Saturday, November 25, 2006

Senator Set To Attack On Iraq Data - November 24, 2006 - The New York Sun

Senator Set To Attack On Iraq Data - November 24, 2006 - The New York Sun: "WASHINGTON — The first shot in the coming subpoena wars between congressional Democrats and the Bush administration likely will be fired in January by Senator Levin, a Democrat of Michigan."

The Senate Armed Services Committee's Democratic staff, soon to be in the majority, is already preparing to ask the Pentagon for documents related to analysis in the lead-up to the Iraq war from the offices reporting to a former undersecretary of defense for policy, Douglas Feith.

At issue so far are some 58 documents Mr. Levin requested as early as 2004 that relate to how the Defense Department's Office of Special Plans may have deviated from the CIA in its view of links between Al Qaeda and Iraq, and whether such deviation constituted pressure on intelligence analysts.
What Mr. Levin intends to do with those documents, should the Pentagon release them, is significant for the president, the ongoing war, and the Democrats.

The initial document request will test an unstated Bush administration policy to presuppose that presidential privilege would shield advice and other internal deliberations in the executive branch, and not just the White House, from congressional subpoena. It is likely, for example, that the privilege defense will be used to attempt to block congressional requests for Justice Department memos that outline interrogation policies for detainees.

While the policy is not mentioned in letters between the Pentagon and Mr. Levin, Defense Department lawyers have conveyed verbally that the 58 documents the senator seeks presumptively fall under presidential privilege.

Should Mr. Levin decide to reopen his inquiry into pre-war intelligence, however, there is a risk that Democrats will be seen as backward-looking. In an interview earlier this month, the head of the centrist Democratic Leadership Council, Al From, said he would caution his party against "relitigating 2003."

Mr. Levin has been pursuing Mr. Feith and the Office of Special Plans almost since the Iraq war began.

According to correspondence between the Pentagon and Mr. Levin obtained byThe New York Sun, the senator has sought every e-mail, staff review, internal legal opinion, and policy draft related to Iraq and Al Qaeda. The former prosecutor ends a June 30, 2004, letter by asking Mr. Feith to provide "all documents and communications from all persons within your Policy organization from September 2001 through April 2003, related to the relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda."

The requests, according to the correspondence, took Pentagon staffers thousands of hours to fulfill. The sub rosa bureaucratic spat became so testy that Defense Secretary Rumsfeld wrote on October 1, 2004, "Your minority inquiry seems to be getting broader and more open-ended in scope." In the letter, the now outgoing Pentagon chief urges Mr. Levin to reconsider his wide-ranging request for documents and to give his inquiry "constructive focus."

At the root of Mr. Levin's probe is his contention that an alternative analysis conducted after the attacks of September 11, 2001, by the Policy Counterterrorism Evaluation Group — and subsequent analysis from the Office of Special Plans, which was created in 2002 to prepare for the Iraq war — distorted and manipulated intelligence provided to policy-makers and Congress in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq.
The Senate select committee on intelligence's bipartisan report on pre-war intelligence, along with the president's own commission that examined the issue, said the intelligence reports were not influenced by the Pentagon team's analysts or the Office of Special Plans.

Despite signing off on the Senate intelligence panel's report, Mr. Levin has pressed on. Three months after the release of the report and two weeks before the 2004 presidential elections, Mr. Levin released his "Inquiry into the Alternative Analysis of the Issue of an Iraq-al Qaeda Relationship." The appendix for the inquiry lists six categories of information requests the Pentagon denied the senator, including documents relating to detainee briefings for Mr. Feith's analysts; contacts between those analysts and a pre-war opposition group, the Iraqi National Congress, and communication between the analysts and other intelligence agencies about assessments on Iraq's ties to Al Qaeda.

A spokeswoman for Mr. Levin said this week the senator had not yet made a decision on whether to subpoena the documents.

In the report, Mr. Levin concluded that Mr. Feith failed to make key changes requested by the CIA in a report he submitted on October 27, 2003, to the Senate intelligence committee regarding that relationship. That memo was the basis of a Weekly Standard cover story by Steven Hayes touting the operational links between Saddam Hussein's Iraq and Al Qaeda.

At the request of Mr. Feith, the CIA's director of congressional affairs at the time, Stanley Moskowitz, checked the 2003 memo against the recommendations from his agency and concluded "after a careful comparison between that submission and what we had requested as our condition for clearance of CIA material, I believe that you made all of the changes we requested," according to a November 1, 2004, letter obtained by the Sun.

Nonetheless, Mr. Levin in a September 22, 2005, letter to the Pentagon's acting inspector general, Tom Gimble requested that the Defense Department watchdog investigate whether Mr. Feith sent CIA material to the Senate intelligence committee without the agency's approval. In that letter, Mr. Levin requested that the inspector general look into 10 specific questions about alternative analysis into Iraq and Al Qaeda. It followed a more modest request from Senator Roberts, the Republican chairman of the Senate intelligence panel, to Mr. Gimble to investigate outstanding questions regarding the Office of Special Plans.

Mr. Levin earlier this month told reporters and Web loggers that he expected the inspector general report would be finished in the coming weeks and that Congress would proceed depending on what that report said.

Pakistan hands over Taliban suspects to Afghanistan

Pakistan hands over Taliban suspects to Afghanistan - Yahoo! News: "CHAMAN, Pakistan (Reuters) - Pakistan has handed over 240 suspected Taliban fighters to Afghan authorities this week as a hunt for the Islamist militants continues in the country's southwest, police said on Friday. "

Pakistani police have arrested hundreds of Taliban suspects in recent months in a series of raids in Quetta and other parts of the southwestern province of Baluchistan. Many were handed over to Afghan authorities in July but they said none appeared to be Taliban.

Salman Syed, a senior police official in Quetta, said over 240 suspects handed over to the Afghan authorities this week were arrested over the past two months.

"They were real Taliban fighters. They could not speak Urdu and had no knowledge where they are," he said referring to the language commonly spoken across Pakistan.

He said some suspects were arrested while getting medical treatment in hospitals.

"Our crackdown against Taliban fighters is continuing and we have increased our surveillance in hospitals."

The latest crackdown comes amid growing demands by the Afghan government, the United States and
NATO' forces for Pakistan to act more forcefully against the Taliban.

Pakistan says it is doing all it can to stem cross-border movement of the militants and has called for more stringent border controls by Afghan and foreign forces on their side of the long, porous frontier.

Counterterrorism Blog: India Awakes to Vital Installation Threat as Separatists Continue to Attack Railway

Counterterrorism Blog: India Awakes to Vital Installation Threat as Separatists Continue to Attack Railway: "Lately though, India’s security and intelligence establishment woke up to series of novel terrorist threats ranging from a number of possible targets including prominent individuals, vital installations, economic centers, monuments and maritime infrastructures. On November 22, Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil cautiously indicated that one 'foreign country' and its “spy agency” have been directing terrorist outfits to perpetrate violent activities in India. However, he refrained himself from uttering Pakistan and ISI. India's atomic power plants and installations in the oil and natural gas sector are most vulnerable to terrorist strike, according to Mr Patil. He also added that defence, communications and Information Technology (IT) sector are equally vulnerable to attacks. "

In early November, threats from suspected al-Qaeda terrorists to perpetrate major attacks on airports in Tamil Nadu and Kerala, followed by a hijack alert from FBI initiated widespread security arrangements across all major airports in the country.

Amid this state of high alert and preparedness, India’s northeast rebels attacked passenger train and railway station in less than five days.

On Nov 20, at least seven people were killed and over 50 others injured in a powerful bomb blast inside a compartment of the Haldibari-Siliguri Passenger train at Belacoba station in West Bengal's Jalpaiguri district. Investigations suggested that the explosive was kept inside a vegetable sack inside the toilet of the compartment. Reports also indicated that four more live bombs were found in the train. Police sources suspected the involvement of separatist militant groups active in that region: the Kamtapur Liberation Organisation (KLO) and the United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA).

It is highly possible that this blast has a Bangladeshi connection. Islamic militant outfit Jama’atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) could be involved with either of the outfits triggering the blast.

On November 23, a blast outside the railway station in Guwahati, Assam, took four lives (including a 18 month child) with at least ten people injured. Police suspected RDX was used by ULFA to trigger the bomb blast. The device was planted in a cycle-rickshaw and detonated by the programmable timed device (PTD).

However, in both blasts, investigating agencies are still groping in the dark and yet to reach a plausible explanation.

TIME.com: Iran and Syria Helping Hizballah Rearm

TIME.com: Iran and Syria Helping Hizballah Rearm -- Page 1: "Iran is smuggling weapons through Syria to re-arm Lebanese allies Hizballah, despite renewed efforts by United Nations peacekeepers and the Lebanese army to seal off the mountain borders with Syria in the wake of last summer's war between the Shi'ite militia and Israel, according to reports by Saudi and Israeli intelligence sources that have been confirmed by western diplomats in Beirut. "

Israeli military officials in Tel Aviv say that Hizballah replenished nearly half of its pre-war stockpiles of short-range missiles and small arms. But western diplomats in Beirut say these calculations under-estimate the weapons flow and that Hizballah has now filled its war chest with over 20,000 short-range missiles—a similar amount to what they had at the start of the conflict, during which the group is believed to have fired over 3,000 rockets at Israel.

"The Iranian pipeline through Syria was already working during the war," despite constant Israeli bombing raids on the roads into Lebanon from Syria, this Beirut source said. Officially, Syria and Iran deny that they're supplying weapons to Hizballah. As for the Shi'ite group itself, when asked about receiving a new shipment of arms from Syria and Iran, a spokesman told TIME, without elaborating, "We have more than enough weapons if Israel tries to attack us again."

Over the past three months, according to a knowledgeable Saudi source, Iranian Revolutionary Guard officers have been operating out of a military base on the outskirts of Damascus. The Iranian government has dispatched shipments of small arms and what appear to be missile components to this military base, according to the source. From the secret base, weapons have been shipped by truck across the border into Lebanon. Western diplomats say that the Lebanese army has posted over 8,000 troops along the border, forcing smugglers to use mountain passes instead of the heavily-monitored crossing on the main Beirut-Damascus road.

