. "That means more Iraqis involved in the intelligence-gathering systems in their country so that they are active participants in securing the country from further harm."

But a scathing internal report on the Army's information gathering in Iraq found intelligence specialists on the ground unprepared for their jobs and with little ability to analyze what they hear.

The Army report found the service's intelligence specialists in Iraq "did not appear to be prepared for tactical assignments" and often exhibited "weak intelligence briefing skills" and "very little to no analytical skills."

The criticism came in a report by a four-member team from the Center for Army Lessons Learned, the Army's agency for pushing commanders to learn from mistakes. The team visited Army units in Iraq during the first two weeks of June and released its report on an Army Web site last week.

A particular problem, the team said, has been finding enough competent Arabic interpreters to help American forces. Many of the interpreters don't have much training for their jobs and only enough specialized knowledge "to tell the difference between a burro and a burrito," the Army report said.

Commanders in Iraq have said for months they were working to improve their intelligence gathering to try to prevent attacks against coalition troops and the Iraqis who help them. They've claimed some successes by rounding up or killing many of the top 55 most wanted members of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's government and encouraging more Iraqis to tip off troops to weapons caches and opposition fighters.

Yet American officials say they still don't know who is behind the car bombings that have been striking Baghdad for more than two months, despite the efforts of 130,000 U.S. troops, 22,000 other coalition troops, more than 80,000 Iraqi security forces and dozens of FBI agents.

No suspects in those bombings have been apprehended except for a man carrying a Syrian passport who was shot while trying to detonate a car bomb Monday in Baghdad, a senior defense official said Tuesday.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said he did not know of any useful information about the bombings gathered from any of the thousands of Iraqis being detained by the Americans.

So far, America's high-tech gadgets its biggest advantage in many wars have had only mixed success in Iraq.

Spy satellites and reconnaissance drones are unable to maintain a constant presence over Baghdad, making it impossible to retrace the path of a car bomb to its origin, for example, one top military intelligence official, James Clapper, said Tuesday.

"We're in the mode of looking for individuals," said Clapper, the retired Air Force lieutenant general who commands the agency that analyzes pictures from spy satellites.

That's why U.S. officials are so eager to recruit Iraqis to help with intelligence gathering. The Iraqis know the language and culture of their homeland and can help recognize who's a terrorist and who isn't.

"It's going to be very important for the Iraqi people to play an active role in fighting off the few who are trying to destroy the hopes of the many," Bush said.

 

 
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