Monday, June 30, 2008

Bird illness spreading in the Florida Keys

KEY WEST - Wildlife officials are trying to figure out what's causing dozens of doves to die in the Florida Keys.

Officials say the doves are literally falling out of trees, seeming lethargic, wobbly and unable to fly straight. They typically die a half-hour to 24 hours later.

The director of the Marathon Wild Bird Center and the Key West Wildlife Center says she's seen a dozen dead doves in Marathon, and one to two dozen in Key West.

The director of the Upper Keys Wild Bird Center says several dozen doves have been found in the Upper Keys as well.

A necropsy on one of the carcasses is planned. Results are expected within days.

I have no idea what if anything this news might mean. But, castro has threaten for years to unleash biological warfare against the US using birds as a carrier.

I have never given much credence to such rhetoric.

But now that castro is on his last days, maybe he's going to try to take a few of us with him when he goes.

So keep that in mind.


"This is from early June.

Hello everyone,

I have spent several days at Forward Operating Base (FOB) Warhorse, which is in the city of Baquba. Baquba is located northeast of Baghdad in Diyala province. Diyala is one of those provinces in the north that is still somewhat volatile. Having said that, just about 18 months ago, Diyala was more than just volatile – it was a massive killing field. As the US surge began, Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) began heading north out of Baghdad. As they moved north, they set up slaughter houses all throughout Diyala. Diyala is a mixed Shiite/Sunni province, and it is split with about 50% of each sect living there. Baquba is the largest city in the province, and it is also split evenly between Shia and Sunni. AQI was obviously targeting Shiite victims, and the Shiites began to go after Sunnis in return. Over 100 people per week were being murdered in Diyala during parts of 2006 and 2007. "
Up Country Iraq

Helmand Province and the wider “War on Terror”.


On 11 September 2001, the west had the sympathy of the vast majority of people in the Muslim world, who were against the attacks carried out by a load of nihilist extremists. In the days following those attacks, western Governments—including our own—realised the enormity of the problem that we faced and within months had successfully defeated the Taliban and expelled al-Qaeda from its operating base there. Afghans literally danced in the streets in gratitude for their release from a mediaeval regime and from their hated Arab guests. At that point, there was a massive opportunity to make progress and good will on the part of the Afghan people to accept foreign aid and development. Although General McColl managed to get a tiny £2 million from the Department for International Development for development, the reality in Whitehall was that we were not concentrating on Afghanistan or more generally on al-Qaeda. Instead, we were focusing on a crazy and quite unnecessary invasion of Iraq.

Despite our early success in toppling the Taliban, almost everything we did afterwards undermined the massive amount of good will we had across the Muslim world after 9/11. Today, al-Qaeda are no longer seen as a bunch of extremist crazies; they are, to some extent, seen as heroes fighting against what they perceive to be an arrogant west. I fully accept that—with the possible exception of Iraq—our Government has acted in good faith and realised the seriousness of our situation, but I also believe the way we have executed this operation has been incompetent and half-cocked."
Michael Yon

The Wit And Wisdom Of Omar Feikaki

"America's favorite Iraqi journalist and media hound, Omar Feikaki had some interesting things to say about Iraq, the United States, and Iran in Charles H. Ferguson's book, No End In Sight: Iraq's Descent Into Chaos, one of the more comprehensive tomes chronicling the dysfunctional milieu that Iraq occupies.

Whether you agree or disagree with what Omar says, he brings forth an interesting perspective on events in Iraq, although it's clear like the vast majority of Iraqi bloggers, Feikaki, who served as office manager of the Baghdad bureau of the Washington Post, wasn't exactly an anti-Baathist dissident.

So, without further delay, take it away, Omar (round of applause)

I didn't want to be a journalist directed by the government
IBC ~Mister Ghost

MG where were you the last five years when all or most of your complaints were taking place live on the ground. I remember I was here complaining and the locals were mostly looking the other way. What, did they have you locked in a closet?

And what have you done with them now?

Iraq opens 6 oil fields to international bidding

BAGHDAD (AP) - The Iraqi government opened six oil fields to international bidding Monday as the nation attempts to boost daily production by 60 percent.

The potential participation of big Western companies like BP, Chevron, Exxon Mobil, Shell and Total SA (TOT) in Iraq's oil industry has been criticized in recent weeks following published reports that several were close to signing no-bid contracts with the Iraqi government.

There was an immediate outcry over perceptions that the U.S. did invade Iraq to gain access to its massive oil reserves and there was no announcement of contracts Monday by Oil Minister Hussain al-Shahristani.

He did, however, name 35 companies that would be qualified to bid on service contracts for the oil fields of Rumeila, Zubair, Qurna West, Maysan, Kirkuk and Bay Hassan.

"These fields were chosen because their production can be raised in a short time and at a low cost," said al-Shahristani.

