Saturday, November 04, 2006

Air force officers held for attempt to murder Musharraf with rockets

Telegraph | News | Air force officers held for attempt to murder Musharraf with rockets: "A cabal of Pakistani military officials with access to President Pervez Musharraf's innermost security circle has been arrested after trying to assassinate him in a rocket attack.

The strike, aimed at the president's high-security personal residence-office in Rawalpindi, took place shortly after he returned from Britain and the US in late September."

Although the president was not hurt, the attempt demonstrates the political instability engulfing his nation, which was heightened last week by his government's bombing of a madrassa in north-west Pakistan killing 80 suspected militants.

With hardline religious parties orchestrating strikes and demonstrations, fears are growing that Gen Musharraf's opponents may make further attempts to remove him by force, creating a power vacuum in the Islamic world's only nuclear-armed state.

According to Pakistani intelligence sources, about 50 people are being held on suspicion of involvement in the September attack, which involved a battery of Russian-made 107 mm projectiles launched by a signal from a mobile phone. Alarmingly, many are understood to be young officers serving in the Pakistani Air Force, some of whom have access to high-security zones of the presidential offices, parliament and the intelligence service.

Although interrogations have not revealed any of them to have links with al-Qaeda or the Taliban, they are none the less believed to have acted out of growing anger at Gen Musharraf's alliance with America in its war on terror.

One official said that while the rocket strike itself had been relatively amateurish, it would have probably been lethal had the plotters been assisted beforehand by an Islamic terrorist group.

Al-Qaeda has succeeded in indoctrinating young air force officers before. Two were hanged for their role in planting a 500lb bomb in 2003 blowing up a bridge that Gen Musharraf's convoy was travelling over. He only escaped with his life because electronic jamming equipment on his car delayed the blast.

A rattled Gen Musharraf has called a meeting with his closest confidants this week to review personal security.

While he relies on the armed forces to keep him in power, loyalty among the military's lower tiers has become increasingly in doubt because of the perception that he has "sold out" Pakistan to the US and its western allies.

Publicly, officials close to the president deny that he faces any challenge from within the forces.

But privately they now admit that the personal threat against him is becoming "heavier and heavier", and are predicting serious fall-out from Monday's helicopter strike at the madrassa in the village of Chinagai, 100 miles north of -Peshawar.

The Pakistani army said the madrassa was an al-Qaeda-linked school, used to train insurgents fighting across the border in Afghanistan.

It was allegedly run by Liaquat Hussain, a fugitive cleric who was a purported associate of al-Qaeda's second in command leader Ayman al-Zawahiri. Residents and local religious parties, however, claim the victims were either innocent Islamic students or teachers. They say that the strike was carried out at the direction of the US military, a claim denied by both Pakistan and Washington.

The madrassa was in the Bajaur province, a tribal area where local religious parties openly support the Taliban. Local leaders have already pledged to carry out suicide attacks to "avenge" the killing of "innocent people".

"The elimination of Musharraf is a must to restore peace," declared Maulana Faqir Muhammad, a pro-Taliban militant commander, as a crowd carrying guns and chanting, "Death to Musharraf, death to Bush" protested in the Khar area of Bajaur last week. He described Gen Musharraf as an "American agent" who, he said, was "killing innocent people at the US behest".

At a funeral of people killed in the strike, another cleric, Maulana Inayat-ur-Rehman, told 15,000 armed protesters that he had prepared a "squad of suicide bombers" to target Pakistani security forces in the same way that terrorists were attacking Americans in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Gen Musharraf has been on a hit list for Pakistan's Islamic militants ever since he sided with America in the wake of the September 11 attacks.

Although he often claims that "he is not an easy target", he wrote in his recently published memoirs In the Line of Fire: "I only pray that I have more than the proverbial nine lives of the cat."
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U.S. speeds attack plans for North Korea - Nation/Politics

U.S. speeds attack plans for North Korea - Nation/Politics - The Washington Times, America's Newspaper: "The Pentagon has stepped up planning for attacks against North Korea's nuclear program and is bolstering nuclear forces in Asia, said defense officials familiar with the highly secret process."

The officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the accelerated military planning includes detailed programs for striking a North Korean plutonium-reprocessing facility at Yongbyon with special operations commando raids or strikes with Tomahawk cruise missiles or other precision-guided weapons.
The effort, which had been under way for several months, was given new impetus by Pyongyang's underground nuclear test Oct. 9 and growing opposition to the nuclear program of Kim Jong-il's communist regime, especially by China and South Korea.

A Pentagon official said the Department of Defense is considering "various military options" to remove the program.

"Other than nuclear strikes, which are considered excessive, there are several options now in place. Planning has been accelerated," the official said. A second, senior defense official privy to the effort said the Bush administration recently affirmed its commitment to both South Korea and Japan that it would use U.S. nuclear weapons to deter North Korea, now considered an unofficial nuclear weapon state.

"We will resort to whatever force levels we need to have, to defend the Republic of Korea. That nuclear deterrence is in place," said the senior official, who declined to reveal what nuclear forces are deployed in Asia.

Other officials said the forces include bombs and air-launched missiles stored at Guam, a U.S. island in the western Pacific, that could be delivered by B-52 or B-2 bombers. Nine U.S. nuclear-missile submarines regularly deploy to Asian waters from Washington state.

The officials said one military option calls for teams of Navy SEALs or other special operations commandos to conduct covert raids on Yongbyon's plutonium-reprocessing facility.

The commandos would blow up the facility to prevent further reprocessing of the spent fuel rods, which provides the material for developing nuclear weapons.

A second option calls for strikes by precision-guided Tomahawk missiles on the reprocessing plant from submarines or ships. The plan calls for simultaneous strikes from various sides to minimize any radioactive particles being carried away in the air.

Planners estimate that six Tomahawks could destroy the reprocessing plant and that it would take five to 10 years to rebuild.

Asked about the strike planning, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said the U.S. government is seeking a "peaceful, diplomatic solution" to the threat posed by North Korea.

Regarding any military options, Mr. Whitman said, "The U.S. military is prepared and capable of carrying out all of its assigned missions."

The planning does not mean that the United States will attack, only that military forces are ready to do so if President Bush orders strikes. Concerned about threats from rogue states such as North Korea, Mr. Bush called for a ballistic missile defense system, parts of which are operational.

Defense officials said a key factor in the ramped-up planning effort is China's new attitude toward North Korea. Beijing's leaders, upset that North Korea conducted the test, supported a U.S.-led United Nations' resolution.

Chinese opposition to military action had limited defense planning, the officials said. In the past, U.S. military plans required warning Beijing, a move considered likely to compromise any planned action because of the close military ties between China and North Korea.

The Bush administration regards the new level of Chinese support as a "green light" for more aggressive military planning.

U.S. officials think North Korea will conduct another underground test soon because Pyongyang is demanding to be recognized as a declared nuclear power. Both China and the U.S. gauged the test as only partially successful.

The Yongbyon plant, 32 miles from the coast and a half-mile from a river, is considered a key target because U.S. intelligence agencies suspect that it is where the plutonium fuel used in the Oct. 9 test was produced.

Defense planners also said equipment destroyed at Yongbyon would be difficult to replace once newly approved U.N. sanctions are in place. Another set of targets could be the nuclear test site near Kilchu, in northeastern North Korea. That site includes several research and testing-control facilities in the mountains -- and possibly one more tunnel where a nuclear device could be set off, the officials said.

Recent intelligence reports also provided new information about Pyongyang's uranium-enrichment program, which remains hidden in underground facilities in northern North Korea, the officials said.

The U.S. Special Operations Command has been planning raids against North Korean nuclear facilities for some time. It has conducted training for joint operations with South Korean special forces as well as unilateral U.S. operations.

U.S. Pacific Command spokesman Capt. Jeff Alderson declined to comment on military planning but said the command is continuing to shift forces to the Pacific and has four missile-defense ships deployed in Japan.

Mr. Bush said recently that any transfer of nuclear weapons by North Korea would be a "grave threat," phrasing viewed as diplomatic code for a military response. Defense officials said the military option will be used if North Korea is caught transferring nuclear arms to other states or terrorist groups.

[bth: when Gertz publishes a story like this its usually because the Pentagon wants it leaked. Why and why now?]
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U.S. Military Adopts Desperate Tactics

News & Analysis: U.S. Military Adopts Desperate Tactics: "FALLUJAH (IPS) - Increased violence is being countered by harsh new measures across the Sunni-dominated al-Anabar province west of Baghdad, residents say."

"Thousands have been killed here by the Multi-National Forces (MNF) and Iraqi allies, and the situation is getting worse every day," a member of the Fallujah city council speaking on condition of anonymity told IPS.

"We have no role to play because the Americans always prefer violent solutions that have led from one disaster to another."

The violence appears to be affecting the civilian population far more than it is stifling the resistance.

The suffering of people in Fallujah increases by the day, and the number of resistance snipers appears to be increasing in response to the U.S. use of snipers against civilians."In fact it is many more snipers now, considering the number of incidents that have taken place," Sebri Ahmed from the local police told IPS.

