Fighters may have inside information

Pentagon officials have expressed concern that resistance fighters may be staging attacks in Iraq based on inside information about US operations.

    The Baghdad hotel where Paul Wolfowitz stayed was hit

    The concerns were raised on Thursday after

    recent strikes against three high-profile Americans.

    General John Abizaid, who commands US troops in the Gulf

    , came under attack in Falluja on Thursday when fighters

     shot rocket-propelled grenades at his convoy

    . Abizaid and his party were unharmed.

    Defence officials said the Pentagon was aware that the Iraqi resistance

     

    might seek to infiltrate security forces created by the

    United States or to place a "mole" inside US-led civilian

    operations in the country.

    "If you ask anyone, they'll all say, 'Yeah, it's a

    concern.' There's no two ways about it," said one official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

    US officials targeted?

    "Certainly we monitor the situation very closely," said another

    . "It's something that we've always been aware of

    and have taken steps to prevent."

    "They missed Wolfowitz. They missed Bremer. They missed

    Abizaid now. I hate to say this, but it's only a

    question of time before a high-ranking and high-profile figure

    gets nailed by the insurgents"


    Charles Pena,
    Cato Institute

    But US officials said they had not concluded the attack

    against Abizaid resulted from inside information, saying the

    incident occurred in a city that has been among the most

    hostile to American occupation forces.

    Resistance fighters have attacked two other senior US officials,

    who were unhurt.

    On 26 October, rockets struck the Baghdad hotel

    where Deputy Defence Secretary Paul Wolfowitz was staying.

    And on 6

    December, a motorcade carrying US occupation administrator

     Paul

    Bremer was ambushed near Baghdad International Airport

    .

    Defence analyst Charles Pena of the Cato Institute said the

    number of times fighters have been able to target

    high-profile Americans is disturbing.

    'Question of time'

    "That's something you cannot do that many times, I would

    argue, simply through sheer luck and coincidence. They have to

    be getting some kind of information," Pena said.

    "They missed Wolfowitz. They missed Bremer. They missed

    Abizaid now," Pena said. "I hate to say this, but it's only a

    question of time before a high-ranking and high-profile figure

    gets nailed by the insurgents."

    The US has recruited, trained and fielded

    209,000 Iraqis into various security forces since last summer

    and many more Iraqis work with US civilian operations.

    And there are just under 70,000 US-trained Iraqi police on the job around the country.

    "There's been a lot of discussions about the Iraqi police

    being infiltrated. To tell you the truth, it's not that

    difficult to do"

    Defence official

    US

    officials admit there are challenges in weeding out

    Iraqis willing to give the resistance sensitive information

    about the location of key Americans or other subjects.

    Iraqi security forces

    "There's been a lot of discussions about the Iraqi police

    being infiltrated. To tell you the truth, it's not that

    difficult to do," a defence official said.

    "If you're going to do a background check on somebody,

    you're only going to know the obvious bad guys," the official

    added, noting that others who could pose a security

    threat could slip through the net.

    Another official called the training and deployment of the

    Iraqi security forces "very much a success story", noting that

    these Iraqis work closely with US forces and more than 200

    already have given their lives on the job.

    "Can you rule out the possibility [of infiltration]? Of

    course not. But the vetting process itself is very thorough and

    has been conducted in a manner that has been effective."

    SOURCE: Aljazeera + Agencies


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