I did a stint on 97.1 Talk with Jamie Allman and Crane Durham, my St. Louis connection that you can hear here.
Plus LT Fishman, hey did I notice that he is now 1LT having received that coveted first promotion, delivers the open source Surge Wrap.
The police station in Tameen, a district of Ramadi, occupies a wreck of a building – its roof shattered by shells, its windows blown out, its walls pockmarked by shrapnel. That is not unusual in Iraq. What makes this station extraordinary is that a city in the heart of the infamous Sunni Triangle, a city that once led the anti-American insurgency, has named it after a US soldier – Captain Travis Patriquin. The honour is well-deserved. Captain Patriquin played a little-known but crucial role in one of the few American success stories of the Iraq war. He helped to convert Ramadi from one of Iraq’s deadliest cities into arguably the safest outside the semi-autonomous Kurdish north. This graveyard for hundreds of American soldiers, which a Marine Corps intelligence report wrote off as a lost cause just a year ago, is where the US military now takes visiting senators, and journalists such as myself, to show the progress it is making. Ramadi will be Exhibit A when General David Petraeus, the US commander in Iraq, appears before Congress in two weeks’ time to argue that the country as a whole should not be written off. In Ramadi last weekend I did things unthinkable almost anywhere else in this violent country. I walked through the main souk without body armour, talking to ordinary Iraqis. Late one evening I strolled into the brightly lit Jamiah district of the city with Lieutenant-Colonel Roger Turner, the tobacco-chewing US marine in charge of central Ramadi, to buy kebabs from an outdoor restaurant – “It’s safer than London or New York,” Colonel Turner assured me.
I listened incredulously as Latif Obaid Ayadah, Ramadi’s Mayor, told me of his desire to build an airport and tourist resort in Ramadi and talked – only half in jest – of twinning his city with Belfast and Oklahoma City. “I want it to be a small slice of heaven,” he declared. I had met Captain Patriquin while embedded with US troops in Ramadi last November. He was a big man, moustachioed, ex-Special Forces, fluent in Arabic and engaged in what was then a revolutionary experiment for a US military renowned for busting doors down. He and a small group from the First Brigade Combat Team, part of the 1st Armoured Division, were assiduously courting the local sheikhs – tribal leaders – over endless cups of tea and cigarettes. They were encouraging them to rise up against the hundreds of al-Qaeda fighters – Saudi, Jordanian, Syrian, Sudanese, Yemeni – who had arrived in Ramadi two years earlier, promising to lead the battle against the infidel Americans. What al-Qaeda actually did was recruit local thugs, seize control of the city, and impose a Taleban-style rule of terror. Mayor Latif said that they regularly beheaded “collaborators” in public and left the heads beside the corpses. Mischievous children would then put cigarettes in the mouths of the disembodied heads. Captain Patriquin may have offered more than mere words. His main interlocutor, Sheikh Abdul Sittar Bezea al-Rishawi, told The Times that he gave them guns and ammunition too. The sheikhs did rise up. They formed a movement called the Anbar Awakening, led by Sheikh Sittar. They persuaded thousands of their tribesmen to join the Iraqi police, which was practically defunct thanks to al-Qaeda death threats, and to work with the reviled US troops. The US military built a string of combat outposts (COPs) throughout a city that had previously been a no-go area, and through a combination of Iraqi local knowledge and American firepower they gradually regained control of Ramadi, district by district, until the last al-Qaeda fighters were expelled in three pitched battles in March. What happened in Ramadi was later replicated throughout much of Anbar province.
Ramadi’s transformation is breathtaking. Shortly before I arrived last November masked al-Qaeda fighters had brazenly marched through the city centre, pronouncing it the capital of a new Islamic caliphate. The US military was still having to fight its way into the city through a gauntlet of snipers, rocket-propelled grenades, suicide car bombs and improvised explosive devices (IEDs). Fifty US soldiers had been killed in the previous five months alone. I spent 24 hours huddled inside Eagles Nest, a tiny COP overlooking the derelict football stadium, listening to gunfire, explosions and the thump of mortars. The city was a ruin, with no water, electricity or functioning government. Those of its 400,000 terrified inhabitants who had not fled cowered indoors as fighting raged around them. Today Ramadi is scarcely recognisable. Scores of shattered buildings testify to the fury of past battles, but those who fled the violence are now returning. Pedestrians, cars and motorbike rickshaws throng the streets. More than 700 shops and businesses have reopened. Restaurants stay open late into the evening. People sit outside smoking hookahs, listening to music, wearing shorts – practices that al-Qaeda banned. Women walk around with uncovered faces. Children wave at US Humvees. Eagles’ Nest, a heavily fortified warren of commandeered houses, is abandoned and the stadium hosts football matches. “Al-Qaeda is gone. Everybody is happy,” said Mohammed Ramadan, 38, a stallholder in the souk who witnessed four executions. “It was fear, pure fear. Nobody wanted to help them but you had to do what they told you.” On the night of June 30 a US patrol chanced upon two trucks laden with al-Qaeda fighters, weapons and explosives approaching Ramadi across the desert from the south, and two US soldiers were killed in what became known as the “Battle of Donkey Island”. But there has not been a US casualty, or major attack, since. No vehicles can enter the city without being checked for explosives, and any al-Qaeda fighter who returned would be swiftly handed over. “We have an Iraqi saying: ‘If you’re bitten by a snake you’re scared of the smallest insect’. We’re not going to let that snake back any more,” said Ali Sami, 39, another stallholder who recently returned home after fleeing to Baghdad. Ramadi has gone from war zone to building site. US soldiers have become the nation-builders so derided by Donald Rumsfeld, the former US Defence Secretary. They are training Ramadi’s 7,000 new policemen (a year ago it had 200) and helping the Iraqis to rebuild their broken city. They have set up 12 district councils and a city council. They have created 19,000 day labour jobs, paying locals $7 (£3.47) an hour to clear rubble, remove acres of garbage, repair cratered roads, paint shop fronts and replace underground pipes destroyed by IEDs. They have restored electricity, water, rubbish collections and a rudimentary bus service. They are erecting 1,000 solar-powered street lamps. The hospital – commandeered by al-Qaeda – and the fire station are back up and running. Criminal courts will reopen next month. So will Ramadi’s ceramics factory, one of its few real employers. Gunfire has become a sound of celebration.
The city council and US military broadcast daily progress reports, introduced by the national anthem and English football results, from giant loudspeakers above 19 police stations. The 6,000 US soldiers are now dubbed “friendly forces”, and most are bemused by their new civil role. “I want to fight al-Qaeda, but f*** it – this is victory,” said Corporal Patrick Marzillo from Chicago. “Instead of using my radio to summon support fire I’m calling to get a water leak mended,” said Colonel Turner. The soldiers’ biggest enemy now is the scorching heat – well over 110 degrees most days, which is no joke in body armour. The al-Qaeda fighters driven from Ramadi have not left Iraq, of course. Indeed, they appear to be stepping up suicide bomb attacks elsewhere. But Colonel John Charlton, the US officer in overall charge of Ramadi, insists that al-Qaeda has suffered a major setback. “We’ve denied them a base of operations. I think it was a severe strategic blow to lose not only Ramadi, but all of Anbar province,” he said. Iraqi Shias are also worried that the new US-trained police forces of Ramadi and Anbar province could eventually metamorphose into well-trained Sunni militias; the Sunni insurgency may be fading, but the Shia-Sunni civil war rages on. But for now Ramadi’s citizens are enjoying their improbable peace, and remembering the American they call “Martyr Husham” – the brave and generous martyr. Captain Patriquin, 32, a father of three young children, was killed by a roadside bomb days after I left Ramadi last winter. Sheikh Sittar wept when told the news. He and several tribal leaders attended his memorial service. Captain Patriquin “was an extraordinary man who played a very, very important role,” he told The Times. He “showed Iraqis that Americans are real people and not an evil occupying force bent on destroying their land...He was a true hero who paid the ultimate sacrifice,” said Colonel Charlton.
1) Cleric Al-Sadr Freezes Activities of His Militia http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/n/a/2007/08/29/international/i044757D62.DTL By DAVID RISING, Associated Press Writer Wednesday, August 29, 2007 (08-29) 05:18 PDT BAGHDAD, (AP) -- Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has ordered a six-month suspension of activities by his Mahdi Army militia in order to reorganize the force, an aide said Wednesday. The aide, Sheik Hazim al-Araji, said on Iraqi state television that the goal was to "rehabilitate" the organization, which has reportedly broken into factions, some of which the U.S. maintains are trained and supplied by Iran. "We declare the freezing of the Mahdi Army without exception in order to rehabilitate it in a way that will safeguard its ideological image within a maximum period of six months starting from the day this statement is issued," al-Araji said, reading from a statement by al-Sadr.The order was issued after two days of bloody clashes in the Shiite holy city of Karbala that claimed at least 52 lives. Iraqi security officials blamed Mahdi militiamen for attacking mosque guards, some of whom are linked to the rival Badr Brigade militia. The Mahdi Army launched two major uprisings against U.S. and coalition forces in 2004. Since then, the Americans have differentiated between the mainstream Sadrist organization and what they term "rogue" elements within the force that have staged numerous deadly attacks against U.S. forces in Baghdad and elsewhere. Following two days of clashes, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Shiite, rushed to Karbala to meet with local officials trying to restore order and move the hordes of pilgrims who had descended on the city for the festival. The Defense Ministry said al-Maliki had ordered the dismissal of the top army commander in the area — Maj. Gen. Salih Khazaal al-Maliki — and an investigation into his conduct. Al-Maliki's office said security forces had sealed the city off, allowing only residents to enter, in another effort to restore order. The clashes appeared to be part of a power struggle among Shiite groups in the sect's southern Iraqi heartland, which includes the bulk of the country's vast oil wealth. Meanwhile, the U.S. military said U.S. and Iraqi special forces had captured a suspected commander of a rogue element of the Mahdi Army that targets Iraqi citizens for kidnappings and killings. The man, whose name was not released, was picked up on Monday in Baghdad and is also suspected of attacks targeting Iraqi and U.S. forces, the military said in a statement. Elsewhere, U.S. forces killed two terrorist suspects and detained 22 others in several raids around the country. The two were killed in an area south of Baghdad in an operation targeting al-Qaida in Iraq leaders.