"Our men are terrified, and the majority of them have quit after serious threats of getting killed, like our three main leaders."

General Hudhairi Abbas, former deputy police chief of Fallujah was killed two months ago. Colonel Ahmed Dirii was killed soon after, and last week the police leader of al-Anbar, General Shaaban al-Janabi, was assassinated in front of his family house in Fallujah.

There are now no police patrols on the streets of Fallujah, and the only policemen around remain inside their main station."How come those three Fallujan born officers were killed while the Fallujah police leader General Salah Aati was hiding behind concrete barriers," a police officer said.

Aati lives in the green zone of Baghdad, a highly barricaded government area.Meanwhile, attacks against occupation forces have increased in frequency and severity. On Eid recently, four U.S. Humvees in a convoy were destroyed by roadside bombs.The military responded by closing all the checkpoints in the city.

Thousands had to spend the night, the first of the holidays, outside of the city. The main roads inside the city were also closed."

Four firemen were killed by the U.S. army because they were late to get to the four burning hummers," a young man who witnessed the attack told IPS.

"They were not killed by mistake, they were killed in front of many people."

The U.S. military has admitted that it killed three firemen by mistake because they were suspected to be militants.

Hundreds of residents later attended the burial of the firemen together with five other men killed by occupation forces the same day."

The Americans brought five dead civilians whom they shot in the city streets in revenge for their casualties," a man at the former football field now called Martyrs Graveyard told IPS.

"We are going to need another graveyard, this one is going to be full soon." All semblance of normal living in the province is disappearing. Saif al-Juboori, a student at the University of al-Anbar in Ramadi says this will be a wasted year for thousands of students."The whole university is now under siege, and there is a checkpoint at the main gate," Juboori told IPS.

"The students or teachers who approach must lift their shirts from 50 metres away and listen to nasty comments of arrogant soldiers who give body checks before admitting people in. Most will no longer accept such humiliation, and so there will be no college this year."Ramadi has been facing electricity and water cuts for about two weeks now.

Most residents believe this is punishment for the popular support for Iraqi resistance.

"We would rather starve to death than accept this occupation and its Iranian allies," a 20-year-old student told IPS. "We will not let the blood of our brother martyrs go unpunished."

Despite the punishing tactics of the occupation forces, people appear unwilling to cooperate with local officials or the U.S. military against local fighters."

Iraqis believe firmly that U.S. ambassador (Zalmay) Khalilzad is the actual ruler of the occupied country despite the repeated comedy of transfers of sovereignty to Iyad Allawi, Ibrahim al-Jaafari and now Noori al-Maliki's governments," a senior leader of the Arab National Movement in Iraq, speaking on condition of anonymity, told IPS.

"Yet, that does not mean that the U.S. embassy has real control, as long as there are resistance fighters who are firmly holding the Iraqi streets in Sunni areas, and militias with their death squads controlling the rest of the country as well as the huge oil market." Resistance fighters recently came out to show their strength in Ramadi, the capital city of al-Anbar province. Dozens of cars loaded with armed men went around the city.

Immediately after that, power and water supply were cut, and raids carried out in civilian areas. Several were killed by U.S. snipers, residents said.

The police did nothing, they have a hard time protecting themselves. Gunmen have attacked Iraqi police stations in Samarra, Beji and Mosul."We are back to point zero," a senior officer in the Ministry of Interior told IPS. "Our forces are either loyal to militias and political parties or too powerless to do their duties."

"Every one who fights the American occupation has our full support," Yassin Hussein, a 30-year-old teacher in Ramadi told IPS.

"They lied to us all the time, and it is time for them to admit their terrible failure and leave. Let them go rebuild New Orleans."

Hussein said resistance fighters are the only force able to keep local peace and keep criminal gangs in check. "The Americans are too busy trying to take care of their own security to care about Iraqis."
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Neo Culpa: Politics & Power:

Neo Culpa: Politics & Power: "I remember sitting with Richard Perle in his suite at London's Grosvenor House hotel and receiving a private lecture on the importance of securing victory in Iraq. 'Iraq is a very good candidate for democratic reform,' he said. 'It won't be Westminster overnight, but the great democracies of the world didn't achieve the full, rich structure of democratic governance overnight. The Iraqis have a decent chance of succeeding.' Perle seemed to exude the scent of liberation, as well as a whiff of gunpowder. It was February 2003, and Operation Iraqi Freedom, the culmination of his long campaign on behalf of regime change in Iraq, was less than a month away. "

Three years later, Perle and I meet again at his home outside Washington, D.C. It is October, the worst month for U.S. casualties in Iraq in almost two years, and Republicans are bracing for losses in the upcoming midterm elections. As he looks into my eyes, speaking slowly and with obvious deliberation, Perle is unrecognizable as the confident hawk who, as chairman of the Pentagon's Defense Policy Board Advisory Committee, had invited the exiled Iraqi dissident Ahmad Chalabi to its first meeting after 9/11. "The levels of brutality that we've seen are truly horrifying, and I have to say, I underestimated the depravity," Perle says now, adding that total defeat—an American withdrawal that leaves Iraq as an anarchic "failed state"—is not yet inevitable but is becoming more likely. "And then," says Perle, "you'll get all the mayhem that the world is capable of creating."

According to Perle, who left the Defense Policy Board in 2004, this unfolding catastrophe has a central cause: devastating dysfunction within the administration of President George W. Bush. Perle says, "The decisions did not get made that should have been. They didn't get made in a timely fashion, and the differences were argued out endlessly.… At the end of the day, you have to hold the president responsible.… I don't think he realized the extent of the opposition within his own administration, and the disloyalty."

Perle goes so far as to say that, if he had his time over, he would not have advocated an invasion of Iraq: "I think if I had been delphic, and had seen where we are today, and people had said, 'Should we go into Iraq?,' I think now I probably would have said, 'No, let's consider other strategies for dealing with the thing that concerns us most, which is Saddam supplying weapons of mass destruction to terrorists.' … I don't say that because I no longer believe that Saddam had the capability to produce weapons of mass destruction, or that he was not in contact with terrorists. I believe those two premises were both correct. Could we have managed that threat by means other than a direct military intervention? Well, maybe we could have."

Having spoken with Perle, I wonder: What do the rest of the pro-war neoconservatives think? If the much caricatured "Prince of Darkness" is now plagued with doubt, how do his comrades-in-arms feel? I am particularly interested in finding out because I interviewed many neocons before the invasion and, like many people, found much to admire in their vision of spreading democracy in the Middle East.
I expect to encounter disappointment. What I find instead is despair, and fury at the incompetence of the Bush administration the neoconservatives once saw as their brightest hope.

To David Frum, the former White House speechwriter who co-wrote Bush's 2002 State of the Union address that accused Iraq of being part of an "axis of evil," it now looks as if defeat may be inescapable, because "the insurgency has proven it can kill anyone who cooperates, and the United States and its friends have failed to prove that it can protect them." This situation, he says, must ultimately be blamed on "failure at the center"—starting with President Bush.

Kenneth Adelman, a lifelong neocon activist and Pentagon insider who served on the Defense Policy Board until 2005, wrote a famous op-ed article in The Washington Post in February 2002, arguing: "I believe demolishing Hussein's military power and liberating Iraq would be a cakewalk." Now he says, "I just presumed that what I considered to be the most competent national-security team since Truman was indeed going to be competent. They turned out to be among the most incompetent teams in the post-war era. Not only did each of them, individually, have enormous flaws, but together they were deadly, dysfunctional."

Fearing that worse is still to come, Adelman believes that neoconservatism itself—what he defines as "the idea of a tough foreign policy on behalf of morality, the idea of using our power for moral good in the world"—is dead, at least for a generation. After Iraq, he says, "it's not going to sell." And if he, too, had his time over, Adelman says, "I would write an article that would be skeptical over whether there would be a performance that would be good enough to implement our policy. The policy can be absolutely right, and noble, beneficial, but if you can't execute it, it's useless, just useless. I guess that's what I would have said: that Bush's arguments are absolutely right, but you know what, you just have to put them in the drawer marked can't do. And that's very different from let's go."

I spend the better part of two weeks in conversations with some of the most respected voices among the neoconservative elite. What I discover is that none of them is optimistic. All of them have regrets, not only about what has happened but also, in many cases, about the roles they played. Their dismay extends beyond the tactical issues of whether America did right or wrong, to the underlying question of whether exporting democracy is something America knows how to do.

I will present my findings in full in the January issue of Vanity Fair, which will reach newsstands in New York and L.A. on December 6 and nationally by December 12. In the meantime, here is a brief survey of some of what I heard from the war's remorseful proponents.

Richard Perle: "In the administration that I served [Perle was an assistant secretary of defense under Ronald Reagan], there was a one-sentence description of the decision-making process when consensus could not be reached among disputatious departments: 'The president makes the decision.' [Bush] did not make decisions, in part because the machinery of government that he nominally ran was actually running him. The National Security Council was not serving [Bush] properly. He regarded [then National-Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice] as part of the family."

