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Good news from Iraq- The Weekly Fishwrap 29 May 07

LT Fishman delivers the open source goods

Baghdad tribes close to fighting al-Qaida

Zeke Minaya, Stars and Stripes Mideast edition, Monday, May 21, 2007 TAJI, Iraq — Mirroring a nationwide trend, tribes near Baghdad are on the verge of banding together against al-Qaida and have met with U.S. military officials seeking aid and guidance in fighting the terrorist network. Acceptance of — if not outright support for — al-Qaida among the tribes eroded after the strict Islamic law imposed by insurgents clashed with the authority of the sheikhs, according to U.S. military officials. On Saturday, a group of local chieftains met with military commanders and a representative of the State Department at Camp Taji, about 20 miles northwest of Baghdad, and tentatively agreed to form a council that would oversee the creation of a provincial security force similar to the tribal militia created in western Iraq. “I think we all agree that our common enemy are extremists and that’s who we must defeat,” Col. Paul E. Funk II said to the roughly dozen sheikhs at the gathering. Funk, commander of the 1st “Ironhorse” Brigade Combat Tam, 1st Cavalry Division, presided over the meeting.With the fledgling alliance still in its early stages, the gathering at times resembled a negotiation. Several sheikhs asked for improvements in water treatment and electricity service as well as for inquiries into the detention by Iraqi security forces of relatives and tribal members.“Are you going to support us, or do we have to go knock on someone else’s door,” one sheikh asked.But even while U.S. commanders courted tribal support, they were wary of creating a new, separate fighting force and potentially further complicating the crowded battlefield around Baghdad that includes not only al-Qaida, but also Shiite militias.“We are not here to build another militia,” Funk said. Volunteers from the tribes must cooperate with the Iraqi government’s security forces, he said

Good News Iraq Report 27 May: First Lieutenant Jarred A. Fishman, USAFR

1) Iraqi Prime Minister announces Cabinet changes
By QASSIM ABDUL-ZAHRA, Associated Press Writer Thu May 24, 7:21 AM ET  HYPERLINK ";_ylt=AmAq._Yj7e2mBi5WiZ_UxMAUewgF";_ylt=AmAq._Yj7e2mBi5WiZ_UxMAUewgF Iraq's prime minister asked Parliament Thursday to approve six new Cabinet members to replace a group which resigned last month on the orders of radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. Al-Sadr ordered his ministers to quit the government over Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's refusal to call for a timetable for U.S. withdrawal. The anti-American cleric went into hiding in Iran last February when the Baghdad security crackdown was launched. In Parliament, al-Maliki thanked al-Sadr for giving him the "authority to choose the ministers." He told the chamber, which will decide in a vote Sunday, that all six were independent "not because we have something against parties, but we were keen on their being independent because that was one of the conditions put for the selection." Al-Maliki was upset because there were not enough legislators to approve his choices on the spot, and was instead forced to delay the vote by three days. He admitted that he took a long time in choosing them, but said it was the result of the time needed to review the candidates history. Describing them as technocrats, he said none had any record of corruption. He also announced a future Cabinet reshuffle, but said he had not yet received any proposals for candidates from the parties that make up his government. "Some blocs want to change their ministers, and some ministers we want to change. It is not a shame to talk about a Cabinet reshuffle because we seek the best" people, al-Maliki told Parliament. The new six candidates included one woman, Khiloud Sami, who has been proposed for the post of state minister for provincial affairs. Although the religious affiliation of the six were not announced, all had traditionally Shiite names. The six are Sabah Rasoul for Health ministry, Ali al-Bahadli for Agriculture, Amir Abdul-Jabbar for Transportation, Thamir Jafar al-Zubaidi for the Civil Society Ministry, and Zuhair Mohammed Ali Sharba for the Tourism and Antiquity ministry.

3. Iraqi Security Forces repel attacks in Mosul Sunday, 20 May 2007 BAGHDAD — Iraqi Security Forces repelled a large-scale terrorist attack in Mosul Wednesday.  Iraqi Security Forces countered several terrorists who targeted bridges, transition jails, police stations and a combat outpost with vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices, sporadic small-arms fire and indirect mortar attacks throughout the evening.“This was a total team effort on the part of the Iraqi Security Forces and emergency responders,” said U.S. Army Col. Stephen Twitty, commander of 4th Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division.  “This Iraqi team showed the people of Mosul that they are resolute in their efforts to defeat this very cowardly, desperate enemy while protecting innocent civilians.”The first wave of attacks consisted of three VBIEDs, which targeted the Badush Bridge northwest of Mosul at 5:15 p.m., and was followed by another VBIED attack at the Aski-Mosul Bridge west of the city at 5:45 p.m.Two more VBIEDs exploded outside a police station and a transition jail during the first wave.  The first VBIED was a dump truck, which detonated upon reaching the entrance to the station.  The driver of the second VBIED attempted to enter the compound but was killed by Iraqi Security Forces.As the driver of the second VBIED was killed, terrorists attempted to breach the transition jail to release prisoners by using small-arms fire.  However, Iraqi Security Forces quelled the attempt and kept the facility secured.The second wave of attacks involved another dump truck VBIED parked outside a southeast police station at approximately 7 p.m.  As the driver abandoned the vehicle, he was seen by Iraqi Police and was killed as he was fleeing the area.  The Iraqi Police immediately cordoned the vicinity before detonation.  No casualties resulted.Small-arms fire erupted during the second wave at seven police stations throughout the city and one combat outpost.  In all cases, Iraqi Army and Police repelled the enemy and killed at least 15 terrorists and turned back the remaining opposition.“The Iraqi Security Forces are in the lead, and they are certainly a capable force,” said Twitty.  “Their reactions to the attacks [on Wednesday] only serve to prove their ability to destroy and remove terrorists.  Their actions demonstrate their commitment to this city and its people.  I am extremely proud to serve beside them.”According to Mosul police chief Gen. Wathiq, a citywide, a non-movement curfew was imposed citywide and bridges in the city were closed.  Iraqi Police and the Provincial Joint Communications Center coordinated recovery and casualty evacuation.Small-arms fire and mortar attacks targeted Iraqi Security Forces and a Coalition base throughout the evening, but remained isolated and sporadic.  By Thursday morning, Iraqi Police discovered three vehicles with numerous weapons and detained 30 suspects.  Iraqi Army and Police continued to sweep the areas as local leaders restricted movement around key infrastructure within the city.Applauding their successful quelling of the attacks, U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Benjamin R. Mixon, commanding general of Multi-National Division-North, said the Iraqi Army and Police have demonstrated their capability and commitment to securing the population and defeating terrorists in whatever cowardly method they choose to disrupt the Iraqi people’s right to life and freedom.