All of the fields are currently producing oil, and al-Shahristani said the new contracts would raise Iraq's production by 1.5 million barrels per day. Iraq currently produces 2.5 million barrels per day and hopes to raise that to 4.5 million by 2013.

The Bush administration indicated last week that it had no plans to interfere with negotiations between Iraq and Western oil giants and on Monday, the State Department said Iraq was acting alone.

"There is no U.S. government involvement in any decision in any way being taken in any form by the Iraqi oil ministry or any other ministry on these fundamental issues," said spokesman Tom Casey. "These are decisions that a sovereign Iraqi government and sovereign Iraqi officials are making on their own."

Casey likened the role of the U.S. "technical support people" to that of a lawyer whose client wants to draft a will. The client makes the decisions about who gets what and the lawyer provides advice and expertise, Casey said.

Major oil companies also distanced themselves from talk of no-bid deals that provide access to Iraqi oil.

"We have been providing services to Iraq from outside the country for a number of years," Robert Wine, a spokesman for BP. "We submitted a study of the Rumeila fields several years ago and if the discussions do lead to deal, they will focus on the technical services in that report. We need to clarify - this is not about access to the country's oil resources, or exploration. It's a management contract, to provide technical resources."

Greater oil production is key to rebuilding Iraq's devastated infrastructure and delivering energy to the country.

But the lack of security and the absence of a new legislation to manage the industry have hampered development of the oil industry.

A reduction in violence in recent months has allowed the country to boost production to its highest level since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.

At the same time, record oil prices that surpassed $143 per barrel Monday have made Iraq's vast untapped reserves even more tempting to foreign companies. Iraq has an estimated 115 billion barrels of oil reserves and some 112 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, according to the government.

Al-Shahristani said Monday that the country would also open up the natural gas fields of Akkaz and Mansouriyah for bidding.

Every company involved in the bidding process must have an Iraqi partner and must give 25 percent of the value of the contract to Iraqi companies, said al-Shahristani.

Western participation in Iraq's oil industry, especially by American companies, has been a contentious issue ever since U.S.-led forces toppled the regime of Saddam Hussein.

Democratic Sens. Chuck Schumer of New York, John Kerry of Massachusetts and Claire McCaskill of Missouri, last week asked Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to try to block any oil deals.

Until Baghdad agrees on how to divide the nation's oil revenues, the presence of Western companies - including U.S.-based Exxon Mobil - will heighten tensions among Iraq's feuding sectarian groups "at the same time that American service members are fighting night and day to reduce the levels of violence," they wrote.

"This is clearly a matter of national security, which we believe should trump any and all commercial interests," the senators added.

On Monday The New York Times reported that a small U.S. State Department team helped draw up contracts between the Oil Ministry and the five major oil companies. The newspaper quoted a senior State Department official as saying the team provided technical support to an understaffed Iraqi ministry.

Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh denied the country had ever considered a no-bid process, saying "there was never any intention to award the contracts without a tender."

Al-Dabbagh denied American influence on the Iraqi government's oil decisions, saying "politics does not come into this."

"There is no preferential treatment for anyone, no matter who," said al-Dabbagh.


Sunday, June 29, 2008

Amid policy disputes, Qaeda grows in Pakistan

WASHINGTON: Late last year, top Bush administration officials decided to take a step they had long resisted. They drafted a secret plan to authorize the Pentagon's Special Operations forces to launch missions into the snow-capped mountains of Pakistan to capture or kill top leaders of Al Qaeda.

Intelligence reports for more than a year had been streaming in about Osama bin Laden's terror network rebuilding in the Pakistani tribal areas, a problem that had been exacerbated by years of missteps in Washington and the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, sharp policy disagreements, and turf battles between American counterterrorism agencies.

The new plan, outlined in a highly classified Pentagon order, was designed to eliminate some of those battles. And it was meant to pave an easier path into the tribal areas for American commandos, who for years have bristled at what they see as Washington's risk-averse attitude toward Special Operations missions inside Pakistan. They also argue that catching Bin Laden will come only by capturing some of his senior lieutenants alive.

But more than six months later, the Special Operations forces are still waiting for the green light. The plan has been held up in Washington by the very disagreements it was meant to eliminate. A senior Defense Department official said there was "mounting frustration" in the Pentagon at the continued delay.

After the Sept. 11 attacks, President George W. Bush committed the nation to a "war on terrorism" and made the destruction of Bin Laden's network the top priority of his presidency. But it is increasingly clear that the Bush administration will leave office with Al Qaeda having successfully relocated its base from Afghanistan to Pakistan's tribal areas, where it has rebuilt much of its ability to attack from the region and broadcast its messages to militants across the world.

A recent American airstrike killing Pakistani troops has only inflamed tensions along the mountain border and added to tensions between Washington and Pakistan's new government.

