Sunday, June 11, 2006

DAILY WAR NEWS FOR SUNDAY, JUNE 11, 2006 Iraqi children throw stones on the British tanks patrolling the streets of Amara about 365 km (230 miles) southeast of Baghdad June 11, 2006. REUTERS/Sala Thani Bring 'em On: Insurgents fire rockets at British base near Amara, British soldier wounded when sortie to locate the source comes under fire. Hospital says one civilian killed in incident. However, the AP version of this story is different. AP says Iraqi police say insurgents set fire to a vegetable market to lure British troops, 5 civilians killed. Other Security Incidents Roadside bomb hits police patrol in northern Baghdad, kills one officer, wounds three. Reuters has these additional incidents: Kuna has additional incidents: In a separate dispatch, KUNA says two PUK members shot dead in Kirkuk. Also: Turkish press says a Turkish truck driver was killed near Mosul on Thursday. POLITICAL DEVELOPMENTS AND OTHER NEWS It appears the long awaited assault on Ramadi may have begun LA Times reports that civilians are fleeing Ramadi amid a mounting humanitarian crisis, fear of imminent military action. However, U.S. military sources insist their efforts are "focused." Excerpt:
By Megan K. Stack and Louise Roug, Times Staff Writers June 11, 2006 BAGHDAD — Fears of an imminent offensive by the U.S. troops massed around the insurgent stronghold of Ramadi intensified Saturday, with residents pouring out of the city to escape what they describe as a mounting humanitarian crisis. The image pieced together from interviews with tribal leaders and fleeing families in recent weeks is one of a desperate population of 400,000 people trapped in the crossfire between insurgents and U.S. forces. Food and medical supplies are running low, prices for gas have soared because of shortages and municipal services have ground to a stop. U.S. and Iraqi forces had cordoned off the city by Saturday, residents and Iraqi officials said. Airstrikes on several residential areas picked up, and troops took to the streets with loudspeakers to warn civilians of a fierce impending attack, Ramadi police Capt. Tahseen Dulaimi said. U.S. military officials refused to confirm or deny reports that a Ramadi offensive was underway. Thousands of families remain trapped in the city, those who have fled say. Many can't afford to leave or lack transportation, whereas other families have decided to wait for their children to finish final examinations at school before escaping. "The situation is catastrophic. No services, no electricity, no water," said Sheik Fassal Gaood, the former governor of Al Anbar province, whose capital is Ramadi. "People in Ramadi are caught between two plagues: the vicious, armed insurgents and the American and Iraqi troops." Residents have been particularly unnerved by the recent arrival of 1,500 U.S. troops sent to reinforce the forces already stationed at the city. Street battles between troops and insurgents have been raging for months, but the troops' deployment left residents bracing for a mass offensive to take the town back from insurgents. "It is becoming hell up there," said Mohammed Fahdawi, a 42-year-old contractor who packed up his four children and fled to Baghdad two weeks ago. "It is unbelievable: The Americans seem to have brought all of their troops to Ramadi." snip "In general, Anbar is controlled by terrorist groups," said Sheik Yaseen Gaood, deputy minister of the Interior overseeing the western provinces. "The Anbar government has no authority. The ministries of Interior and Defense have no influence there." The U.S. military was bracing for an increase in attacks on civilians and American and Iraqi forces in the wake of Zarqawi's death, said Col. John L. Gronski, the commander of the Pennsylvania National Guard's 2nd Brigade, in charge of security in Ramadi. "They go where we are not and they carry out very brutal attacks," Gronski said. The governor of Al Anbar recently asked the U.S. military for help in taming the foreign fighters, Army Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell IV, the chief military spokesman in Iraq, said Saturday. "We are doing very focused efforts," said Caldwell, who refused to elaborate. After the Fallouja offensive, the Americans tried to quell the insurgency in Ramadi with a combination of political maneuvers and the cooperation of tribal leaders to root out foreign Islamist fighters. But that plan has spectacularly fallen apart: The men who dared to ally themselves with the Americans and speak out against Zarqawi and his supporters quickly learned that the U.S. military couldn't protect them. Insurgents killed 70 of Ramadi's police recruits in January, and at least half a dozen high-profile tribal leaders have been assassinated since then. Ramadi has become a town where anti-American guerrillas operate openly and city bureaucrats are afraid to acknowledge their job titles for fear of being killed. Masked members of Al Qaeda in Iraq, the organization led by Zarqawi, perhaps borrowing from the American hearts-and-minds campaign, drop by elementary schools to pass out pens, books and toys, U.S. intelligence officers say. The government center in downtown Ramadi, a fortified complex where the governor holds meetings with U.S. officials and tribal leaders, comes under gunfire or mortar attacks daily.