The Saudis, in particular, are alarmed at Iran's spreading influence in Lebanon. "There has been a serious increase in (Iranian and Syrian) activity in the rearming of HIzballah," says Nawaf Obaid, a Saudi security advisor who is managing director of the Riyadh-based Saudi National Security Assessment Project, a consulting group that advises the Saudi government. Obaid contends that "a huge stream of trucks" has been crossing the border from Syria into Lebanon, ferrying thinly disguised shipments of arms.

Moreover, Obaid says, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and Iran's Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) are using the Iranian embassies in Damascus and Beirut as command and control centers -- an allegation that was also confirmed to TIME by Israeli military sources. Obaid says there appear to be direct communications links between the Iranians and Hizballah, via Hizballah officers working inside the Iranian embassy in Beirut, and Iranian officers in the field with Hizballah fighters; in the past, some Middle East analysts have rejected the popular notion that Hizballah takes direct orders from Iran.

Iran's apparent efforts to destabilize Lebanon and to expand Shi'ite influence in Iraq and throughout the region are of major concern to the Saudi government, a leading power in the Sunni Muslim world that presumably would like to see the U.S. take a more active stance in Lebanon against its regional rivals.

Obaid says that when Vice President Cheney visits King Abdallah bin Abd Al Aziz Al Saud Saturday in Riyadh, the Saudi king is expected to tell Cheney that "the Saudi leadership will not and cannot allow Iran, through Syria and Hizballah, to bring down the Lebanese government and overtake the levers of power in Beirut." Obaid says the Saudi king is also expected to discuss with Cheney the kingdom's worries about Iranian activity in Iraq and the Palestinian territories as well as its alliance with Syria.

All of the Iranian and Syrian activity is taking place against the backdrop of growing instability within Lebanon's government and Saturday's upcoming vote among government ministers to bring the assassins of the late Prime Minister Rafik Hariri before an international tribunal -- a process that is expected to implicate high-level Syrian officials. Hizballah pulled out of the country's coalition government recently after its push for greater representation was rebuffed; many observers viewed the push for effectve veto power as motivated by its concern that prime minister Fouad Siniora would try to begin the process of Hizballah's disarmament that was reaffirmed in the UN-brokered ceasefire that ended this summer's war.

Moreover, some politicians in Beirut suspect that the assassination of Industry Minister Pierre Gemayel on Tuesday was plotted by Syria to scare cabinet ministers into voting against the international probe into Hariri's death by a massive truck bomb (other analysts argue the predictable fallout from the killing just ahead of such a crucial vote is precisely why Syria would not have ordered it). Saad Hariri, the prime minister's son and a supporter of the current government, told TIME, "Syria is waging a campaign of intimidation and assassinations to stop the tribunal."

If the Lebanese government approves of the tribunal, it will then go to the United Nations, which could slap an embargo on Syria. This process will drag on for months before it wends its way into the UN Security Council. Moreover, such a confrontational approach would run counter to the expected recommendation of the Iraq Study Group, commissioned by the White House, to engage with Syria. But after the assassination of Pierre Gemayel the notion of US talks with Syria may be off the table, at least for the moment.

- with additional reporting by Aaron J. Klein/Tel Aviv and Timothy J. Burger/Washington

Army Expands Training for Advisers Who Will Try to Improve Iraq’s Security Forces

Army Expands Training for Advisers Who Will Try to Improve Iraq’s Security Forces - New York Times: "FORT RILEY, Kan., Nov. 18 — This wind-swept stretch of Kansas has become the hub of a major new push by the United States Army to overhaul its effort to advise Iraq’s fledgling security forces."

Following a disappointing performance by many Iraqi units and complaints that earlier efforts to train American advisers had been handicapped by bureaucratic inertia, the Army has handed the mission to Maj. Gen. Carter F. Ham, who had a previous stint as a commander in Iraq.

Along with nearly 1,000 soldiers from his First Infantry Division, General Ham has sought to improve the training of the advisers as the Army has moved to upgrade the quality of these teams.

The revamped effort began with little fanfare this summer, but has gained prominence in recent weeks as experts inside and outside the government have recommended that the military expand the advisers’ ranks as part of a renewed push to strengthen the Iraqi security forces.

The Army is “transitioning from an endeavor that has been less than a high priority to one that is of the highest priority,” said Jack Keane, a retired four-star general who served as the Army vice chief of staff during the first months of the war. “And it is long overdue.”

Senior American military commanders calculate that strengthening the Iraqi forces, paired with efforts at political reconciliation by the Iraqi government, will enable the Iraqis to take more responsibility for their security and allow the United States to eventually begin withdrawing its forces.

But to date, the Iraqi Army has had trouble providing all the reinforcements American commanders have requested for the stepped-up security operation in Baghdad, even as the level of sectarian violence there soars. At the same time, Iraq’s government has yet to confront the country’s militias, some of which have significant sway over police units. It remains far from clear whether increasing the number and caliber of American advisers can provide enough of the security gains the United States is seeking.

Still, in recent exercises, the would-be advisers were confronted with an early dose of reality, in training that included some of the vexing scenarios they are likely to face in Iraq: an Iraqi battalion commander quarreling angrily with his Iraqi police counterpart, Iraqi troops who roughed up a detainee and an Iraqi crowd irate at the troops who had conducted a surprise raid.

The American Army has long experience in training and deploying military advisers, most notably in Vietnam. There, the Army began with an active advisory program before the fighting escalated into a major conflict. In Iraq, however, the war began with major combat; American advisers, now called “transition teams,” were introduced later, almost as an afterthought. “When we first started this transition-team business in both Iraq and Afghanistan, it was very much a hit-and-miss proposition,” said General Ham, who acknowledged that the program faced early problems. “The selection of individuals for duty on transition teams was probably more haphazard than any of us would have liked.

The training was not standardized across the various training locations. It does not appear that it was well-resourced across the force.

“I think that was what led to some of the earlier criticisms, and in my view the criticism was fair and justified,” General Ham added. “We need to do it better, and this initiative that started the training here at Fort Riley is a part of that.”

There are currently more than 4,000 American troops organized into more than 430 teams to advise the Iraqi Army, police forces and border guards. General John P. Abizaid, the head of the United States Central Command, said recently that the United States planned to increase the size of the teams, which generally have 11 members, so that they can better train Iraqi battalions, which can have more than 700 soldiers. General Abizaid also said that the plan was to attach the advisers not only to Iraqi battalions but also at lower levels, to companies and possibly even platoons. Those ideas, however, have yet to be incorporated in the advisers’ training program.

General Ham worked with senior officers from two of his brigades to organize the program, which lasts a jam-packed 60 days. Soldiers practice a variety of combat skills, including how to counter the ever-present roadside bombs. They also receive some cultural training and, for those headed to Iraq, 50 hours of Arabic language instruction — enough to provide only the most rudimentary skills but more training than most advisers had previously received. There is additional training in Kuwait and at the sprawling American military base at Taji, Iraq.

According to General Ham, the advisory teams include more active-duty soldiers than during the early days of the program, when reservists were more commonly used. As a matter of Army policy, staffing the teams is now a higher priority for Army personnel officers than filling the empty slots in units on alert to deploy to Iraq and Afghanistan.

According to current plans, Fort Riley will train the majority of the Army teams that are sent to advise the Iraqi Army, national police and border guards. The rest of the Army teams are to be drawn from units in Iraq. (The Marines train their own advisers separately.)

In the field, the teams are managed by Brig. Gen. Dana Pittard, an assistant division commander, who provides feedback to Fort Riley. The expectation is that American advisers will still be attached to Iraqi military and police units even after the withdrawal of American combat forces is under way.

I feel like we’ll be the last men standing at the end of the U.S. presence here,” General Pittard observed in August.

Maj. Andrew Yerkes, who is leading a team that is to advise Iraq’s National Police, was thrust in a difficult situation during a recent exercise. A squabble broke out between a person playing the role of an Iraqi battalion commander and another acting as an Iraqi police captain over how to secure the town, a possible situation since Iraq’s army is largely Shiite and the police in Sunni areas are recruited from local communities. Within minutes, the Iraqi battalion commander stormed off, leaving Major Yerkes and his soldiers to ponder how they might better defuse tensions in the future.

“It showed my team a different piece of culture we have not been exposed to and forced us to think our way through a problem,” he said.

General Ham is still looking for ways to improve the training. For instance, he hopes to arrange for the teams of advisers to do some training with the American combat brigades they will work with in Iraq.
Another constraint is the absence of actual Iraqis, or in the case of teams being trained for Afghan duty, Afghan soldiers.

Qualified Iraqi commanders are needed far more urgently in Iraq, so the roles of commanders, interpreters and townspeople in the exercises are played by American soldiers and contractors who were born in Iraq or are of Arab descent. (The battalion commander in Major Yerkes’s exercise lives in San Diego and left Iraq many years ago.)

Even so, the trainees say the exercises are useful. Maj. William Cotty, one of a small number of Special Forces officers who have volunteered to serve as advisers, is leading an advisory team that will be assigned to an Iraqi Army unit. A seasoned officer who served in Colombia and Afghanistan, Major Cotty was put to the test during a raid he conducted with a mock Iraqi battalion commander.

Major Cotty helped the “Iraqis” plan a raid to capture a suspected insurgent in the fictional town of Surdash, speaking through an interpreter to the battalion commander, in this case an Arabic-speaking American soldier who was born in Sudan. In the exercise, the operation led to a firefight in which a suspected insurgent was killed. The “Iraqis” hauled away a captive and began to pummel him as an angry crowd began yelling at the Americans. In an effort to disperse the crowd, Major Cotty fired several blanks into the air.

At a review conducted immediately afterward, the advisers were cautioned to make sure the suspected insurgents they planned to capture had not been picked out by Iraqi units as part of a sectarian or personal vendetta.