The story of how Al Qaeda, Arabic for "the base," has gained a new haven is in part a story of American accommodation to President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan, whose advisers played down the terrorist threat. It is also a story of how the White House shifted its sights, beginning in 2002, from counterterrorism efforts in Afghanistan and Pakistan to preparations for the war in Iraq.

Just as it had on the day before 9/11, Al Qaeda now has a band of terror camps from which to plan and train for attacks against Western targets, including the United States. Officials say the new camps are smaller than the ones the group used prior to 2001. However, despite dozens of American missile strikes in Pakistan since 2002, one retired CIA officer estimated that the makeshift training compounds now have as many as 2,000 Arab and Pakistani militants, up from several hundred three years ago.

Publicly, senior American and Pakistani officials have said that the creation of a Qaeda haven in the tribal areas was in many ways inevitable — that the lawless badlands where ethnic Pashtun tribes have resisted government control for centuries were a natural place for a dispirited terror network to find refuge. The American and Pakistani officials also blame a disastrous cease-fire brokered between the Pakistani government and militants in 2006.

But more than four dozen interviews in Washington and Pakistan tell another story. American intelligence officials say that the Qaeda hunt in Pakistan, code-named Operation Cannonball by the CIA in 2006, was often undermined by bitter disagreements within the Bush administration and within the intelligence agency, including about whether American commandos should launch ground raids inside the tribal areas.

Inside the CIA, the fights included clashes between the agency's outposts in Kabul, Afghanistan, and Islamabad. There were also battles between field officers and the counterterrorism center at CIA headquarters, whose preference for carrying out raids remotely, via Predator missile strikes, was derided by officers in the Islamabad station as the work of "boys with toys."

An early arrangement that allowed American commandos to join Pakistani units on raids inside the tribal areas was halted in 2003 after protests in Pakistan. Another combat mission that came within hours of being launched in 2005 was scuttled because some CIA officials in Pakistan questioned the accuracy of the intelligence, and because aides to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld believed that the mission force had become too large.

Current and former military and intelligence officials said that the war in Iraq consistently diverted resources and high-level attention from the tribal areas. When American military and intelligence officials requested additional Predator drones to survey the tribal areas, they were told no drones were available because they had been sent to Iraq.

Some former officials say Bush should have done more to confront Musharraf, by aggressively demanding that he acknowledge the scale of the militant threat.

Western military officials say Musharraf was instead often distracted by his own political problems, and effectively allowed militants to regroup by brokering peace agreements with them.

Even critics of the White House agree that there was no foolproof solution to gaining control of the tribal areas. But by all accounts the administration failed to develop a comprehensive plan to address the militant problem there, and never resolved the disagreements between warring agencies that undermined efforts to fashion any coherent strategy.

"We're just kind of drifting," said Richard Armitage, who as deputy secretary of state from 2001 to 2005 was the administration's point person for Pakistan.

Fleeing U.S. Air Power

In March 2002, several hundred bedraggled foreign fighters — Uzbeks, Pakistanis and a handful of Arabs — fled the towering mountains of eastern Afghanistan and crossed into Pakistan's South Waziristan tribal area.

Savaged by American air power in the battles of Tora Bora and the Shah-i-Kot valley, some were trying to make their way to the Arab states in the Gulf. Some were simply looking for a haven.

They soon arrived at Shakai, a remote region in South Waziristan of tree-covered mountains and valleys. Venturing into nearby farming villages, they asked local tribesmen if they could rent some of the area's walled family compounds, paying two to three times the impoverished area's normal rates as the militants began to lay new roots.

"They slowly, steadily from the mountainside tried to establish communication," recalled Mahmood Shah, the chief civilian administrator of the tribal areas from 2001 to 2005.

In many ways, the foreigners were returning to their home base. In the 1980s, Bin Laden and hundreds of Arab and foreign fighters backed by the United States and Pakistan used the tribal areas as a staging area for cross-border attacks on Soviet forces in Afghanistan.

The militants' flight did not go unnoticed by American intelligence agencies, who began to report beginning in the spring of 2002 that large numbers of foreigners appeared to be hiding in South Waziristan and neighboring North Waziristan.

But General Ali Mohammad Jan Aurakzai, the commander of Pakistani forces in northwestern Pakistan, was skeptical.

In an interview earlier this year, Aurakzai recalled that he regarded the warnings as "guesswork," and said his soldiers "found nothing," even when they pushed into dozens of square miles of territory that neither Pakistani nor British forces had ever entered.

The general, a tall, commanding figure who was born in the tribal areas, was Musharraf's main adviser on the border areas, according to former Pakistani officials. For years, he would argue that American officials exaggerated the threat in the tribal areas and that the Pakistani Army should avoid causing a tribal rebellion at all costs.

Former American intelligence officials said Aurakzai's sweeps were slow-moving and easily avoided by militants. Robert L. Grenier, the CIA station chief in Islamabad from 1999 to 2002, said that Aurakzai was dismissive of the reports because he and other Pakistani officials feared the kind of tribal uprising that could have been touched off by more intrusive military operations. "Aurakzai and others didn't want to believe it because it would have been an inconvenient fact," Grenier recalled.