Read in Full Al Qaeda in Iraq threatens major operations in an Internet posting. Iraqi witness claims U.S. troops took Zarqawi from ambulance, beat him to death. AP has a more contextual account here. Note: There are obviously innumerable questions swirling about the death, and life, of Zarqawi. Zig posted a wealth of links on this yesterday, so I'm going to go easy on the subject today. Philippines newspapers report that Blackwater is using former U.S. base at Subic Bay to recruit mercenaries. Filipino authorities deny it. Gen. Casey says he is not planning to request more troops as he prepares for a teleconference with Bush and national security staff tomorrow. Administration is suggesting there will not be any force reductions soon. Iraq Foreign Ministry objects to Hamas statement eulogizing Zarqawi. Bush Administration to huddle in two day strategy meeting to figure out how to fix Iraq. NY Times sets the scene. Excerpt:
By DAVID E. SANGER and JAMES GLANZ WASHINGTON, June 10 — President Bush's two-day strategy session starting Monday at Camp David is intended to revive highly tangible efforts to shore up Iraq's new government, from getting the electricity back on in Baghdad to purging the security forces of revenge-seeking militias, White House officials said. Three years of efforts to accomplish those goals have largely failed. Billions of dollars have been spent on both electricity and security, yet residents of Baghdad get only five to eight hours of power a day, and the American ambassador acknowledged on Friday that the city is "more insecure now than it was a few months ago." One of the senior officials involved in the strategy session characterized it as a "last, best chance to get this right," an implicit acknowledgment that previous American-led efforts had gone astray. He said the decision to hold a joint cabinet meeting on Tuesday, between Mr. Bush's top advisers and the newly appointed cabinet of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki of Iraq via a video link from Baghdad, was intended to set an agenda for the new government that could begin to win the loyalty of disaffected Iraqis. It is also an effort to hand off leadership to Mr. Maliki's government and, in an analogy used by several American officials, to begin to let go of the bicycle seat and find out if the Iraqi government can stay upright with less American support. For Mr. Bush, the session comes at a critical moment in Baghdad and in Washington. His efforts to prop up two interim prime ministers with similar pledges of support largely failed. At home, he is trying to create a sense of political progress at a time when some Democrats — and some in his own party — are calling for significant numbers of American troops to come home by the end of this year, a debate that will be taking place in Congress this week during arguments over spending bills for the war. No matter how that debate turns out, Congress has made clear that its willingness to pay for more Iraqi reconstruction is just about exhausted. Both American and Iraqi officials now acknowledge that they will have to seek billions in investment and aid from Persian Gulf nations that have been unwilling to contribute many dollars or any soldiers. Mr. Bush on Friday made clear that the American commitment to the country will be long-term. Officials say the administration has begun to look at the costs of maintaining a force of roughly 50,000 troops there for years to come, roughly the size of the American presence maintained in the Philippines and Korea for decades after those conflicts. But no decisions have been made, and Mr. Bush has carefully sidestepped any discussion of a long-term presence, insisting that American forces will be in the country only as long as the Iraqi government wants them there. Mr. Bush's aides said the meeting was not intended to focus on troop levels. But in many ways, that subject is the subtext of the entire discussion. Providing electricity means securing pipelines and generators that have been prime targets of the insurgency. Enforcing a breakup of the militias that have infiltrated security forces could require a significant show of force, particularly if elements of the Mahdi Army and the Badr Organization, the two strongest Shiite militias, resist. Mr. Maliki's plan is expected to be announced in coming days, and it will amount to what the American ambassador, Zalmay Khalilzad, said Friday on PBS would be "a new plan for the security of Baghdad." Mr. Maliki wrote on Friday in The Washington Post that among his first priorities would be to "re-establish a state monopoly on weapons by putting an end to militias." Dealing with electric power and security, of course, were among the problems that the administration insisted, in briefings in the spring of 2003, it was prepared to tackle as soon as Saddam Hussein was deposed. "None of these problems — or even the solutions that are being proposed — are new," said one former senior official who worked extensively on reconstruction, but did not want his name published because he still deals with the administration regularly. "What's been lacking is the political will." snip Mr. Maliki has said that solving the electricity problem, particularly in Baghdad, and ridding the security forces of infiltrators who have killed Sunnis and other rivals, are his top priorities. But American officials acknowledge that to pay for some of Mr. Maliki's agenda, it will be necessary to raise money among Iraq's neighbors in the gulf — an effort that has yielded minimal results so far. As the prime minister's own tour of new electric facilities in Iraq this week made clear, the challenges are enormous. Already, the United States has allocated $4 billion to electricity projects around the country, and at least $2 billion of that has been spent. Yet the amount of power flowing through Baghdad's aging electric grid has not changed much. The pipelines that feed oil to generating plants have been systematically attacked by insurgents who aim to shut down the grid and black marketeers seeking to steal the fuel and sell it for profit. The most recent official figures say that Baghdad is receiving at least eight hours of electricity a day, but Iraqis say that after a fleeting improvement earlier this month, they now receive less than that.