Officers observing the exercise also suggested that the major might have taken other steps before firing warning shots, since the shots might encourage Iraqi soldiers to fire wildly. The Americans, for example, might have brought along a loudspeaker and used their interpreter to talk to the townspeople about the point of the raid. Major Cotty said the exercise was helpful.

“According to the book on direct action, I had speed, surprise and violence of action,” he said. “The number one thing I probably took away from this was the loudspeaker,” he said.

[bth: We've been there 3 years and finally the Army is putting training of Iraqi units at the top of the priority list. One wonders why in hell the bureaucracy at the Pentagon and within the Army would have to take this long to get this going. I met Keane about 2 years ago and he struck me as one of the few generals that might actually have thought this matter through a bit. This Army reacts so slowly to the threat, I personally think it would have lost WWII. It so wants to fight the soviets, or some other fantasy adversary TBD, it has essentially neglected to fight and moreover win the wars we are in today.]

Friday, November 24, 2006

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U.S. Fights Highly Trained Militants in Iraq

U.S. Fights Highly Trained Militants in Iraq - New York Times: "FORWARD OPERATING BASE CALDWELL, Iraq, Nov. 23 — Sunni Arab militant groups suspected of ties to Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia have established training camps east of Baghdad that are turning out well-disciplined units willing to fight American forces in set-piece battles, American military commanders said Thursday."

American soldiers fought such units in a pitched battle last week in the village of Turki, 25 miles south of this Iraqi Army base in volatile Diyala Province, near the Iranian border. At least 72 insurgents and two American officers were killed in more than 40 hours of fighting. American commanders said they called in 12 hours of airstrikes while soldiers shot their way through a reed-strewn network of canals in extremely close combat.

Officers said that in this battle, unlike the vast majority of engagements in Diyala, insurgents stood and fought, even deploying a platoon-sized unit that showed remarkable discipline and that one captain said was in “perfect military formation.” Insurgents throughout Iraq usually avoid direct confrontation with the Americans, preferring to use hit-and-run tactics and melting away at the sight of American armored vehicles.

Lt. Col. Andrew Poppas, commander of the Fifth Squadron, 73rd Cavalry, a unit of the 82nd Airborne Division, said in an interview that the fighters at Turki “were disciplined and well-trained, with well-aimed shots.”

“We hadn’t seen anything like this in years,” he said.

The insurgents had built a labyrinthine network of trenches in the farmland, with sleeping areas and significant weapons caches. Two anti-aircraft guns had been hidden away.

Insurgents were apparently able to establish a training camp after American combat forces moved out of the area in the fall of 2005, Colonel Poppas said. Sunni Arab militants there belong to the fundamentalist Wahabbi strain of Islam and are believed to be led, at least in part, by a man known as Abu Abdul Rahman, an Iraqi-Canadian who moved from Canada to Iraq in 1995 after marrying a woman from Turki, the colonel said.

Abu Abdul Rahman was mentioned on some jihadist Web sites as a possible contender for the leadership of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia after the group’s founder, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, was killed in an American airstrike in Diyala Province last summer, said Capt. Mike Few, commander of A Troop, Fifth Squadron.

Senior commanders training Iraqi Army units here say other rural areas of eastern and central Diyala where American forces have had little oversight have been transformed into camps similar to the one at Turki. The “graduates,” many of whom belong to an umbrella group called the Sunni Council, then spread to urban areas such as Baquba, the provincial capital, said Maj. Tim Sheridan, an intelligence officer.

Sectarian violence is rampant in Diyala, where Sunni Arab and Shiite militants are vying for control.

The battle at Turki began after Colonel Poppas and other soldiers flew over the area on a reconnaissance mission on Nov. 12. From the helicopters, they spotted a white car covered by shrubbery and a hole in the ground that appeared to be a hiding place. The colonel dropped off an eight-man team and later sent other soldiers to sweep the area.

Gunfire erupted on Nov. 15 when one unit ran into an ambush. The fighting eventually became so intense that the Americans called in Apache attack helicopters and F-16 fighters, which dropped bombs and strafed the area for hours. An American captain and a lieutenant, both West Point graduates, were shot dead by insurgents in separate firefights.
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Sunni face new conflict in Iraq war

Al Jazeera English - Middle East: "With Baghdad shaken by daily outbreaks of sectarian violence, in Iraq's western al-Anbar province, groups of former Iraqi Baathists are battling armed Islamist groups for control of this largely desert region near the Syrian border."

This increasingly bloody conflict may signal the start of a new phase in the country's three-year old war.
Amid increasing bloodshed in Iraq, many Sunnis looking to end the violence

Local people say that the conflict within Iraq's Sunni minority has potential to detabilise the region long after the US military has gone home.

The former Baathist fighters are believed to be relatively secular while their opponents share al-Qaeda's dream of establishing an Islamic caliphate in Iraq which will then be a launchpad for carrying out attacks around the Middle East.

The ex-Baathists' offensive has been so successful, local people say, that Iraqi groups working with al-Qaeda have been forced to divert their attacks away from the Americans to focus on fighting the al-Awda party, as the new secular Sunni movement is called.

'Islamic state of Iraq'

In early November, this growing conflict took a new turn when masked gunmen linked to al-Qaeda distributed flyers and posters throughout al-Anbar province threatening to execute anyone from Al-Awda.

The Baath secular party will find no quarter in the new principality of the Islamic State of Iraq," read one flyer.

Since then, several high-ranking officials from the former Iraqi army have been found murdered throughout Anbar province.

These include former Major General Saab Al-Rawi, Major General Saud Al-Naimi and Wagih Dherar Al-Mawla, a former senior officer in the Iraqi Air Force stationed in Habbaniyah.

On 11 November another senior member of the Baath party, Loay Yassin, was found shot in the head in Al-Jamia, the western district of the town of Hiyt.

Hiyt residents told Al Jazeera that Yassin was known to have recruited fighters for the Jaysh Mohammed (Mohammed's Army).

The Jaysh Mohammed is one of the largest Sunni insurgent groups and in the past it has claimed numerous attacks against US forces in Baghdad and Anbar.

The assassination of Yassin may suggest that al-Qaeda and its allies fear that the Jaysh Mohammed may be close to joining the al-Awda neo-Baathist alliance.

Changing alliances

In the past year, the Jaysh Mohammed has already clashed several times with another group, Al-Tawheed wa Al-Jihad, a mainly Iraqi group which is affiliated with al-Qaeda in Iraq.

The increasingly heavy fighting between the rival armed groups in Hiyt and other urban centres in Anbar has led many Sunnis to believe that a new war between secularist and Islamist factions could be beginning.

Although both groups are in principle opposed to the US presence in Iraq and the Shia-led government in Baghdad, Anbar residents say an rapprochment between the two is unlikely.

Local people point out that the root of the two groups' mutual antagonism is based not only on ideological differences but also in events that occured long before the March 2003 US-led invasion.

Secularism versus Wahhabism

In 1996, Saddam Hussein's Baathist security forces scoured Anbar province looking for men who might be plotting against the government.

Dozens of young men were rounded up by the Iraqi army and police. Many belonged to the highly conservative Wahhabi branch of Islam.

Several of those arrested were sent to prisons in Baghdad such as the Al-Hakmiyah in Al-Rusafa district and the Al-Rathwaniyah jail near Baghdad International Airport.

The arrests and the men's subsequent imprisonment has created a long-standing series of feuds and vendettas.


For more than six years, the imprisoned men, their families and their tribes nursed bitter grudges against members of the Baath party in Anbar.

They believed that these men had spied on the nascent Islamist movements and then provided their names and addresses to Saddam Hussein's security forces.

Then, in 2003, just a few months before the March 2003 invasion, Saddam ordered political and criminal prisoners released from prison.

Among those released were the imprisoned Wahhabists.

With Saddam gone and the country in chaos, the men and their families saw their chance to get even.

Furious at the years of imprisonment, ill-treatment and torture at the hands of the Baathists, the men and their families swore to take revenge on those who had betrayed them.

Since then al-Anbar province has fallen victim to a deepening spiral of violence that not only pits
the Sunnis against the Americans, but also Sunni against Sunni.
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Cocaine, heroin cheaper than ever in Europe: report

LISBON (Reuters) - Illegal drugs may be cheaper than ever before in Europe, with prices of heroin slumping 45 percent and cocaine down 22 percent over five years, according to the first Europe-wide report of its kind on drug prices.

The steep fall in heroin prices in 1999-2004 came as drug production in Afghanistan' surged so much after the fall of the Taliban that supply could now be exceeding global demand for heroin, threatening to spur more drug use.

Afghanistan accounts for about 90 percent of world production of opium - the raw material for heroin - and its production has soared since a U.S.-led invasion ousted the government of the Islamist Taliban in 2001.

NATO' troops are currently battling a Taliban insurgency, which has been fueled by the drugs trade.

"Afghanistan is the key player in global heroin production and developments in the country have the potential to impact on the kind of drug problem we will face in Europe in the future," said Wolfgang Gotz, head of the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA), in a statement.

Gotz said "we cannot ignore the dangers posed by a growing surplus of heroin on the global illicit market." In 2004 a record 19 tonnes of heroin was seized in Europe, up 10 percent from 2003, the report said.

But according to the five-year price analysis in the Lisbon-based agency's 2006 annual report, the price of virtually all drugs in Europe, from cannabis to ecstasy, cocaine and heroin slumped from 1999 to 2004....

Yearning to Be Whole Again

Yearning to Be Whole Again - washingtonpost.com: "When they called her name, she could not move. Sgt. Leana Nishimura intended to walk up proudly, shake the dignitaries' hands and accept their honors for her service in Iraq-- a special coin, a lapel pin, a glass-encased U.S. flag."

But her son clung to her leg. He cried and held tight, she recalled. And so Nishimura stayed where she was, and the ceremony last summer went on without her. T.J. was 9, her oldest child, and although eight months had passed since she had returned from the war zone, he was still upset by anything that reminded him of her deployment.

He remembered the long separation. The faraway move to live with his grandmother. The months that went by without his mother's kisses or hugs, without her scrutiny of homework, her teasing humor, her familiar bedtime songs.