Signs of militants regrouping

Until recent elections pushed Musharraf off center stage in Pakistan, senior Bush administration officials consistently praised his cooperation in the Qaeda hunt.

Beginning shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks, Musharraf had allowed American forces to use Pakistani bases to support the American invasion of Afghanistan, while Pakistani intelligence services worked closely with the CIA in tracking down Qaeda operatives. But from their vantage point in Afghanistan, the picture looked different to American Special Operations forces who saw signs that the militants whom the Americans had driven out of Afghanistan were effectively regrouping on the Pakistani side of the border.

When American military officials proposed in 2002 that Special Operations forces be allowed to establish bases in the tribal areas, Pakistan flatly refused. Instead, a small number of "black" Special Operations forces — Army Delta Force and Navy Seal units — were allowed to accompany Pakistani forces on raids in the tribal areas in 2002 and early 2003.

That arrangement only angered both sides. American forces used to operating on their own felt that the Pakistanis were limiting their movements. And while Pakistani officials publicly denied the presence of Americans, local tribesmen spotted the Americans and protested.

Under pressure from Pakistan, the Bush administration decided in 2003 to end the American military presence on the ground. In a recent interview, Armitage said he had supported the pullback in recognition of the political risks that Musharraf had already taken. "We were pushing them almost to the breaking point," Armitage said.

The American invasion of Iraq in 2003 added another complicating factor, by cementing a view among Pakistanis that American forces in the tribal areas would be a prelude to an eventual American occupation.

To have insisted that American forces be allowed to cross from Afghanistan into Pakistan, Armitage added, "might have been a bridge too far."

Dealing with Musharraf

Bush's re-election in 2004 brought with it another problem once the president overhauled his national security team. By early 2005, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and Armitage had resigned, joining George Tenet, who had stepped down earlier as director of central intelligence. Their departures left the administration with no senior officials with close personal relationships with Musharraf.

In order to keep pressure on the Pakistanis about the tribal areas, officials decided to have Bush raise the issue in personal phone calls with Musharraf.

The conversations backfired. Two former United States government officials say they were surprised and frustrated when instead of demanding action from Musharraf, Bush instead repeatedly thanked him for his contributions to the war on terror. "He never pounded his fist on the table and said, 'Pervez you have to do this,' " said a former senior intelligence official who saw transcripts of the phone conversations. But another senior administration official defended the president, saying that Bush had not gone easy on the Pakistani leader.

"I would say the president pushes quite hard," said the official, who would speak about the confidential conversations only on condition of anonymity. At the same time, the official said that Bush was keenly aware of the "unique burden" that rested on any head of state, and had the ability to determine "what the traffic will bear" when applying pressure to foreign leaders.

Tensions within the CIA

As attacks into Afghanistan by militants based in the tribal areas continued, tensions escalated between the CIA stations in Kabul and Islamabad, whose lines of responsibility for battling terrorism were blurred by the porous border that divides Afghanistan and Pakistan, and whose disagreements reflected animosities between the two countries.

Along with the Afghan government, the CIA officers in Afghanistan expressed alarm at what they saw as a growing threat from the tribal areas. But the CIA officers in Pakistan played down the problem, to the extent that some colleagues in Kabul said their colleagues in Islamabad were "drinking the Kool-Aid," as one former officer put it, by accepting Pakistani assurances that no one could control the tribal areas.

On several occasions, senior CIA officials at agency headquarters had to intervene to dampen tensions between the dueling CIA outposts. Other intragovernmental battles raged at higher altitudes, most notably over the plan in early 2005 for a Special Operations mission intended to capture Ayman al-Zawahri, Bin Laden's top deputy, in what would have been the most aggressive use of American ground troops inside Pakistan. The New York Times disclosed the aborted operation in a 2007 article, but interviews since then have produced new details about the episode.

As described by current and former government officials, Zawahri was believed by intelligence officials to be attending a meeting at a compound in Bajaur, a tribal area, and the plan to send commandos to capture him had the support of Porter Goss, the CIA director, and the Special Operations commander, Lieutenant General Stanley McChrystal.

But even as Navy Seals and Army Rangers in parachute gear were boarding C-130 cargo planes in Afghanistan, there were frenzied exchanges between officials at the Pentagon, Central Command and the CIA about whether the mission was too risky. Some complained that the American commando force was too large, numbering more than 100, while others argued that the intelligence was from a single source and unreliable.

Goss urged the military to carry out the mission, and some CIA officials in Washington even tried to give orders to execute the raid without informing Ryan Crocker, then the American ambassador in Islamabad. But other CIA officials were opposed to the raid, including a former officer who said in an interview that he had "told the military guys that this thing was going to be the biggest folly since the Bay of Pigs."