Michael Ledeen, American Enterprise Institute freedom scholar: "Ask yourself who the most powerful people in the White House are. They are women who are in love with the president: Laura [Bush], Condi, Harriet Miers, and Karen Hughes."

Frank Gaffney, an assistant secretary of defense under Ronald Reagan and founder of the Center for Security Policy: "[Bush] doesn't in fact seem to be a man of principle who's steadfastly pursuing what he thinks is the right course. He talks about it, but the policy doesn't track with the rhetoric, and that's what creates the incoherence that causes us problems around the world and at home. It also creates the sense that you can take him on with impunity."

Kenneth Adelman: "The most dispiriting and awful moment of the whole administration was the day that Bush gave the Presidential Medal of Freedom to [former C.I.A. director] George Tenet, General Tommy Franks, and [Coalition Provisional Authority chief] Jerry [Paul] Bremer—three of the most incompetent people who've ever served in such key spots. And they get the highest civilian honor a president can bestow on anyone! That was the day I checked out of this administration. It was then I thought, There's no seriousness here, these are not serious people. If he had been serious, the president would have realized that those three are each directly responsible for the disaster of Iraq."

David Frum: "I always believed as a speechwriter that if you could persuade the president to commit himself to certain words, he would feel himself committed to the ideas that underlay those words. And the big shock to me has been that although the president said the words, he just did not absorb the ideas. And that is the root of, maybe, everything."

Michael Rubin, former Pentagon Office of Special Plans and Coalition Provisional Authority staffer: "Where I most blame George Bush is that through his rhetoric people trusted him, people believed him. Reformists came out of the woodwork and exposed themselves." By failing to match his rhetoric with action, Rubin adds, Bush has betrayed Iraqi reformers in a way that is "not much different from what his father did on February 15, 1991, when he called the Iraqi people to rise up, and then had second thoughts and didn't do anything once they did."

Richard Perle: "Huge mistakes were made, and I want to be very clear on this: They were not made by neoconservatives, who had almost no voice in what happened, and certainly almost no voice in what happened after the downfall of the regime in Baghdad. I'm getting damn tired of being described as an architect of the war. I was in favor of bringing down Saddam. Nobody said, 'Go design the campaign to do that.' I had no responsibility for that."

Kenneth Adelman: "The problem here is not a selling job. The problem is a performance job.… Rumsfeld has said that the war could never be lost in Iraq, it could only be lost in Washington. I don't think that's true at all. We're losing in Iraq.… I've worked with [Rumsfeld] three times in my life. I've been to each of his houses, in Chicago, Taos, Santa Fe, Santo Domingo, and Las Vegas. I'm very, very fond of him, but I'm crushed by his performance. Did he change, or were we wrong in the past? Or is it that he was never really challenged before? I don't know. He certainly fooled me."

Eliot Cohen, director of the strategic-studies program at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and member of the Defense Policy Board: "I wouldn't be surprised if what we end up drifting toward is some sort of withdrawal on some sort of timetable and leaving the place in a pretty ghastly mess.… I do think it's going to end up encouraging various strands of Islamism, both Shia and Sunni, and probably will bring de-stabilization of some regimes of a more traditional kind, which already have their problems.… The best news is that the United States remains a healthy, vibrant, vigorous society. So in a real pinch, we can still pull ourselves together. Unfortunately, it will probably take another big hit. And a very different quality of leadership. Maybe we'll get it."

[bth: these little shit birds were so pleased with themselves for talking us into war and now they are running around blaming others so they will escape blame themselves. We should strap their fat asses to the hood of a humvee and use them as ballistic protection at least that way they could make a positive contribution to the war effort and protect those Americans who they put in harms way.]
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Iraq cancels leave before Saddam verdict

Iraq cancels leave before Saddam verdict - Yahoo! News: "BAGHDAD, Iraq - Iraq canceled leave Friday for all military officers two days before an expected verdict — and possible death sentence — in the trial of Saddam Hussein. For the second time this week, a top Bush administration official huddled with the Iraqi prime minister. "...
 Posted by Picasa An Abu Ghraib Offender's Return to Iraq Is Stopped An Abu Ghraib Offender's Return to Iraq Is Stopped -- Page 1: "After TIME reports that a military dog handler, convicted for his role in the prisoner abuse scandal, has been ordered to return to Iraq, the Pentagon decides to bring him back to the U.S."...

[bth: you've just got to wonder where the commonsense is. Who thought it was a good idea to return him in the first place?]

Sniper Attacks Adding to Peril of U.S. Troops

Sniper Attacks Adding to Peril of U.S. Troops - New York Times: "KARMA, Iraq, Nov. 3 — The bullet passed through Lance Cpl. Juan Valdez-Castillo as his Marine patrol moved down a muddy urban lane. It was a single shot. The lance corporal fell against a wall, tried to stand and fell again. "

His squad leader, Sgt. Jesse E. Leach, faced where the shot had come from, raised his rifle and grenade launcher and quickly stepped between the sniper and the bloodied marine. He walked backward, scanning, ready to fire.

Shielding the marine with his own thick body, he grabbed the corporal by a strap and dragged him across a muddy road to a line of tall reeds, where they were concealed. He put down his weapon, shouted orders and cut open the lance corporal’s uniform, exposing a bubbling wound.

Lance Corporal Valdez-Castillo, shot through the right arm and torso, was saved. But the patrol was temporarily stuck. The marines were engaged in the task of calling for a casualty evacuation while staring down their barrels at dozens of windows that faced them, as if waiting for a ghost’s next move.

This sequence on Tuesday here in Anbar Province captured in a matter of seconds an expanding threat in the war in Iraq. In recent months, military officers and enlisted marines say, the insurgents have been using snipers more frequently and with greater effect, disrupting the military’s operations and fueling a climate of frustration and quiet rage.

Across Iraq, the threat has become serious enough that in late October the military held an internal conference about it, sharing the experiences of combat troops and discussing tactics to counter it. There has been no ready fix.

The battalion commander of Sergeant Leach’s unit — the Second Battalion, Eighth Marines — recalled eight sniper hits on his marines in three months and said there had been other possible incidents as well.

Two of the battalion’s five fatalities have come from snipers, he said, and one marine is in a coma. Another marine gravely wounded by a sniper has suffered a stroke.

A sniper team was captured in the area a few weeks ago, he said, but more have taken its place. “The enemy has the ability to regenerate, and after we put a dent in his activity, we see sniper activity again,” said the commander, Lt. Col. Kenneth M. DeTreux.

Marines in two infantry companies recounted more cases, telling of lone shots that zipped in as if from nowhere, striking turrets and walls within inches of marines. They typically occur when the marines are not engaged in combat. It is as if, they say, they are being watched.

By many measures, the Iraqi snipers have showed unexceptional marksmanship, usually shooting from within 300 yards, far less than ranges preferred by the elite snipers in Western military units.

But as the insurgent sniper teams have become more active, the marines here say, they have displayed greater skill, selecting their targets and their firing positions with care. They have also developed cunning methods of mobility and concealment, including firing from shooting platforms and hidden ports within cars.

They often use variants of the long-barreled Dragunov rifle, which shoots higher-powered ammunition than the much more common Kalashnikov assault rifles. Their marksmanship has improved to the point of being good enough.

“In the beginning of the war, sniping wasn’t something that the Iraqis did,” said Capt. Glen Taylor, the executive officer of the battalion’s Company G, who is on his third combat tour. “It was like, ‘If Allah wants that bullet to hit its target, it will.’ But they are starting to realize how effective it is.”

The insurgents are recruiting snipers and centralizing their instruction, the captain said, meaning that the phenomenon is likely to grow.

“They have training camps — they go around and advertise,” he said. “We heard from some of our sources that the insurgents were going around with loudspeakers, saying that if you want to be a sniper we will pay you three times whatever your salary is now.”

The marines also express their belief that the sniper teams have a network of spotters, and that each time the marines leave their outpost, spotters hidden among the Iraqi population call the snipers and tell them where the marines are and what they are doing. The snipers then arrive.

For the infantry, Iraq’s improved snipers have created confounding new dangers, as an unseen enemy plucks members from their ranks. Most of the time, the marines said, the snipers aim for their heads, necks and armpits, displaying knowledge of gaps in their protective gear. They typically shoot once and disappear. And they often fire on the opposite side of obstacles like canals, which limits a unit’s ability to capture the sniper or respond with fire.

“That’s the biggest thing that tears marines apart,” said Cpl. Curtis S. Cota-Robles of Company G, who was standing beside a marine who was shot through the collarbone in late September. “They hit us when we are vulnerable, and then they are gone.”

As part of their counterinsurgency operations, the marines working in Anbar are under orders to show restraint, a policy rooted in hopes of winning the trust of the civilian population.