Nishimura was a single mother -- with no spouse to take over, to preserve her children's routines, to keep up the family apartment.

Of her three children, T.J. seemed to worry most. He sent letter after letter to the war zone, where she was a communications specialist, part of the Maryland National Guard.

"He went from having one parent to having no parents, basically," Nishimura said, reflecting, "People have said, 'Thank you so much for your sacrifice.' But it's the children who have had more of a sacrifice."

When war started in Iraq, a generation of U.S. women became involved as never before-- in a wider-than-ever array of jobs, for long deployments, in a conflict with daily bloodshed. More than 155,000 women have served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Among their ranks are more than 16,000 single mothers, according to the Pentagon, a number that military experts say is unprecedented.

How these women have coped and how their children are managing have gone little-noticed as the war stretches across a fourth year.

"It has to be one of the hardest things that a mom and her children have to go through," said Steven Mintz, a University of Houston professor with an expertise in family life. "You can't cuddle a young child over the phone, and you can't cuddle a child through e-mail."

In the military, parental status is not a barrier to serving in a war. All deploy when the call comes -- single mothers, single fathers, married couples -- relying on a "family-care plan" that designates a caregiver for children when parents are gone.

The thinking is that a soldier is a soldier. "Everyone trains to a standard of readiness and must be able to be mobilized," said Lt. Col. Mike Milord of the National Guard Bureau.

But war duty can be especially difficult for single parents. A year ago, Nishimura returned to the United States to face practical difficulties. Emotional issues. And unavoidable questions concerning her children: Will there be another deployment? What if a parent does not come back?...
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Political Wire: Rumsfeld Sacking Causes Waves

Political Wire: Rumsfeld Sacking Causes Waves: "The latest Evans-Novak Political Report suggests the way President Bush fired Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld caused considerable friction in the White House. 'Even Vice President Dick Cheney is said to be profoundly disturbed by Rumsfeld's treatment.'

Key points:"

On the day after the election, Rumsfeld had seemed devastated -- the familiar confident grin gone and his voice breaking.

According to Bush Administration officials, only three or four people knew he would be fired -- and Rumsfeld was not one of them."

Novak also suggests Bush's "shrouded decision" came after he declared Rumsfeld would serve out the second term. "It fits a pattern of a President who is secretive and impersonal."

"Bush had likewise sacked two other appointees, both of whom were the last to know of their demise. Economic advisor Lawrence Lindsey had been assured in 2002 that he would be retained as the President's national economic adviser, but received word at around 5 p.m. that he would be fired the next day.

Before Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill embarked on a dangerous mission to Afghanistan, he requested and received assurances that he would still have a job when he returned. Instead, he was dismissed in tandem with Lindsey."

Thursday, November 23, 2006

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Bombs kill 133 in Baghdad, gunmen storm ministry

Bombs kill 133 in Baghdad, gunmen storm ministry Top News Reuters.com: "BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Up to six car bombs killed 133 people in a Shi'ite militia stronghold in Baghdad on Thursday, in one of most devastating such attacks since the U.S. invasion.

A further 201 people were wounded, police said. The Interior Ministry earlier put the toll at 115 dead and 125 wounded.

The blasts, which were followed by a mortar barrage aimed at a nearby Sunni enclave, came at the same time as gunmen mounted a bold daylight raid on the Shi'ite-run Health Ministry. "

Six parked vehicles each packed with as much as half a metric ton of explosives, as well as mortars landing in the area, devastated streets and a crowded market in the sprawling Sadr City slum in east Baghdad, Major General Jihad al-Jabori of the Interior Ministry told Iraqiya state television.

The violence seemed certain to inflame sectarian passions after a week of mounting tensions at the heart of the U.S.-backed national unity government.

Washington is pressing Shi'ite and minority Sunni leaders to rein in militants to halt a slide towards all-out civil war.

The Sadr City blasts destroyed whole streets, leaving bloodied remains amid mangled vehicle wrecks. Fierce fires were left blazing after the attacks.

Five people were wounded at the Health Ministry, about 5 km (3 miles) from Sadr City, an Interior Ministry source said, when about 30 guerrillas fired mortars, rocket-propelled grenades and machineguns into the compound in one of the biggest public shows of force by militants in the city since the U.S. invasion in 2003

The arrival of U.S. attack helicopters and ground troops eventually dispersed the assailants, ministry employees said.

Shortly afterwards, a dozen mortar rounds hit Aadhamiya, a Sunni enclave in mainly Shi'ite east Baghdad. The Interior Ministry said it was not aware of casualties in the attack.

The Health Ministry is run by followers of Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, whose Mehdi Army militia is accused by many Sunnis of being behind some of the worst death squad violence in the capital, in which hundreds of people a week are being kidnapped and tortured and their bodies dumped around the city.

The United Nations said on Wednesday violent deaths among civilians had hit a record of over 3,700 in October, although the health minister insisted it was much lower.

Only a handful of attacks in the sectarian violence that followed the U.S. invasion have killed more than 100 people.

[bth: one wonders if militias are the only viable defense the neighborhoods have against random sunni terror attacks via car bombs. One strategy is just to step back and let them have their civil war fought between sunnis and militias. It would be ugly and highly violent. Another perspective is that 80% of our casualties are coming from sunni insurgents ... By the way, I posted earlier a report and analysis from Turkey. One wonders why our so called friends, the Turks, the Saudis and the Egyptians aren't training thousands of Iraqi police and soldiers if they are really our 'friends'. I guess these 'friends' want us to fail. The turks wonder why we aren't jumping to get their advice and support - well that's one of them; cutting off the 4th ID in 2003 is another. Throwing out Turkish commandos that snuck into Kirkuk is a third.]

JTW Editorial - Will/Can Syria and Iran Help the US in Iraq?

JTW Editorial - Will/Can Syria and Iran Help the US in Iraq?: "Everyone agrees that the American electorates gave a clear and strong message in the midterm US elections in November 2006. Both the Republicans and the Democrats have stated that they were aware that Iraq was the most important issue for the elections. However, what the Democrats and the Republicans have understood from the content of the message is quite the opposite. As Democrats are talking of withdrawal or a decrease in troop number, the Republicans are considering more troop deployment. In the meantime, the practices of the U.S. troops in Iraq have not softened; contrarily, it has stiffened since the elections."

Another hot issue after the elections has been whether to negotiate, or even cooperate with, the neighbors of Iraq, that is, Syria and Iran. The Baker-Hamilton Iraqi Study Group is thinking on the Syria-Iran alternative as if they have found a brand new idea. Similarly, the British Prime Minister Tony Blair, one of the architects of the Iraq tragedy, has been maintaining that cooperation with these two countries plays a key role for the future of Iraq. There are like-minded people even among the Republicans. There is more and more call for cooperation, along with warnings, to Iran and Syria, which had been defined as “evil axis”, whose regimes were declared to be changed and whose oppositions had been publicly funded until recently. But these calls are just tragicomic. For Blair, these calls are a “final chance to these countries”. The U.S. and Britain, outspokenly threatening these two countries and giving the impression that a military operation is imminent, are expecting the assistance of Syria and Iran in Iraq.

Neither Iran nor Syria will or can assist the coalition troops in Iraq. First of all, both Iran and Syria would not help the U.S. and its allies at a time when they are feeling the greatest threat from the U.S. Even the simplest mind knows the fact that once the U.S. is done in Iraq, it will deal with, or even attack, Iran and Syria. Second, even if Iran and Syria wants to help to the cessation of violence in Iraq, they cannot. There are several reasons for that:

1. The U.S. and its allies are committing so grave mistakes in Iraq that the failures of these mistakes cannot be reversed by any country. The contributions of other countries will make no use unless the U.S. changes itself. In particular, the use of excessive force and the misperception that military might could solve all the problems will cause more failures in Iraq for the U.S. The Washington models Israel in Iraq; and it has been proven in Palestine how unsuccessful the Israeli model is. If the U.S. wants to see what it will have achieved 50 years later, it needs to look at what Israel has achieved in Palestine after more than 50 years.
2. It is for sure that Iran has an influence on the Iraqi Shi’ites. But the influence of which Iran? It is not the Iranian state but the ‘radical religionist revolutionaries’ in the Iranian state who have the influence on the radical and armed groups among the Iraqi Shi’ites. These Iranian radicals are aspiring to make Iran more conservative by using Iraq. In other words, they are striving to get Iraq radicalize Iran rather than get Iran ameliorate Iraq.
3. The Iraqi Shi’ites are not a unified group. They may involve in an intra-sectarian war once they feel threatened. The ongoing macro civil war may turn into micro local civil wars among the Shi’ites in a short while. Iran cannot stop such kind of a fighting either. Even some groups in Iran may involve in that fighting.
4. For Damascus, it has a quite limited influence on Iraq. If Syria antagonizes some groups in Iraq, those groups may threaten Syria’s stability too.
5. Just like those in Iran, some influential personalities in Syrian intelligence and security forces find benefits in the prolongation of the violence in Iraq. These people, though avoiding a direct confrontation with the President Bashar al-Assad, are trying to reach their objectives through indirect methods.
6. Both Syria and Iran are quite discontent with the U.S. policy about the Kurds. The enlargement of the Kurdish zone in North Iraq at the expense of the Sunni and Shi’ite Arabs are perceived as a serious threat by Syria and Iran. Their concerns intensify due to Israel’s close contact with the Iraqi Kurds. For this reason, it is clear that Syria and Iran would like to support the armament of the Shi’ites and Baathist Arabs against the Kurds rather than preventing them clashing.
7. Both Syria and Iran cannot be impartial in Iraq. Both countries are a party to the conflict and their maneuvers will be perceived as a threat by the other and will deteriorate the situation.
8. The most important obstacle, perhaps, is the difference of understanding between Syria-Iran and the U.S. Washington is not capable of cooperating with these countries in Iraq in the long run. But it equally will not allow these two neighbors take initiatives in Iraq on their own.