4)  Sunni Clashes With Al Qaeda Escalate
By  HYPERLINK "" \o "More Articles by John F. Burns" JOHN F. BURNS BAGHDAD, May 24 — The growing confrontation between tribal leaders in Anbar Province and  HYPERLINK "" \o "More articles about Al Qaeda." Al Qaeda took a violent turn on Thursday when a suicide bomber drove into a crowd gathering for a funeral procession in the volatile city of Falluja, killing at least 27 people and wounding dozens of others. The attack on the mourners followed a pattern of two-stage assaults that has been replicated often in the four-year war. At breakfast time, masked gunmen assassinated a prominent Sunni Arab tribal leader, Allawi al-Issawi, who had joined others across Anbar in opposing terrorist groups linked to Al Qaeda. Less than three hours later, as mourners gathered for a funeral procession outside the tribal leader’s home, the suicide bomber struck. The tribal leaders’ campaign has helped make Anbar one of the few bright spots in  HYPERLINK "" \o "More news and information about Iraq." Iraq for the Americans. With many of the Sunni sheiks calling on their followers to join the Iraqi Army and police and declaring Al Qaeda a common enemy of Iraqi Sunnis, the levels of violence across much of Anbar have dropped sharply, especially in the provincial capital of Ramadi and in towns along the Euphrates River valley. But the area around Falluja, 30 miles west of Baghdad, has seen a violent struggle between tribal leaders eager to follow the lead set in Ramadi and other tribal groups that continue to back Al Qaeda in what American commanders call the “Baghdad belts,” predominantly Sunni Arab areas like Falluja that straddle the approaches to the capital.The Falluja attack occurred on another day of widespread violence, much of it apparently committed by Sunni insurgent groups. Gunmen who set up a fake checkpoint at Hussainiya, on the northeastern outskirts of Baghdad, stopped a minibus and raked the Shiite passengers with gunfire, killing 11, including several women and children. The police said the attackers then left a bomb in the wreckage that exploded as rescuers arrived on the scene, killing two civilians and wounding several others.American commanders have cited lower levels of sectarian killings as a tentative early sign of success in President Bush’s “surge” strategy, under which nearly 30,000 additional American troops have been committed to the war, with the last of them now preparing to deploy in Baghdad and other war hotspots like Diyala Province. But the commanders have conceded that a lower rate of sectarian killing has been offset by an unabated tempo of suicide bombings, the attacks that claim the largest number of civilian deaths. In Baghdad on Thursday, Prime Minister  HYPERLINK "" \o "More articles about Nuri Kamal al-Maliki." Nuri Kamal al-Maliki named replacements for six cabinet ministers who quit last month on the orders of the radical Shiite cleric  HYPERLINK "" \o "More articles about Moktada al-Sadr." Moktada al-Sadr. At the time, Mr. Sadr said he was taking the action to protest Mr. Maliki’s refusal to back a timeline for the departure of American forces. But the cleric may also have wanted to distance himself from the increasingly unpopular Maliki administration, which completed its first year in office this week with scant progress in curbing violence or improving Iraq’s devastated public services.Officials in Mr. Maliki’s office described his ministerial nominees as technocrats who would bring new levels of efficiency to the vacated ministries, which included the politically sensitive portfolios of agriculture, health and transport.But the Iraqi leader also voiced some of his strongest opposition yet to American pressure for his government to meet political “benchmarks” on bitterly contested issues like the division of future oil revenues. “How can the head of an elected government accept another country imposing restrictions or conditions on its actions?” Mr. Maliki said in an interview on Wednesday night on Iraqi television.

5) Is al-Qaeda on the Run in Iraq?
By JOE KLEIN,8599,1624697,00.html
Wednesday, May. 23, 2007  Time Magazine: There is good news from Iraq, believe it or not. It comes from the most unlikely place: Anbar province, home of the Sunni insurgency. The level of violence has plummeted in recent weeks. An alliance of U.S. troops and local tribes has been very effective in moving against the al-Qaeda foreign fighters. A senior U.S. military official told me—confirming reports from several other sources—that there have been "a couple of days recently during which there were zero effective attacks and less than 10 attacks overall in the province (keep in mind that an attack can be as little as one round fired). This is a result of sheiks stepping up and opposing AQI [al-Qaeda in Iraq] and volunteering their young men to serve in the police and army units there." The success in Anbar has led sheiks in at least two other Sunni-dominated provinces, Nineveh and Salahaddin, to ask for similar alliances against the foreign fighters. And, as TIME's Bobby Ghosh has reported, an influential leader of the Sunni insurgency, Harith al-Dari, has turned against al-Qaeda as well. It is possible that al-Qaeda is being rejected like a mismatched liver transplant by the body of the Iraqi insurgency. The good news comes with caveats, of course. The removal of AQI's havens in Anbar may ultimately hurt the terrorists' ability to blow up markets in Baghdad, but it hasn't yet. As I reported in September 2005, there is also the scandalous reality that an alliance with the tribes was proposed by U.S. Army intelligence officers as early as October 2003 and rejected by L. Paul Bremer's Coalition Provisional Authority on the grounds that "tribes are part of the past. They have no place in the new democratic Iraq." The damage caused by that myopic stupidity may never be repaired: it gave al-Qaeda a base in the Sunni tribal areas, which enabled the sustained, spectacular anti-Shi'ite bombing campaign, which, along with the Sunnis' historic disdain for the Shi'ite majority, created the conditions for the current civil war. "Just because the Sunni tribesmen have joined with us in Anbar doesn't mean they like the Baghdad government," a senior Administration official told me. "They just hate al-Qaeda more." Which is why there is some very bad news from Iraq as well. There is a growing sense among senior U.S. military and intelligence officials that the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki—and the Shi'ite factions in general—has little interest in making concessions to the Sunnis. "The Shi'ites suffer from a battered-child syndrome. They simply don't trust the Sunnis," said a senior U.S. official. There was a long history, even before Saddam Hussein's massacres, of Sunni prejudice and pogroms against the Shi'ites. In recent months, the al-Maliki government has sent several clear signals of anti-Sunni intransigence. It has supported the "voluntary" relocation of Sunni Arabs from the disputed, Kurdish-dominated city of Kirkuk. And in an instance that is particularly vexing to U.S. intelligence officials, al-Maliki has supported the creation of a parallel Shi'ite-dominated intelligence service to supplant the authority of the Iraq Intelligence Service, which has been run by a Sunni general named Mahmoud Shahwani, who is considered "very effective" by U.S. officials. It is beginning to seem quite implausible that the various Iraqi political factions will meet "benchmarks" like rescinding the punitive de-Baathification programs and passing a law guaranteeing fair distribution of oil profits anytime soon. And as General David Petraeus keeps reminding us, a political solution is necessary: a military victory is not possible. So let's try to put the good and bad news together. It's not impossible that the Iraqis will eventually remove the al-Qaeda cancer from the Sunni insurgency—which would put a serious crimp in President George W. Bush's current rationale for the war, that we're there to fight al-Qaeda. But it's also probable that without a political deal, the sectarian conflict between the Sunnis and Shi'ites will intensify—and eventually explode when the U.S. military pulls back from Iraq. The stakes in Iraq then become questions of moral responsibility and regional stability. "How many Srebrenicas do you have the stomach for?" a senior U.S. official asked me, referring to the Bosnian massacre by the Serbs in 1995. Given the antipathy of the American people for the war, I'd guess the public reaction would be, "Those Arabs are just a bunch of barbarians, and we could never tell the difference between Shi'ites and Sunnis anyway." A more pointed question is, How many massacres of Sunnis will the Saudis and Jordanians have the stomach for? How hard will Iran press its obvious advantage with a Shi'ite-dominated government in Iraq? The answers to those questions are completely out of American hands. They rest with the Iraqi Shi'ites. Eventually even battered children have to grow up.

6) The city of Hit makes good progress in last six months  HYPERLINK " 
May 24" 
May 24, 2007 Michael Yon Dispatch: “Am in the city of Hit, out in Anbar Province, with Task Force 2-7 Infantry. 2-7 took over this section of Iraq on 08 February. The area of operations comprises approximately 4,000 square km with an estimated 100,000 people. On 30 Jan, as the last of the previous unit departed, 3 mortar rounds landed about 50 yards from where I sit, wounding about 8 of the departing soldiers. Since that time, there have been no mortar attacks on base – and only one possible small mortar attack in the entire 4,000 sq km. The last battalion took nearly 150 wounded and 15 killed in action in 14 months. They fought very hard while building the ISF, and I hope those soldiers, Marines and others would be happy and proud to know that their efforts set the conditions for the current success here. Following a major clearing operation that 2-7 IN executed with Iraqi Police when they initially took over, the guns are mostly quiet now. IEDs are still a threat but are few. Over the first one-hundred days, 2-7 has taken one wounded Soldier, and unfortunately a Marine was killed by an IED. Otherwise, 2-7 hardly have fired their weapons. Today, I accompanied LTC Doug Crissman, the commander, to three meetings with Iraqi police and civilian leadership. The meetings were important but thankfully more administrative than combat oriented. Subjects included police recruitment and local politics, and actually seemed more difficult to navigate than "simple combat." And to think that only in January of this year, this city was a daily battle. Today, there are clear signs of development and the civilian population was out shopping. In addition to basic services being restored, the city of Hit has rebuilt its library. Citizens had stored away the books during the war here. They are preparing to re-stock the library. Glenn, you know that I do not hesitate to deliver bad news. I have no bad news to deliver today. The town of Hit clearly is doing much, much better. "Anbar the impossible" might be possible after all.”