In the end, the mission was aborted after Rumsfeld refused to give his approval for it. The decision remains controversial, with some former officials seeing the episode as a squandered opportunity to capture a figure who might have led the United States to Bin Laden, while others dismiss its significance, saying that there had been previous false alarms and that there remained no solid evidence that Zawahri was present.

Bin Laden hunt at dead end

By late 2005, many inside the CIA headquarters in Virginia had reached the conclusion that their hunt for Bin Laden had reached a dead end.

Jose Rodriguez Jr., who at the time ran the CIA's clandestine operations branch, decided in late 2005 to make a series of swift changes to the agency's counterterrorism operations.

He fired Grenier, the former Islamabad station chief who in late 2004 took over as head of the agency's Counterterrorist Center. The two men had barely spoken for months, as each saw the other as having a misguided approach to the C.I.A's mission against Al Qaeda. Many inside the agency believed this personality clash was beginning to affect CIA operations.

Grenier had worked to expand the agency's counterterrorism focus, reinforcing operations in places like the Horn of Africa, Southeast Asia and North Africa. He also reorganized and renamed Alec Station, the secret CIA unit formed in the 1990s to hunt Bin Laden at a time when Al Qaeda was in its infancy.

Grenier believed that the unit, in addition to focusing on Bin Laden, needed to act in other parts of the world, given the spread of Qaeda-affiliated groups since the Sept. 11 attacks.

But Rodriguez believed that the Qaeda hunt had lost its focus on Bin Laden and the militant threat in Pakistan.

So he appointed a new head of the Counterterrorism Center, who has not been publicly identified, and sent dozens more CIA operatives to Pakistan. The new push was dubbed Operation Cannonball, and Rodriguez demanded urgency, but the response had a makeshift air.

There was nowhere to house an expanding headquarters staff, so giant Quonset huts were erected outside the cafeteria on the CIA's leafy Virginia campus, to house a new team assigned to the Bin Laden mission. In Pakistan, the new operation was staffed not only with CIA operatives drawn from around the world, but also with recent graduates of "The Farm," the agency's training center at Camp Peary in Virginia.

"We had to put people out in the field who had less than ideal levels of experience," one former senior CIA official said. "But there wasn't much to choose from."

One reason for this, according to two former intelligence officials directly involved in the Qaeda hunt, was that by 2006 the Iraq war had drained away most of the CIA officers with field experience in the Islamic world. "You had a very finite number" of experienced officers, said one former senior intelligence official. "Those people all went to Iraq. We were all hurting because of Iraq."

Surge in suicide bombings

Militants inside Pakistan only continued to gain strength. In the spring of 2006, Taliban leaders based in Pakistan launched an offensive in southern Afghanistan, increasing suicide bombings by sixfold and American and NATO casualty rates by 45 percent. At the same time, they assassinated tribal elders who were cooperating with the government.

Once again, Pakistani Army units launched a military campaign in the tribal areas. Once again, they suffered heavy casualties.

And once again, Musharraf turned to Aurakzai to deal with the problem. Having retired from the Pakistani Army, Aurakzai had become the governor of North-West Frontier Province, and he immediately began negotiating with the militants. On Sept. 5, 2006, Aurakzai signed a truce with militants in North Waziristan, one in which the militants agreed to surrender to local tribes and carry out no further attacks in Afghanistan.

To help sell Washington on the peace deal, Musharraf brought Aurakzai to the Oval Office several weeks later.

In a presentation to Bush, Aurakzai advocated a strategy that would rely even more heavily on cease-fires, and said striking deals with the Taliban inside Afghanistan could allow American forces to withdraw from Afghanistan within seven years.

But the cease-fire in Waziristan had disastrous consequences. In the months after the agreement was signed, cross-border incursions from the tribal areas into Afghanistan rose by 300 percent. Some American officials began to refer to Aurakzai as a "snake oil salesman."

A rising terror threat

By the fall of 2006, the top American commander in Afghanistan had had enough.

Intelligence reports were painting an increasingly dark picture of the terror threat in the tribal areas. But with senior Bush administration officials consumed for much of that year with the spiraling violence in Iraq, the Qaeda threat in Pakistan was not at the top of the White House agenda.

Bush had declared in a White House news conference that fall that Al Qaeda was "on the run."

To get Washington's attention, the commander, Lieutenant General Karl Eikenberry, ordered military officers, Special Operations forces and CIA operatives to assemble a dossier showing Pakistan's role in allowing militants to establish a haven.

Behind the general's order was a broader feeling of outrage within the military — at a terror war that had been outsourced to an unreliable ally, and at the grim fact that America's most deadly enemy had become stronger.

For months, military officers inside a walled-off compound at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan, where a branch of the military's classified Joint Special Operations Command is based, had grown increasingly frustrated at what they saw as missed opportunities in the tribal areas.