2) Desperados: Al Qaeda is having a bad reaction in Diyala province. http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/014/029isceg.asp
by Mario Loyola 08/29/2007 12:00:00 AM Fallujah, Iraq
OPERATION LIGHTNING HAMMER in Diyala province--part of Operation Phantom Strike--has flushed scores and perhaps hundreds of insurgents out of the Diyala River Valley northeast of Baqubah. At the end of last week, some al Qaeda fighters "counter-attacked"; not against the Coalition of course, but against innocent civilians. Initial reports suggested an undaunted insurgency. But as the details of the story emerged, they suggested quite the opposite.Many of the al Qaeda fleeing Operation Lightning Hammer have headed south along the seam formed by Coalition forces moving in strength between Baqubah and Baghdad--the way west was blocked by a screen of air assault squadrons, and the way north was blocked by the troops heading down from the north end of the valley.A little over a week ago, some of those fleeing were stopped near Kanan, a town several miles west of Baqubah, by what the military describes as "concerned local nationals"--basically, one of the neighborhood watch groups that are springing up all over Diyala province. Unfortunately for the insurgents, the local tribal sheiks had recently sworn allegiance to the central government, alliance to the Coalition, and enmity to al Qaeda. A firefight ensued and the al Qaeda group was hit hard, reportedly losing some 15 fighters in the engagement. Several days later, around sunrise on the morning of August 23, the al Qaeda fighters returned, armed for revenge. Initial reports had the number of attackers around 200, butinitial reports in Iraq are almost always wildly exaggerated. Elements of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team of the 1st Cavalry Division (one of the units involved in the Lightning Hammer clearing operations) arrived later that day to do battle-damage assessments and interview the locals. According to their reports, this is what happened: In coordinated attacks that began around 6:15 a.m., al Qaeda fighters struck at two small villages outside Kanan. The attacks lasted approximately three hours. About 25 gunmen attacked the village of Sheik Thar to the east of Kanan, while about 18 attacked the village of Sheik Younnis to the west. During the attack, ten villagers were killed and eleven more injured, while 14 civilians were kidnapped--nine women and five children. The kidnap victims were related to Sheik Younnis, who was killed in the attacks. An Iraqi Army checkpoint was attacked, also near the village of Sheik Younnis. A mosque was also damaged (no word on the extent of the damage, but I was told that it was still standing--contrary to initial reports). In addition, two houses and an Iraqi Police checkpoint were destroyed by explosives. The villagers fought back, joined eventually by Iraqi Police. Local sources claimed many al Qaeda killed, but no word on how many; according to Sheik Thar, who survived the attacks, Al Qaeda loaded their dead onto trucks. There is no word on the fate of the hostages. Incidents such as this, horrifying as they are, need to be seen in their true light. The attackers of the Kanan incident did their cause no good at all. According to the military, many villagers told the visiting brigade commander that al Qaeda's brutality would only stiffen their resolve and cause other nearby villages to stand up against them. Al Qaeda is no longer master of events in Iraq. Since the surge in operations--and particularly since the start of Phantom Strike--they have lost the initiative. They attacked when and where they did because they are on the run and getting no local support. The attack was forced upon them by the dilemma they face: what to do with their weapons. On the move like this, exposed and with one safe haven after another falling to the Coalition, their weapons are a millstone. There are checkpoints and random patrols all over the place. If they keep their weapons, they risk being identified as insurgents and captured or killed. The surge in both Coalition and Iraqi Security Forces has been accompanied by a significant increase in the number of checkpoints on the major roads in the region. And now that the tribes are turning against them, the back-roads too have become dangerous. That is how the fleeing al Qaeda were ambushed to begin with--which is what led to attacks at Kanan. Faced with this dilemma, many al Qaeda fighters have elected to leave their weapons behind, perhaps to join the increasing numbers of former al Qaeda who are returning to their homes to beg the forgiveness--and receive the justice--of their tribes. The American troops that flooded some 28 locations in the Diyala River Valley turned up an abandoned al Qaeda command post that had only recently been thrown together, with all its communications and other equipment; the clearing operation also netted a small facility to treat the wounded and hundreds of weapons and explosives. But other fighters have not left their weapons behind. And some of those are now running from one hiding place to another in the farmland that lies east of the Baghdad-Baqubah highway, clinging to a small group of terrified women and children, with combat helicopters flying over head, heavily-armed Coalition troops on the move in every direction, and the end nearly upon them.
3) Haifa Street Back from Hell http://www.nypost.com/seven/08312007/postopinion/opedcolumnists/back_from_hell.htm?page=0
By RALPH PETERS August 31, 2007 -- AO WARHORSE, IRAQ IF you saw any news clips of intense combat last January, you were probably watching the fighting unfolding on Baghdad's Haifa Street: 10 days of grim sectarian violence. Until we put a stop to it. The boulevard of Sunni-inhabited high-rise apartments erupted in shootouts pitting the "Haifa Street Gang" and its al Qaeda allies against heavily Shia Iraqi army units. It was a recipe for massacre, as terrified residents - those who remained - cowered in their apartments. Then the U.S. Army moved in. Commanders must've felt tempted to just level the former Saddamist stronghold. Instead, they decided to rescue what they could. Our troops cleaned out the terrorists with what Brig. Gen. Vince Brooks - one of the Army's rising stars - termed "very focused kinetic effects." And the Cavalry charged in: the 2nd Infantry Division's 1-14 Cav, OPCON - Army-speak for "on loan" - to the 1st Cavalry Division's 2nd Brigade. This is a ride-to-the-rescue outfit in the old Cavalry tradition. Shifted from one hot spot to another in their wheeled Strykers, 1-14 Cav has fought its way through the streets of one gut-shot Iraqi city after another. BUT Baghdad was the big one. Not only because it's the capital but also because our changing strategy suddenly opened new opportunities to reset the terms of our presence. Initially, Haifa Street was a brawl-for-all. Even now, the troopers of 1-14 Cav keep their "sabers" ready. But a patrol through the sector on Tuesday evening revealed changes many in the media just won't credit. (We're not supposed to win, you understand.) Six months ago, terror ruled. The streets were empty of civilians. Shops were shuttered, facades were shot up, and hate graffiti covered the intact walls. Power was out, and the district was out of hope. The residents who could leave had already left. It would've been easy to write off Haifa Street. Instead, 1-14 Cav and their foster parent, the 2nd brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, switched gears. First, they won the fight. Next, they were determined to win the peace. AND the numbers in "AO Warhorse," their area of operations, reveal an impressive transition from a hellhole to a livable - if still understandably nervous - neighborhood: From 74 attacks on our troops in January, the violence dropped to 20 attempts in August. And they were minor attacks, compared to those of the past. Overall, murder rates in Baghdad are down by two-thirds, while attacks on the Iraqi police and civilians have declined for months. In fact, 2nd Brigade is now "out of the checkpoint business," according to its commander, Col. Bryan Roberts. With the Iraqi police doing its job, Roberts can muster as many as 34 combat patrols a day - the presence we always needed and didn't have. And plans are already in the works to turn the district over to the Iraqis. During the mounted segment of the patrol, I asked Gen. Brooks - who stood tall in a Stryker's hatch beside me - if he worried about a surge in al Qaeda incidents in the remaining weeks before Gen. David Petraeus reports to Congress. Brooks realizes how badly the terrorists yearn to embarrass us, handing ammunition to the just-quit camp. But he told me we'd just broken a key al Qaeda network that was planning dramatic eve-of-testimony strikes. Other terrorists might still manage to stage attacks, but the organization's spinal column was broken. MEANWHILE, our "urban renewal" of Haifa Street became an accelerating success. En route to Combat Outpost Remagen, we saw people of all ages in the streets, a half-dozen soccer games under way, patched and repainted facades - and even new solar street lamps (a big hit in a power-strapped city). It was all part of an innovative small-is-beautiful approach to gaining trust and helping Iraqis get back on their own feet. The administration's initial policy of funding huge projects to be developed by multitentacled U.S. contractors failed miserably. But our soldiers are making progress where favored contractors only ripped off the taxpayer for billions. How? As Col. Roberts put it, "Micro-everything is good." Our troopers have backed micro-projects, such as community generators, awarded micro-grants to jump-start street-level commerce, and favored a ground-up version of capitalism, rather than the administration's dysfunctional marriage of profits at home and socialism in Iraq. The Iraqis get their batteries charged. Once. Then it's up to them to make their neighborhood - and their country - work. Lt. Col. Jeff Peterson, 1-14's commander, adds that the "spontaneous economic development" that followed the establishment of security and face-to-face engagement with the population has been inspiring. It is. As we dismounted from our Stryker to walk the streets and alleys, Sunni residents - once hostile to Americans - crowded around to thank our local commanders, all of whom were well known down in the 'hood. OF course, other sectors in Baghdad remain contentious, and progress can be reversed in the wake of a single trigger event. But even across the river in Rustamiyah, where the troopers of the 1st of the 8th Cav - a butt-kickin' outfit - have been fighting Muqtada al Sadr's Mahdi Army in urban-guerrilla warfare, hopeful signs are emerging. A few days ago, Mookie unilaterally announced a six-month timeout for his gunmen. Partly, it's a political move - but it's also due to the sacrifices and fortitude of 1-8 Cav and other frontline units. So why don't you hear more about our military's successes? It goes beyond the old media dictum that "if it bleeds, it leads." Plenty of journalists have staked their reps on our predicted failure in Iraq - and they hate the reversal of fortune the surge is achieving. God knows plenty of problems remain. Iraq's government isn't much help - none, as far as Haifa Street's revival is concerned. And five minutes away, there's a bustling Shia neighborhood. Not long ago, the residents were all Sunnis. Shias with a new-born sense of entitlement (and a vicious militia) drove them out. Nor have all of those who used to live on Haifa Street returned - they're being coaxed back bit by bit. But those familiar with the desolation-row atmosphere that prevailed just months ago are encouraged by the prog- ress. Iraqis have begun to help themselves, while their government squabbles. AFTER winding our way through a lively market, we stopped by a riverside cafe. Its patio was crowded in the softening evening. The establishment had been reopened with a grant of pennies from the Cav and 2nd Brigade. At the sight of us, the owner rushed to tell everyone that we would always be welcome as his guests. He was excited about the future - almost to the point of weeping. Outside, in the orange twilight, 1-14 Cav's Maj. Dave Stroupe and I paused on the embankment above the river. A micro-grant had cleared away years of garbage. Kids were swimming, while their elders fished. Every so often, a corpse still floats by. And the mahalla, or neighborhood, across the river is still seeded with terrorists. But the precious normalcy around us represented a true and wonderfully human victory. Smiling at the hubbub on the cafe patio and the laughter from the kids splashing in the shallows, Maj. Shoupe shook his head in wonder. "When we came down here in January," he told me, "the only people we saw in the streets were shooting at us." Then the U.S. Cavalry rode to the rescue.
4) Iraq Surge is working: top US general
Dennis Shanahan, Political editor, Baghdad | August 31, 2007
THE US troop surge in Iraq has thrown al-Qa'ida off balance and produced a dramatic reduction in sectarian killings and a drop in roadside bombings.
David Petraeus, the top US commander in Iraq, said the build-up of American forces in Baghdad since late January had produced positive outcomes. These included the killing or capture of al-Qa'ida fighters, causing the terrorist group to lose influence with local Sunnis. The strategic gains against insurgents would lead to a changed and possibly longer-term role for Australian troops, shifting from security operations to a focus on training Iraqi soldiers and police. General Petraeus told The Australian during a face-to-face interview at his Baghdad headquarters there had been a 75 per cent reduction in religious and ethnic killings since last year, a doubling in the seizure of insurgents' weapons caches between January and August, a rise in the number of al-Qa'ida "kills and captures" and a fall in the number of coalition deaths from roadside bombings. "We say we have achieved progress, and we are obviously going to do everything we can to build on that progress and we believe al-Qa'ida is off balance at the very least," he said.