7) Battling al Qaeda in Iraq
The Iraqi Army is stepping up the fight against terror. On Saturday, I saw the terrorists strike back. BY MELIK KAYLAN Monday, May 21, 2007 12:01 a.m.

Diyala Province, Iraq--Saturday I witnessed a violent and dramatic illustration of how the Iraqi Army has, in places, begun to work effectively with tribesmen against determined al Qaeda insurgents. The incident occurred some 50 miles north of Baghdad at a remote dusty village in Diyala province, which is now a kind of frontline between the two sides. We were there in the punishing noonday heat, with a rustic crowd on hand, to witness an emotional meeting between tribal chiefs in long robes and a lone, clean-shaven figure in a suit and tie--Ahmed Chalabi. Mr. Chalabi, the elite Shiite politician and former exile, a controversial figure in the U.S., came to thank the elders for their courage and sacrifice. Until recently, Sunnis and Shiites had tilled the land together for miles around, intermarried and mutually inhabited a checkerboard of villages. A year ago, al Qaeda had forced its strategy of sectarian hatred on the area, purging the Shiites while executing Sunnis who resisted their authority. It remains one of Iraq's most volatile zones. Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi, the sanguinary leader of al Qaeda in Iraq, had his headquarters in the area and was ultimately killed less than 20 miles away. Suddenly hefty explosions shook the ground while automatic gunfire rent the air. We were under attack, and al Qaeda had chosen a perfect moment to ignite disaster. All their local opponents were there, plus Mr. Chalabi, a top Iraqi government figure known around the world. Mr. Chalabi lives outside the security of the Baghdad's Green Zone, albeit in a well-defended series of cul-de-sacs. One of his official functions requires him to raise public support for Baghdad's security plan, so he likes to be mobile and takes risks to stay in touch with things. Abroad, he has been accused of everything from luring the U.S. and other allies into toppling Saddam to passing sensitive information to Iran. Among Iraqis he is highly respected. At about 10 a.m. on Saturday, we had taken off across Baghdad in a convoy of a dozen white pickups and SUVs, some with mounted machine guns, on our way to Diyala. We passed through notorious neighborhoods: one infamous for kidnapping, another where street battles have been fought between Shiites and Palestinian gangs. Often there were miles of static cars queuing for gasoline. We passed by the old U.N. High Commission building, truck-bombed in 2003, now empty. We passed Saddam's giant, turquoise, egg-shaped "Monument to the Martyrs" of the Iran-Iraq war, a bright contrast to the faded saffron brick of Baghdad's peeling facades. Suddenly a sharp explosive sound went off nearby and Ali, the security chief shouted "go, go, go" into the intercom. Our convoy raced off. Out in the country, cracked dry earth and chalky bare scrubland stretched away. An hour out, the convoy slowed almost to standstill and stayed that way. Never a good thing. Al Qaeda had blown up all the bridges linking Baghdad to Iran, and a mile or more of trucks waited to cross a makeshift mud-and-stone bridge across the Diyala river. A bulldozer helped us jump the queue by carving an improvised path. We passed some miles of mud-brick dwellings and arrived at a village square encircled by earthen ramparts with a T-55 tank, a cannon and a bunker embedded along it. We had arrived at the front line in the village of Dafaa. Nearby stood a long, low reception hall, and, just in front, a large tent with long tables for the tribal buffet lunch. Mr. Chalabi entered the building followed by Al-Iraqiyya TV crews. An aging sheik, in black-checkered headdress and sheer ochre robe--said to be the richest landowner--came in and sat beside him. Much of his property lay fallow out in no man's land. He'd lost seven sons and grandsons to the conflict there. "We've had no support from the government since the fighting started," he said, "no one has visited us or asked what we need. We've been on our own fighting al Qaeda which gets money and arms from around the world. Only recently, the Iraqi Army has given us some soldiers and weapons, and that has helped very much, but we need more, much more help, money, arms, provisions. We ask that you pass this on to the government." Above his head hung a moonlit poster of the Shiite martyr Imam Ali on a white horse crossing a river. One sheik after another came in and repeated the same concerns. Dafaa has perforce become an exclusively Shiite village, an international force of militant Sunnis having occupied the villages roundabout. They are led, according to locals, by Afghans who have forced farmers to give them their daughters in marriage and "made everyone look Afghani like them, with long beards." They decapitate doubters and float them down the river to Dafaa village. "No fish anymore," say the locals. In wider Diyala province, wedged strategically between Iran and Baghdad, many of the Sunnis were in Saddam's security forces, and for a while the al Qaeda leader was a former Saddam army colonel, according to Mr. Chalabi. They consider themselves a last line of resistance to the Shiite continuum between Iran and Iraqi Shiites to the south, so they accommodate foreign Sunni fighters more readily than, say, the Sunni tribes in Anbar province who feel more secure. In the last year, al Qaeda rolled up the front until Dafaa village lay exposed like an arrowhead surrounded on three sides. It served as the final redoubt protecting the last bridge open to vital goods from the north directly supplying Baghdad. Finally, some months ago, a small contingent of 15 Iraqi Army troops moved in with high-caliber armor and stabilized the front. "That's all it took," said the young lieutenant in charge as he showed us and the 20-foot earthen ramparts, "because we fight alongside the people." Listening to anecdotes and viewing bullet marks from snipers, we stood outlined on the ridge squinting across empty cracked fields. The nearest village shaded by date trees sat a mere 900 meters away. Our self-exposure proved foolhardy in short order. As the buffet lunch got going, a soldier ran over and reported two pickups racing across no man's land towards us. He was told to report developments. He raced back saying that they seemed to be unloading mortars. This time, he was told to repel them. The opposition had no doubt seen all the ridge-top activity, the civilians, camera crews, berobed sheiks--and responded briskly. The first high-explosive shell, later identified as launched from an 82mm heavy mortar, must have landed to the left of the village. It shook everything and blurred my sight. Our side opened fire with Kalashnikovs, perhaps some 30 fighters in all slithering up the slope, one standing on the skyline with a full machine gun while being fed the magazine-belt by his friend. The tank too thundered away. Then the APC cannon. I lost my head somewhat and ran at the rampart to look over the top but was thankfully tackled and stopped. The visiting sheiks crowded into the community hall. Mr. Chalabi never ceased talking to the TV camera, demanding help for the village. The second shell landed closer and behind us and fine yellow earth-dust floated over us. The sheiks were herded outside as a direct hit would have killed them all. It seemed the enemy had hit the structure before, maybe even had its GPS coordinates. The chaos intensified, the fighters now ducking from incoming fire. It was frustrating not to see the full picture. Two U.S. choppers flew overhead toward the opposition. The third mortar detonated, quite close this time, perhaps some 30 yards to the left, behind shuddering mud-brick structures, making my clothing flicker in the blast and my breath drop out. The tank fired again. The sheiks ran around ascending their SUVs with help from villagers. I counted three shells in all but some say six landed. It was hard to tell in the confusion. Suddenly a shout rose up and the fighters danced up and down below the ridge and came running down to us laughing. They'd destroyed one of the targets, it seemed. What about the other? "It's OK, it's OK," someone shouted to me, and everyone began firing into the air to the great anger of a visiting army officer. They could scarcely afford the ammunition. We later found out, though, that the combined sound of gunfire, added to by bodyguards, had impressed the attackers--they apparently feared the presence of a much bigger force. They stopped, at least for now, which gave us the chance to leap into our vehicles, with Mr. Chalabi in his blue Parisian suit and poplin shirt pleading to the last in front of the cameras, before being bundled off to safety. As we drove away from the village along the raised earth road, I looked back to see perhaps a hundred SUVs, a mile long, belting along behind carrying the elders. An Iraqi Army Humvee with mounted machine gun charged past us to the front. They'd been helping to guard the last bridge to Baghdad. But now, one felt, the villagers could guard it handily. They no longer felt isolated and forgotten by the world, as the television sets showed this night all over the Mideast.