Read in Full COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS Boston Globe's Farah Stockman believes elimination of Zarqawi may open the way for more unified resistance. Excerpt:
By Farah Stockman, Globe Staff | June 11, 2006 WASHINGTON -- Iraq's insurgency lost its most well-known champion when Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was killed by a US airstrike Wednesday. But his group, Al Qaeda in Iraq, represented only the radical fringe of the larger struggle against US forces in Iraq. Zarqawi was infamous for brutal attacks on civilians that alienated many Iraqis. His death presents the risk that a lesser-known, more moderate group could take the upper hand in Iraq's insurgency strategy, bringing it a far broader appeal, analysts say. Anthony Cordesman, a specialist on the insurgency at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington-based national security think tank, estimates that Zarqawi's group made up 10 to 12 percent of the hard-core fighters in Iraq. The International Crisis Group, a think tank that studied communiques from the various groups for several months, put its estimate of Zarqawi's numerical strength at 15 percent of the insurgent force, according to Mark Schneider, vice president of the group. After three years of highlighting Zarqawi as their chief foe in Iraq, US officials must now confront the vast array of faceless but perhaps far more popular networks of fighters that make up the backbone of the anti-American fight. These groups, which cooperate and compete for support and resources, have gotten more sophisticated over time, putting up websites, publishing magazines, and issuing daily news releases. According to the International Crisis Group report issued in February, the three most important groups other than Zarqawi's are: Islamic Army in Iraq, a Sunni nationalist group that supported Saddam Hussein and puts out a monthly magazine called al-Fursan that highlights resistance as a patriotic duty. The Partisans of the Sunna Army, a group of Islamic fighters in Kurdistan that publishes a political magazine and a monthly compilation of their military communiques. Islamic Front of the Iraqi Resistance, widely thought to be a public relations organ for several groups. Although analysts say these groups, and the various splinters and factions of the wider insurgency, sometimes cooperate and have begun to adopt a common rhetoric, their members hail from two distinct groups with different objectives. The largest group is made up of nationalistic, disgruntled Sunni tribesmen who want to regain the power they lost when Hussein was overthrown and who have little interest in waging global jihad. The second group is composed of hard-line, religiously oriented ideologues like Zarqawi who dream of establishing an Islamic state, in Iraq or elsewhere. To this group, perpetual civil war in Iraq would still constitute a kind of victory over the United States. Zarqawi's death will almost certainly weaken his own group and those of other Islamists like him. But it could strengthen the Sunni nationalists who have been sidelined by his high-profile violence. ``Not only are they not affected by his demise, but I suspect that they would view this as an opportunity to gain greater control over the insurgency's strategy," said Schneider . Nawaf Obaid , a security consultant to the Saudi government in Riyadh who recently analyzed the makeup of the insurgency, said that while the religious ideologues are a source of inspiration for many, it is the nationalistic Sunni tribesmen who make up the lion's share of active fighters. ``Of the approximately 77,000 active members of the insurgency, around 60,000 (roughly 78 percent), are former members of the military, the Ba'ath party, and the Fedayeen," he wrote in his report, referring to ``Fedayeen" as a paramilitary group active under Saddam Hussein. ``Sunni tribal networks [in Iraq] are central to the insurgency in that they provide the major source for its recruits." Obaid also said the insurgency, overall, is gaining in capability, despite the capture or killing of a significant portion of senior leaders, including many among Zarqawi's group. ``Overall, incident rates have seen a gradual but steady escalation -- ranging from 8 to 32 attacks per day in 2003 to 19 to 77 attacks per day in 2004," he wrote. ``The numbers increased to 61 to 100 attacks per day in 2005. These figures strongly suggest that despite coalition countermeasures and the expanded role of the Iraqi Security Forces, the insurgency continues to grow not only in intensity, but also in its capabilities to instigate strikes." Cordesman said that the insurgency was almost totally home-grown, despite the perception in the United States that foreign fighters like Zarqawi from Iran, Syria, and other neighboring countries make up the bulk of the fighters. ``The insurgency has been essentially Iraqi from the start. There has never been a time where the casualty data indicated that foreigners made up any more than 5 percent of the total," he said.