Iraqi snipers seem to know these rules and use them for their own protection. They often fire from among civilians, the marines say, having observed that unless the marines have a clear target, they will not shoot. In two sniper shootings witnessed by two journalists for The New York Times, on Oct. 30 and 31, the snipers fired from among civilians. The marines did not fire back.

In conditions where killing the snipers has proved difficult, the marines have tried to find ways to limit their effectiveness. Signs inside Marine positions display an often-spoken rule: “Make yourself hard to kill.”

Many marines, on operations, do an understated dance they call “cutting squares.” It is not really a square at all.

They zig and zag as they walk, and when they stop they shift weight from foot to foot, bobbing their heads. They change the rhythm often, so that when a sniper who might be watching them thinks they are about to zig, they have zagged.

Now and then they squat, shift weight to one leg and stand up beside the place where they had just been.

Maj. Sean Riordan, the battalion executive officer, described his own unpredictable jigs as “my little salsa dance.”

As they move, the marines often peer down their own scopes, looking at windows, rooftops, lines of brush. Then they might step backward, or forward, or duck, as if saying: try to shoot that.

But as operations drag on, some marines begin to stop cutting squares. And sometimes even those that are moving are still shot. And there are special dangers.

Lance Cpl. Colin Smith, who was shot on Monday, was behind a machine gun in a vehicle turret, a position that placed him higher in the air than a walking marine. Turret gunners are protected by armor shields, but their heads are often exposed. He was struck in the skull. He survived but fell into a coma and was placed on life support.

Lance Corporal Valdez-Castillo, who was shot on Tuesday, was a radio operator — a preferred sniper’s target since radios and rifles first mixed on the battlefield many decades ago. A tactical radio can provide a link to mortars, artillery, air support and other infantry units.

Ten marines, several soldiers from the nascent Iraqi Army and two journalists were walking exposed in a column when the shot was fired and he went down; his antenna probably made him the sniper’s pick.

Lance Corporal Valdez-Castillo has been flown to a military hospital in Landstuhl, Germany. He is in good condition and has spoken to his unit.

In both cases the sniper fired from the other side of a canal, among civilians and a group of buildings. The advantages were his.

Seeing the risks, the commanders have been shifting tactics to reduce the marines’ vulnerability while still trying to keep them out on the streets, interacting with Iraqis and searching for insurgents and arms caches.

Some units have limited their foot patrols by day, finding them to be too dangerous. They still enter neighborhoods in armored vehicles and dismount, but often quickly step into buildings to interview people inside.

They continue to patrol on foot at night, because the Iraqi snipers have not yet shown the sophistication to fire with precision in the dark, and the marines’ night vision equipment and weapons sights give them the upper hand.

They also cover most of their vital organs with protective armor plates, which have saved several of them when the Iraqi snipers have fired.

One marine, Gunnery Sgt. Shawn M. Dempsey of Weapons Company, was shot in the back as he helped a small girl across a street. The plate saved him. He remains on duty as a platoon commander.

Another, Lance Cpl. Edward Knuth of Company G, was hit as his squad searched a watermelon market beside a main road. No one in his squad heard the shot, which he said was probably made from a vehicle parked on the highway. All they heard was the impact of the bullet on his plate.

“It was like a smacking sound,” he said.

The force of the impact, like being struck with a baseball bat, knocked him to his knees. A marine swiftly dragged him to cover. Then his squad rushed the line of cars. They found nothing. The sniper had escaped.

“They’re good,” Lance Corporal Knuth said, showing a crumbling, coin-sized hole in his armor where the bullet stopped. “They take their time. They’re patient. They only take one shot most of the time, and they are hard to find.”

After Lance Corporal Valdez-Castillo was shot and evacuated, a sweat-soaked, bloodied Sergeant Leach led his team through the rest of his patrol. When the marines re-entered the wire, an angry debriefing began.

Move quickly through the open areas, the noncommissioned officers told the troops. Don’t stand high on the berms. Camouflage the radios. Keep your eyes out and rifles ready.

Little was said about how to kill the sniper; the marines did not know where he was. They passed cigarettes and smoked them in the sun, and fumed.

“I’ll carry the radio next time,” said Lance Cpl. Peter Sprague. “I don’t have any kids.”

For U.S. and Top Iraqi, Animosity Is Mutual

For U.S. and Top Iraqi, Animosity Is Mutual - New York Times: "BAGHDAD, Nov. 3 — The cycle of discord and strained reconciliation that has broken into the open between Iraq’s Shiite-led government and the Bush administration has revealed how wide the gulf has become between what the United States expects from the Baghdad government and what it is able or willing to deliver. "

Just in the past 10 days, Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki has rejected the notion of an American “timeline” for action on urgent Iraqi political issues; ordered American commanders to lift checkpoints they had set up around the Shiite district of Sadr City to hunt for a kidnapped American soldier and a fugitive Shiite death squad leader; blamed the Americans for the deteriorating security situation in Iraq; and demanded speeded-up Iraqi control of its own military.

The estrangement has developed despite the two governments’ mutual dependency. The Maliki government needs the United States for the protection its 150,000 troops afford, and without which, most Iraqi politicians agree, the country would slide into full-blown civil war. For the Americans, success for the government that won a four-year term in January’s elections seems central to any hope for an orderly American disengagement from Iraq.

Without doubt, there has been an element of political grandstanding by Mr. Maliki that reflects his need to rally support among fractious Shiite political partners and the restive masses they represent. With American pressures focusing on the need for political concessions to the minority Sunnis by the majority Shiites — the principal victims of Saddam Hussein’s repression, and, since his overthrow, the main targets for Sunni insurgent bombings — the prime minister cannot afford to be seen to be at America’s beck and call.

Still, the differences between the new Shiite rulers and the Americans are real and growing. And the paradox of their animosity is that the primary beneficiary of the rift is likely to be their common enemy, the Sunni insurgents. Their aim has been to recapture the power the Sunnis lost with Mr. Hussein’s overthrow — and to repeat the experience of the 1920s, when Shiites squandered their last opportunity to wrest power and handed the Sunnis an opening to another 80 years of domination.

The bitterness between the Shiite leaders and the Americans reflects widely divergent views of the government’s responsibilities. The Americans want Mr. Maliki to lead in forging a “national compact,” healing bitter splits between Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds over the division of political and economic power.

The timeline that Zalmay Khalilzad, the American ambassador, set out last week — prompting an acerbic protest from Mr. Maliki — foresaw framework agreements over coming months. Central issues include disbanding the militias that have been responsible for a wave of sectarian killing, the future division of oil revenues, and a new approach to the Baathists, who were the bedrock of the Hussein government, that will strike a fairer balance between holding the worst accountable for their crimes and offering others rehabilitation.

But Mr. Maliki is not well cast for the role of national conciliator, and has shown a growing tendency to revert to type as a stalwart of a Shiite religious party, the Islamic Dawa Party, which had thousands of its followers killed under Mr. Hussein.

Like most other current Shiite leaders, Mr. Maliki spent decades in exile, and lost family members in Mr. Hussein’s gulag. By nature, he is withdrawn and, American officials say, lacks the natural ease, and perhaps the will, to reach out to politicians from other communities, especially Sunnis.

The Americans say that a self-reinforcing dynamic is at play, with the growing sectarian violence between Sunnis and Shiites, responsible for thousands of deaths this year in Baghdad and surrounding areas, causing politicians from both groups to pull back from the vision of a shared life.

Instead, positions have hardened. In the case of Mr. Maliki, who heads what is nominally a “national unity” cabinet, this has meant an increasing tendency to act as the steward of Shiite interests, sometimes so obtrusively that Sunnis, and to a lesser extent Kurds, have accused him of blatant sectarianism.

The issue of greatest concern to the Americans — and to Sunnis — has been Mr. Maliki’s resistance to American pressure for a crackdown on the Mahdi Army, the Shiite militia that the Americans say has been in the forefront of death squad attacks on Sunnis. The Shiite cleric who leads the militia, Moktada al-Sadr, controls the largest Shiite bloc in Parliament and backed Mr. Maliki in the contest among Shiite groups to name the new prime minister.

Another Shiite militia, the Badr Organization, is controlled by Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, leader of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, who is both a powerful rival to Mr. Maliki in Shiite religious politics and another mainstay of the government.

So for Mr. Maliki, American demands for action to disband the militias have revealed in their sharpest form the tensions between his role as national leader and as steward of Shiite interests. Compounding his dilemma, public opinion among Shiites, particularly in Sadr City, the Mahdi Army’s main stronghold, has coalesced around the militiamen, who are seen by many as the only effective protection against Sunni insurgents who have killed thousands of Shiites with their bombings of marketplaces, mosques, weddings, funerals and other public gatherings.

The failure of American troops to stop these bombings is a source of anger among Shiites, who have woven conspiracy theories that depict the Americans as silent partners for the Sunnis. And the rancor finds a favorite target in Mr. Khalilzad, who has become a figure of contempt among some senior Shiites in the government for his efforts to draw the Sunnis into the circle of power in Baghdad. It has become common among Shiite officials to say that the envoy harbors an unease toward Shiites engendered by growing up in a Sunni family in Afghanistan that distrusted Hazaras, Shiite descendants of Genghis Khan.