General Petraeus's overview comes a fortnight before he is due to present a crucial report on military progress in Iraq to the US Congress and President George W. Bush. Australian Defence Minister Brendan Nelson, after being briefed by General Petraeus in Baghdad, said he now had a clear picture of progress in Iraq. He said John Howard and Mr Bush would discuss future military requirements for the conflict when they met at the APEC summit in Sydney next week. Australia's 550-strong Overwatch battlegroup, based at Tallil in Dhiqar province, is likely to complete its mission by the middle of next year, following a British troop drawdown from southern Iraq. Dr Nelson said it was "fair to say we will continue to look for increased opportunities for training" for Australian forces into next year. General Petraeus said the surge strategy, involving the deployment of an extra 20,000 troops in Iraq, would continue for a few months before the troop level in the country was phased down. But the objective was to hold all the gains that had been made so far. He acknowledged there was still too much violence and that al-Qa'ida and militias with the "malign involvement" of Iran were still serious threats. But the surge strategy had turned the US forces into pursuers instead of defenders. "And that is a much better place to be than to be doing a deliberate attack into their defences, like we had to do in Ramadi," he said. "Ramadi was like Stalingrad." According to General Petraeus's figures, which will be put to Congress, the number of ethnic- and religious-related deaths would be down to a quarter of what they were last December by the end of August. He said "ethno-sectarian deaths" were the most important measure of progress. "If you look at Baghdad, which is hugely important because it is the centre of everything in Iraq, you can see the density plot on ethno-sectarian deaths," he said."It's a bit macabre but some areas were literally on fire with hundreds of bodies every week and a total of 2100 in the month of December '06, Iraq-wide. "It is still much too high but we think in August in Baghdad it will be as little as one quarter of what it was." The number of weapons-cache captures had doubled from 1977 in January this year to 4141 in August. General Petraeus said "improvised explosive devices" -- roadside bombs -- were the largest killer in Iraq and in "another indicator that is reassuring, this has come down for about eight of the last 11 weeks to the lowest in at least a year, Iraq-wide". "We see al-Qa'ida as public enemy No1 because it is the enemy that carries out the most horrific attacks designed to re-ignite ethno-sectarain violence," he said. "That is not to say militia extremists supported by Iran are not of enormous concern because they are. "There is growing concern by the Iraqi Government, by us, and our own Government as we have learned more and more about the degree of this malign involvement of the Iranian Quds force with the militia extremists that have been supported by them, trained, equipped, armed, funded and even in some cases directed." Dr Nelson, who went to Afghanistan and Iraq this week and is now in Washington, said General Petraeus had presented a detailed presentation on security inside the country. "We finished our meeting with a very clear picture of his thinking of the assessment of the security situation, not just in Baghdad but also in the south and the work being done by us and the British," he said. "No one should underestimate the importance to what is happening in Iraq of our contribution and the significance of it to the Americans and the Iraqis themselves. "We will wait until we see the President's response to the report and we will shape our forward planning around that response. "I think it is fair to say that we will continue to look for increased opportunities for training." The Defence Minister said Australian forces were highly regarded as trainers and whenever he asked the Iraqis to nominate what they wanted they "always said training". "Our support for continuing support and involvement in Iraq is a minority position but we have a moral responsibility to these people to see this job through," Dr Nelson said.
5) Anatomy of a Tribal Revolt http://smallwarsjournal.com/blog/2007/08/print/anatomy-of-a-tribal-revolt/ David Kilcullen August 29, 2007 Small Wars Journal
Some aspects of the war in Iraq are hard to fit into “classical” models of insurgency. One of these is the growing tribal uprising against al Qa’ida, which could transform the war in ways not factored into neat “benchmarks” developed many months ago and thousands of miles away. I spent time out on the ground during May and June working with coalition units, tribal leaders and fighters engaged in the uprising, so I felt a few field observations might be of interest to the Small Wars community. I apologize in advance for the epic length of this post, but it's a complex issue, so I hope people will forgive my long-windedness. Like much else, it’s too early to know how this new development will play out. But surprisingly (surprising to me, anyway), indications so far are relatively positive.
To understand what follows, you need to realize that Iraqi tribes are not somehow separate, out in the desert, or remote: rather, they are powerful interest groups that permeate Iraqi society. More than 85% of Iraqis claim some form of tribal affiliation; tribal identity is a parallel, informal but powerful sphere of influence in the community. Iraqi tribal leaders represent a competing power center, and the tribes themselves are a parallel hierarchy that overlaps with formal government structures and political allegiances. Most Iraqis wear their tribal selves beside other strands of identity (religious, ethnic, regional, socio-economic) that interact in complex ways, rendering meaningless the facile division into Sunni, Shi’a and Kurdish groups that distant observers sometimes perceive. The reality of Iraqi national character is much more complex than that, and tribal identity plays an extremely important part in it, even for urbanized Iraqis. Thus the tribal revolt is not some remote riot on a reservation: it’s a major social movement that could significantly influence most Iraqis where they live.
6) Iraq to Allow Ex-Baathists to Regain Jobs
From left, Vice Presidents Adel Abdul-Mehdi and Tariq al-Hashemi, President Jalal Talabani, Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki and the Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani on Sunday.
By STEPHEN FARRELL
Published: August 28, 2007
BAGHDAD, Aug. 27 — Hours after Iraq’s political leaders declared a deal to return former Baathists to government jobs, Iraq’s most senior Sunni Arab leader said Monday that it was too small an olive branch for Sunnis to rejoin the government. The Sunni leader, Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi, welcomed the “great achievement” of a compromise to ease measures imposed by the American occupation authority in 2003 to stop Saddam Hussein loyalists from returning to senior posts. But Mr. Hashemi said nothing had changed regarding the Aug. 1 decision by his Iraqi Islamic Party and others, which make up the Iraqi Consensus Front, to quit the government. The announcement on Sunday has been hailed as evidence of movement toward national reconciliation by Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki’s widely criticized Shiite-led administration, which is under intense international pressure to address the concerns of Iraq’s disaffected Sunni minority.
The chief measures sought by Sunni leaders are laws to ensure fair distribution of oil revenues and tougher steps to curb Shiite militias closely linked to parties within Mr. Maliki’s governing coalition. The de-Baathification breakthrough was announced jointly on Sunday by Mr. Maliki; Mr. Hashemi; Adel Abdul-Mehdi, a Shiite who is Mr. Hashemi’s fellow vice president; and the country’s two most senior Kurdish leaders, President Jalal Talabani and Massoud Barzani, the president of the Kurdish regional government in Iraq. They also reached agreement on holding provincial elections and the release of prisoners being held without charge. President Bush called the Iraqi leaders from Air Force One as he flew from his ranch in Crawford, Tex., to a fund-raiser in New Mexico. In a brief statement at Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico, he welcomed the agreement that included steps that are among the benchmarks outlined by Congress to measure political progress.The White House has been eager to demonstrate improvement, especially on the political front, in advance of the progress report the administration must submit to Congress by Sept. 15.“While yesterday’s agreement is an important step, I reminded them, and they understand, much more needs to be done,” Mr. Bush said of his telephone conversations.Mr. Hashemi, whose party is a key member of the Iraqi Consensus Front, the largest Sunni bloc, confirmed that Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish party leaders have reached consensus on the “major issues” surrounding the return of former Baathists to government jobs, although the proposed legislation has still to be sent to Parliament for discussion and approval. Mr. Hashemi forecast that the legislation would allow less senior members of the Baath Party to return to government jobs.But he said the Iraqi Consensus Front would not rejoin the government until other key demands were met. These include amnesties for prisoners, revising the Baghdad security plan and curbing militias.Mr. Hashemi did offer a compromise solution, saying that if some demands were immediately met, others could be postponed for one or two weeks, or left to committees to find solutions later. But others in his party cautioned that de-Baathification was a relatively minor issue compared with their other grievances.“There are more serious issues, such as the security portfolio, reconciliation, militias, constitutional amendments, a ministerial reshuffle and defining terrorism, resistance and who is the enemy out there on the streets,” said Omar Abdul Sattar, a lawmaker.“We live in a crisis,” he said. “Do you think the de-Baathification law and the provincial elections are accomplishments? This is a wedding without a bride.”
8) DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE BLOGGERS ROUNDTABLE: STEVEN BUCKLER, PRT TEAM LEADER, SALAHUDDIN PROVINCE FROM IRAQ TIME: 10:31 A.M. EDT DATE:
WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 29, 2007
MR. HOLT: Jarred Fishman from Air Force Pundit.
Jarred Fishman: Yes sir, thanks for your time. A quick question, a three parter.
Do you know anything about Maliki's visit to Tikrit, since you're in the area,
last week? And that ties in with the national reconciliation efforts we've seen
MR. BUCKLER: Whose visit?
Q Maliki, Prime Minister Maliki's visit last week to --
MR. BUCKLER: Yeah, I sat through it -- (laughter). It was, you know,
one of these things you feel good about. Some of us -- I mean, the minimal, the
minimal satisfaction is the fact that the prime minister came here. There is
nothing like a national level politician or representative or leader coming out
to the provinces like this to simply express commitment and be seen.
His meetings with the provincial authorities were very, very good. It
was kind of a -- one might call it a roundtable, although they were seated
around the confines of a conference room. But the governor, the deputy
governor, a number of the sheiks, the military -- or the army and the police
were all able to speak with him directly and had a very good exchange with him.
He was very open, communicated with each and every one of them on their
particular issues, had his staff there to take notes, recognition, things to
follow up on. And I didn't, unfortunately, get a chance to sit right down with
the governor or the deputy governor and ask them what their reactions were on
events since have just been so. I haven't had that chance to do it yet. But it
was just excellent that he came up and was gracious in meeting with everybody
and had a very good interaction with all. I was very pleased. I hope it got the right kind of coverage down in Baghdad, and I don't have enough insight between relations between the province and their political -- their representatives in the Council of --
representatives to know, you know, kind of the second and third effects. But
from my standpoint and that of the embassy, we were very pleased.
MR. HOLT: And Jarred, did you have a follow-up on that, or --?
Jarred Fishman: Well, just, the quick follow-up was, A, can some of this progres,
which obviously is demonstrable what you've got -- tons of progess, can that
make it into the September 15 reports which are going to be distributed? And
also, how does the United States get credit on the ground for these billions of
dollars of projects? Do you see that the Iraqi new generations, you know, they can
acknowledge that these are American projects? Or just years from now, is it
going to be like the British back in the 1920s, where no one really remembers
what the hell they did?