8) Iraqis taking the lead at Al Suleikh  HYPERLINK ""
By Sgt. Mike Pryor 2nd BCT, 82nd Abn. Div. Public Affairs Friday, 25 May 2007 BAGHDAD — Capt. James Peay was starting to feel like a third wheel. Peay, a battery commander with the 82nd Airborne Division from Nashville, Tenn., was accompanying Iraqi police chief Lt. Col. Ahmed Abdullah on a combined engagement patrol through the east Baghdad neighborhood of Suleikh.Whenever they stopped to speak with people on the street, Ahmed did most of the talking. Peay stood off to the side, listening as his interpreter translated. His comments were mostly limited to hellos, goodbyes, and thank-yous.This was Ahmed’s show, and Peay was more than happy to give him the spotlight. It’s not that he is shy, Peay said later, it’s that, ultimately, stability in Iraq depends on the Iraqi security forces – and people like Lt. Col. Ahmed - taking the lead. Successfully negotiating that difficult transition has become one of the major focuses of the entire war effort, especially since the kick-off of the new security plan for Baghdad, which has placed thousands of additional U.S. and Iraqi forces in Baghdad communities, often living together in the same compounds. Peay commands one of those new shared bases – the Suleikh Joint Security Station. For more than three months, paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division have been living and working side-by-side with the Iraqi police and Iraqi army at the JSS to coordinate security efforts in Suleikh.The paratroopers from Battery A, 2nd Battalion, 319th Airborne Field Artillery Regiment, man the JSS 24 hours a day.
They have a cramped section of the building to themselves, stacked high with boxes of canned food, water and other supplies. The police stay on the other side of the same building, and the Iraqi soldiers stay in another part of the complex. At least once a day, liaisons from the three units meet in the conference room to discuss operations.When the JSS was first established, the area was so dangerous that the police rarely left the station. Some days, they went out only to pick up one of the dead bodies regularly dumped in the neighborhood. Three months later, things changed. The U.S. presence helped bring the level of violence down significantly. At the same time, it emboldened the ISF to raise their profile in the area – particularly the police.“They know we’re here to support them, but at the same time, they’re getting to a point where they know security as a whole is in their hands,” said 2nd Lt. Jesse Bowman, an Alpha Battery platoon leader from Reynoldsburg, Ohio.The difficult part, now, will be to maintain the security while the U.S. forces step back and the ISF step up. Peay’s patrol with Ahmed, May 18, his first as the new battery commander, gave an encouraging glimpse of the future. Before the patrol started, platoon sergeant, Sgt. 1st Class Michael Nichols, of Lewisburgh, W.V., went over tactics and procedures with the Iraqis. When he was satisfied everyone was on the same page, the patrol moved out.
With a phalanx of police and paratroopers around them, Peay and Ahmed spent several hours walking a loop of the neighborhood around the JSS. They talked to people in their houses, outside washing their cars, on their way to work or anywhere else they found them. Almost everyone complained about sewage or electricity, which, in the big scheme of things, Peay found promising.“If they’re complaining about the power, security must be pretty good,” he said.
Sometimes people came right out of their gates to talk with Ahmed in the middle of the street, an act that newly-arrived platoon leader, 1st Lt. Larry Rubal, from Old Forge, Pa., found incredible. At his old unit, people were afraid to be seen talking to U.S. or Iraqi security forces.
“I was very surprised by how willing people here were to come out and talk to us in the middle of the road,” he said. “They were just very open.” Peay rarely had to ask a question. Ahmed was running the show. At one point Rubal asked his interpreter to make sure a man they were talking to received a pamphlet with the number of a crime tip line. The man produced one from his pocket. Ahmed had already given it to him.“You’re too quick,” Rubal said to Ahmed, laughing. Ahmed shrugged.“He really took the lead and got out there,” Peay said afterwards.
Peay said he’d like to build on the day’s success by conducting more joint patrols and joint operations. And whenever possible, he’ll continue to keep the U.S. in the background. “I’d rather our guys just stand outside and have (the ISF) do everything,” he said.In the meantime, Peay has another patrol scheduled with Lt. Col. Ahmed. And as the ISF continue to make gains in securing the streets of Baghdad, it looks like Peay will have to get used to being the third wheel.
9) Helicopter attackers routed, U.S. military says  HYPERLINK "" By Jim Michaels, USA TODAY Newspaper May 21, 2007 The U.S. military has broken up a network of insurgents who were behind a string of deadly attacks on U.S. helicopters in Iraq this winter, the Army's top aviation officer in Iraq said.Some insurgent teams were killed when U.S. helicopter pilots flew over ambush sites and fired on them."I don't think they anticipated our rapid and very capable response to them," Maj. Gen. James Simmons said in a telephone interview from Iraq.Simmons didn't identify when the raids took place or the number of insurgents killed or captured, but he said it was fewer than 100.The raids came as the United States has boosted the number of troops in Iraq. However, violence has not declined; April was one of the deadliest months for troops since the war began in 2003. In the first two months of this year, 162 American troops died. More than 230 have died in the 11 weeks since the beginning of March.A surge in fatal attacks on U.S. helicopters this winter threatened to hamper flight operations and generated headlines for insurgent groups.Enemy fighters shot down six military helicopters in January and February, killing 23 servicemembers. Heavy machine guns were used in four attacks and small arms in one assault. A missile was used to down one of the six helicopters. Two private contractor helicopters were also shot down during that time.There haven't been any fatal helicopter attacks since February. Two servicemen were injured in an attack on a Kiowa helicopter May 8. A Black Hawk helicopter was forced down by heavy machine gun fire April 5. No one was injured, the Army said.The raids on the insurgents, which gave allied forces more control in the skies over Iraq to aid the three-month-old security plan, were an intelligence and military success, Simmons said. "It has helped us in our ability to conduct operations without significant interference from the enemy," he said.U.S. forces have increased the use of helicopters in Iraq in order to reduce the number of ground convoys, which are vulnerable to roadside bombs. "It offsets the threat of IEDs on the road networks," Simmons said, referring to roadside bombs, or improvised explosive devices.Helicopters come under attack 90 to 100 times a month in Iraq, Simmons said. Most attacks are ineffective small-arms fire.The winter attacks were different. A group of loosely connected cells employed heavy machine guns and used terrain to their advantage. They had studied the routes regularly used by U.S. helicopters. "The difference (in these attacks) is they were deliberate military operations conducted in an ambush style against our aircraft," Simmons said.In March, the U.S. military limited the airspace where helicopters fly to counter the fatal attacks.During the raids, U.S. forces combined air attacks with ground assaults that captured insurgents, Simmons said. Information gathered in those raids revealed anti-helicopter tactics used by insurgents. The military used that knowledge to launch counter-ambushes, using U.S. aircraft to target the teams.U.S. pilots anticipated where insurgents would set up ambushes."The information that we have been able to exploit from those offensive operations has given us further insight as to how they fight," he said.
10) Iraq aims to join World Trade Organization
Associated Press, THE JERUSALEM POST May. 25, 2007  HYPERLINK ""
Iraqi membership in the World Trade Organization would send a powerful message that the country has emerged from decades of international exclusion under Saddam Hussein and is on the path to economic development, its trade minister said Friday. Abed Falah al-Sudani told ambassadors meeting in Geneva for first discussions on Iraq's bid to enter the 150-member commerce body that "joining the WTO is an important step towards integration into the global trading system and restores its position with the international community after decades of isolation from the world," according to a copy of the statement obtained by The Associated Press.