For months, Mr. Maliki has argued against forcible moves to disband the militias, urging a political solution and pointing to cases in which Mr. Sadr himself has approved, or at least not opposed, raids on death squad leaders whom he has described as renegades from the mainforce Mahdi Army. Publicly, the Americans have backed the prime minister; privately, they say the country cannot wait while sectarian killing rages unabated. The result has been an uneasy, and at times volatile, compromise.

American commanders have picked off some of the most brutal Shiite death squad leaders on a raid-by-raid basis, sometimes with Mr. Maliki’s approval, and sometimes, as in the case of a disputed Sadr City raid last week that failed to capture the wanted man, known as Abu Derar, without it. In one case last month, Gen. George W. Casey Jr., the top American commander in Iraq, intervened to release another alleged Mahdi Army death squad leader captured in a raid in west Baghdad after Mr. Maliki demanded he be freed, apparently to assuage Mr. Sadr.

American dissatisfaction with the Maliki government goes far beyond the ambivalence over the militias.

When the government was sworn in on May 20, Mr. Khalilzad and General Casey said it had six months to take a broad range of political actions that would build public support, and make the war winnable. When President Bush made a six-hour visit to Baghdad in June, he said he had looked Mr. Maliki “in the eye” to determine if America had a reliable partner, and reported that he was convinced the new prime minister met the test.

High among American priorities was the need for effective government after a largely wasted year under Mr. Maliki’s predecessor, Ibrahim al-Jaafari. American officials have told reporters in background briefings in recent weeks that little has changed, with the budgets of many government departments, including the Health Ministry, controlled by officials loyal to Mr. Sadr, being used for what the Americans say amounts to wholesale looting.

In the past week, Mr. Maliki has added a new, potentially incendiary grievance against the Americans. In interviews that preceded a placatory teleconference call with President Bush last weekend, he said the poor security situation across Iraq was the Americans’ fault, and demanded a more rapid transfer of command authority over the war. With apparent unconcern for the war’s growing unpopularity in the United States, he demanded more American money for the buildup of Iraq’s own forces, and for reconstruction of the country’s infrastructure, on top of the $38 billion the Bush administration says it has already spent on civil and military aid to Iraq since the toppling of Mr. Hussein in 2003 and the nearly $400 billion for America’s own deployments.

Mr. Bush responded by dispatching his national security adviser, Stephen J. Hadley, on an urgent trip to Baghdad on Monday, and agreeing to work on ways of accelerating the transfer of authority, especially in regard to the Maliki government’s ability to control the deployment of Iraqi troops.

What the Bush administration’s public comments omitted was any reference to the deep frustration among American commanders at the continuing weakness of many Iraqi Army units, which have been plagued by high levels of indiscipline, absenteeism and desertion. Some American officers say that as many as half of the listed 137,000 Iraqi soldiers are effectively undeployable.

The situation has its keenest effects in Baghdad, where American commanders say the war will ultimately be won or lost. In the stepped-up effort to clear the city of insurgents and death squads, begun in August and acknowledged by American commanders to be faltering, American troops have accounted for two-thirds of the 25,000 deployed, after Iraqi commanders delivered two of the six battalions they promised.

The result, American officers involved in the operation have noted, is that what little security there is in the city — and, ultimately, the survival of the Maliki government itself — relies far more on American than Iraqi troops.

[bth: could someone explain to me why we aren't better off letting Iraq break apart?]

Friday, November 03, 2006

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French Magistrate Says Iraqi Terrorist Veterans Threaten Europe Worldwide: "Nov. 3 (Bloomberg) -- The biggest terrorist threat facing Europe comes from Islamic radicals who went to Iraq to fight alongside the insurgents and are now returning home to carry out new attacks, said Jean-Louis Bruguiere, France's leading anti- terrorist investigator. "

The Iraq war has allowed the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat and other North African-based groups to recruit in Europe and train a new generation of terrorists, said Bruguiere, an investigating magistrate who since 2003 has dismantled several Iraqi recruitment rings in France.

``Some of them have gone over and come back with the intention of continuing Jihad in Europe by working with groups from the Maghreb,'' Bruguiere, speaking to journalists at a conference in Monaco, said yesterday. ``This is the principal menace we face.'' The Maghreb is the North African region of Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco.

While the number of European jihadists who have returned after fighting in Iraq is unlikely to be much more than a few hundred, European police forces are concerned because their skills and commitment is greater than that of earlier generations of terrorists.

``One of the biggest dangers we face is the return of people from Iraq,'' said Fernando Reinares, senior analyst on international terrorism at the Real Instituto Elcano, a Madrid- based research group. ``They are better trained and even more highly motivated than the ones that came back from Afghanistan or Chechnya. We have to expect further attacks.''

The U.S.'s National Intelligence Estimate said in a report declassified in September that anger over the war in Iraq is fuelling Muslim radicalism, and that the dispersal of terrorist cells around the world poses a greater risk of attacks.

Recruiting Rings

A Belgian female suicide bomber and her husband were killed in Iraq in November 2005. Besides France, police in Germany, the Netherlands and Italy have broken up recruiting rings that sent young Muslims to go and fight in Iraq or raise money for them.

So far, the numbers are small and no terrorist attacks in Europe have been linked to Iraqi veterans.

Thierry Matta, a divisional superintendent at the DST, the French counter- terrorism police, said at a September conference in Paris that the DST knows of nine French nationals who have been killed fighting alongside the insurgents and has no news of another 12 it knows made it to Iraq.

Another two are in jail in Iraq and 30 are in French jails, either arrested on the way over or the way back, often intercepted and turned over by Syrian police. Almost all are of North African descent, he said.
About 50 to 75 people from each major European country have gone to Iraq to join the insurgency, says Magnus Ranstorp, at the Swedish National Defense College, in Stockholm. While there have been reports that some have returned to France and Germany to continue operations there, no reliable count exists.

European Islamic Radicals

The number of European Islamic radicals coming back to Europe is held down because most of them die there, says Eric Denece, director of the Center for Intelligence Research, a Paris-based research institute.
``The insurgents see the foreigners as dispensable, and use them for suicide attacks or other types of fodder,'' Denece said. ``At least three-quarters of them are going to be killed there and won't be coming back.''

Bruguiere said that's changed in the past year or two. Groups such as the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat, which was founded in Algeria in the 1990s and is now implanted in France, Italy and Belgium, has taken over most of the recruitment rings and is using them to recruit and train militants for operations in Europe.

``We are in a context of manufacturing jihadists, not just providing manpower,'' he said. ``It's the role that was once played by Afghanistan.''

Urban Attacks

Those who do make it back could be more dangerous than their predecessors trained in Afghanistan, said Reinares, of the Elcano Institute. Battle-hardened Iraqi insurgents learn to set up roadside bombs and carry out suicide attacks in urban settings. Graduates of the former al-Qaeda camps in Afghanistan spent their time training in remote mountainous settings that have little in common with Europe, only occasionally engaging in low intensity combat against the Northern Alliance, he said.

``All you need is five guys who have learned bomb making from Zarqawi and have experience on how to avoid security forces,'' said Thomas Sanderson, deputy director of the Transnational Threats Project at the Center for Strategic & International Studies in Washington, referring to al-Qaeda's leader in Iraq Abu Musab al-Zarqawi who was killed by a U.S. air raid in June. ``Europe is going to seem like a playground to them.''

Muslims in Western Europe

About 13 million Muslims live in Western Europe, according to national estimates compiled by the BBC. ``About 10 percent of Muslims in Europe express positive attitudes toward Salafism,'' said Reinares, referring to a fundamentalist current of Islam that's spawned groups such as al-Qaeda. ``That's enough water for the fish to swim.''

Europeans returning from fighting in Iraq help recruit new radicals, says the CSIS's Sanderson. ``Just think of how admired a GI is when he goes back to his high school in Idaho,'' he says. ``Well just think of some kid with tales of fighting in Iraq who goes back to his immigrant suburb where the kids don't have allegiance to France, they don't have allegiance to Algeria, they are lost in the middle and therefore open to jihadist influences.''

Editor: Torday

To contact the reporter on this story: Gregory Viscusi in Paris at
 Posted by Picasa An Abu Ghraib Offender Heads Back to Iraq -- Page 1 An Abu Ghraib Offender Heads Back to Iraq -- Page 1: "Exclusive: A military dog handler convicted for his role in the prisoner abuse scandal has been ordered back to help train the country's police"

As if the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal weren't bad enough for America's image in the Middle East, now it may appear to much of the world that one of the men implicated in the scandal is returning to the scene of the crime.

The U.S. military tells TIME that one of the soldiers convicted for his role in Abu Ghraib, having served his sentence, has just been sent back to serve in Iraq.