MR. BUCKLER: (Laughs.) Well, on the first question, will all of this
finds its way into the September report, we keep feeding it to Baghdad. We make
sure that whatever happens here does find its way down to our officers in
Baghdad. So, you know, they'll be doing the final edit, but we make sure that
it gets pushed down there. Now on the nature of the various projects and credit and whatnot, I was -- I'll sort of give you an oblique answer -- not an oblique answer but maybe a couple of answers all in one here. About three days ago, I was sitting in a large meeting right next to the head of the provincial council -- now that's the equivalent of the state legislature, and the head of it in speaking to everyone and it was -- the
subject matter of the meeting was one that I convened on combatting (enemy ?)
extremism. But in any case, he talked a little bit about what the provincial
council had done, and he said, "Right now, we have been able to provide more
projects than we ever did during Saddam Hussein's time." As I said earlier,
Saddam Hussein took special care of this area, so the fact that the current
government can and has bragging rights to the fact that on that key measure of
their own effectiveness and the way they present it to their constituency,
numbers of projects, they're trumping a regime that took special care Sal ad
Din. So that's very good. Now, on the other hand, I was talking to one of the generals up
here in the northern sector who pointed out that oftentimes as we indicate the
coalition or the CERP funds or, in one way or another, the U.S. government built
that, built that, built that, built that, there is a seeming profound degree of
ignorance, whether it is real or feigned as to what we have done so far as our
own construction projects to try and improve and develop Iraq. So how memories
will serve our constructions here, I'd say, is still up in the air. My own effort in the PRT is to try to work with the provincial officials, whether they be engineers, whether they be elected officials, whether they be mayors, city councilmembers or whoever, to try to give them as much training as we can on what I just generically say is a process, whether it be a budget process, a budget execution process, a contract management process to try
to make our investment in the human capital, which I think will make a big
9) After Tour of Duty in Iraq, Graham Backs 'Surge' http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/08/27/AR2007082701919_pf.html
Senator Cautions Against Withdrawal Of Troops This Year By Robin Wright
Washington Post Staff Writer Tuesday, August 28, 2007; After serving two weeks of reserve duty in Iraq, Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) yesterday called for continuation of the "surge" of U.S. troops in Iraq and warned that any decision to mandate a withdrawal this year would undercut critical gains made in recent months. Graham's comments come at a time when some of his colleagues on the Senate Armed Services Committee, including Sen. John W. Warner (R-Va.) and Sen. Carl M. Levin (D-Mich.), are calling for troop withdrawals. Graham, a colonel in the Air Force Reserve and a longtime supporter of military deployment in Iraq, is the only member of the Senate to serve in Iraq. "With all due respect to Senator Warner, the model he is suggesting -- to put pressure [on the Iraqi government] by mandating troop withdrawal -- is exactly the opposite of what we should do," Graham said in an interview after returning from Iraq this past weekend. "I believe the pressure that will lead to reconciliation will not be from what an American politician thinks but what the Iraqi people think. And I'm confident that the Iraqi people have turned a corner." Graham, who wore fatigues and was armed with a Beretta pistol throughout his stay, also served a brief reserve duty in Iraq in April. During previous trips to Iraq -- both on reserve duty and on official congressional visits -- he said he had concluded that the United States was making "many mistakes" in its war strategy and was on the verge of losing control of Iraq, particularly when Gen. George W. Casey Jr. was the military commander. But the boost in U.S. forces has produced more progress than Graham had anticipated, he said yesterday. "The surge has produced better security. And if you mandated withdrawal now, it would undercut the progress we've made and embolden people who are on the ropes. Be patient. Continue to supply strongly economic, political and military support, and I believe . . . we'll have a breakthrough in Baghdad," he said. The major change from his earlier visits was produced by a confluence of factors, particularly as the deployment of more U.S. troops coincided with Iraqi reaction to al-Qaeda in Iraq excesses in trying to control the Sunni areas, Graham said. "We can't take credit for that. They tried to impose a lifestyle that is counter to what Iraqis wish for themselves," he said. The Sunni insurgent group al-Qaeda in Iraq even tried to ban smoking, he noted. "So it was a magic meeting of the moment -- with al-Qaeda overplaying its hand and [the United States] increasing its capacity." The rejection of al-Qaeda in Iraq is evident in the decision by about 12,000 Iraqis to join the local police force in Anbar province since January, compared with only 1,000 in all of 2006, Graham said. He cited the willingness of Iraqis to participate in local security in the volatile Sunni province as one indication that the new security may be sustainable. But the Republican legislator, who has served in the Air Force Reserve for 25 years, said the growing rejection of Islamic extremism should not be confused with minority Sunnis embracing democracy or national political reconciliation. Like Warner, he was also critical of the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. "In many ways, this government is dysfunctional, but it's not a failed state. They're still trying," he said. "If you went in only to talk to Maliki, you'd come away depressed. But if you get out and about, then you'd have a different perspective." Graham predicted that Maliki's personal political flaws would be overshadowed by events on the ground. Breaking with mounting congressional skepticism about Iraq's future, he said that a new momentum from the streets to reconcile, stop the killing and reject both al-Qaeda in Iraq and Iran was reaching the point that "all Maliki has to do is get out of the way," he said. A member of the Air Force Judge Advocate General's Corps, Graham worked primarily on detainee and rule-of-law issues in Iraq. When he was in a courtroom in Baghdad's Red Zone -- as some refer to the area outside the heavily fortified Green Zone -- witnessing the trial of two Iraqi policemen charged with building an arms cache to aid a local Shiite militia, a car bomb exploded and two mortar shells landed nearby. "It's a dangerous place," Graham said. "I carried a 9mm like everyone else, and there were several times I was glad I had one." Most congressional delegations travel in heavily protected security bubbles and stay no more than a day or two. In his second deployment this year, Graham traveled in Baghdad outside the Green Zone and to northern and southern Iraq. No other serving members of Congress have deployed in Iraq, according to congressional sources. Rep. Steve Buyer (R-Ind.), a colonel in the Army Reserve, was called to active duty in 2003. But because of his status as a congressman, he would have had to resign or retire, so the secretary of defense rescinded the orders, according to Buyer's staff. Three other representatives -- Mark Steven Kirk (R-Ill.) and Chris Carney (D-Pa.), both lieutenant commanders in the Navy Reserve, and John Shimkus (R-Ill.), a lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserve -- have not served in Iraq, the sources said
10) Desperate Al Qaeda is hit as it tries to find hideouts in Kurdistan http://patdollard.com/2007/08/28/besieged-town-saved-as-assaults-kills-41-al-qaeda/#more-2883
A series of US-led air and ground assaults in Iraq has killed at least 41 suspected rebels, the American military said on Tuesday. Eight militants were killed and 11 detained in separate ground and air assaults in Iraq’s northern province of Kirkuk and central province of Salaheddin, it said, adding that both operations were aimed at Al-Qaeda. The military also said it had arrested an alleged weapons smuggler known to distribute guns brought from Iran to Iraqi extremist groups, in a raid on Tuesday in Baghdad. On Monday, in a major operation in the town of Gobia in the province of Diyala northeast of Baghdad, US and Iraqi troops killed 33 Al Qaeda fighters. North of Baghdad, hundreds of U.S. and Iraqi forces backed by helicopters and jet fighters killed the 33 Al Qaeda who were holding back the water supply to the Shiite town of Khalis, the American command said in a statement Tuesday. They had cut off the towns water a few days ago, filling the canals with dirt. “The pre-dawn assault, involving several hundred Iraqi and coalition forces, defeated numerous small-arms attacks throughout the day resulting in a combined 13 insurgents killed,” a military statement said. American attack helicopters supporting the ground forces killed another 20 suspected insurgents, it said, adding that many weapons were found during the operation. The U.S. and Iraqi assault north of Baghdad began before dawn on Monday when a joint force was landed by helicopter in the village of Gubbiya, 10 miles east of Khalis. The assault force killed 13 fighters and attack aircraft killed 20 others, the military said. The area is known to be controlled by al-Qaida in Iraq. Khalis, 50 miles north of Baghdad, has been the scene of repeated Sunni insurgent bombings and mortar attacks. “The objective of the mission was to open the spillway, which regulates water flow to the town of Khalis, restoring the essential service of water,” the statement said. The assault uncovered three weapons caches, led to the capture of three men and “water is currently flowing unimpeded to Khalis,” the military said.
11) Front-line lessons from the Iraq surge http://www.nydailynews.com/opinions/2007/08/29/2007-08-29_frontline_lessons_from_the_iraq_surge.html?print=1 By MICHAEL TOTTEN New York Post Wednesday, August 29th 2007
While American politicians bicker among themselves from eight time zones away about whether the surge led by Gen. David Petraeus is working or not, I returned to Iraq to see for myself.This trip - from which I returned this month - was my fourth reporting stint in the country since the conflict began. And this time, what I saw was overwhelming, undeniable and, like it or not, complicated: In some places, the surge is working remarkably well. In others, it is not. And the only way we will know for sure whether the tide can be turned is to continue the policy and wait.I know that's not what many Americans and politicians want to hear, but it's the truth.On my first stop, I embedded with the 82nd Airborne Division in the Graya'at area of northern Baghdad. There, the soldiers live and work in the city 24 hours a day. Their sector has been so thoroughly cleared of insurgents that they haven't suffered a single casualty this year. I walked the streets without fear and met dozens of genuinely friendly and supportive Iraqi civilians, who greeted the soldiers like friends.The hitch is that Moqtada al-Sadr's radical Shia Mahdi Army has infiltrated the Iraqi Army unit that shares the outpost. American soldiers are training them while their comrades kill American soldiers elsewhere in the country.Meanwhile, Shia militias are expanding and consolidating their rule in other parts of the capital. American soldiers patrol the Hurriyah neighborhood, for example, but many locals credit the Mahdi Army with being the real peacekeepers in the area.Progress in Baghdad is real, but it is not, or not yet anyway, the kind of peace that can last.It's worse in Mushadah just north of Baghdad, where I also went with American soldiers who are training Iraqi police forces - which have been infiltrated by Al Qaeda. The area is so dangerous that the police refused to leave their station until an American woman, Capt. Maryanne Naro from upstate Fort Drum, showed up and shamed them by going out herself.According to Naro, our convoys are hit with improvised explosive devices every day. I was ordered not to leave my vehicle for any reason unless something catastrophic happened to it.Elsewhere in Iraq, though, progress is extraordinary and unambiguous. I spent a week in Ramadi, the capital of Anbar Province, which just four months ago was the most violent place in Iraq. Al Qaeda had taken over and ruled the city through a massive murder and intimidation campaign. Even the Marine Corps, arguably the least defeatist institution in America, wrote off Ramadi as irretrievably lost last August.Then, local tribal leaders and civilians joined the Americans - and helped purge the city of every last terrorist cell. Violence has dropped to near zero. I have photographs of Iraqis hugging American soldiers and of children greeting us with ecstatic joy, as though they had been rescued from Nazis. The Marines are even considering going on patrols without body armor.What worked in Ramadi might not work in Baghdad. The Mahdi Army's relative moderation, compared with Al Qaeda's brutality, prevents it from being rejected by the entire society. But this much cannot be denied: There are powerful winds of change in Iraq, and not enough time has passed to determine how they will transform the country.Want to know if the surge will succeed or fail? There is only one thing to do: Wait.