11) US Marines banking on Fallujah police
May 21, 2007  FALLUJAH: A seven-tonne truck sits idling beneath the night sky corralled by six US Humvees-it is carrying 45 billion Iraqi dinars (35 million dollars, 25 million euros) in cash, the wages for much of the Fallujah area. In a rare experiment for the rebel-ridden western province of Al-Anbar, the US military is looking to the once-derided police force of the erstwhile insurgent bastion to escort the millions to the bank.But the Fallujah force, seen as in cahoots with Islamic militants before a devastating November 2004 US counteroffensive to retake the city, are not yet trusted to do the job alone. The US marines live in hope that they will soon be able to rid themselves of the risky night-time run through what is still bandit country.The huge consignment of crisp dinar notes represents the payroll for all state employees, including staff at public utilities and government-owned firms, for the entire Fallujah district. "Elsewhere in Anbar, we just deliver it ourselves, but here we thought; 'Why not use the IPs? (Iraqi police)'," said Major Andrew Dietz, deputy commander of the civil affairs group for the 6th Marine Regiment.
"They really don't do it anywhere else," he added, noting it was a sign of how far the city police had come. Past police chiefs had been fired for corruption and the force is only now overcoming its once shady reputation. The money for the salaries is from Baghdad but has to be flown by the Americans to their base outside Fallujah.From there some two dozen marines load the bags and boxes of cash into the truck and drive it out into the desert to wait for the police. The police, however, were late and more stars began to appear in the darkening skies, feebly lit from the glow of the nearby marine base.The money was destined for the state-owned Rafidain Bank, which would then disburse it to other banks in the area. News that the bank needs another transfer always seems to come at the last minute, making the next delivery an imperative if salaries are to be paid. Keeping government employees paid not only keeps going what meagre municipal services the battered province still has, it also keeps people from turning to the insurgency for money, according to the marines.Suddenly in the distance appear flashing lights and then bumping across the desert road roar six blue and white police pickups accompanied by a light cargo truck. Snouts of assault rifles poke out of windows covered by the crude metal plates the police weld on their vehicles to give then some protection from insurgent bullets or bombs. Not one of the policemen was dressed the same, with some sporting baseball caps, and others the chequered Arab headscarves often worn by the insurgents themselves. Many cover their faces with ski masks.The rise of an effective police force has come with its own dangers and the families of officers are regularly targeted. Dust was kicked up as the pickups jockeyed for position but soon the police colonel restored order and box after box of money was loaded onto the trucks. Mohammed Fandy, manager of the Rafidain Bank was on hand as well, supervising the offloading of his precious currency and telling the masked men to be careful with the heavy boxes.Trucks loaded, the police abruptly tore off towards central Fallujah, their flashing lights highlighting them against the darkness of the desert. The marines sped off behind them, pushing their hulking Humvees to unaccustomed speeds to keep up with the lighter police vehicles. "Our job is security and to make sure it actually gets there," said Chief Warrant Officer Steve Townsley as his vehicle entered the dark streets of the city centre. "Not that we don't trust IPs."The situation has not yet reached the point where the Iraqi police are solely responsible for getting the tens of billions of dinars to the bank-although the marines would be more than happy to give up these midnight runs. "The last one was supposed to be our last one, and now there's this one," grumbled Townsley. The police took a short cut through the car park of the bullet-scarred town hall that sits in the city centre like an embattled Alamo, and swerved into a series of narrow alleys that left the Humvees' antennae tangled in low slung power lines.When they caught up, the unloading had already begun, with menacing masked figures armed with light machine guns and draped in bullets guarding the dark street corners. Less then half an hour later, the job was done and the city's coffers have been replenished for at least the next six weeks. Except that banker Fandy then comes over and tells the marines that he's heard the long awaited government compensation for householders left destitute by the destruction of the US assault of two and a half years ago is finally ready. "They'll soon be sending another 90 billion dinars (70 million dollars), so be ready for that," he said. – AFP

12) Three billion dollar airport in Karbala being built Translated by  HYPERLINK "" Tuesday May 22, 2207Final approvals have been completed for the establishment of Karbala International Airport, as announced by the Board committee of reconstruction. Abdul Al al- Yasiri, head of the city council of Karbala, said that a Cypriot-British company specializing in building aircraft, made an offer to implement this project and a Kuwaiti investor indicated willingness to finance three billion dollars for it. The implementing company expressed its willingness to bring in the biggest planes in the world within one year of starting the project. But the Kuwaiti investor said that there will be 11 taxes imposed on the airport, and expressed willingness to provide the necessary amounts to the company implementing the insurance with the city council and enter as a partner only for one of these taxes. Mr. Abdul Al al-Yasiri, head of Karbala City Council and Mr. Mohsin Al-Kinani, member of the Committee of Transport and Communications met the Adviser to the Prime Minister, Ali Saadawi, and reviewed the steps performed by the City Council in completing Karbala International Airport and the subsequent steps to find a financier to build the airport. Al-Yasiri demanded during the meeting that the central government allocate a sum for the completion of this project so they won't have to turn to investment companies, since this project is a vital one which will bring substantial profits to the province. Also, ideas about investment and how to transfer control of the airport were discussed during the meeting.
13) Iraq Allocates 1.5 Billion dollars for weapons in 2007
May 24, 2007 BAGHDAD [MENL] -- The Iraqi government has allocated more than $1.5 billion for military procurement in 2007. Officials said the Iraqi Defense Ministry intends to order new weapons and platforms over the next year worth more than $1.5 billion. They said the overall defense budget would amount to $4.1 billion, an increase of 26 percent from 2006. Most of the weapons were expected to be ordered from the United States. In 2007, Iraq requested more than $800 million in munitions, light weapons and military construction projects from the Bush administration. "The Iraqi government has signed a contract with the American government to set up a foreign weapons sales office to buy weapons that Iraq needs," Iraqi Defense Minister Abdul Qader Jassim Mohammed said.