WHERE THE ALTERNATIVE LIES

In the light of these discussions, one can easily say that the U.S.’ dialogue with Syria and Iran would not be useful. Surely, contact with the neighbors is something positive. But it will not solve the U.S.’ problems in Iraq. It is true that an alternative solution lies in the cooperation with the neighbors, but these neighbors are not Iran and Syria. Surprisingly, neither the Democrats nor the Republicans are mentioning of Turkey among the alternatives. Turkey, like other neighbors of Iraq, has been kept outside of Iraq by the U.S. At the time, Ankara even wanted to send troops to Iraq to assist the U.S. but Washington rejected it. Despite obstructions, Turkey still meets the considerable portion of the logistical needs of the U.S. and Iraq. Currently, the number of Turkish lorries/trucks in Iraq is around 10.000. Turks undertake many investments, which the American and European investors hesitate to undertake for security concerns, with very small profit margins. And they risk their lives when doing this. In terms of fatalities, Turkey ranks the second after the U.S. in Iraq. Those killed were businessmen, truck drivers etc. Despite Turkey’s self-sacrifice, the U.S. has never engaged in a political cooperation with Turkey regarding Iraq. These two countries, being allies in the NATO, has never been able to become allies in Iraq. But Turkey has significant advantages in contributing to the solution in Iraq:

1. Though the overwhelming majority of the Turkish population is Sunni, Turkey is not a party to the conflict in Iraq. It has good contacts both with the Shi’ites and Sunnis. Unlike Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Iran, there is no sectarian fanaticism in Turkey.

2. Turkey, the 17th biggest economy of the world, is the most suitable country to use economic instruments to ensure stability in Iraq.

3. It is the only NATO-member country among Iraq’s neighbors.

4. It is the only country in the process of negotiations for full membership to the EU.

5. It is the sole neighbor of Iraq having almost identical targets with the U.S.

6. It has close relations with Syria and Iran though it is an ally of the U.S. The Turkish statesmen regularly pay visits to these countries.

7. It has good relations with Iraq’s neighbors. It can conduct common operations with all of these countries. It has been the prominent country in realizing the Iraq’s Neighbors Summit since the start of the war.

8. Despite criticisms on its Kurdish issue, Turkey has been the most prominent country in meeting the economic and other needs of the Iraqi Kurds. The Turkish investments in North Iraq amount to more than $3 billion.

Turkey’s other potential contributions may also be listed here. But until now, the U.S. has not shown an attitude of heeding Ankara’s opinions. Turkey, as if deliberately, has been ruled out in the U.S.’ Middle East policies. This attitude has caused some suspicions in Turkey towards the U.S. There is also a similar case for the U.S.’ other allies in the region, that is, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Egypt. The U.S. not only has failed to heed the opinions of these countries but also has lost their support as a result of its implication that the borders of these countries might change.

After the elections, the U.S., so to say, embraces any suggestion on Iraq. It considers even the most extreme recommendation to save itself from Iraq. It even seeks the assistance of Syria and Iran, which it once considered to be its leading enemies. What is strange is it still cannot notice Turkey and its other allies, which it has neglected for years.

23 November 2006
Translated by Noyan OZKAYA, USAK, Ankara

[bth: this biased but insightful article is worth a read. With friends like these in the middle east who needs enemies? One wonders though if the US could benefit from consulting its so called friends more often than its enemies which are clearly Syria and Iran.]

JTW Editorial - Will/Can Syria and Iran Help the US in Iraq?

JTW Editorial - Will/Can Syria and Iran Help the US in Iraq?: "Everyone agrees that the American electorates gave a clear and strong message in the midterm US elections in November 2006. Both the Republicans and the Democrats have stated that they were aware that Iraq was the most important issue for the elections. However, what the Democrats and the Republicans have understood from the content of the message is quite the opposite. As Democrats are talking of withdrawal or a decrease in troop number, the Republicans are considering more troop deployment. In the meantime, the practices of the U.S. troops in Iraq have not softened; contrarily, it has stiffened since the elections."

Another hot issue after the elections has been whether to negotiate, or even cooperate with, the neighbors of Iraq, that is, Syria and Iran. The Baker-Hamilton Iraqi Study Group is thinking on the Syria-Iran alternative as if they have found a brand new idea. Similarly, the British Prime Minister Tony Blair, one of the architects of the Iraq tragedy, has been maintaining that cooperation with these two countries plays a key role for the future of Iraq. There are like-minded people even among the Republicans. There is more and more call for cooperation, along with warnings, to Iran and Syria, which had been defined as “evil axis”, whose regimes were declared to be changed and whose oppositions had been publicly funded until recently. But these calls are just tragicomic. For Blair, these calls are a “final chance to these countries”. The U.S. and Britain, outspokenly threatening these two countries and giving the impression that a military operation is imminent, are expecting the assistance of Syria and Iran in Iraq.

Neither Iran nor Syria will or can assist the coalition troops in Iraq. First of all, both Iran and Syria would not help the U.S. and its allies at a time when they are feeling the greatest threat from the U.S. Even the simplest mind knows the fact that once the U.S. is done in Iraq, it will deal with, or even attack, Iran and Syria. Second, even if Iran and Syria wants to help to the cessation of violence in Iraq, they cannot. There are several reasons for that:

1. The U.S. and its allies are committing so grave mistakes in Iraq that the failures of these mistakes cannot be reversed by any country. The contributions of other countries will make no use unless the U.S. changes itself. In particular, the use of excessive force and the misperception that military might could solve all the problems will cause more failures in Iraq for the U.S. The Washington models Israel in Iraq; and it has been proven in Palestine how unsuccessful the Israeli model is. If the U.S. wants to see what it will have achieved 50 years later, it needs to look at what Israel has achieved in Palestine after more than 50 years.
2. It is for sure that Iran has an influence on the Iraqi Shi’ites. But the influence of which Iran? It is not the Iranian state but the ‘radical religionist revolutionaries’ in the Iranian state who have the influence on the radical and armed groups among the Iraqi Shi’ites. These Iranian radicals are aspiring to make Iran more conservative by using Iraq. In other words, they are striving to get Iraq radicalize Iran rather than get Iran ameliorate Iraq.
3. The Iraqi Shi’ites are not a unified group. They may involve in an intra-sectarian war once they feel threatened. The ongoing macro civil war may turn into micro local civil wars among the Shi’ites in a short while. Iran cannot stop such kind of a fighting either. Even some groups in Iran may involve in that fighting.
4. For Damascus, it has a quite limited influence on Iraq. If Syria antagonizes some groups in Iraq, those groups may threaten Syria’s stability too.
5. Just like those in Iran, some influential personalities in Syrian intelligence and security forces find benefits in the prolongation of the violence in Iraq. These people, though avoiding a direct confrontation with the President Bashar al-Assad, are trying to reach their objectives through indirect methods.
6. Both Syria and Iran are quite discontent with the U.S. policy about the Kurds. The enlargement of the Kurdish zone in North Iraq at the expense of the Sunni and Shi’ite Arabs are perceived as a serious threat by Syria and Iran. Their concerns intensify due to Israel’s close contact with the Iraqi Kurds. For this reason, it is clear that Syria and Iran would like to support the armament of the Shi’ites and Baathist Arabs against the Kurds rather than preventing them clashing.
7. Both Syria and Iran cannot be impartial in Iraq. Both countries are a party to the conflict and their maneuvers will be perceived as a threat by the other and will deteriorate the situation.
8. The most important obstacle, perhaps, is the difference of understanding between Syria-Iran and the U.S. Washington is not capable of cooperating with these countries in Iraq in the long run. But it equally will not allow these two neighbors take initiatives in Iraq on their own.

WHERE THE ALTERNATIVE LIES

In the light of these discussions, one can easily say that the U.S.’ dialogue with Syria and Iran would not be useful. Surely, contact with the neighbors is something positive. But it will not solve the U.S.’ problems in Iraq. It is true that an alternative solution lies in the cooperation with the neighbors, but these neighbors are not Iran and Syria. Surprisingly, neither the Democrats nor the Republicans are mentioning of Turkey among the alternatives. Turkey, like other neighbors of Iraq, has been kept outside of Iraq by the U.S. At the time, Ankara even wanted to send troops to Iraq to assist the U.S. but Washington rejected it. Despite obstructions, Turkey still meets the considerable portion of the logistical needs of the U.S. and Iraq. Currently, the number of Turkish lorries/trucks in Iraq is around 10.000. Turks undertake many investments, which the American and European investors hesitate to undertake for security concerns, with very small profit margins. And they risk their lives when doing this. In terms of fatalities, Turkey ranks the second after the U.S. in Iraq. Those killed were businessmen, truck drivers etc. Despite Turkey’s self-sacrifice, the U.S. has never engaged in a political cooperation with Turkey regarding Iraq. These two countries, being allies in the NATO, has never been able to become allies in Iraq. But Turkey has significant advantages in contributing to the solution in Iraq:

1. Though the overwhelming majority of the Turkish population is Sunni, Turkey is not a party to the conflict in Iraq. It has good contacts both with the Shi’ites and Sunnis. Unlike Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Iran, there is no sectarian fanaticism in Turkey.

2. Turkey, the 17th biggest economy of the world, is the most suitable country to use economic instruments to ensure stability in Iraq.

3. It is the only NATO-member country among Iraq’s neighbors.

4. It is the only country in the process of negotiations for full membership to the EU.

5. It is the sole neighbor of Iraq having almost identical targets with the U.S.

6. It has close relations with Syria and Iran though it is an ally of the U.S. The Turkish statesmen regularly pay visits to these countries.

7. It has good relations with Iraq’s neighbors. It can conduct common operations with all of these countries. It has been the prominent country in realizing the Iraq’s Neighbors Summit since the start of the war.

8. Despite criticisms on its Kurdish issue, Turkey has been the most prominent country in meeting the economic and other needs of the Iraqi Kurds. The Turkish investments in North Iraq amount to more than $3 billion.