12) New Glass www.badgersforward.com
Road trip from Camp Ramadi to Camp Falluja. Again. But this trip is different. Down Michigan, through Ar Ramadi, through Habbinyah, and through Al Falluja - in HUMVEES. Pathfinder 6 and I are escorting journalist Bill Schaefer to the Camp to meet with Team Badger Soldiers so he can give you his version of their story. Out the South gate we turn left and head for the bridge that will take us into Ar Ramadi. Past the glass factory on our left that had only recently been cleared of snipers when we arrived last October, it now has people moving about it trying to get in back into operation. On my right the urban area becomes more apparent, the HESCOs and concrete barriers removed to open the area up. An IP station built. The IP's going about their business and wave at us. We descend off the bridge and that's when you notice the change. When we arrived here the main broad boulevard that traverse the east-west route through the city, with the broad sidewalks had been narrowed down to two and sometimes one lane by concrete barriers, concertina, and debris. Today the boulevard is wide open and people are walking the streets. Women in abayah's, men in dishdasha, soccer attire, and a few in suits talking on their cell phones. Some people ignore our small convoy, some look suspiciously, and some wave. There at the first corner, I see it. New glass. Someone has put new glass in a shop. Someone only installs new glass when they think it won't get broken. New glass is confidence. As we roll though Ramadi I see more stores and small shops open. And more new glass. We pass what was once a hotel. I am sure the building is so badly damaged that it will need to be razed. I wonder if a hotel will replace it. Halfway into the city we reach Saddam's Mosque. The area is still a shambles here, but the road has opened up. There are also front end loaders and other heavy equipment moving the concrete and the rebar. Progress has been made, but it will take awhile to truck this away and start rebuilding. Out of the city we pass the Al Anbar Law College on the left. More "de-milling" (de-militarization) has taken place and you can see the college a little better. There are green patches of manicured lawn there. I wonder if I can come back here and teach a class on business organizations some day. Once on the open road the drive is uneventful. The green of Hab is waining in the late, dry summer. Even the Euphrates River cannot keep it completely green year round. I think of the children I have given candy and soccer balls to in the area. We have not been called to patrol the area in months. Entering Falluja requires navigating the sea of people trying to get in. The requirement that you park your vehicle outside the city and walk in creates a tangle at the entry points. We get in the military lane and slowly pull through. Crossing the Euphrates once again we are in the city of Al Falluja. Having read Bing West's book, No True Glory, I identify all sorts of places where Phantom Fury played out less than three years ago. And there it is again. New glass. Stores and residences that still bear the scars of that battle are also being rebuilt.The citizens of the city are going out their business, shopping, cleaning the city, building. Out of the city we pass the memorial to Lieutenant Colonel Suliemen, Hero of Iraq, murdered in Falluja by the insurgency back in 2004. A few more kilometers down we turn right and are in Camp Falluja. Several days later we return to Ar Ramadi. We take the western highway this time which takes us north and around the city of Falluja. The north and east sides of Falluja are the most devastated. That is the direction from which US Forces attacked during Phantom Fury in November 2004. As we round the northeast corner, I see one house that looks different from the others. People are living there. Coming and going. It has something the other places don't.
13) Crossing Anbar http://haloscan.com/tb/omar/5524183621856509351 Iraq the Model, Omar Fadhil 29 August 2007
We've been getting some reports about the improvement in security in Anbar in the last few months but little was said about the highway that runs across the province. The several hundred kilometer western section of the international highway is technically Iraq's second "port" in a way as it connects Iraq with Syria and Jordan and was for years the only window to the world when all airports and the southern ports in Basra were closed to traffic in the 1990s.For most of the time between 2004 and 2007 taking this road was considered suicidal behavior as the chance someone would be robbed or killed was too high. But with the tribal awakening in Anbar that cleared large parts of the province from al-Qaeda the highway is expected to be safer, but how much safer? My family returned yesterday from a vacation in Syria and they have used this road twice in six weeks. I had tried hard to convince them not to do that and take a flight instead but now after hearing their story I'm convinced that my fear was not justified; the road is safe…This is good not only for Iraq's economy and traveling but also for the American troops who can use this road as an alternative supply route in case the British troops withdraw and leave the strategic southern highway between Kuwait and Baghdad unguarded. Back to the story; there are two travel plans for passenger SUV's and buses from Damascus to Baghdad; one includes leaving Damascus between 10 pm and midnight, reaching the Syrian border control before dawn, entering the Iraqi border control at 8 am and arriving in Baghdad around sunset. A total of approximately 20 hours with 6 to 7 hours lost in waiting and passport control.The second plan includes leaving Damascus at noon and here convoys carrying the passengers continue to move all the way until a short distance northwest of Ramadi. At this point the time would be between midnight and 2 am and since that's within curfew hours in Baghdad, the drivers park their vehicles and everyone gets to sleep 3 or 4 hours and wait for the sun to rise and then the journey would continue. Now the first plan sounds predictable, safe and well planned given the distance and necessary stops. But look at the second one carefully and try to picture the scene; dozens of passenger SUV's (GMC trucks mostly) and buses parking in he middle of nowhere in a zone that was until recently the heart of al-Qaeda's Islamic state! Obviously the drivers and families feel safe enough that they know they won't be robbed and slaughtered by cold-blooded terrorists. Even more interesting, this parking and resting zone was not designated nor protected by the Iraqi or American forces but simply an arrangement the drivers managed on their own perhaps with cooperation from the local tribes.I still laugh every time I think of this incredible change and I honestly wouldn't have believed it if the story teller wasn't my father.This sign of positive progress brings to my mind a sad irony. Back in 2004 when taking the Anbar highway was out of question for me, the Sunni dentist, I made the trip back and fourth between Baghdad and Basra countless times without any fear. Now, I'm ready to try the trip through the west, but going south through the militia infested land is something I'd never dare do at this stage. Aside from security my father told me one more thing that shook the common idea about the numbers of Iraqi refugees fleeing to Syria. Apparently the direction of movement is influenced by the season to a certain degree.When my family's turn to pass through the passports control on the Iraqi side came, the vehicles that were still behind them on the Syrian side outnumbered the ones coming from the Iraqi side. And that's not the only indication to the seasonal aspect of Iraqis' migration.
Six weeks ago when my family hired a driver to take them to Damascus the fare was $110 for each passenger since finding a car to take you out of Baghdad was difficult while the return trip from Damascus would cost only $25 per passenger because drivers were ready to accept any amount of money rather than to return to Baghdad empty handed. Guess what, the opposite is now true! It's supply and demand 101, this change in cost reflects a change in demand on the two ends of the route suggesting that a good percentage of Iraqis who flooded Syria in the beginning of the summer season were just trying to escape the summer heat and enjoy a simple vacation, like my family did. It doesn't mean a refugees issue doesn't exist, but it does mean that Iraqis could sometimes be just normal tourists...
14) BAGHDAD TREAT http://www.nypost.com/seven/08292007/postopinion/opedcolumnists/baghdad_treat_life_returns_to_.htm?page=0
By RALPH PETERS August 29, 2007 -- BAGHDAD IT may be the world's ugliest ice cream, a random mix of a half-dozen melting flavors swirled together in a chaos of chemical colors. But it's a hit at the Yarmouk market in the heart of Baghdad. Much of the city - though certainly not all - is coming back to life. The optimism of the neighborhood entrepreneur who opened that ice-cream shop may be a better indicator of progress than another empty promise from Iraq's government. And it's a good sign when a U.S. security patrol can make an ice-cream stop. Maj. Gen. Joseph Fil, the commander of the Multinational Division-Baghdad, joined the soldiers of the 3rd Battalion, 2nd Field Artillery on Tuesday as they made the rounds of the Qadisiyah neighborhood and other stretches of Baghdad. Gen. Fil doesn't walk, he prowls. Evoking a mountain lion that woke up hungry, he has the animal's alertness, observing everything around him on the move. He doesn't growl, though. A "new-school" commander forged by this war, he knows that you can't micro-manage a counterinsurgency. Fil listens. Then he decides. And he gives his subordinates maximum freedom of action. He's the kind of commander under whom you want to serve. The Red Dragons of 3-82 are a story, too. Artillerymen, they patrol the streets of a broad slice of Baghdad in a traditional Infantry role - and provide steel on target from their 155mm howitzers for six brigades strewn across a vast area of operations. That versatility is one of the qualities Fil admires most in America's soldiers. Asked what years of conflict have taught him, the "big cat" swept a hand back over hair pressed flat by his helmet and wet with sweat before answering: "The incredible adaptability of the American soldier - he can turn a corner just like that." AND the artillerymen have to be versatile. Although much of central Baghdad has begun to thrive again, the crazy quilt of neighborhoods they patrol still has its troubles. Those who knew the area pre-surge are impressed with the recent progress, but Gen. Fil and his subordinates know they still have a long way to go. On the positive side, the "gated communities" approach, complete with security guards and controlled access for neighborhoods, has cut violence dramatically. The Red Dragons' sector hasn't suffered a roadside bomb attack since April; when a pair of drive-by shootings occurred during the recent Shia pilgrimage to Karbala, the locals were furious. Given the chance to sound off to Gen. Fil, a local elder waved a forefinger and told him, "These killers are not from here! They are not from our neighborhood. We don't want these people here." The old man was surrounded by a vibrant market; he doesn't want to live out his remaining years on a street desolated by terror. THE zone patrolled by 3-82's soldiers is complex. One stretch is wonderfully green and quiet, home to doctors, lawyers and academics, primarily Sunni - as is most of the sector. But Shia squatters have moved in along the southern rim, crossing a highway to find new homes after last year's wave of ethnic cleansing. The artillerymen have the mission of keeping Muqtada al-Sadr's thugs out of the slum. So far, they've been successful. The Mahdi Army fighters slip in for short visits now and then, but haven't been able to establish a firm foothold. The rest of the zone, with its middle-class neighborhoods - and that ice cream parlor - is enjoying the new peace. But that peace isn't unblemished. The residents complain about the local Yarmouk Hospital, where Sunnis can't get treatment - if they're brave enough to set foot inside the door - because Shia partisans control the Ministry of Health. (Last year in Baghdad, Sunni patients were dragged from their beds and murdered.) And the hospital's a wreck. The neglect dates back to the Saddam era, when palaces were in vogue, but not medical facilities for the average Iraqi. When 3-82's commander, Lt. Col. Mike Tarsa, assumed responsibility for the sector, he found that, in addition to being a Shias-only facility, the hospital lacked both a trauma unit and a burn ward - essential, given the terrorists' choice of weapon, the bomb targeting civilians. There are still electricity shortages, but, on the positive side of the scale, schools are open again, and women and children feel safe in the streets. Things are working at the local level. Some fault-line districts of Baghdad are still sick with violence, but the surge and the new counterinsurgency approach has made a positive difference in much of the city. THINGS have gotten better - but the residents of Qadisiyah share the anger of the U.S. Congress at the al-Maliki government. Seconded by his fellow elders, the old man who was so anxious to speak to the general looked to the Americans for help, not to his own government. He railed against the ministry officials responsible for electricity, for television and for health care - and he didn't stop there. "These ministers steal! They send our money to Canada, to Europe. Because" - he slapped the back of a broken chair - "they know they will not sit in their seats very long." The contrast between his enthusiasm for the American soldiers and his fury toward the al-Maliki government echoes the views of many U.S. officers. One told me straightforwardly, "Our biggest challenge is getting the Iraqi government to govern." There's no way to avoid the truth any longer: The Maliki government is a failed government. But things have begun to work at the local and regional level. If Iraq's going to make it, the change may have to come from the bottom up. ALL that's beyond the pay- grade of the soldiers of the Red Dragon battalion. They've got their mission, and they're doing it superbly. In a paradox of this turn-and-turn-again conflict, our stock has gone up with our former enemies and many simple Iraqi citizens, while elements among the Shia - who were assumed to be our natural allies - look more and more like enemies. Grim problems remain. Yet, opinion is virtually unanimous that Iraq is a more hopeful place than it was six months ago. Perhaps the best way to describe the mood of those who wear our country's uniform is "chastened optimism." Whether the effects will endure after the concrete barriers come down around those "gated communities" and whether Iraqi's national-level leaders can stop soiling the sandbox [to put it politely] are other questions entirely. But each American reading this column can be certain of one thing: America's soldiers in Baghdad have made an enormous difference. The real humanitarians aren't the coffee-bar philosophers on the left, but our troops. Only the future will tell us if the Iraqis can build a decent country on their sacrifices. As for that ice cream, it's a best seller in the 116-degree heat. The brisk business is very good sign in a city that, six months ago, was a slaughterhouse.