American commanders had been pressing for much of 2006 to get approval from Rumsfeld for an operation to capture Sheik Saiid al-Masri, a top Qaeda operator and paymaster whom American intelligence had been tracking in the Pakistani mountains.

Rumsfeld and his staff were reluctant to approve the mission, worried about possible American military casualties and a popular backlash in Pakistan.

Finally, in November 2006, Rumsfeld approved operation of Navy Seals and Army Delta Force commandos to move into Pakistan and capture Masri. But the operation was put on hold days later, after Rumsfeld was pushed out of the Pentagon, a casualty of the Democratic sweep of the 2006 election.

When Eikenberry presented his dossier to several members of Bush's cabinet, some inside the State Department and CIA dismissed the briefing as exaggerated and simplistic. But the White House took note of his warnings, and decided to send Vice President Dick Cheney to Islamabad in March 2007, along with Stephen Kappes, the deputy CIA director, to register American concern.

That visit was the beginning of a more aggressive effort by the administration to pressure Pakistan's government into stepping up its fight,. The decision last year to draw up the Pentagon order authorizing for a Special Operations campaign in the tribal areas was part of that effort.

But the fact that the order remains unsigned reflects the infighting that persists. Administration lawyers and State Department officials are concerned about any new authorities that would allow military missions to be launched without the approval of the American ambassador in Islamabad. With Qaeda operatives now described in intelligence reports as deeply entrenched in the tribal areas and immersed in the civilian population, there is also a view among some military and CIA officials that the opportunity for decisive American action against the militants may have been lost.

Pakistani military officials, meanwhile, express growing frustration with the American pressure, and point out that Pakistan has lost more than 1,000 members of its security forces in the tribal areas since 2001, nearly double the number of Americans killed in Afghanistan.

Some architects of America's efforts in Pakistan defend the Bush administration's record in the tribal areas, and vigorously deny that Washington took its eye off the terror threat as it focused on Iraq policy. Some also question whether Bin Laden and Zawahri, Al Qaeda's top two leaders, are really still able to orchestrate large-scale attacks.

"I do wonder if it's in fact the case that Al Qaeda has really reconstituted itself to a pre-9/11 capability, and in fact I would say I seriously doubt that," said Crocker, the American ambassador to Pakistan between 2004 and 2006 and currently the ambassador to Iraq.

"Their top-level leadership is still out there, but they're not communicating and they're not moving around. I think they're symbolic more than operationally effective," Crocker said.

But while Bush vowed early on that Bin Laden would be captured "dead or alive," the moment in late 2001 when Bin Laden and his followers escaped at Tora Bora was almost certainly the last time the Qaeda leader was in American sights, current and former intelligence officials say. Leading terrorism experts have warned that it is only a matter of time before a major terrorist attack planned in the mountains of Pakistan is carried out on American soil.

"The United States faces a threat from Al Qaeda today that is comparable to what it faced on Sept. 11, 2001," said Seth Jones, a Pentagon consultant and a terrorism expert at the RAND Corporation.

"The base of operations has moved only a short distance, roughly the difference from New York to Philadelphia."


Program in Iraq against al-Qaida faces uncertainty

RADWANIYAH, Iraq (AP) - Capt. David N. Simms wanted the tribal sheiks to have no doubts - the $500,000 his unit spends every month to pay and equip local tribesmen to keep peace here will soon run out and they had better be ready when it's gone.

Simms handed the sheiks 600 applications for a vocational school in nearby Baghdad. It's one option, he said, to prepare the men for life after he stops giving them salaries.

The "Sons of Iraq" are the estimated 80,000 fighters - mostly Sunni tribesmen and former insurgents - recruited and paid by the U.S. military to help fight al-Qaida and maintain security in neighborhoods, including this Sunni farming community west of Baghdad.

The program has been a remarkable success, helping reduce violence across the country by 80 percent since early 2007 at the cost of $216 million to date.

Nearly two years into the program, however, the U.S. is gradually handing over responsibility for the Sons of Iraq to the Shiite-led government. By January, the military hopes to turn the entire program over to the Iraqis.

But the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has been reluctant to absorb large numbers of armed Sunnis into the Shiite-dominated security forces. American officials fear that many of the U.S.-backed fighters may turn their guns on the government unless jobs can be found for them.

"If we don't find work for the men, it will work against us," said Asaad Nawar al-Ameen, a retired general in Saddam's army who heads the Sons of Iraq in Radwaniyah. "Al-Qaida can get them."

The government already has accepted nearly 20 percent of Sons in Iraq members in the security forces and is pledging to find civilian jobs for most of the rest.

Meanwhile, it has introduced "support councils" made up of trusted tribal chiefs and their followers to support the security forces.

But that move is seen by leaders of the Sons of Iraq as an attempt to sideline them at a time when some of them are complaining that the Americans are abandoning them to a government they don't trust.

In Radwaniyah, the government recently named a wealthy businessman, Ayad Abdul-Jabar al-Jaborui, to head the new support council.