Turkey’s other potential contributions may also be listed here. But until now, the U.S. has not shown an attitude of heeding Ankara’s opinions. Turkey, as if deliberately, has been ruled out in the U.S.’ Middle East policies. This attitude has caused some suspicions in Turkey towards the U.S. There is also a similar case for the U.S.’ other allies in the region, that is, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Egypt. The U.S. not only has failed to heed the opinions of these countries but also has lost their support as a result of its implication that the borders of these countries might change.

After the elections, the U.S., so to say, embraces any suggestion on Iraq. It considers even the most extreme recommendation to save itself from Iraq. It even seeks the assistance of Syria and Iran, which it once considered to be its leading enemies. What is strange is it still cannot notice Turkey and its other allies, which it has neglected for years.

23 November 2006
Translated by Noyan OZKAYA, USAK, Ankara

[bth: this biased but insightful article is worth a read. With friends like these in the middle east who needs enemies? One wonders though if the US could benefit from consulting its so called friends more often than its enemies which are clearly Syria and Iran.]
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Iran and Turkey Establish Joint PKK Commission

JTW News - Iran and Turkey Establish Joint PKK Commission: "Melek TATLICAN (JTW and news agencies) - Ankara and Tehran governments have established a new commission to deal with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and its Iranian PEJAK branch.

Turkish ambassador to Tehran Gurcan Turkoglu was talking to journalists in Urumiye in Iran where he revealed the existence of the new commission."

Turkoglu said that this commission would work to prevent attacks by the terrorist organization PKK.

Iranian newspapers also announced Teheran’s cooperation with Ankara in combating the Kurdish separatist group.

Iranian security forces bombed and missiled the PKK camps in Kandil Mnt. last Spring. Turkey welcomed all these measures.

Iranian newspapers wrote that Ankara was ready for joint operations with Iran against the PKK.

The PKK has armed bases in Iraq which is under control of the US.

The PKK has used the Iraqi bases to attack Turkish targets in Eastern Turkey.

Turkey asked Iraq Government, Iraqi Kurdish groups and the US to remove these terrorism camps.

All three parties accepted the existence of these camps and named the camps as 'terror camps' yet no concrete step has been taken since 2003.

Dr. Sedat Laciner, from Ankara-based USAK, says that Turkish people are dissapointed by the American attitude regarding the PKK terrorism:"It is strange but Iran is more helpful in combating PKK terrorism than the US.

US laws consider the PKK terrorist organisation, yet the PKK has all the freedoms in Iraq and the US has done nothing to prevent the PKK in Iraq.

Talks are not enough to persuade the Turkish public and noone believes the US excuses in Turkey now."

Turkish Government and the Army has been under great public pressure to organise a military operation against the PKK camps in Iraq.JTW and CNA23 November 2006

[bth: I think the Kurds will breakaway in 2007. Will the US stand with the Kurds in Iraq? I personally hope so.]

Putin: ‘Treat us as strategic partner’

FT.com / World / Europe - Putin: ‘Treat us as strategic partner’: "Vladimir Putin, Russian president, on Wednesday issues a veiled warning to Poland and other eastern European states that they risk “creating fresh division lines in Europe” by treating Moscow as an enemy instead of a long-term strategic partner."

Mr Putin, writing in the Financial Times, suggests that some in Europe try to fit EU-Russia relations into “the obsolete model of “friend or foe”. He argues there should be nothing to fear from growing interdependence between the two sides. Although he does not mention Poland by name, the Russian president clearly has the country in his sights along with the seven other former communist countries that joined the EU in 2004 and regard Moscow with suspicion

Poland has been the most vocal in its criticism, threatening to veto the start of talks this Friday in Helsinki on a new EU-Russia partnership deal, which would take in areas such as energy, trade, human rights and visa regimes.

But Mr Putin also takes a swipe at Estonia and Latvia, which he believes do not respect the rights of ethnic Russians. He says he expects the EU to ensure “equal rights to all people of the EU irrespective of their country of origin”.

Poland on Tuesday suggested a compromise with Russia was possible if the EU supported its efforts to end a year-long Russian embargo on Polish meat and vegetables, which it claims is costing exporters about €1m ($1.3m, £675,000) a day and is politically motivated.

“That is the crux of the matter: is Poland to be treated by Russia as a member of the European Union?”

Jaroslaw Kaczynski, Poland’s prime minister, said on Tuesday.

Finnish presidency officials say Poland is no longer demanding that Russia promises to open its gas pipelines to third parties as a precondition for the start of partnership talks.

Andrzej Lepper, Poland’s agriculture minister, insists Poland has dealt with Russia’s complaints about forged veterinary certificates and other sanitary issues relating to exports. But Vladimir Chizhov, Russia’s envoy to the EU, says concerns remain, citing as an example the seizure by Russian authorities of a cargo of meat labelled as “Polish beef” which turned out to be buffalo meat from India.

Somalia on knife-edge as Ethiopia, Islamists ready for all-out war

Business Day - News Worth Knowing: "ADDIS ABABA — Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi said today his country has completed preparations for war with neighbouring Somalia’s powerful Islamist movement, alongside faltering peace efforts. ".

Meles told parliament that the Islamists, who have declared holy war on Ethiopian troops deployed to Somalia to protect the weak internationally backed Somali government, represented a “clear and present danger” to his country.

Less than an hour after after Meles’ announcement, the Islamists gathered in a war council in Mogadishu and said they were ready to defend Somalia from invasion by a “reckless and war-thirsty” Ethiopia.

“This group represents a clear threat to Ethiopia,” Meles told Ethiopian lawmakers in Addis Ababa, which denies UN experts’ claims of having sent thousands of troops to Somalia but admits to sending military advisers.

"To resist this clear and present danger, the policy of this government is first to try to solve the problem through negotiation and dialogue,” he said. “So far, our attempts have not been successful."

“When any country faces that type of danger it has the full right to defend itself against this threat,” Meles said. “To exercise this right we have been preparing for this kind of response, because it is our responsibility."

“The government has completed that kind of preparations."

However, opposition lawmakers then refused to accept a motion endorsing the prime minister’s statements, calling it tantamount to a declaration of war and forcing a delay in the vote in order for revisions to be made.

“As it is, the motion is confusing,” opposition MP Beyene Petros said. “It can be interpreted broadly as declaring war against Islamic courts in Somalia and we cannot take responsibility for that."

“This motion needs to be amended and negotiated with the parties’ representatives in the parliament,” he said.

Mainly Christian Ethiopia has watched with growing concern the rise on its southeastern border of the Islamists, who seized Mogadishu in June and now control most of southern and central Somalia.

With a large ethnic Somali population, Ethiopia fears radicalisation of its sizable Muslim minority by the Islamists, some of whom are accused of links to Al-Qaeda, who have imposed strict Sharia law in areas they control.

In Mogadishu, senior members of the Supreme Islamic Council of Somalia (SICS) met to plot strategy after Meles’ address, delivered after the Islamists claimed to have ambushed several Ethiopian military convoys near the Somali government seat of Baidoa.

“If Ethiopia is ready for war, we are very ready for the defence of our country,” said SICS spokesman Abdurahim Ali Muddey. “But we urge Ethiopia to refrain from its reckless, war-thirsty behaviour.

“We are not a threat to Ethiopia, but the presence of its troops in our homeland is a serious security risk to Somalia as well as Ethiopia,” he said. “The statement by the prime minister is a threat to regional peace."

On Sunday and Tuesday, the Islamists said holy warriors, or Mujahadeen, had carried out attacks on Ethiopian military targets around Baidoa, the only government-held city.

Ethiopia has not yet directly commented on the claims but has stressed numerous times that its soldiers in Somalia are there only in a support role for the transitional Somali government and its forces.

Ethiopia is one of 10 countries, along with Lebanon’s militant Hezbollah movement, accused of violating a 1992 UN arms embargo on Somalia by sending weapons and other military goods to the Somali rivals.

The build-up has alarmed UN experts and raised fears of full-scale war in Somalia that could engulf the Horn of Africa region, drawing in Ethiopia and its arch-for neighbour Eritrea, which is accused of backing the Islamists.

Peace talks aimed at averting all-out war collapsed earlier this month in Khartoum, with the Islamists demanding the withdrawal of Ethiopian troops as a pre-condition to meet government delegates.

Urgent efforts are now under way to revive the negotiations, two earlier rounds of which produced limited interim agreements that the Islamists and the Somali government both accuse each other of violating.

Somalia has been without a functioning central authority since the 1991 ousting of strongman Mohamed Siad Barre and the two-year-old transitional government has been unable to assert control.

[bth: looks like full-scale war between Somalia and Ethiopia in imminent.]
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British prepare ‘spring’ troop exit from Basra

Business Day - News Worth Knowing: "LONDON — The British government yesterday outlined a “hand-over plan” for the transfer of security control to Iraqi forces in the southern province of Basra but denied it would “cut and run” from Iraq. "

However, the announcement in parliament by Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett that British troops hoped to hand over control of Basra “by next spring” was immediately interpreted as “a political timetable for withdrawal” from Iraq.

Britain’s armed forces have lost 125 soldiers in Iraq since the 2003 invasion. Last Sunday, Prime Minister Tony Blair indirectly admitted in a television interview that the situation in Iraq was a “disaster”.

“British troops are effectively trapped in Basra, where anarchy reigns. This is political withdrawal based on disaster, not success,” said Labour MP Andrew Marshall-Smith, a leading war critic.

Other commentators said the proposed timing suggested that Blair, who is due to step down next year, had realised he could not possibly leave office with the situation in Iraq as bad as it was now “or worse”.

This is Blair’s exit strategy,” said Marshall-Smith.

Defence expert Robert Fox suggested there had been a “change of choice” in military planning.

“There is not much more British troops can do in Basra,” he said.

Therefore the thinking was to cut back troops in southern Iraq to reinforce the British contingent in Afghanistan, said Fox.

While the announcement by Beckett did not mean British troops would come home, it nonetheless marked the first time that the government had “gone on record” with a timetable for the draw-down of forces, analysts said.