Read in Full WHISKER'S ROUNDUP OF THE WOUNDED Ian Wagner had a rapid introduction to the dangers of patrolling the streets in Iraq's Abu Ghraib sector last year. The fourth blast, on Feb. 7, sent him home to the United States with two badly damaged feet. Wagner is now in the final week of rehabilitation work at the National Naval Medical Center just outside Washington, D.C. He's walking again with a cane, but is uncertain whether he'll regain full use of his feet. Spc. Nick King's truck was leading a convoy of more than 60 vehicles transporting fuel and explosives in northern Iraq when the roadside bomb went off, their vehicle caught on fire and rolled a couple of times. Nick has a head injury, one had a broken arm and the other one had a leg injury. Chris Ayres--after losing half a leg to a rocket attack in Iraq, the League City resident said he didn’t want to give up being an active-duty Marine. Brandon Huff is familiar with both extremes. Huff lost his leg in Iraq and then made the 6,000 mile trip back home to Walter Reed Medical Center in Washington D.C. Lieutenant Manuel Pilia is doing well after his operation last night, when doctors removed shrapnel from his throat. Corporal Luca Daga the most seriously injured of the four [Italian] soldiers from the Sassari Brigades hit in the attack. He is no longer in danger despite the serious injury to his right eye, for which he was operated on yesterday. Corporal Yari Contu "He is fine, don't worry. He's got a few scratches on his face, but nothing serious". Fulvio Concas "I'm in the hospital but I'm fine. I got hit by a bit of shrapnel", he said An Eau Claire Memorial graduate and former teacher is in a German hospital after being injured in a roadside bomb attack in Iraq. Petty Officer First Class Dean Berlin suffered four cracked bones in his back, cracked bones in his neck and a broken shoulder, according to his father, Cecil. Specialist Kenneth Snipes--His back was toward the vehicle, about 20 or 25 meters away, when he heard the blast. He instinctively turned his head in its direction and the explosion slammed into his face. His mouth and nose were severely damaged. He lost some teeth. He didn't want to be photographed. He had difficulty speaking. Cpl. Kris Freeman was seriously injured in Iraq Tuesday after the humvee he was driving was destroyed by an improvised explosive device. Freeman was listed in serious condition at a military hospital in Germany following the blast that killed another marine in the Anbar province on June 6. suffered injuries to right side of his body that she believed included a broken femur, hip and dislocated elbow. Sgt. 1st Class Timothy Wicks, 39, was in stable condition Friday at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., his wife said. The explosion at midnight on Monday near Jalalabad in eastern Afghanistan. Tim Wicks is sedated and on a respirator at the hospital, his wife said. He suffered two broken legs, a fractured pelvis and some internal bleeding. Doctors removed his spleen, Angela Wicks said. A young soldier from Tupper Lake was wounded in Iraq on Thursday. Josh Jones, a graduate of the Tupper Lake High School and grandson of a former chief of Tupper Lake Village Police, and another soldier were injured when an explosion rocked their Humvee. According to the Saranac Lake-based radio station WNBZ, Jones' right leg was amputated just above the knee. Doctors saved his left leg. THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS Three prisoners at Guantanamo hang themselves. Commanding officer Rear Admiral Harry Harris says the suicides were "an act of asymmetric warfare waged against us." QUOTE OF THE DAY I started off wanting to ask do life and death take on a different meaning when we live with them everyday? Or does fear of death stay the same, even when it is a constant presence? But I quickly realized that fear of death isn’t what has been turning my stomach into a tight knot whenever I go near one of the so-called hot zones in Baghdad. It is the life we live that fills me with fear. Iraqi blogger Salam Pax


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