Al-Jabouri, wearing a smart creme suit and a tie, repeatedly told last week's meeting that he was to have a meeting with "his excellency" the prime minister soon. His office is decorated with pictures of himself along with top army commanders and al-Maliki's aides.

But even al-Jabouri, also a Sunni tribal chief, acknowledges that the government that is courting him may be trying to drive a wedge between the Sons of Iraq and the recently created support councils.

"The government is promoting a rift between us and the Sons of Iraq," he said. "My response was to name Gen. Asaad as the head of the council's security committee."

Kamal al-Saadi, a lawmaker from al-Maliki's Dawa party, said the leadership had worried about al-Qaida infiltration into the Sons of Iraq but now believed that "the government has become too strong for the Sons of Iraq to be a threat."

But a top al-Maliki aide, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject, said he is still worried about the loyalty of the Sons of Iraq.

"They are like mercenaries," he said. "Today, they are paid by the Americans. Tomorrow they can be paid by al-Qaida."

Some of those concerns are shared by residents in some parts of Baghdad who complain that Sons of Iraq members are branching out into extortion and protection rackets.

"They are abusing the powers given to them by the Americans," said Ahmed Abed Jassim, who runs an electronics store in the Fadhil neighborhood.

Mohammed al-Aazami, a 40-year-old schoolteacher in Azamiyah, complains that young fighters "brandish their weapons provocatively and lack discipline."

"They are too young and they need to be offered training and guidance," he said.

Earlier this month, hundreds of displaced Shiites demonstrated in central Baghdad to protest against the Sons of Iraq in the Sunni-dominated Adil district, claiming the Sunni gunmen were preventing them from returning to their homes in the west Baghdad neighborhood.

Nevertheless, in many impoverished areas of this country, the Sons of Iraq program pays dividends beyond manning checkpoints and improving security.

In Radwaniyah, a farming community where Saddam Hussein used to go hunting, the local economy depends heavily on the money that the Americans pay to the local Sons of Iraq, who chased away al-Qaida a year ago.

Each volunteer receives between $150 and $300 or more a month - roughly the same as a police recruit. Local sheiks earn much more to help raise and equip their followers.

But of the 900 men who have asked to join the police or army, only 45 have been accepted to the police, Simms said.

Simms, a 31-year-old native of St. Marys, Ohio, is not sure how much longer he can keep paying them and the local sheiks who administer their contracts.

Hence, he hopes to enroll as many of the fighters as possible in the vocational school, where they earn a monthly stipend of $240 paid by the government and a diploma after a year's training.

"We don't want to fire these guys and leave them on the streets without an income," Simms told the sheiks during a meeting this week. "It is competitive to get into that school. We want to reduce the number of the Sons of Iraq, so I want these forms returned to me as soon as possible."


Saturday, June 28, 2008

A Tactical Pause

"Due to a rash posting on my part, and decisions made above my pay-grade, I have been ordered to stop posting on Kaboom, effective immediately. Though I committed no OPSEC violations, due to a series of extenuating circumstances – the least of which was me being on leave – my “The Only Difference Between Martyrdom and Suicide is Press Coverage” post on May 28 did not go through the normal vetting channels. It’s totally on me, as it was too much unfiltered truth. I’m a soldier first, and orders are orders. So it is.

If you think, please think of us. If you pray, please pray for us. The second half of our deployment will be just as challenging and dangerous as the first half.

Thank you for caring. Agree or disagree with the war, if you’re reading this, you are engaged and aware. As long as that is still occurring in a free society, there is something worth the fighting for."

Fratricide (from the Latin word frater, meaning: "brother" and cide meaning to kill) is the act of a person killing his or her brother. ...

ExxonMobile Helps Qatar Prosper

"Why do so many Arabs and leftists have no problem with Qatar, host to CENTCOM, prospering from its business with ExxonMobil, while they bitch and moan about Iraq's recently signed short-term service contract with ExxonMobile and other oil giants?"
Iraqi Mojo

The In T View: Iraqi Translator, An Interpreter At War

"In this In T View, we meet the Iraqi Translator, a twenty-something Iraqi male studying computer science, but more widely known for his role as an Interpreter serving with the Coalition forces and Iraqi Army, and blogging about it at Iraqi Translator's Life.

The Iraqi Translator was against the US invasion of Iraq, but believes the Americans should remain in Iraq until the job is finished, and while, he's angry over the events of Abu Gharib, Haditha, and Ramadi, he doesn't blame the American people...

MG: Hello Iraqi Translator, welcome to the In T View. What's your favorite flavor of Ice Cream?

Iraqi Translator: Hey Mister Ghost(lol), how do you know I like ice cream!!! To put this question in the beginning, you surprised me. Honestly, I Fall in love with strawberry ice cream."
IBC ~Mister Ghost

Do you expect them to learn forgiveness? -Tribal reconciliation in Balad

"(Lt. Col. Robert McCarthy talks with Mayor Amir inside a fabric shop in the city center.)