The plan was to withdraw the about 7200 troops stationed in and around Basra for redeployment at the city’s airport, halving their number to 3500 by next April, a BBC’s defence expert said. DPA

[bth: note the shift of troops to Afghanistan. Match this with the comments from the Taliban in the subsequent posts.]

British prepare ‘spring’ troop exit from Basra

Business Day - News Worth Knowing: "LONDON — The British government yesterday outlined a “hand-over plan” for the transfer of security control to Iraqi forces in the southern province of Basra but denied it would “cut and run” from Iraq. "

However, the announcement in parliament by Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett that British troops hoped to hand over control of Basra “by next spring” was immediately interpreted as “a political timetable for withdrawal” from Iraq.

Britain’s armed forces have lost 125 soldiers in Iraq since the 2003 invasion. Last Sunday, Prime Minister Tony Blair indirectly admitted in a television interview that the situation in Iraq was a “disaster”.

“British troops are effectively trapped in Basra, where anarchy reigns. This is political withdrawal based on disaster, not success,” said Labour MP Andrew Marshall-Smith, a leading war critic.

Other commentators said the proposed timing suggested that Blair, who is due to step down next year, had realised he could not possibly leave office with the situation in Iraq as bad as it was now “or worse”.

This is Blair’s exit strategy,” said Marshall-Smith.

Defence expert Robert Fox suggested there had been a “change of choice” in military planning.

“There is not much more British troops can do in Basra,” he said.

Therefore the thinking was to cut back troops in southern Iraq to reinforce the British contingent in Afghanistan, said Fox.

While the announcement by Beckett did not mean British troops would come home, it nonetheless marked the first time that the government had “gone on record” with a timetable for the draw-down of forces, analysts said.

The plan was to withdraw the about 7200 troops stationed in and around Basra for redeployment at the city’s airport, halving their number to 3500 by next April, a BBC’s defence expert said. DPA

[bth: note the shift of troops to Afghanistan. Match this with the comments from the Taliban in the subsequent posts.]
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Taliban vow fresh offensive after Afghan winter

swissinfo - Taliban vow fresh offensive after Afghan winter: "SPIN BOLDAK, Afghanistan (Reuters) - The Taliban are plotting a fresh offensive against foreign troops in Afghanistan when the bitter winter ends early next year, a top Taliban commander said on Wednesday."

The Taliban have this year unleashed the worst violence against the Afghan government and foreign troops since the hardline Islamists were ousted from power in late 2001.

But the violence has tailed off sharply in recent weeks.Afghanistan's NATO force says that's because the Taliban suffered heavy losses, particularly in fighting in the south in September.

But Taliban commander Mullah Dadullah said their attacks had eased off because the harsh Afghan winter had started earlier than usual."

The Taliban are drawing up our strategy for attacks on American and NATO occupation forces next summer ...

The suicide and other attacks will intensify as the weather gets warmer," Dadullah told Reuters by telephone from an undisclosed location.

Afghan fighting has ebbed and flowed with the seasons for decades, tailing off during the late November to March winter when mountain passes get snowed in.

The melting snow in the spring traditionally heralds a new round of violence.

"It's difficult to stay longer in the mountains in winter ... that's why, like previous years, Taliban attacks have lessened," Dadullah said.Winter set in early this year with icy rain falling in valleys and snow on higher ground across much of the country in recent days.

The one-legged Dadullah said fugitive Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar was in Afghanistan, personally leading the insurgency with other commanders.Afghanistan says Omar and other top Taliban members are directing the insurgency from sanctuaries across the border in Pakistan.

Pakistan says no Taliban leaders are there.

More than 3,700 people have been killed in Afghanistan this year, according to a recent report drawn up by Afghan and foreign officials.

Most of the casualties have been militants but more than a quarter of them were civilians.

More than 150 foreign troops have also been killed, most of them American, British and Canadian.Fighting was particularly heavy in the southern provinces of Helmand and Kandahar.

NATO said hundreds of Taliban were killed in a two-week offensive in Kandahar in September.More than 40,000 foreign troops are in Afghanistan, the most since U.S.-led troops routed the Taliban in the weeks after the September 11 attacks on the United States.

Private spies track extremists across world

Scotsman.com News - UK - Private spies track extremists across world: "IT SAYS its members brought about the conviction of radical Egyptian-born cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri, uncovered insurgent tactics in Iraq and are now working to provide intelligence from North Korea.

The organisation is not the US Central Intelligence Agency or Britain's MI6 but Vigil, a shadowy network of retired spies, senior military personnel, anti-terrorism specialists and banking experts. "

The group's director Dominic Whiteman said he set up Vigil with two other businessmen last year to act as an conduit between retired spies who were still party to good, raw intelligence, and the police and security services.

"This evidence was just getting lost in the system," Mr Whiteman said.

Vigil numbers more than 30 members, from India to the United States.

Sixty per cent of Vigil's work involves gaining information via the internet, by infiltrating chatrooms.

The information gleaned is passed on to authorities such as the FBI, and British Counter Terrorism Command (CTC).

A CTC spokeswoman said: "The CTC is working closely with Vigil and in particular its director and spokesman who has made officers aware of chatroom material," she said.

One member of Vigil is credited with helping bring about the conviction of cleric Hamza, jailed in London in February for inciting racial hatred and soliciting murder, and wanted in the US on terrorism charges.

Glen Jenvey said he tricked Hamza into handing over videos and audio tapes which were used by US authorities in their case against James Ujaama, who pleaded guilty in 2004 to trying to help al-Qaeda militants.

Mr Jenvey's latest work has involved another hardline Muslim cleric, Omar Bakri Mohammed, banned from Britain in August as part of a crackdown on so-called "preachers of hate".

The revelation that Bakri had been delivering nightly sermons via an internet chatroom from his exile in Lebanon was reported by the BBC this week.

"When you listen to a whole lecture ... he's inciting terrorism, and supporting terrorism," Mr Jenvey said.
Anjem Choudary, a close friend of Bakri, denied there was anything sinister about the sermons and said the talks in "no way encourage or incite" British Muslims.

Mr Whiteman said a very trusted contact who had a "key security role in the UK" had revealed that 70 per cent of information given in a daily briefing to the US president, George Bush, by the intelligence chief John Negroponte centred on the British capital.

Vigil has now turned its sights on two groups prominent in Britain: Tablighi Jamaat, a missionary organisation that is planning to build Britain's largest mosque in east London, and Hizb ut-Tahrir (HT), an organisation Britain announced it would ban after the 7 July , 2005 London bomb attacks.

Both groups say they do not have links to militants and that they promote peace.

"We wanted to find out more," Mr Whiteman said, adding that his group had infiltrated the organisations.

"There's nothing to suggest they will be banned, but there are definitely a few rotten apples that need to be looked at."

Report: Iraqi PM to Meet Insurgents in Dramatic Move to End Sectarian Bloodshed - International News | News of the World | Middle East News | Europe News

FOXNews.com - Report: Iraqi PM to Meet Insurgents in Dramatic Move to End Sectarian Bloodshed - International News News of the World Middle East News Europe News: "Nouri al-Maliki’s government has asked insurgent leaders to send intermediaries to a national reconciliation conference, marking a new domestic drive to bring peace to Iraq.

It will pave the way for a subsequent conference outside Iraq, possibly in Damascus or Amman, with insurgent leaders themselves.

The one-day conference, which will be held on November 28 or 29, was disclosed to The Times by Akram al-Hakim, the National Dialogue and Reconciliation Minister."

The peace initiative comes as the United Nations released a report yesterday into human rights, which said that 7,054 civilians had been killed in September and October, making it Iraq’s deadliest period since 2003.....

The summit will not include outside terrorist groups such as Al Qaeda. It will address the question of Shia militias, but controversial groups such as Al-Mahdi Army will not be included — because the Shia-led government believes that it can deal with them within its own communities.

The conference is the culmination of months of work in which Iraqi government delegations have toured Arab capitals, including Cairo, Dubai and Amman.....

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

ABC News: Top Marine Says Corps Stretched Too Thin

ABC News: Top Marine Says Corps Stretched Too Thin: "WASHINGTON, Nov. 22, 2006 — The new commandant of the Marine Corps has sounded an alarm about Marine readiness. Gen. James Conway said that the demands of Iraq have put strains on the Corps that threaten its worldwide mission."

said, or the demand for Marines in Iraq reduced. "There is stress on the individual Marine, and there is stress on the institution," he said. Conway met with a small group of reporters in Washington this morning.

Marine deployments in Iraq typically last seven months. The normal schedule calls for 14 months between deployments, allowing for both family time and training, but Iraq's demands have cut the turnaround time to less than a year in some cases. This has a major impact on what Conway called the "bread-and-butter training" for Marines.

"Artillery men are not training artillery," he said, noting that the Marine Corps has essentially stopped full-scale, fire-and-maneuver exercises. Almost all the training now focuses on counterinsurgency, preparing Marines for Iraq. Jungle and mountain training has also suffered, Conway said, making the Marines less prepared to fight the next war.

If there were another emergency in the world, Conway said, "We are not as capable today as we were in 2001.

"The deployment would not be as fast, the fight would take longer. You could see more casualties as the result of that," Conway said, concluding that U.S. forces would succeed but "not with the overwhelming combat power that we would ordinarily be able to provide to that fight."

"The Marine Corps' forte is combined-arms maneuver warfare," said Conway. "It used to be we had 10 battalions a year that would maneuver their forces under live fire. That's tremendous training. We're not doing that. We're not operating together on that scale to provide the nation the capability to deploy and win quickly, thereby reducing the impact on casualties like we previously have been capable of doing."

Currently, there are about 180,000 Marines on active duty. The Corps' size could be increased, Conway said, but it would take time. Recruiters could be expected to add only about 1,000 to 2,000 additional Marines a year

Could the Marines send more troops to Iraq if asked? Conway obviously hopes that request will not be made —- and he said he's heard nothing at the Pentagon to confirm newspaper reports of an impending troop buildup. But he answered the question with a Marine's response:

"If there is a surge, than by golly, we'll support it," he said. "But the reality of the surge is there has to be a payback." That would mean even less training time, with a cost in readiness.