15) Residents join Guard Force to improve neighborhood security
By Sgt. Mike Pryor2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division Public Affairs
BAGHDAD — It’s just after 10 a.m., and a large crowd has gathered outside the Adhamiyah District Advisory Council building. Dozens of men mob the entrance. Normally, the DAC building is where citizens come to complain about potholes and power outages, and where wailing mothers come to plead for the release of their detained sons. But the men gathered here this morning didn’t come to complain about problems, they came to be part of a solution.The men are all here to apply for jobs with Adhamiyah’s new Critical Infrastructure Guard Force, a security force made up of local men that will protect area schools, hospitals, fuel stations, and government buildings.In Adhamiyah, a Sunni enclave in east Baghdad that has long been a haven for insurgents, U.S. and Iraqi forces have struggled to make residents more active partners in security. But the surprising embrace of the Guard Force is just one of a growing number of signs that Adhamiyah residents are starting to take a more aggressive role in protecting their community, say U.S. Soldiers based in the area.“They’re standing up, and I think it shows they’re ready to take their neighborhood back into their own hands,” said Columbia, Md., native, Capt. Albert Marckwardt, commander of Troop B, 3rd Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division.The first 30 CIGF volunteers recently completed training, and will soon receive their assignments. More than 400 applications for Guard Force jobs have been received so far, and the total force is expected to number over 750, said Homewood, Ill., native, 2nd Lt. Brian C. Smith, the Squadron’s Iraqi Security Forces liaison officer.The CIGF has been met with enthusiasm by the people of Adhamiyah - as evidenced by the recent turn out of job-seekers at the DAC. More than 50 hopefuls turned up, some waiting for several hours to fill out the paperwork and put in their applications.“The first time we did this, we had maybe 15 people show up. But the word got around and they’re starting to really show up now. They just keep coming,” said Modesto, Calif., native, Sgt. 1st Class Chhay Mao, a platoon sergeant with B Troop who was helping screen applicants.The vetting took place upstairs, in a stuffy room filled with long tables. The applicants entered in small groups, some of the men shy, others cocky and laughing, to file by and give their information to the Soldiers at the tables. One Soldier asked Mohammed Said Ahmad, a muscular 25-year-old with a baseball cap on backwards, why he wanted to join the CIGF.“We are here because we want to secure Adhamiyah for our kids and our families,” Ahmad said passionately.When the Soldier asked the next man in line, 49 year-old Talib Hussein, Hussein’s reply was a little more matter-of-fact.“I have two wives,” Hussein said wearily. “I need money.”Both motivations are valid as far as Coalition forces are concerned. Smith said that the CIGF program is as much about providing jobs as it is about providing security.“Honestly, it’s about 50-50,” said Smith.“For security in Adhamiyah, you need these guys to work,” said 1st Sgt. Muhammed Hassan Ali, the Iraqi NCO in charge of training new CIGF recruits. Ali said residents with good paying jobs would be less tempted to take insurgent money for planting bombs or throwing grenades at patrols.As for the potential problems created by having another armed paramilitary group in the area, the Squadron has taken measures to mitigate the risk, Smith said. All applicants must be fingerprinted and undergo an iris scan, with the information cross-referenced against names in an extensive criminal database.Candidates who pass the background check then take part in a five-day training program to teach them basic marksmanship, weapons maintenance, vehicle and personnel search techniques, codes of conduct and rules of engagement, said Smith.The training takes place at Combat Outpost Apache, built on the ruins of one of Saddam Hussein’s opulent palaces on the banks of the Tigris. Non-Commissioned Officers from the Iraqi Army are the instructors, with U.S. Soldiers in an advisory role.The first 30 recruits attended the training this month. On training day two, the group was out on the firing range. A few had previous military experience, and handled their AK-47s like old pros. Others, especially the younger men, needed some coaching, but Ali and his small staff helped them along. The recruits who finished first went over to sit on the steps in the shade. As they smoked cigarettes and wondered what was for lunch, some of the men noted how strange it was that they were training on the grounds of Saddam’s palace, a place where – in previous times – Adhamiyah residents “disappeared.”One new recruit, Ahmed Raja Al Assan, said the CIGF should have been developed years ago. Assan said having a security force made up of local people would make it easier to catch terrorists who try to infiltrate Adhamiyah.“We know who is good and who is bad,” he said.After the marksmanship training was over, white-haired Thabit Numan, one of the oldest of the new recruits, came up to Smith and Ali to shake their hands.Before coming to the training, many in the group had been scared, Numan explained. Some had expected to be mistreated by the Iraqi Soldiers. But instead they had been shown respect and treated like brothers, the old man said.In a few days, training would be over, and the men would get their first mission.“We are ready,” Numan said, before turning and walking off towards the palace.
16) This Isn't Civil War
By CARTER ANDRESS August 28, 2007; Page A13 Wall Street Journal
Baghdad We are winning this war. I write those words from my desk in the Red Zone in downtown Baghdad as hundreds of Iraqis working with my company -- Shia and Sunni, Arab and Kurd -- execute security, construction and logistics missions throughout the capital and Sunni Triangle. We have been here now over three years. American-Iraqi Solutions Group, which I helped co-found in March 2004, has been intimately involved with creating the new Iraqi security services. Our principal business as a U.S. Department of Defense contractor is to build bases for the Iraqi army and police and then supply them with water, food, fuel and maintenance services. We are on the cutting edge of the exit strategy for the U.S. military: Stand up an effective Iraqi security structure and then we can bring our troops home.We are not out of the Iraqi desert yet. But the primary problems we now face on the ground are controllable, given a strong American military presence through 2008. These problems include the involvement of Iran in fueling Shia militancy, the British failure to uphold their security obligations in the south and the tumultuous nature of a new democracy.Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker recently said the one word he would choose to describe the feelings of the Iraqi people was "fear." A bad choice, from my observation.That's not the prevailing state of mind, except maybe for those sheltered souls in the Green Zone who are getting hit on a regular basis for the first time in more than a year by primarily Iranian-supplied rockets and mortars. What I see on the faces of the thousands of Iraqis working with us, including our subcontractors and suppliers as well as on the faces of the Iraqi army and police, patrolling and manning the checkpoints and assisting U.S. soldiers in searching for the insurgents is grim determination to get the job done.I also see exhaustion -- exhaustion with the insurgency, whether it be al Qaeda, neo-Saddamist, or Jaish al Mahdi (JAM), or the Shia militia of Moqtada al-Sadr. The exhaustion is real, and the evidence of the falling support among the Iraqi people for the insurgency in its various guises is inescapable -- unless you are deliberately looking the other way.A large proportion of our thousand-man work force -- of which 90% are Iraqi citizens -- comes from Sadr City, the Shia slum in east Baghdad. Many carry weapons. These Shia warriors have emphasized in the past several months that they and their neighbors are tired of conflict and only want to feed their families.You only have to note the lack of U.S. casualties in the ongoing surge to clear JAM out of the highly dangerous urban terrain of Sadr City to realize that the people there do not want to fight us. They are sick of fighting.As for Sunni resistance, I recently visited the boot camp we operate for the Iraqi army at Habbaniyah in Al Anbar, former heartland of the insurgency. For the first time we are seeing entire Sunni Arab recruiting cohorts at the camp, where before we only saw Shia from outside the province.The Sunnis of Al Anbar -- finally tired of al Qaeda assassinating their sheikhs when they disagreed with the terrorists -- have committed their children to the security services of a government dominated by the majority Shias, and paid for and run by the Americans. With such a development, you have real progress in integrating the diverse elements in Iraq.Slowly but surely, Iraqi security services are building up. You only have to travel outside the Green Zone to see them undertaking heroic risks as they work to control the streets in growing numbers and with growing professionalism. In the past couple of months, the Ministry of the Interior established an operations center for all of Baghdad that effectively coordinates nonmilitary logistics movements throughout the capital -- a function previously only undertaken by a coalition contractor. From chaos has come order and in turn, step by step, the Iraqi military is becoming a truly national, not sectarian, force.I see no civil war between the Shias and Sunnis as I travel practically every day on the roads of Iraq with my Arab and Kurdish security team. The potential for renewed internecine warfare faded earlier this year, when al Qaeda failed to reignite the waning sectarian struggle the second time around with another attack on the Golden Mosque in Samarra.The perfect storm at the beginning of 2007 created the necessity of reconciliation. The Sunni Arabs who had used al Qaeda as leverage in the political struggle to re-establish their minority rule faced genocide in Baghdad from the Shia death squads. With pressure from the new Democratic majority in Congress, the Shia government of Nouri al-Maliki realized that time was running out for a dominant American presence in Iraq and finally allowed the U.S. military to clean up Sadr City, thus alleviating the death-squad activities.Both the Sunni and Shia Arab sides of the Iraqi political equation (the Kurds have sided with us from the beginning) now see that there is no alternative to American protection. As a result, Sadr's people and the Sunnis have both returned to parliament. As always, democracy is messy, but it is working. We have to be patient, particularly because this nascent reconciliation has left al Qaeda as the odd man out.Just as the rockets landing in the Green Zone are from a foreign source -- Iran -- the jihadis who destroy themselves in explosions aimed primarily at mass killings of Shia civilians are almost all foreigners. This is al Qaeda, not Iraq.Even more to the point: The Iraqis basically ignore the al Qaeda car bombs, mourn the dead and then go to work, to school, join and continue to serve in the military and police -- and life goes on. There is no terror if no one is terrorized.Let us, the American people, not be terrorized into retreating before our enemy -- al Qaeda -- just when they have begun to stand alone, stripped of allies, in a country beginning to enjoy the fruits of a democracy we have sacrificed much blood to help create.