14) Al-Maliki calls on tribal clans to fight militants across Iraq

The Associated Press  HYPERLINK "" Tuesday, May 22, 2007  BAGHDAD: Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki warned Tuesday that Iraq's fight against terror will be "open-ended and long" and called for the creation of "salvation councils" across the country to bring together Iraqis to fight al-Qaida militants.In a televised address marking the first anniversary of his Shiite-dominated government, al-Maliki also warned unnamed foreign parties that they would pay a "high price" of their own security for meddling in Iraq.
"I call on the faithful and patriotic clans and civil society organizations to set up national salvation councils in all of Iraq's provinces and stand by the armed forces in the fight against terrorism which is targeting Iraq's territory, people and heritage," said the Shiite prime minister.His call appeared to be for the creation of councils modeled after an alliance of Sunni Arab clans which banded together in the western Anbar province to drive al-Qaida in Iraq militants from their areas. The tactic seems to have worked, with Ramadi, the provincial capital, no longer under extremist control.Steps are under way to copy the Anbar formula in Diyala province northeast of Baghdad where al-Qaida is known to be active. Attacks against U.S. and Iraqi troops as well as Shiite civilians have been increasing there."Our battle against terrorism is open-ended and long and no one should think that this battle will end today or tomorrow," said al-Maliki. "The security challenges facing Iraq are very grave and what is making them worse is foreign meddling and the response and submission of some political powers to the influence of several nations."He did not name any of these foreign nations, but warned that they "will pay a high price of their own security and stability if they don't stop following policies that causes security confusion and weaken Iraq."He also warned Iraqi groups, which again he did not name, against forging alliances with foreign powers, saying that doing so would turn Iraq into a battlefield for regional and international powers to settle their scores.Al-Maliki's government has been under mounting pressure at home and abroad to show any tangible progress on security, national reconciliation and the economy. The United States, its main backer, has put it on notice to meet several policy benchmarks if it wants to see continued U.S. support. These include an oil law to equitably distribute the country's oil wealth, more tangible progress on national reconciliation and introducing constitutional changes.Members of parliament's largest Sunni Arab bloc, the Iraqi Accordance Front, have repeatedly criticized the government for marginalizing Sunni members of the Cabinet and what they see as its failure to honor promises made to them during weeks of torturous negotiations that led to the government's formation.They renewed their criticism Tuesday, with the Front's Alaa Maki warning in a news conference that al-Maliki's government had a "short time" to respond to a set of demands the Sunnis have put forward."The ball is in the government's court," he said.Al-Maliki, maintaining his customary stern look and non-nonsense disposition, said national reconciliation was placed atop of his government's priorities when it came to office a year ago and defended a draft law adopted by his government to reinstate in government jobs supporters of Saddam Hussein's dissolved Baath party.The draft, unveiled in March, has yet to make it to parliament's floor but is known to be opposed as too lenient by some Shiite and Kurdish politicians as well as Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Iraq's top Shiite cleric.The draft legislation, said al-Maliki, "differentiates between those whose hands were tainted with the blood of the innocent and those who were forced to join the dissolved Baath party."The draft offers a legal framework and a just system of accountancy."Al-Maliki, however, warned that he would not allow his efforts to achieve national reconciliation to be hijacked by those who want to turn it into "a bridge for the return of murderers and criminals ... the new Iraq has no place for the Baath Party whose history is full of coups, conspiracies, crime and genocide."In a thinly veiled reference to Sunni Arab politicians critical of the U.S.-Iraqi security push in Baghdad, now in its fourth month, the prime minister asked the judiciary to start legal proceedings against those whom he said were seeking to undermine the reputation of the armed forces.They should be charged with inciting hatred and sectarian divisions as well as condoning terrorism, he said.
Baghdad, 23 May (AKI) - A delegation of Sahwa al-Anbar, (Anbar Awakening) the tribal alliance in the restive Sunni province of Al Anbar, has made an unprecedented visit to Sadr City, the Baghdad stronghold of radical Shiite imam Moqtada al-Sadr, according to pan Arab daily al-Sharq al-Awsat. "We have taken this step to place national interest ahead of any differences" said the head of the US-endorsed Sunni alliance Hamid al-Hayas. "This is an effort to bring closer together the Sunni and Shiite Iraqi points of view. We want to deliver a message to all the political groups to put aside their differences and act for the common good" he said. The whereabouts of Moqtada al-Sadr remain undisclosed, but he was represented in the meeting by three MPs from the 30-strong bloc in Parliament loyal to him and prominent individuals from the Sadr City area. At the end of the meeting the two sides signs a joint document in which they vowed to fight the terrorism of al-Qaeda. The group has become increasingly isolated within the Sunni insurgency because of its indiscriminate targeting of civilians. Al-Qaeda in Iraq has been seeking to impose its fierce Salafite philosophies and strategies and consolidate its power over the many resistance groups in the Sunni Arab galaxy, some of whom view foreign fighters and Wahhabis with suspicion. In recent months the heads of the powerful al-Anbar tribes have coalesced in a big to counteract al-Qaeda in Iraq and have begun a tentative dialogue with some elements in the al-Maliki government about entering the political process. As well as coming under increasing pressure from US and Iraqi forces in Baquba and elsewhere, the al-Qaeda in Iraq fighters have been increasingly in clashes with other insurgent formations.
16) Marine-run course preps Iraqis for the real fight

By  HYPERLINK "mailto:[email protected]" Teri Weaver, Stars and Stripes  Mideast edition, Wednesday, May 23, 2007 CAMP HABBANIYAH, Iraq — About 500 Iraqi soldiers graduated Saturday from boot camp, a six-week course that teaches sheep herders, college professors and even suspected former roadside bomb triggermen how to shoot, aim and fire.The recruits trained and took their military oath at the Advanced Infantry Training Center, a U.S. Marine Corps-run school on this Iraqi army base in Anbar province.By the end of summer, the center will be capable of pumping out as many as 2,600 soldiers every six weeks, said Marine Corps Chief Warrant Officer 5 Terry Walker, the center’s director.“It’s a full-contact sport,” says Walker, who is also the senior gunner for the Marine Corps. Already this year, the center has graduated about 3,500.Walker and his instructors admit they aren’t growing future Marines. They are teaching young men how to safely carry a weapon and shoot. The new Iraqi solider “has to be a little bit better than he was when we found him,” Walker said.For Walker and many in his crew of about 40, it’s their second time working at the training center. They left in March 2006 after a year tour, and they returned in January for another 12 months. Walker also has eight Iraqi soldiers on staff as instructors, as well as interpreters.The challenges at the center go far beyond language. Many of the Iraqi recruits are barely literate, a waiver the Iraqi government has been granting regularly to prospective soldiers. Some are outside the government’s 18-to-29 age requirement, another popular waiver.The Iraqis are not required to do any physical training, nor can the Marine instructors use physical exercise as a form of punishment. For the most part, they can’t dole out any punishment at all, Walker said. Punishment brings embarrassment to the recruit, and he will shut down, the gunner said.And the lessons taught in the short time are very basic. Don’t rest your chin on the barrel of your assault rifle. Look down the barrel with your right eye, not your left. Zero your weapon.“I’ve never met an Iraqi veteran that can zero a weapon,” Walker said.Staff Sgt. Richard Lamphere, 42, of Camp Lejeune, N.C., teaches basic marksmanship at the center. He’s nearing retirement, and has spent half of his time as a Marine instructor. Teaching another culture requires some inventiveness.“There’s no instant willingness to obey orders,” he said. “But the desire to learn is there. For these guys, it’s pride. If you challenge their iron will, they will respond.”Some of the biggest challenges involve time. New U.S. Marines spend 13 weeks at boot camp, plus another 52 days of training for infantrymen. The Iraqi recruits have six weeks, with only two days on the firing range. On average, about 10 percent drop out or don’t make it through the program.Walker has had to let some of his own traditions go, even ones vital to discipline. “They see no reason to be concerned about discarding of trash,” he said. “If I would let it become an issue, I would go mad.”But Walker sees ways to improve. He’s added a small-arms weapons course to teach Iraqi soldiers and police officers how to teach their own troops about safety and marksmanship.Next, Walker hopes to add a special course for young Iraqi officers. Traditionally, the Iraqi military has no history of using senior enlisted soldiers as noncommissioned officers, a core concept of leadership inside the American military.But the Iraqis do give much respect and responsibility to their junior officers, and Walker thinks that’s where the Americans should work to improve a military structure often hamstrung by its reliance on senior officers.The instructors have become accustomed to the quick lessons, the short turnaround. It doesn’t mean they don’t worry.“They are going to the real fight,” said Staff Sgt. Dallas Miller, 28, of Somerset, Pa. “They’re so happy when they get on the trucks. I worry … I hope [each soldier] has been trained to the best of my ability.”
17) New Iraq strategy focuses on politics  HYPERLINK "" May 23, 2007 - 3:35PM US commanders and diplomats in Iraq are completing a revised war strategy that aims to negotiate settlements between Iraq's warring factions, The Washington Post reported on Tuesday.The new strategy is more political than military and endorses removal of sectarian hard-liners from Iraqi security forces and government, the Post said, citing multiple sources with knowledge of the classified plan.The Post said the new strategy was a joint effort between General David Petraeus, the top US military commander in Iraq, and US Ambassador Ryan Crocker and was scheduled to be finished by May 31.The plan anticipates keeping US troop levels elevated into 2008 but also intends to significantly increase the size of the 144,000-strong Iraqi army, the newspaper said.Officials said the plan involved reaching political deals to defuse a civil war as much as it aims to quell an insurgency.The revised strategy would shift the immediate emphasis of military operations away from transitioning to Iraqi security forces toward protecting Iraqi civilian in critical regions such as greater Baghdad, the Post said."The revised counterinsurgency approach we're taking now really focuses on protecting those people 24/7 ... and that competent non-sectarian institutions take the baton from us," Petraeus's senior counterinsurgency adviser, David Kilcullen, told the newspaper.The strategy emphasises building the Iraqi government's capacity to function and also aims to purge Iraq's leadership of a few officials and commanders whose sectarian and criminal agendas are thwarting US efforts, the Post said.One US official involved with the plan told the newspaper: "The focus has to be on abusive sectarian actors involved in orchestrating sectarian killings and also obstructing key political legislation and financial reforms."