"It is probably going to have an adverse impact on your force generation," Conway said.

The Next Page: The price of fighting a war on the cheap

The Next Page: The price of fighting a war on the cheap: "thought I would take this opportunity to provide you with some insights as seen from the perspective of a combat veteran who served as the commanding general of U.S. and allied forces in Kuwait. I also served as chief of war plans in the Pentagon and have spent considerable time studying national security affairs, including a fellowship at the National Defense University. So while it's true that everyone has opinions about Iraq, I would argue that not all of those opinions are equally well-informed."

This talk will address our strategy in Iraq. I won't talk about what the next steps should be, what the long-term prospects for peace in Iraq are or how we can best get out of the quagmire we are in. Those might be other talks. For today I'm going to focus on strategy

Let me begin by saying that most of our problems in Iraq stem from a flawed strategy that has been in place since the beginning of the war.

It's important that you understand what strategy is. In military terminology, there is a distinction between strategy, operations, tactics and techniques.

Strategy pertains to national decision-making at the highest level. For example, our strategy in World War II was to mobilize the nation, then defeat the Nazi regime while conducting a holding action in the Pacific, then shift our forces to destroy the Japanese Empire. Afterwards, our strategy was to rebuild both defeated nations into capitalistic democracies in order to make them future allies.

An example of an operational decision from World War II would be the decision to invade North Africa and then Italy and Southern France before moving directly for the heart of Germany by coming ashore in Northern France or Belgium.

Tactics characterize a scheme of maneuver that integrates the different capabilities of, for example, infantry, armor and artillery.

A technique might describe a way of employing machine guns with overlapping fields of fire or of setting up a roadblock.

Our strategy in Iraq has been:

1) Fight the war on the cheap.

2) Ask the ground forces to perform missions that are more suitably performed by other branches of the American government.

3) Inconvenience the American people as little as possible.

4) Continue to fund the Air Force and Navy at the same levels that they have been funded at for the last 30 years while shortchanging the Army and Marines who are doing all of the fighting.

No wonder the war is not going well.

et me explain how the war is being fought on the cheap. From the very beginning, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who thankfully announced his departure Nov. 8, has striven to minimize the number of soldiers and Marines in Iraq. Instead of employing the Colin Powell doctrine of "use massive force at the beginning to achieve a quick and decisive victory," his goal has been "use no more troops than absolutely necessary so we can spend defense dollars on new technology."

Before hostilities began, the Army chief of staff, Gen. Eric Shinseki, testified before Congress that an occupation of Iraq would require hundreds of thousands of soldiers. Gen. Shinseki made his estimate based on his extensive experience in the former Yugoslavia, where he worked to disengage warring factions of Orthodox Serbians, Catholic Croatians and Muslim Bosnians.

Shinseki also had available the results of a war game conducted in 1999 that involved 70 military, diplomatic and intelligence officials. This recently declassified study concluded that 400,000 troops on the ground were needed to keep order, seal borders and take care of other security needs. And even then stability would not be guaranteed.

Because of his testimony before Congress, Rumsfeld moved Shinseki aside. In a nearly unprecedented move, to replace Shinseki, Rumsfeld recalled from active duty a retired general who was more likely to accept his theory that we could win a war in Iraq and establish a stable government with a small number of troops.

The Defense Department has fought the war on the cheap because, despite overwhelming evidence that the Army and Marine Corps need a significant increase in their size in order to accomplished their assigned missions, the civilian officials who run the Pentagon have refused to request authorization from Congress to do so. Two Democratic representatives, Mark Udall from Colorado and Ellen Tauscher of California, have introduced a bill into Congress that would add 80,000 troops to the end-strength of the active Army. Currently, this bill has no support from the Defense Department.

When I was commissioned in 1969, the Army was 1.5 million. Despite the fact that we're engaged in combat in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in the Philippines, and committed to peacekeeping missions in Bosnia, Kosovo and the Sinai, and on operational deployments in over 70 countries, our Army is now less than one-third that size. We had more soldiers in Saudi Arabia in the first Gulf war than we have in the entire Army today. In fact, Wal-Mart has three times as many employees as the American Army has soldiers.
As late as 1990, Army end-strength was approximately 770,000. With fewer than a half-million today, defense analysts have argued that we need to add nearly 200,000 soldiers to the active ranks.

oday, the Army is so bogged down in Afghanistan and Iraq that fewer than 10,000 soldiers are ready and able to deal with any new crisis elsewhere in the world. And because the Army is so small, after only a year at home units are returning to Iraq for a second and even a third 12-month tour of duty.

Because the active force is too small, the mission of our National Guard and reserve forces has been changed. Their original purpose was to save the nation in time of peril. Today they serve as fillers for an inadequately sized active force. This change in mission has occurred with no national debate and no input from Congress.

We have fought the war on the cheap because we have never adequately funded the rebuilding of the Iraqi military or the training and equipping of the Iraqi police forces. The e-mails I receive from soldiers and Marines assigned to train Iraqi forces all complain of their inadequate resources because they are at the very bottom of the supply chain and the lowest priority.

We have fought the war on the cheap because we have failed to purchase necessary equipment for our troops or repair that which has been broken or worn out in combat. You've all read the stories about soldiers having to purchase their own bulletproof vests and other equipment. And the Army chief of staff has testified that he needs an extra $17 billion to fix equipment. For example, nearly 1,500 war-fighting vehicles await repair in Texas with 500 tanks sitting in Alabama.

Finally, we are fighting this war on the cheap because our defense budget of 3.8 percent of gross domestic product is too small. In the Kennedy administration it averaged 9 percent of GDP. The average defense budget in the post-Vietnam era, from 1974 to 1994, was about 5.8 percent of GDP. If we are in a global war against radical Islam -- and we are -- then we need a defense budget that reflects wartime requirements.

second part of our strategy is to ask the military to perform missions that are more appropriate for other branches of government. Our Army and Marine Corps are taking the lead in such projects as building roads and sewage treatment plants, establishing schools, training a neutral judiciary and developing a modern banking system. The press refers to these activities as nation-building. Our soldiers and Marines are neither equipped nor trained to do these things. They attempt them, and in general they succeed, because they are so committed and so obedient. But it is not what they do well and what only they alone can do.

But I would ask, where are our Department of Energy and Department of Transportation in restoring Iraqi infrastructure? What's the role of our Department of Education in rebuilding an Iraqi educational system? What does our Department of Justice do to help stand up an impartial judicial system? Where is the Broadcasting Board of Governors in establishing an effective alternative to Al Jazeera? And why did it take a year after the end of the active fighting for the State Department to assume responsibility from the Department of Defense in setting up an Iraqi government? These other U.S. government agencies are only peripherally and secondarily involved in Iraq.

Actually, it would be inaccurate to say that the American government is at war. The U.S. Army is at war. The Marine Corps is at war. And other small elements of our armed forces are at war. But our government is not.

third part of our strategy is to inconvenience the American people as little as possible. Ask yourself, are you at war? What tangible effect is this war having on your daily life? What sacrifices have you been asked to make for the sake of this war other than being inconvenienced at airports? No, America is not a war. Only a small number of young, brave, patriotic men and women, who bear the burden of fighting and dying, are at war.

A fourth aspect of our strategy is to fund Navy and Air Force budgets at prewar levels while shortchanging the Marine Corps and the Army that are doing the fighting.

This strategy, of spending billions on technology for a Navy and Air Force that face no threat, contributes mightily to our failures in Iraq.

Secretary Rumsfeld is a former Navy pilot. His view of the battlefield is from 10,000 feet, antiseptic and surgical. Since coming into office he has funded the Air Force and the Navy at the expense of the Army and Marines because he believes technological leaps will render ground forces obsolete. He assumed that the rapid victory over the Taliban in Afghanistan confirmed this belief.

For example, the Defense Department is pouring billions into the newest fighter aircraft, at $360 million each, to take on a non-existent enemy Air Force.

But, for pilots like Rumsfeld and his Air Force chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, war is all about technology. It's computers, it's radar and it's high-tech weapons. Technologists have a hard time comprehending the motivations of a suicide bomber or a mother who celebrates the death of her son in such a way. It's difficult for them to understand that to overcome centuries of ethnic hatred and murder, it will take more than one generation. It's hard for them to accept that for young men with little education, no wives or children and few job prospects, war against the West is the only thing that gives meaning to their lives.

But war on the ground is not conducted with technology. It is fought by 25-year-old sergeants leading 19-year-old soldiers carrying rifles, in a dangerous and alien environment, where you can't tell combatants from noncombatants, Shiites from Sunnis, or suicide bombers from freedom-seeking Iraqis. This means war on the street is neither antiseptic nor surgical. It's dirty, complicated and fraught with confusion and error.

In essence, our strategy has been produced by men whose view of war is based on their understanding of technology and machinery, not their knowledge of men from an alien culture and the forces which motivate them. They fail to appreciate that if you want to hold and pacify a hostile land and a hostile people, you need soldiers and Marines on the ground and in the mud, and lots of them.

n summary, our flawed strategy in Iraq has produced the situation we now face. This strategy is a product of the Pentagon, not the White House. And remember, the Pentagon is run by civilian appointees in suits, not military men and women in uniform. From the very beginning Defense Department officials failed to appreciate what it would take to win this war.

The U.S. military has tried to support this strategy because they are trained and instructed to be subordinate to and obedient to civilian leadership. And the American people want it that way. The last thing you want is a uniformed military accustomed to debating in public the orders of their appointed civilian masters. But retired generals and admirals are starting to speak out, to criticize the strategy that has produced our current situation in Iraq.

But, if we continue to fight the war on the cheap, if we continue to avoid involving the American people by asking them to make any sacrifice at all, if we continue to spend our dollars on technology while neglecting the soldiers and Marines on the ground, and if we fail to involve the full scope of the American government in rebuilding Iraq, then we might as well quit, and come home. But, what we have now is not a real strategy; it's business as usual.

(The Next Page: thenextpage@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1915.)