Sgt. Santos Cardona, 32, a military policeman from Fullerton, Calif., served in 2003 and 2004 at Abu Ghraib as a military dog handler. After pictures of Cardona using the animal to threaten Iraqis were made public, he was convicted in May of dereliction of duty and aggravated assault, the equivalent of a felony in the U.S. civilian justice system. The prosecution demanded prison time, but a military judge instead imposed a fine and reduction in rank. Though Cardona was not put behind bars, he was also required to serve 90 days of hard labor at Ft. Bragg, N.C.

Before Cardona boarded a plane at Pope Air Force Base this week for the long flight to his unit's Kuwait staging area, he told close friends and family that he dreaded returning to Iraq. One family member described him as "depressed," though stoic about his fate. According to a close friend with whom Cardona spoke just before his departure, the soldier is fearful that he remains a marked man, forever linked to the horrors of Abu Ghraib — he appears in at least one al-Qaeda propaganda video depicting the abuse — and that he and comrades serving with him in Iraq could become targets for terrorists. To make matters worse, his 23rd MP Company has been selected to train Iraqi police, which have been the target of frequent assassination attempts and, according to US intelligence are heavily infiltrated by insurgents.

Attempts to reach Cardona directly were unsuccessful.

But Cardona?s physical well-being is not the only issue of concern connected to his transfer. According to former senior U.S. military officers and others interviewed by TIME, sending a convicted abuser back to Iraq to train local police sends the wrong signal at a time when the U.S. is trying to bolster the beleagured government in Baghdad, where the horrors of Abu Ghraib are far from forgotten. "If news of this deployment is accurate, it represents appallingly bad judgment," says retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey, who commanded a division in the first Gulf War. "The symbolic message perceived in Iraq will likely be that the U.S. is simply insensitive to the abuse of their prisoners."

Retired Major General John Batiste was likewise surprised at the decision to send a soldier convicted of abuse at Abu Ghraib back to Iraq. His only comment: "You just have to wonder how far up the chain of command this decision was made."

Army public affairs specialist Major James Crabtree, who is assigned to the 18th Airborne Corps at Ft. Bragg, which has responsibility for Cardona's unit, said that Cardona, is a military policeman whose " unit happens to be deployed to Iraq, so he went with them." Crabtree said the Army commander overseeing the transfer of Cardona and other members of his unit said "there were no issues associated with [Cardona's new] deployment." He added that although a military judge ordered a reduction in rank for Cardona following his court martial, Cardona has since regained his previous rank of Sergeant.

The military jury acquitted Cardona of seven charges, including alleged attempts to harass a second prisoner with his dog. Cardona's lawyers argued that their client's actions at Abu Ghraib were condoned, if not approved in each case, by officers in charge of the prison, as well as senior officials in the Army command.

Shortly before he left for Iraq, Cardona told a close friend and family members that he was returning against his will. "He loves the Army and has deep respect for the chain of command," said a family member, who asked not to be identified by name, but who described Cardona as feeling duty-bound to accept his Iraqi deployment. The friend said that Cardona had described trying to attach another soldier?

s name tags to his uniform in hopes of concealing his identity from Iraqis, but was told by an officer to desist. According to this friend, Cardona said he had told at least one of his superiors that he feared for his safety in Iraq, especially because of his presence in the al-Qaeda video, but was told by an officer, ?We need bodies [in Iraq]" and that he shouldn't worry about it.

Cardona's fears may be well founded. The Abu Ghraib scandal is still a fresh subject in Iraq and elsewhere in the Muslim world. The episode is still used in Jihadi propaganda, and is featured on Islamist websites. As for Cardona, his name can be referenced almost instantly on the Internet, along with news of his conviction and photos of him holding his large tan Belgian Malinois dog, as an Iraqi prisoner cowers against a concrete wall at Abu Ghraib prison. Dogs, which are considered unclean by many Muslims, have been used in U.S. detention facilities in both Iraq and Guantanamo to intimidate prisoners.

When the recently slain terrorist Abu Musab Zarqawi executed American Nicholas Berg, he went out of his way to specify that the gruesome murder was an act of revenge for crimes committed by the U.S. military against Muslims at the prison. Both Osama bin Laden and his top deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, use events at the prison to explain their calls for Holy War against the U.S. "

Al-Qaeda and other Jihadis still cite Abu Ghraib to demonstrate what they call U.S. crimes against Muslims," notes Rita Katz, director and co-founder of the SITE Institute, who has made a study of terrorist videos and other propaganda. "Some of the videos actually feature the dogs used at Abu Ghraib."

After his conviction, Cardona's dog was removed from his care and control. But if the Army has its way, the former Abu Ghraib MP may soon be training Iraqi police in how to maintain security and proper conduct amid the country's chaos.
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Kroll pulls security team out of Iraq

Kroll pulls security team out of Iraq: "(AP) — Manhattan security company Kroll has withdrawn its bodyguard teams from Iraq and Afghanistan after it lost four workers in Iraq, its parent company said Wednesday.

Michael Cherkasky, president and chief executive of Kroll owner Marsh & McLennan Cos., told The Associated Press that the business in the two countries wasn't worth risking the lives of their employees."

In its third-quarter earnings statement issued Wednesday, Marsh & McLennan said that “results for the security group reflected the orderly exit from high-risk international assignments that had limited profitability and no longer fit Kroll's business strategy.”

Mr. Cherkasky said Kroll “will continue to advise our clients anywhere in the world” about security measures.Marsh & McLennan, whose main business is insurance brokerage, did not disclose how many workers had been withdrawn from the two countries.

Revealed: U.S. Soldier Killed Herself After Objecting to Interrogation Techniques

Revealed: U.S. Soldier Killed Herself After Objecting to Interrogation Techniques: "Revealed: U.S. Soldier Killed Herself After Objecting to Interrogation Techniques

The true stories of how American troops, killed in Iraq, actually died keep spilling out this week. Now we learn, thanks to a reporter's FOIA request, that one of the first women to die in Iraq shot and killed herself after objecting to harsh 'interrogation techniques.' "

November 01, 2006) -- The true stories of how American troops, killed in Iraq, actually died keep spilling out this week. On Tuesday, we explored the case of Kenny Stanton Jr., murdered last month by our allies, the Iraqi police, though the military didn’t make that known at the time. Now we learn that one of the first female soldiers killed in Iraq died by her own hand after objecting to interrogation techniques used on prisoners. She was Army specialist Alyssa Peterson, 27, a Flagstaff, Ariz., native serving with C Company, 311th Military Intelligence BN, 101st Airborne. Peterson was an Arabic-speaking interrogator assigned to the prison at our air base in troubled Tal-Afar in northwestern Iraq.

According to official records, she died on Sept. 15, 2003, from a “non-hostile weapons discharge.”

She was only the third American woman killed in Iraq, so her death drew wide press attention. A “non-hostile weapons discharge” leading to death is not unusual in Iraq, often quite accidental, so this one apparently raised few eyebrows. The Arizona Republic, three days after her death, reported that Army officials “said that a number of possible scenarios are being considered, including Peterson's own weapon discharging, the weapon of another soldier discharging, or the accidental shooting of Peterson by an Iraqi civilian.” But in this case, a longtime radio and newspaper reporter named Kevin Elston, unsatisfied with the public story, decided to probe deeper in 2005, "just on a hunch," he told E&P today. He made "hundreds of phone calls" to the military and couldn't get anywhere, so he filed a Freedom of Information Act request. When the documents of the official investigation of her death arrived, they contained bombshell revelations. Here’s what the Flagstaff public radio station, KNAU, where Elston now works, reported yesterday:“Peterson objected to the interrogation techniques used on prisoners. She refused to participate after only two nights working in the unit known as the cage. Army spokespersons for her unit have refused to describe the interrogation techniques Alyssa objected to. They say all records of those techniques have now been destroyed. ...".

She was was then assigned to the base gate, where she monitored Iraqi guards, and sent to suicide prevention training. “But on the night of September 15th, 2003, Army investigators concluded she shot and killed herself with her service rifle,” the documents disclose. The Army talked to some of Peterson's colleagues. Asked to summarize their comments, Elston told E&P: "The reactions to the suicide were that she was having a difficult time separating her personal feelings from her professional duties. That was the consistent point in the testimonies, that she objected to the interrogation techniques, without describing what those techniques were."Elston said that the documents also refer to a suicide note found on her body, which suggested that she found it ironic that suicide prevention training had taught her how to commit suicide. He has now filed another FOIA request for a copy of the actual note. Peterson's father, Rich Peterson, has said: “Alyssa volunteered to change assignments with someone who did not want to go to Iraq.”Peterson, a devout Mormon, had graduated from Flagstaff High School and earned a psychology degree from Northern Arizona University on a military scholarship. She was trained in interrogation techniques at Fort Huachuca in Arizona, and was sent to the Middle East in 2003. The Arizona Republic article had opened: “Friends say Army Spc. Alyssa R. Peterson of Flagstaff always had an amazing ability to learn foreign languages.“Peterson became fluent in Dutch even before she went on an 18-month Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints mission to the Netherlands in the late 1990s. Then, she cruised through her Arabic courses at the military's Defense Language Institute in Monterey, Calif., shortly after enlisting in July 2001.