19) Good news in Iraq, but not for Democrats http://www.boston.com/news/globe/editorial_opinion/oped/articles/2007/08/29/good_news_but_not_for_democrats?mode=PF
By Jeff Jacoby | August 29, 2007
IT'S A WAR, and it's the Middle East, so glad tidings can go sour and there are never any guarantees. But for all the caveats, the news from Iraq has been heartening. For months, observers have been crediting General David Petraeus's "surge" with remarkable progress on the ground. That message has come not only from longtime supporters of the war, but from some tough critics as well. Michael O'Hanlon and Kenneth Pollack, analysts at the left-leaning Brookings Institution, jolted Washington with their July 30 op-ed column, "A War We Just Might Win." Eleven days later, the German newsmagazine Der Spiegel, which had long pronounced the war a misbegotten disaster, radically revised its view. "The US military is more successful in Iraq than the world wants to believe," journalist Ullrich Fichtner reported. So much so that the outcome the Bush administration "erroneously predicted before their invasion -- that the troops would be greeted with candy and flowers -- could in fact still come true." More good news came just this week in a breakthrough announced by Iraq's top Shiite, Sunni, and Kurdish politicians. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, President Jalal Talabani, Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi, Vice President Adel Abdul-Mahdi, and the Kurdish regional president, Massoud Barzani, are joining forces on legislation to settle some of the thorniest issues bedeviling Iraqi politics, including a national oil policy, an easing of de-Baathification, and the release of certain detainees. For most Americans, positive developments in Iraq are very welcome. But good news is bad news for the Democratic left, where opposition to the war has become an emotional investment in defeat. House majority whip Jim Clyburn of South Carolina was asked by the Washington Post what Democrats would think if Petraeus reports next month that the war is going well. "That would be a real big problem for us," Clyburn candidly replied. The intensity of the left's determination to abandon Iraq was reflected in the reaction to a single line in Hillary Clinton's speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars last week. "We've begun to change tactics in Iraq," she said, referring to the surge, "and in some areas, particularly al-Anbar province, it's working." That mild comment instantly drew fire from Clinton's Democratic rivals. John Edwards's campaign manager, David Bonior, warned her against "undermining the effort in the Congress to end this war." New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, another presidential hopeful, piled on: "The surge is not working. I do not give President Bush the same credit on Iraq that Hillary does." When Barack Obama addressed the VFW one day later, he stuck to the defeatists' script. "Obama Sees a 'Complete Failure' in Iraq," The New York Times headlined its report on Aug. 22. Within 48 hours, Clinton was scurrying to toe the all-is-lost line once again: "The surge was designed to give the Iraqi government time to take steps to ensure a political solution. It has failed. . . . We need to . . . start getting out now." Since 2002, Clinton has been all over the lot on Iraq. She defended George W. Bush's claims on WMDs. She opposed setting a timetable for withdrawal. She voted yes on authorizing the war. She voted no on funding the troops. We likely haven't seen the last of her shape-shifting. Clinton is hardly the only presidential candidate prepared to say whatever it takes to get elected or to retreat under pressure from her party's hard-liners. But it is worth pointing out: There is a principled alternative. Representative Brian Baird of Washington, a liberal Democrat, has opposed the Iraq war from the outset. But having recently come to believe that the new military strategy is working and a premature US withdrawal would be disastrous, he is speaking out in support of staying the course. Naturally he is being denounced on the left; one influential blogger calls him "Dick Cheney's trained monkey." The heat is unpleasant. But Baird is standing his ground. That is what John F. Kennedy called a profile in courage, and it is troubling that there are no such profiles among the Democrats running for president this year. JFK was elected at a time when Americans could trust his party to confront international threats with resolve. That changed after Vietnam, where the Democratic left insisted on defeat and got its way, only to lose voters' trust on national security for a long time thereafter. Today the left insists on defeat in Iraq. It beats up any Democrat who strays off-message. It treats good news from the front as "a real big problem." Is that any way to win an election? In the short term, maybe. But we're in the midst of a long-term war -- one that Americans don't want to lose.
20) British withdrawal could lead to
a bloodbath, Iraq minister warns
The Times [London, UK], by Martin Fletcher Original Article
Posted By: Photoonist - 8/30/2007 1:09:20 AM Post Reply
Baghdad - Britain is a great power that must not ''run away''from its responsibilities in Iraq, the Iraqi Foreign Minister has told The Times. Criticising Britain’s recent ''lack of engagement'' in the southern city of Basra, Hoshyar Zebari has forecast catastrophic consequences if London and Washington decide prematurely to withdraw their troops from Iraq: a bloodbath as the country breaks up, neighbours sucked into a regional conflict, an oil crisis and a new terrorist haven far deadlier than Afghanistan.
21) Winning in Iraq August 28, 2007 -- BAGHDAD http://www.nypost.com/seven/08282007/postopinion/opedcolumnists/hes_a_fighter.htm?page=0
'AL Qaeda's worn out their welcome," Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno told The Post. Probably the tallest, and just maybe the toughest, man in Iraq, the Rockaway native also has a vigorous intellect at odds with the stereotype of generals. Even though he looks like he could've had a parallel career in the World Wrestling Federation. In a forthright interview with The Post yesterday, the commanding general of the Multinational Corps-Iraq - the man who leads the day-to-day fight in support of Gen. David Petraeus - noted that, while foreign terrorists remain a threat, al Qaeda's been wounded so deeply by the Sunni Arab shift against them that he now feels other issues take priority. "First, I worry about Shia extremism and Iranian interference, which is increasing. In the long term, Iraqis won't allow Iranians to take over their country - but, in the short term, I'm worried about Basra and the Port of Um Qasr." Odierno, whose limbs stretched out from a big, black-leather chair, folded his hands. "Second, I'm worried about the development of the government of Iraq. They have to solve their own problems - we can't solve them." The hands broke apart and one rose slightly, as if in warning. "The Shia have not yet recognized that they've actually won. . . They need to get past that and move toward reconciliation." The general notes that their parliamentary form of government is proving difficult for the Iraqis to operate, since it requires levels of cooperation not necessarily inherent in the culture. Blunt and brutally honest, he refuses to sugarcoat the problems he sees. STILL, Odierno describes himself as a "cautious optimist," noting that "I do see continued improvement in the Iraqi security forces, especially in the last eight or nine months - but we still need to support them. Ultimately, security here will depend upon our ability to train and develop the police." While the police are improving markedly in Sunni Arab and Kurdish areas and lagging among Shias, Odierno just thinks that will take time. "In Nasiriyah and Hilla, we already have good cops. In my mind, we can get there." Here in Baghdad, the surge has brought a halt to ethnic cleansing, and the police forces in both Sunni and Shia neighborhoods are growing in capability and confidence. But problems remain in the fault-line neighborhoods where Sunni and Shia still live intermingled. The general's working on the issue. Hard. And he believes we'll see progress there, too. ASKED about Muqtada al-Sadr, Odierno responded: "He's a figurehead . . . erratic in his behavior . . . unpredictable. . . but he's the individual who reaches out to the Shia nobody else reaches out to. The problem is that he's lost control of some parts of his movement, the Special Groups and others - many of whom are funded by Iran. "We need to separate those elements and kill or capture them - while working with those closer to the mainstream." As for the militias that have alternately plagued Iraq and protected the people along sectarian lines, the general is convinced that "we must deal with the militia problem. . . Wherever possible, they'll have to be integrated into the security forces." So what about Iran? "It's a difficult problem . . . it's important to have regional and international awareness of what they're doing." But the general feels that, before we take any cross-border military action, we need to think through the second- and third-order effects. He'd much prefer a diplomatic solution - if possible. As the commander of the 4th Infantry Division during Operation Iraqi Freedom and in the initial year of the occupation - the year of missed opportunities - Odierno was criticized savagely by those who believed that you could hug and kiss terrorists into abiding friendship. His division took a hard line on providing security to the people - one that, in retrospect, has been fully vindicated. The Sunni Arabs needed to know that they'd been defeated, that we were the ones in the position of strength, before a durable peace could be built. NOW the Marine successes-after-the- showdown in Anbar have proven that Odierno was right and his detractors fatally wrong. Tragically, the security situation in the sector his division had covered was allowed to deteriorate after he left and a "softer touch" was mandated. Clearly troubled by the opportunities we squandered, the general shook his head. "When I left in 2004, I could walk down the street in Tikrit or Baquba, in Kirkuk and Samarra. When I came back in 2005, I couldn't." But he doesn't believe in cookie-cutter solutions. "Every part of Iraq is different. You need different solutions." Even in different parts of one city, varied approaches may be required. Syria? "There are some signs that Syria's doing a bit more to stem the flow of foreign fighters into Iraq, but their efforts are off and on. The airport in Damascus remains a major conduit for terrorists. The Syrians clearly still believe that instability in Iraq is to their benefit." WHAT would be Gen. Odierno's ideal scenario for the future of Iraq? "A country whose leaders are representative of the people and a government that provides security for all of its people. A state that's a responsible regional actor and a partner for the U.S. in the fight against terrorists." Toward the end of the lengthy interview, I asked the general if he had any personal heroes. He nodded slowly. "George Marshall, because he always did what was right for the country and never let personal ambition affect his actions . . . and Gen. Eric Shinseki, who's one of the most honorable men I've ever met." Looking back over a long, successful career, he added, "And my father, because of his family values and his love of country." The general also admires his son, who was severely wounded in Iraq (and who's making a strong recovery while living and working in Manhattan). ASKED what message he wished to send to the American people, Odierno took the time to form his response precisely: "There are millions of people in Iraq who have sacrificed in the hope that the United States will finish its work here. We should never forget that." During the grip-and-grin pleasantries at the close of the interview, I told the general that anybody from Rockaway should read The Post. He laughed - and said he reads it online regularly.
22) Iraq Report: Battling in the Belts http://www.weeklystandard.com/weblogs/TWSFP/2007/08/iraq_report_battling_in_the_be.asp
As U.S. and Iraqi Security Forces continue to push out into the Belts surrounding Baghdad, al Qaeda and insurgent groups are attempting to push back. Two significant attacks occurred in Salahadin and Diyala province, while U.S. and Iraqi forces press the raids on al Qaeda's network and the Iranian-backed Shia terror cells.
Southern Salahadin province, the region just north of Baghdad, remains a hot spot for al Qaeda and the insurgency. While reports last week of a massed al Qaeda attacks on Iraqi police stations in Samarra turned out to be false, about 30 al Qaeda fighters did attempt an attack in the city on August 27. U.S. and Iraqi forces successfully repelled the attack, and killing 12 and captured 14 enemy fighters in the process. Two U.S. soldiers and two Iraqi civilians were killed during the fighting.
In Tikrit, the Iraqi Army captured "the leader of a network of terrorist cells linked to the former regime of Saddam Hussein," and his daughter, Raghid Hussein. Raghid finances the insurgent network while in exile in Jordan. Interpol issued an arrest warrant for Raghid on August 17, and for her role in financing the Iraqi insurgency, she has been placed on the list of America's 41 most wanted. Iraqi Army Scouts also captured a cell leader responsible for several assassination attempts, including the 2004 assassination of the governor of Ninewa province.
U.S. and Iraqi forces maintain the pressure in Diyala province after successive U.S. and Iraqi offensives in Baqubah and the northern Diyala River Valley cleared al Qaeda from the region. The latest operation occurred in Khalis, where a joint U.S. and Iraqi Army air assault resulted in 33 al Qaeda operatives killed and three captured during a series of firefights and helicopter strikes in the city. Voices of Iraq reported that the bodies of an additional 11 al Qaeda fighters were found after the operation.