18) The Second Surge
By DJ Elliott, IS1 (SW), USN (Ret) Think about it. 14,000 more Iraqi Army personnel.  A Division's worth of new troops added to a 10 Division force. I had to write the headline myself a week after the data was released to the public since the press did not bother with this major news item. A 12% increase in IA operational personnel between 2 May and 16 May:
2May:  HYPERLINK "" 137,800
9May:  HYPERLINK "" 141,000
16May:  HYPERLINK "" 151,800
It had been flat at 137,800 since Feb while they trained individual replacements.
The 100% manning point and the  HYPERLINK "" overmanning/expansion training started in March.This was the graduation of a large chunk of the expansion.
The end of Jun will be next batch of new graduates. If a 12% increase in the IA since Feb is a de-emphasis in Iraqi training, I wonder what  HYPERLINK "" McClatchy think an increase is? 70,000 growing to  HYPERLINK "" 90,000 per year sounds like a decent rate of training to me. I think the San Francisco Chronical got it partialy correct.
- There is a second surge: Of Iraqi Army force expansion.
- There will be an all time high of over 200,000 troops at end-year: In the Iraqi Army.The  HYPERLINK "" San Francisco Chronical was just confused as to which army was increasing in Iraq.At current rate of training the IA will go past the current authorized end-strength of 175,000 in September. Of note, the OPSEC is better on the identity of the new Bdes than it was prior to my OPSEC  HYPERLINK "" rant.I have only seen hard reporting of three new IA Bdes specificaly identified as forming/new formed and those pre-date the rant:
-  HYPERLINK "" 5-10 new formed at Shaibah (West Basrah)
-  HYPERLINK "" 4-9 new forming at Taji (North Baghdad)
-  HYPERLINK "" 4-4 new formed at Kirkuk for assignment to Samarra (South Salahadin)
- And not so hard data indicating two new Bdes forming in Kirkuk Province: "The central government intends to send an army here, about 6,000 soldiers," Mam Rostam said. "They have been chosen by them. They are not anyone from anywhere in particular. They are very clean. Those  HYPERLINK "" 6,000 soldiers will be working in Kirkuk to achieve stability in this city. We’re expecting after this, which is going to happen in a very short time, for the terrorism to be reduced 80 or 90 percent." 6000 is too large for one Bde so this is probably two new Bdes and Div Staff for the new forming 11th IA Div.
1) Canadian prime minister pays surprise visit to Afghanistan  HYPERLINK "" May 22, 2007, 15:27 GMT Kabul DPA News - Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper arrived in Afghanistan Tuesday on an unannounced two-day visit to highlight reconstruction efforts in the fight against the resurgent Taliban. Harper, who was making his second trip to Afghanistan since he was elected last year, arrived in Kabul on a military flight. He called at a school for underprivileged children and met with Afghan President Hamid Karzai for talks. Speaking to journalists later, the prime minister stressed the importance of Afghanistan to Canada, which has 2,500 troops in the country and has lost more than 50 soldiers and a diplomat in the conflict. 'This is Canada's most important foreign policy endeavour, both in terms of our military engagement and in terms of our humanitarian aid ... Afghanistan is the biggest recipient of both,' said Harper, who is under pressure at home to withdraw the Canadian contingent after its current mission ends in 2009. Karzai expressed his country's gratitude for the sacrifices made by the 37 foreign countries supporting his government in the fight. 'It is a necessary price that we have to pay ... the Afghans is paying that price, the rest of the world is paying that price together with us,' he said. 'Let us complete the job, as hard as it may look at times,' he said, adding that if Afghanistan's allies left before time, 'terrorists will and haunt you back home.' In addition to the military losses in Afghanistan, Harper's government has been under pressure by the opposition over mistreatment of Afghan prisoners that Canadian troops transferred to the custody of Afghan national forces. His visit was cloaked in secrecy, with selected journalists in Canada receiving prior instructions to be ready to travel to an unspecified location. They were later warned that they would be arrested if they revealed details of the prime minister's trip.
2) Taliban 'stalled by lack of commanders'
HYPERLINK ";jsessionid=GG5KZRJNP40DJQFIQMGCFF4AVCBQUIV0?xml=/news/2007/05/23/wafghan23.xml";jsessionid=GG5KZRJNP40DJQFIQMGCFF4AVCBQUIV0?xml=/news/2007/05/23/wafghan23.xml

By Thomas Harding in Lashkah Gah Last Updated: 2:47am BST 23/05/2007 The Taliban's much-vaunted spring offensive has stalled apparently due to lack of organisation after dozens of middle-ranking commanders were killed by British troops in the past year, according to military sources.The death last week of the key Taliban leader Mullah Dadullah at the hands of American special forces has harmed the Taliban's morale to the point that local commanders are having to tell their troops to "remain professional" despite the loss.After suffering more than 1,000 dead in battles with the Parachute Regiment and Royal Marines in the last year, the Taliban retired to regroup and re-equip last winter.A spring offensive was ordered by the Taliban leadership based in Quetta, Pakistan, and was meant to be launched in late March.But a lack of mid-level commanders has meant that there has been little co-ordination to bring about the offensive."They are getting strategic guidance from Quetta but this is not translating on the ground," a military source said."It's a bit premature to discuss the Taliban as a spent force. I believe that they are struggling but still maintain a capability to carry out attacks on a daily basis. But I would suggest in the long term the Taliban may just peter out."Of the five main Taliban leaders who managed to escape in the 2001 fighting only two are at large, including Mullah Omar, the spiritual leader, who is living on the Pakistan border.British commanders are still braced for a possible upsurge in attacks over the summer.An "increase in enemy tempo" is expected and already the number of clashes has risen from five a day to 15, lasting from 10 minutes to 11 hours.Within Helmand there is a small group of "irreconcilable" Taliban leading a force of about 1,000, which is reinforced by Chechen, Arab and Uzbek fighters. Some are part-time farmers supplementing their income by earning $25 a day by fighting.After clearing and establishing a foothold in the area the British force has been able to begin rebuilding roads and other projects. They have also dispelled some Taliban propaganda that claimed the British would rape their women and steal their poppy crops.