“With that under her belt, she was off to Iraq to conduct interrogations and translate enemy documents.” On a “fallen heroes” message board on the Web, Mary W. Black of Flagstaff wrote, "The very day Alyssa died, her Father was talking to me at the Post Office where we both work, in Flagstaff, Ariz., telling me he had a premonition and was very worried about his daughter who was in the military on the other side of the world. The next day he was notified while on the job by two army officers. Never has a daughter been so missed or so loved than she was and has been by her Father since that fateful September day in 2003.

He has been the most broken man I have ever seen.” An A.W. from Los Angeles wrote: "I met Alyssa only once during a weekend surfing trip while she was at DLI. Although our encounter was brief, she made a lasting impression. We did not know each other well, but I was blown away by her genuine, sincere, sweet nature. I don’t know how else to put it-- she was just nice. ... I was devastated to here of her death. I couldn’t understand why it had to happen to such a wonderful person.”

Finally, Daryl K. Tabor of Ashland City, Tenn., who had met her as a journalist in Iraq for the Kentucky New Era paper in Hopkinsville: "Since learning of her death, I cannot get the image of the last time I saw her out of my mind. We were walking out of the tent in Kuwait to be briefed on our flights into Iraq as I stepped aside to let her out first. Her smile was brighter than the hot desert sun. Peterson was the only soldier I interacted with that I know died in Iraq. I am truly sorry I had to know any."
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Rep. paying ex-mistress about $500K

Rep. paying ex-mistress about $500K - Yahoo! News: "ALLENTOWN, Pa. - A Republican congressman accused of abusing his ex-mistress agreed to pay her about $500,000 in a settlement last year that contained a powerful incentive for her to keep quiet until after Election Day, a person familiar with the terms of the deal told The Associated Press. "....

Sherwood, a 65-year-old married father of three who is considered a family-values conservative, had one of the safest seats in Congress until Ore sued him in June 2005, alleging he physically abused her throughout their five-year affair.....

'Al-Qaeda link' colonel released

BBC NEWS South Asia 'Al-Qaeda link' colonel released: "A former Pakistan army officer convicted of having links with al-Qaeda has been freed from prison.

Colonel Abdul Ghaffar walked out of jail in the city of Peshawar at the end of his four-year term.

He was taken into custody following the arrest in Rawalpindi in March 2003 of Khaled Sheikh Muhammed, one of the most wanted al-Qaeda suspects.

Five other army officers were court-martialled along with Col Ghaffar. One remains in prison. "
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U.S. troops should stay longer in Iraq: Talabani

U.S. troops should stay longer in Iraq: Talabani Top News "PARIS (Reuters) - Iraqi President Jalal Talabani said on Thursday U.S. troops should remain in Iraq for up to three more years to give Iraqi authorities more time to build up their own security forces.

At the start of a week-long visit to France, Talabani rejected suggestions Iraq had descended into civil war and accused the media of focusing exclusively on negative stories.

However, he said 'international terrorists' were still concentrating all their efforts in Iraq which meant the country needed outside help to defeat them.

"We need time. Not 20 years, but time. I personally can say that two to three years will be enough to build up our forces and say to our American friends 'Bye bye with thanks'," Talabani told a conference organized by the IFRI think-tank.....

Congress Tells Auditor in Iraq to Close Office

Congress Tells Auditor in Iraq to Close Office - New York Times: "Investigations led by a Republican lawyer named Stuart W. Bowen Jr. in Iraq have sent American occupation officials to jail on bribery and conspiracy charges, exposed disastrously poor construction work by well-connected companies like Halliburton and Parsons, and discovered that the military did not properly track hundreds of thousands of weapons it shipped to Iraqi security forces."

And tucked away in a huge military authorization bill that President Bush signed two weeks ago is what some of Mr. Bowen’s supporters believe is his reward for repeatedly embarrassing the administration: a pink slip.

The order comes in the form of an obscure provision that terminates his federal oversight agency, the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, on Oct. 1, 2007. The clause was inserted by the Republican side of the House Armed Services Committee over the objections of Democratic counterparts during a closed-door conference, and it has generated surprise and some outrage among lawmakers who say they had no idea it was in the final legislation.

Mr. Bowen’s office, which began operation in January 2004 to examine reconstruction money spent in Iraq, was always envisioned as a temporary organization, permitted to continue its work only as long as Congress saw fit. Some advocates for the office, in fact, have regarded its lack of a permanent bureaucracy as the key to its aggressiveness and independence.

But as the implications of the provision in the new bill have become clear, opposition has been building on both sides of the political aisle. One point of contention is exactly when the office would have naturally run its course without a hard end date.

The bipartisan opposition may not be unexpected given Mr. Bowen’s Republican credentials — he served under George W. Bush both in Texas and in the White House — and deep public skepticism on the Bush administration’s conduct of the war.

Susan Collins, a Maine Republican who followed the bill closely as chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs, says that she still does not know how the provision made its way into what is called the conference report, which reconciles differences between House and Senate versions of a bill.

Neither the House nor the Senate version contained such a termination clause before the conference, all involved agree.

“It’s truly a mystery to me,” Ms. Collins said. “I looked at what I thought was the final version of the conference report and that provision was not in at that time.”

The one thing I can confirm is that this was a last-minute insertion,” she said.

A Republican spokesman for the committee, Josh Holly, said lawmakers should not have been surprised by the provision closing the inspector general’s office because it “was discussed very early in the conference process.”

But like several other members of the House and Senate who were contacted on the bill, Ms. Collins said that she feared the loss of oversight that could occur if the inspector general’s office went out of business, adding that she was already working on legislation with several Democratic and Republican senators to reverse the termination.

One of those, John W. Warner, the Virginia Republican who is chairman of the powerful Senate Armed Services Committee, said in a statement that Mr. Bowen was “making a valuable contribution to the Congressional and public understanding of this very complex and ever-changing situation in Iraq.”

“Given that his office has performed important work and that much remains to be done,” Mr. Warner added, “I intend to join Senator Collins in consulting with our colleagues to extend his charter.”

While Senators Collins and Warner said they had nothing more than hunches on where the impetus for setting a termination date had originated, Congressional Democrats were less reserved.

It appears to me that the administration wants to silence the messenger that is giving us information about waste and fraud in Iraq,” said Representative Henry A. Waxman, a California Democrat who is the ranking minority member of the House Committee on Government Reform.

“I just can’t see how one can look at this change without believing it’s political,” he said.

The termination language was inserted into the bill by Congressional staff members working for Duncan Hunter, the California Republican who is the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee and who declared on Monday that he plans to run for president in 2008.

Mr. Holly, who is the House Armed Services spokesman as well as a member of Mr. Hunter’s staff, said that politics played no role and that there had been no direction from the administration or lobbying from the companies whose work in Iraq Mr. Bowen’s office has severely critiqued. Three of the companies that have been a particular focus of Mr. Bowen’s investigations, Halliburton, Parsons and Bechtel, said that they had made no effort to lobby against his office.

The idea, Mr. Holly said, was simply to return to a non-wartime footing in which inspectors general in the State Department, the Pentagon and elsewhere would investigate American programs overseas. The definite termination date was also seen as helpful for planning future oversight efforts from Bush administration agencies, he said.

But in Congress, particularly on the Democratic side of the aisle, there have long been accusations that agencies controlled by the Bush administration are not inclined to unearth their own shortcomings in the first place.

The criticism came to a head in a hearing a year ago, when Representative Dennis J. Kucinich, an Ohio Democrat, induced the Pentagon’s acting inspector general, Thomas Gimble, to concede that he had no agents deployed in Iraq, more than two years after the invasion.

A spokesman for the Pentagon inspector general said Thursday that Mr. Gimble had worked to improve that situation, and currently had seven auditors in Baghdad and others working on Iraq-related issues in the United States and elsewhere. Mr. Gimble was in Iraq on Thursday, the spokesman said.

Mr. Bowen’s office has 55 auditors and inspectors in Iraq and about 300 reports and investigations already to its credit, far outstripping any other oversight agency in the country.

But Howard Krongard, the State Department inspector general, said that the comparison was misleading, because many of those resources would probably flow to State and the Pentagon if Congress shuts Mr. Bowen’s office down.

“I think we are competitive to do what they ask us to do,” Mr. Krongard said, referring to Congress.

Mr. Kucinich and other lawmakers said that Iraq oversight could also be hurt by the loss of Mr. Bowen’s mandate, which allows him to cross institutional boundaries, while the other inspectors general have jurisdictions only within their own agencies. Mr. Krongard said that issue could be handled by cooperation among the inspectors general.

Officials at the State Department and the Pentagon made it clear that in general terms they supported Mr. Bowen’s work and would abide by the wishes of Congress.

