Many Fighters in Iraq Aren’t Iraqis

By Gerry J. Gilmore, AFPS

WASHINGTON, April 16, 2003 – Many snipers, suicide bombers and other diehards attacking U.S. and coalition troops in Iraq are non-Iraqis waging holy war, the U.S. military’s senior officer said April 15.

"A large portion … they’re actually foreigners," Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said on CNN’s "Larry King Live."

"They’re some of the so-called jihadists that have infiltrated into Iraq" to fight for Saddam Hussein’s now- defunct regime, Myers remarked to the television talk show host.
The four-star general told King that although major combat is over in Iraq, there’s still military work to be done, as U.S. and coalition troops conduct presence patrols and assist humanitarian relief efforts.

However, there are "some pockets of resistance that we still need to deal with that can be very deadly," Myers pointed out. He said he was sure there are U.S. and coalition troops in Iraq "dodging bullets, that are worried about suicide bombers coming up to the checkpoints."

Much of that resistance, he noted, seems to be composed of fanatical foreigners devoted to jihad, or holy war, against perceived enemies of Islam.

A lot of the Saddam-regime diehards still battling U.S. and coalition troops in Iraq are not Iraqis, Myers pointed out, "but they’ve come there for jihad, and are fighting for that."
But where could the jihadists be coming from? Pentagon and State Department officials have commented on the actions by the Syrian government during Operation Iraqi Freedom, noting war supplies like night-vision goggles were being sent from Syria to Iraqi forces.
U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell noted yesterday that coalition officials have been watchful of cross-border goods — and people — traffic between Iraq and Syria.

"Some of those individuals went from Syria into Iraq to oppose coalition forces," Powell said. He added that the United States is also concerned about Syria’s weapons of mass destruction programs and its continuing support of terrorist groups.

U.S. officials have also warned the Syrian government against harboring any Saddam-regime escapees, criminals or terrorists.

There’s also the oil pipeline between Iraq and Syria that was operating in violation of U.N. sanctions. U.S. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said April 15 that U.S. forces in Iraq had shut it down.

Myers also told King that U.S. and coalition troops must still round up the remnants of Saddam’s Special Republican Guard and violent Baathist Party operatives.

And "we still have a lot of work to do in finding and securing weapons of mass destruction sites, and making sure that those biological and chemical weapons don’t fall into the hands of terrorists," the Joint Chiefs chairman said.