As U.S. and Iraqi forces operate in Baqubah and the north, al Qaeda in Iraq has struck in the south and east. Al Qaeda operatives dressed as Iraqi soldiers set up fake checkpoints and kidnapped nine civilians in Muqdadiyah. The government has imposed an indefinite curfew in the district while implementing a "new security plan." The city has been hit with a string of suicide attacks and assassinations.
Al Qaeda and Special Groups
The special operations forces raids against al Qaeda's network continue and a significant number of al Qaeda operatives are being killed in the latest round. Eight al Qaeda operatives were killed and 11 captured during raids in Kirkuk, Tikrit, and Baghdad on August 28. Nineteen al Qaeda were killed and 22 captured during raids in Baghdad, Salman Pak, Kirkuk, Ba’ajah, Muqdadiyah, Hawija, and Taji on August 26 and 27. A suicide bomber coordinator, a cell in the Arab Jabour region, an administrative emir, and a foreign terrorist facilitator were among those killed or captured. On August 25, U.S. and Iraqi forces killed three al Qaeda operatives and captured eight during raids in Husaybah, Kut, and Baghdad. The raids against Iran's proxy terror groups continue as well. On August 27, Coalition forces captured eight members of the Iranian-backed special groups terror cells during a raid Baghdad's Sadr City. The main target of the raid, a "Special Groups senior level facilitator with possible Iranian connections," was captured along with seven suspected cell members. On August 28, Iraqi and US forces captured a weapons distributor who is connected to the special groups network and who has "direct ties to other senior commanders in militias operating in and around Baghdad."
23) SENATOR WARNER'S BAD WITHDRAWAL SYMPTOMS http://www.nypost.com/seven/08252007/postopinion/opedcolumnists/senator_warners_bad_withdrawal.htm?page=0
August 25, 2007 -- FALLUJAH, Iraq - Sen. John Warner (R-Va.) is one of the great states men of our time, a man of integrity and devotion to our country. He's never been a mere politician - the sort who regard a visit to our troops as a campaign photo op. But this time he's wrong. The senator's appeal to President Bush to announce U.S. troop withdrawals reflects the frustration we all feel with the inept, craven and destructive government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Maliki has been the wrong man in the wrong job at the wrong time, and Bush needs to suck it up and accept that much. But Sen. Warner is only looking at part of the picture - what I'd call the "Green Zone view." He's got target-lock on the Baghdad government's failings, and, a titan of government himself, he can't get beyond the perfidy, greed and sectarian viciousness of Iraq's politicians. But the future of Iraq's government is, frankly, less than half of the equation at this point. Whatever may have been the situation is 2003, today Iraq is the main front in the war against Islamist terror and fanaticism. Our enemies have made it so. Of the two simultaneous missions under way - maturing a responsible government and advancing our own strategic interests - the latter is far more important. In fact, it's vital. And on that track, we're making stunning progress. Out here in Anbar Province, al Qaeda did what religion-driven extremists always do eventually - they over-reached, setting the bar so high that nonfanatics couldn't measure up (nor did they want to). The terrorists responded with a campaign of slaughter against their fellow Muslims. Now the Sunni Arabs who were fighting so bitterly against us are fighting beside us to destroy al Qaeda in Iraq. And the terrorists are going down. Out here in Anbar Province - long the most troubled in Iraq - the change has come so swiftly and thoroughly that it's dazzling. Marines who were under fire routinely just months ago are now directing their former enemies in battle. Although this trend has been reported, our battlefield leaders here agree that the magnitude of the shift hasn't registered back home: Al Qaeda is on the verge of a humiliating, devastating strategic defeat - rejected by their fellow Sunni Muslims.
If we don't quit, this will not only be a huge practical win - it'll be the information victory we've been aching for. No matter what the Middle Eastern media might say, everyone in the Arab and greater Sunni Muslim world will know that al Qaeda was driven out of Iraq by a combination of Muslims and Americans. Think that would help al Qaeda's recruitment efforts? Even now, the terrorists have to resort to lies about their prospective missions to gain recruits. With the sixth anniversary of 9/11 approaching, how dare we throw away so great a potential victory over those who attacked our country? Forget the anti-war nonsense you hear. The truth is that our troops want to continue this struggle. I know. I'm here. And I'm listening to what they have to say. They're confident as never before that we're on the right path. Should we rob them of their victory now and enhance al Qaeda by giving them a free win? How can we even contemplate quitting now? I've been sitting down with Iraqis, too - including former enemies. They don't want us to leave. They finally cracked the code. They need us. And although they've got a range of their own goals (not all of them tending toward Jeffersonian democracy), they're unified in their hatred of al Qaeda.
Yesterday I listened as an American officer sought to restrain Iraqi security forces from attacking one of al Qaeda's last strongholds prematurely - the local rage toward al Qaeda goes deeper than any column could communicate. If our former enemies are willing to kill our enduring enemies, why abandon them? And it isn't just about al Qaeda, either. This conflict's now about keeping Iran from achieving hegemony over the Persian Gulf and its oil reserves - and preventing Tehran's extremist policy from tearing the Middle East apart. The Maliki government sucks, but, brother, it's still better than an Iranian proxy in Baghdad would be for our security. Sen. Warner cares about our country and our troops. But the security of our country and the progress of our troops would both be compromised fatefully were we to announce that we're pulling out of Iraq.
24 ) Marriages split al Qaeda alliance
August 31, 2007 By David R. Sands - Iraq's Sunni tribes began turning against al Qaeda when the largely foreign-run terrorist organization tried to arrange forced marriages with local women to secure their foothold in the country, according to a top counterterrorism adviser to the U.S. coalition in Iraq. Australian Col. David Kilcullen, who just completed a tour as senior counterinsurgency aide to U.S. commander Gen. David H. Petraeus in Baghdad, said in an extensive analysis that the decision by the Sunni tribes to break with al Qaeda could prove a major — if unanticipated — boost to President Bush's surge strategy in the country. "The uprising represents very significant political progress toward reconciliation at the grass-roots level, and major security progress in marginalizing extremists and reducing civilian deaths," Col. Kilcullen wrote Wednesday in the military blog Small Wars Journal (http://smallwarsjournal.com/blog). With an estimated 30,000 Sunni fighters in Iraq now battling their former al Qaeda allies, "the tribal revolt is arguably the most significant change in the Iraqi operating environment for several years," he added in his entry titled "Anatomy of a Tribal Revolt." Mr. Bush has talked repeatedly about the improving security situation in Anbar province and other Sunni strongholds, saying the shift enhances the prospect for both security and political gains from the military surge. "The momentum is now on our side," Mr. Bush said this week in a speech to the American Legion national convention in Reno, Nev. "The surge is seizing the initiative from the enemy and handing it to the Iraqi people." But critics in Congress and in the antiwar movement warn that the Sunni shift may be temporary, and could create its own problems for the embattled government in Baghdad. Brian Katulis, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, said yesterday the apparent decline of violence in some Iraqi communities could just be the result of sectarian cleansing that has driven Iraqi Sunnis and Shi'ites out of formerly mixed communities. War critics have also challenged administration assertions that sectarian killings have gone down in recent months. "For the last nine months, the surge has really failed to do anything the president said it would do," Mr. Katulis said. The U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff are scheduled to meet with Mr. Bush today to give their assessment of the progress of the Iraq war, the Pentagon said yesterday, two weeks ahead of a crucial progress report to be delivered by the White House to Congress. Col. Kilcullen, writing for a small but influential military readership at the Web site, provides a level of detail about the Sunni tribal dynamic not previously laid out by U.S. military officials, and discusses the major pros and cons of the shifting security landscape. The Australian colonel said that the Iraqi government's own intelligence services picked up on the break between Iraqi Sunni insurgents and al Qaeda long before the U.S.-led coalition did, as it was developing in Anbar and other provinces over the past two years. The tactic of forced political marriages was standard for al Qaeda, according to Col. Kilcullen, used successfully in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Somalia and elsewhere to "embed" the international terrorist network in the local kinship and tribal network. But in Iraq, he wrote, "the tactic seemed to have backfired," in part because the radical Islamist movement failed to appreciate Iraq's brand of Islam.
Forced marriages outside the tribe have never been culturally accepted in traditional Iraqi society, and tribal leaders resisted demands for such marriages. Al Qaeda operatives responded by demanding — often violently — such marriages, killing one sheik and brutally murdering the children of another. "[Al Qaeda], with their hyper-reductionist version of 'Islam' stripped of cultural content, discounted the tribes' view as ignorant, stupid and sinful," the colonel writes. The Sunni revolt was fueled by other factors. Al Qaeda terrorist strikes disrupted long-established smuggling and trade routes. Sunni tribal leaders also suspect al Qaeda has established ties to Shi'ite Iran in a bid to defeat the United States in Iraq. The Sunni "awakening" now includes major tribes in Anbar, Diyala, Salah-ad-din and even parts of urban Baghdad, where tribal identities still linger among the urban population. The colonel noted that the Sunni revolt was not sparked by the U.S. military surge, and poses clear risks to the overall U.S. strategy. Among them: the creation of armed Sunni groups not under the full control of the central government; the opposition of some Shi'ite factions within the government and national police to working with Sunni tribes; and the "outside chance" that Sunni tribes that have "flipped" against al Qaeda could "flip back" if they see the central government as hostile. Col. Kilcullen said the major shift on the ground in Iraq may also be ignored in the mounting debate in Washington over Mr. Bush's surge strategy, which was a top-down plan aimed at giving Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and leading Iraqi factions in the Green Zone time and space to make deals. "To be perfectly honest, the pattern we are seeing runs somewhat counter to what we expected in the 'surge,' " he acknowledged, "and therefore lies well outside the 'benchmarks' " for progress that are at the heart of the war debate between the White House and Congress.
25) Twelve Al Qaeda Terrorists killed outside Fallujah
Baghdad, Aug 31, (VOI) – U.S. forces in Falluja killed 12 members of al-Qaeda Organization in Iraq and destroyed two vehicles on Wednesday, the U.S. army said on Friday.“Marines from Regimental Combat Team 6 observed and engaged an armed group of al-Qaeda in Iraq terrorists, killing 12 and destroying two vehicles near the town of Karmah Aug. 29,” according to a U.S. army statement received by the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI).“A group of three men was seen loading objects into a cargo truck from a nearby growth of weeds, 11 kilometers northeast of Fallujah, in an area known to be a historical weapons cache site. A second group of four men arrived in another bongo truck, followed by a third group of six men on foot through the reeds.”
“A team of Marines was dispatched to better observe the scene and a third cargo truck carrying three men waving weapons and wearing ski masks approached the group a few moments later,” the statement added.“The Marines called for air support and a section of AV-8B Harrier jets dropped two precision-guided bombs, destroying the initial two cargo trucks. Marines called for artillery fire on the dismounted enemy personnel immediately following the air attack,” according to the U.S. statement.“Twelve members of al-Qaeda were found dead upon investigation of the scene…Numerous weapons and roadside bomb making materials were also found.All unexploded ordnance was removed from the scene and transported to a Coalition base for investigation and disposal.”