While the quality of Mr. Bowen’s work is seldom questioned, he is sometimes accused of being a grandstander who is too friendly with the news media. Mr. Bowen has responded that it is standard procedure to publicize successful investigations as a way of discouraging other potential wrongdoers.

Among the disagreements on the termination language in the defense authorization bill was exactly how much it would have shortened Mr. Bowen’s tenure. An amendment in the Senate version of the bill actually expanded the pot of reconstruction money his agents could examine.

Because the tenure of his office is calculated through a formula involving the amount of reconstruction money in that pot, the crafters of that amendment figured that it would have extended Mr. Bowen’s work until well into 2008 — or longer if Congress granted further extensions.

Mr. Holly agrees that the Senate language would have expanded that pot of money, but he says that in the Republican staff’s interpretation of the formula, Mr. Bowen’s tenure would have run out sometime in 2007 whether the money was added or not.

In any case, as the bill came out of conference, the termination date of Oct. 1, 2007, was inserted, effectively meaning that Mr. Bowen would have to start working on passing his responsibilities to other agencies by early next year.

Capitol Hill staff members said that after House Democratic objections were overridden, Senate conferees agreed to the provision in a bit of horse-trading: the amount of money Mr. Bowen could look at would be expanded, but only with the hard termination date.

Mr. Bowen himself declined to comment on the controversy surrounding his office, saying only that he was already working with the other inspectors general to develop a transition plan in accordance with the defense authorization act. “We will do what the Congress desires,” Mr. Bowen said.

[bth: figures.]
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Thursday, November 02, 2006

Paris airport bars Muslim staff

BBC NEWS World Europe Paris airport bars Muslim staff: "More than 70 Muslim workers at France's main airport have been stripped of their security clearance for allegedly posing a risk to passengers.

The staff at Charles de Gaulle airport, including baggage handlers, are said to have visited terrorist training camps in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

One man is thought to have been a friend of Richard Reid, the so-called British shoe bomber.
Richard Reid tried to blow up a flight from Paris to the US in 2001. "

Discrimination lawsuits

Earlier this year officials at Charles de Gaulle airport, north of Paris, conducted a security review of staff and questioned dozens of Muslim workers.

More than 100 baggage handlers and aircraft cleaners had been under surveillance for months.

In all, 72 people were later told their passes allowing access to secure areas were being withdrawn.

Airport officials say some of the workers had frequently visited Pakistan and Afghanistan the previous year.

It is also believed another worker had been close to a senior figure in an Algerian terrorist group with links to al-Qaeda.

But some of the men who have lost their security clearance are suing airport authorities.

They claim they are being discriminated against because of their religion.

However, about a dozen other workers who have been identified as security risks still have access to sensitive areas of the airport because under French law they must be allowed an opportunity to respond to the charges before they are suspended.

Southern Iraq approaches the tipping point

Telegraph News Southern Iraq approaches the tipping point: "Sheltering under a table on the dining room floor of Basra Palace with 200 soldiers, seconds after a mortar round had been 10ft away from penetrating the roof and causing carnage, it would have been difficult to argue that the British Army was making progress in Iraq."

As I lay flat on the floor in my body armour, the infantry officer with whom I had been dining seconds earlier said he felt mightily sorry for the battalion that had just arrived to replace his unit.

From dawn till dusk we had been rocketed or mortared 15 times in Basra Palace — one of the two main British barracks in the southern Iraq capital. There was the usual fear and thrill of coming under enemy fire but that was just for 12 hours and by the evening the novelty was beginning to tire.

It was the start of a six- month tour for the Royal Green Jackets and even in the first week their faces were beginning to look strained.

But by the end of their tour next April it should become clear where Basra is going and whether the British investment of 120 lives and £4 billion has been worth it.

We are now approaching the tipping point in southern Iraq. The area will either sink into the grasp of insurgents and Iranian-sponsored militias or become a beacon of hope for the rest of the country.

The Iraqi soldiers, terrorists, politicians and population are all uncertain which way up the penny will fall.

But the 7,200 British troops are making a final effort to secure the area to allow for the multi-billion dollar investment that Basra desperately needs to fulfil its potential of becoming the next Dubai. All is being gambled on the success of Operation Sinbad.

At its conclusion next February or March the insurgents might be beaten and the local police purged of all rogue elements. The Iraqi army could evolve into a steady, well-armed force and the politicians could be more willing to shoulder problems they have neglected during three years of having everyone else to blame for them.

That scenario is the Army's ticket for its way out of Iraq and would justify the expenditure of blood and treasure.

Already Basra air station is being developed to accommodate most of the 3,500 soldiers who will be left behind to garrison the area as a potent reserve for the Iraqi security forces. They will be there until at least 2010, military sources have indicated.

But in the meantime they are coming under increasing attack and there appear to be two reasons why.

One is that Operation Sinbad has forced the insurgents on to the back foot. In response to losing their grip on the local population they have increased shelling on British barracks. They are reduced to this form of indirect attack because every time they have used RPGs, gunmen or fixed ambushes they have suffered numerous dead.

But the second answer to the increased violence is that the insurgents are in control. The co-ordinated attacks on British troops demonstrate this and if the Army leaves early next year the Iranian-backed insurgent stooges in the police and local government will take over.

Southern Iraq could then vote to secede from the rest of the country and use its massive oil wealth to become a major pro-Iranian Shia state in the Middle East. The Sunni minority in southern Iraq would become vulnerable to a bloody ethnic cleansing campaign.

But there are a number of obstacles that stand in the way of what would be a disastrous scenario for the coalition forces and Iraq's future.

The British-trained Iraqi army's 10th Division is finally about to receive the hardware that will make it a formidable force when its first Humvees and armoured personnel carriers arrive this month.

There is also a template for what might happen when the British leave.

In the volatile town of Amarah a few weeks after the last British soldier vacated the town eight of its police stations were attacked by Mahdi army militias loyal to the cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. But the Iraqi army stood firm and, with help from senior Iraqi politicians, was able to restore order.

The withdrawal of troops from Amarah also meant there was no target for insurgents, and their propaganda campaign against the "foreign invaders" lost its focus.

While the military is doing all it can to stabilise Basra there is considerable worry among commanders over the planning for the post Operation Sinbad phase. The British consulate has evacuated its well-protected premises down to a skeleton staff. The offices of its provincial reconstruction team are a sea of empty desks and blank computers. Without the funding and planning that needs to happen now, the three-year British struggle in southern Iraq will have been for nothing.

The Army will lose increasing numbers of troops unwilling to return for a fifth or sixth tour, it will struggle to find enough troops for Afghanistan and the mortar attacks will continue with the likelihood that one day a round will find its devastating mark.

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Entire Third Division may go back to Iraq |

Entire Third Division may go back to Iraq "FORT STEWART - Most of the 3rd Infantry Division's 20,000 soldiers likely will return for a third combat tour in Iraq in 2007, the division's commander said Tuesday."

"Given today's conditions, by next fall the division will be back in Iraq," said Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch during a luncheon briefing with local reporters.

Unlike its previous two combat tours, however, the Army division will not deploy all at once. Its four combat brigades, now designed as independent fighting units, will go separately and be plugged into existing command structures wherever they are needed in Iraq.

About 4,000 soldiers with the 1st Brigade Combat Team already have orders to begin a yearlong deployment in mid January. Lynch declined to say where the brigade will operate in Iraq.

The 3rd Brigade, based at Fort Benning in Columbus, would be next to deploy, possibly as early as spring.

The 2nd Brigade would be the next Fort Stewart unit to deploy. Its soldiers are already scheduled for a final mission exercise at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif., in mid-March, said Col. Terry Ferrell, the brigade's commander.

The division's headquarters, which includes Lynch, also is preparing to deploy, the two-star general said. The 4th Brigade would be the last to deploy.

Lynch said the division is working to ease the concerns of soldiers' families, some of whom would be enduring their third deployment since the war began in March of 2003.

It's also trying to address a recent increase in divorces and domestic violence cases in Liberty County that some suspect are a by-product of repeated combat tours.

"None of us would tell you multiple rotations are good for the family environment, because they're not," he said. "But we're working hard to work on those issues."

Lynch repeated a claim made by Vice President Dick Cheney on Monday that increasing violence in Iraq is intended to influence the outcome of next week's midterm elections in which Republicans are struggling to keep control of Congress.

As of Tuesday, there were 103 U.S. service members killed in Iraq, making October the deadliest month for American forces since January of 2005.

"I believe that's what is happening," Lynch said. "The reason we're seeing increased fatalities is not because he (the enemy) is becoming more effective, or has more resources. He just chose now to concentrate ... to try to influence the elections.

"I'm not sure they care whether it's a Democrat-controlled Congress or a Republican Congress, they just want the American people to say 'enough is enough' and, as a result, all the soldiers come home."

When asked if there was intelligence on the ground in Iraq to support that claim, Lynch declined to get into specifics but said there are indications the insurgency is trying to "influence the will of the American people.