3) Canadian soldiers roll into Zhari with Afghan army
Thursday, May 24, 2007  HYPERLINK ""
The Canadian Press James McCarten MA'SUM GHAR, Afghanistan - A towering column of Leopard tanks and armoured vehicles rumbled into position in the volatile Zhari district of Afghanistan early Friday as Canadian soldiers prepared for their largest offensive against the Taliban in nearly two months.Operation Hoover began under cover of darkness, amid the thunder of Canada's mighty guns, as illumination rounds cast an eerie orange glow over the rocky barrens beneath a star-studded Afghan night.As the sun peeked over distant foothills, a squadron from the Lord Strathcona's Horse (Royal Canadians) tank regiment barrelled past grape huts and mud-walled compounds before marshalling in a dusty tract of land near the edge of the Registan desert.Behind them, Afghan National Army soldiers - trained and mentored by their Canadian counterparts - flashed confident grins and thumbs-up signs from the backs of their vulnerable pickup trucks as they prepared to lead the attack.Many jumped out and after a quick scan of the ground, dropped to their knees and lowered their heads in fervent prayer.Their initial caution appeared well-founded: within minutes of one convoy of vehicles pulling out, a loud explosion echoed off the mountains as a Canadian tank struck an improvised explosive device.No injuries were reported.The operation includes Canadian, Portugese and Afghan infantry, with support from the tanks, British air power and distant howitzer positions manned by gunners from the Royal Canadian Horse Artillery.But it was the fierce-eyed soldiers of the ANA who were to lead Friday's charge, part of a conscious coalition effort to put local security forces in a leadership role. "They're literally fearless," said Maj. James Price, of the Royal Canadian Regiment who's attached to Canada's Operational Mentoring and Liason Team.The combination of the ANA's battlefield experience and the training and expertise the Canadians bring has proven highly effective, Price said."They have all the battlefield experience; we just have to fine-tune some of the things they do during battle," he said."A lot of them have been fighting the Taliban for years and even before the Taliban they were fighting."With the ANA troops involved, it's the largest and most ambitious offensive for Canada in more than six weeks, said Col. Mike Cessford, deputy commander of Canadian forces in Afghanistan.In addition to the armour and the ANA, The two-pronged offensive also included a significant contingent of soldiers from the 2 RCR battle group massing just north of the Arghandab River to prevent insurgents from escaping as the column of armour punched south."This is the anvil and this is the hammer," Cessford said, punching a fist into his open palm.As he briefed soldiers on the details of the mission, Cessford pointed out planned troop movements on a classified map of the battlefield, like a football coach illustrating a tactical gambit for his players."The opposing team is pretty good," he said later."They've played this game for a while and we've been scrimmaging with them for a bit, so we need to step up with our game face and move it up a bit."Also on the ground Friday were members of Canada's CIMIC team - Civilian Military Co-operation - to assist forces in their interactions with local civilians, who have been repopulating the region in recent months."It's all about the people - our chance to interact and provide security to the people but as a means to an end: development and governance, demonstrating that there is an alternative to a return to the harshness and the cruelty of the Taliban," he said."That is with a democratic government here in Afghanistan, who will provide to the people."There again is where having local soldiers on the ground can be invaluable, Price said."We refer to a sixth sense; the ANA has it through and through," he said."They can distinguish between the locals and the Taliban that are out there; they're outstanding at that."The fact the local army is also composed of members of various tribes from across the country helps to bridgeregional divides and allows the soldiers to deliver the government's message, he added."They're excellent ambassadors for Afghanistan."Unlike the operations Canadians have engaged in in previous years, Cessford said the return of local residents to battle-scarred Afghanistan has given insurgents the opportunity to hide among their ranks.That makes the issue of ensuring no civilians get hurt a vital one, he said."We have to be very, very careful as we do our operations to ensure that no civilians are injured in this, either through our actions or through the actions of the Taliban, who are, frankly, absolutely less constrained in their use of force."Cessford also warned his troops Taliban fighters might drop their weapons and blend in with locals just as easily as they could stand their ground and put up a fight."They may drop their AKs and pick up their hoes, or they may fight," he said.
4) Hunt for 'traitors' splits Taliban  HYPERLINK ",,329932031-119093,00.html",,329932031-119093,00.html Spy mania grips the Afghan rebels as top commanders fall victim to tip-offs by informers to coalition troops Jason Burke in Karachi Sunday May 27, 2007 London Observer Taliban insurgents fighting in Afghanistan and Pakistan have been hit by a wave of defections and betrayals that has resulted in a witch-hunt within the militant movement. The news has boosted morale among commanders of the Nato operation in Afghanistan, which includes more than 6,000 British soldiers. The British contingent has struggled to contain the insurgency in the country's southern provinces over the past 18 months. Last week saw renewed violence with a series of suicide bombings. However, two of the Taliban's most senior commanders have now been killed after being betrayed by close associates. Up to a dozen middle-ranking commanders have died in airstrikes or other operations by Afghan, Nato or Pakistani forces based on precise details of their movements received from informers. Few details have been publicly released, but senior military sources speak of 'major hits' that they wish they could talk about openly. The successes may be the result of the more sophisticated strategy now employed by coalition, Afghan and Pakistani forces, say observers. 'There have been desultory efforts over several years to penetrate the Taliban and to play off the various factions within the militancy and along the frontier against each other, but now that has become the keystone of the intelligence effort,' said one Pakistan-based source. 'That's paying off.' Last week three Central Asian militants were killed in a Pakistani army operation against makeshift training camps and Nato airstrikes in western Afghanistan are thought to have wiped out a dozen mid-ranking Taliban members returning from a meeting. 'There is a feeling that there are spies everywhere,' said one tribal leader speaking by telephone from the violent and anarchic North Waziristan 'tribal agency' along Pakistan's border with Afghanistan. 'People are very worried and no one is trusting anyone any more.' One suspected spy in North Waziristan, Saidur Rehman, 50, was shot dead 10 days ago after being tortured. A note pinned to his body accused the victim of 'working for the Americans'. Taliban sources have confirmed that two men had been arrested for betraying Mullah Dadullah Akhund, a brutal and powerful military commander who was killed earlier this month. 'We have captured the spy who helped US forces kill Mullah Dadullah, said Shahabuddin Atal, a Taliban spokesman speaking by telephone from an undisclosed location. Atal said Dadullah had stopped at the suspect's house in the Bahramcha district of Afghanistan's Helmand province when he came under attack from coalition forces. Those accused of spying are brutally executed. One suspected traitor accused of betraying senior commander Mullah Akhtar Mohammed Osmani last December was decapitated with a knife by a 12-year-old boy before cameras. Such scenes revolted even some members of the Taliban as well as local tribesmen who try to navigate a careful path between the Pakistani army and government and local Afghan, Central Asian and Arab militants. However, Hassan Abbas, a retired police chief on the Northwest Frontier and an expert on radical Islam, said that many were unjustly accused of spying. 'A lot of those killed are just local maliks [chiefs] who have had contact with the government,' he said. 'They are not spies.' According to Taliban sources, Dadullah's body was recovered by his fighters after the airstrike, but further information passed to coalition forces by a spy allowed the corpse, later displayed to the media, to be retrieved. 'Each time there was a [coalition] strike the man would disappear and then reappear after the bombing was over,' Atal said. 'He has now confessed.' The Afghan national intelligence department in Kabul said that Dadullah had been tracked 'with [the] most modern intelligence technology from the Pakistani border before being killed'. Three Taliban prisoners, among five senior militant commanders controversially freed early this year in return for the release of a kidnapped Italian journalist, died alongside Dadullah, Afghanistan security officials said. The continual attrition of high-level commanders has hindered efforts by the Taliban to launch a major 'spring offensive'. However, it has successfully maintained a relatively high rate of suicide bombings and similar attacks and has maintained its hold over large portions of southern and southeastern Afghanistan. According to Rahimullah Yusufzai, a senior Pakistani journalist and expert on the Taliban, 'suspicion is now falling even on trusted men and is creating tension in Taliban ranks'. Dadullah Mansoor, brother and replacement of Mullah Dadullah, on Friday pledged to continue fighting the 'Western occupation' of Afghanistan.