Balad, Iraq-
In a city that has become known across the province for more than 500 reconciliations of local men with U.S. and Iraqi Security Forces, a broader reconciliation has been ongoing between Shia tribes who dominate the city and Sunni tribes who ring the outlying towns.

Balad was infamous for sectarian bloodshed in 2006. More than 57 people were killed when Sunni insurgents killed at least 14 Shiite farmworkers. Shias killed scores of Sunni in reprisals. U.S. forces were accused of not intervening soon enough to stop the killings. The Iraqi Army was finally sent to step in."

Running on Fumes

"One thing that is good about being out at war is that I don't have to fork over a large pile of money to fill up my gas tank. That's all going to change before too long and I'll be back in the land of pumping gold into that tank. In fact, I'll be paying more then most because I drive a diesel.
I remember back in the early 90's, if I wanted to make a weekend road trip to Arizona, 20 bucks worth of gas would get me there and I would have enough gas to drive around for most of the weekend. Even being an E-3, it wasn't a strain on my budget, my biggest bill was the cost of insurance."
Doc in the Box
"And another one's gone... another one's gone... another one bites the dust

The recently milblog-famous LT G is now assured of a book deal, and the milblog-reading public is now deprived of an erudite inside look into the current prosecution of the ground war in Iraq. No long tails, no FOB life, no ice cream cones- Kaboom: A Soldier's War Journal was exactly that- a blog of US soldiers at war. I'll take my "proud father" moment here- I found his blog just a few days after the Gravediggers hit the Iraqi dirt; a few days after I had mourned the lack of quality milblogs currently "on the ground".

The Only Difference Between Martyrdom and Suicide is Press Coverage

That was the post (of prescient title) that did him in. A too-real look at the struggle of a combat lieutenant to stay out of the mind-draining quagmire. No, not the media's Iraq: that quagmire is contrived and belied by the situation on the ground. This quagmire was the grind of the Tactical Operations Center, of the FOB life. LT G did not want to be a company executive officer. For a combat troop, that would be as good as suicide. The post he wrote about it got his blogging canned. Martyrs get books. Ask Colby Buzzell (who got called out of the inactive reserve for another Iraq deployment, by the way. It'll be interesting to see how that goes.)

It's too bad. I'll miss reading Kaboom."
Acute Politics

I can't believe it happened again! There must be some mistake, or is it true, again, is it The day the music died.
All over again.

I'm telling yah, there is only so much music in the world, and one day only the enemy will have any.

You know:

"This is the Army, son. Your opinion doesn't matter.

Roger. Acknowledged. I'd figure I'd proffer it, just in case."

Did him in.

Iran opposition group: US terror listing unjust

PARIS (AP) - Thousands of supporters of an Iranian opposition group called on the European Union and the United States to remove the organization from terror blacklists at a massive rally Saturday outside Paris.

The Paris-based National Council Resistance of Iran - an umbrella group that includes the blacklisted People's Mujahedeen of Iran, or PMOI - held the rally at an exhibition center in the northern Villepinte suburb just days after Britain removed PMOI from its list of banned terror groups.

But National Council leader Maryam Rajavi said the group's status in the U.S. and EU was hindering its ability to fight for regime change in Iran.

In a speech at the Paris rally, she called the terrorist labels "unjust."

"Do not deprive the world from the most effective means to combat the religious fascism and terrorism," Rajavi, dressed in a blue suit and headscarf, told the boisterous crowd. "Instead, side with those who can bring the Iranian people freedom."

Although the PMOI participated in Iran's Islamic Revolution, it later became opposed to the clerical government. Members of the group moved to Iraq in the early 1980s and fought Iran's Islamic rulers from there until the United States invaded in 2003.

American troops have since disarmed thousands of PMOI members, and the group said it renounced violence several years ago.

The National Council said more than 70,000 people attended Saturday's rally, including many people bused in from neighboring countries in Europe. Some participants arrived from the U.S., Canada and countries in the Middle East and northern Africa, it said. There was no independent confirmation of the organization's crowd estimate.

British lawmakers removed the People's Mujahedeen of Iran from the country's terror list on Monday, after a seven-year campaign by the group. The move gives the group more freedom to organize and raise money in Britain.

Fifteen British lawmakers were in Paris for Saturday's rally, including former Home Secretary David Waddington, organizers said.

Waddington said in a speech to the rally that the British decision was "an important step," and that he had attended the Paris gathering to "celebrate."

"Now the PMOI can get on with its work," he said later in a telephone interview.


World Politics Review: Central African Refugee Crisis Ignored

"As people commemorated U.N. World Refugee Day on Friday, a new humanitarian crisis was quietly brewing in the backyard of another, far more widely known crisis. In southern Chad, just a few hundred miles from camps housing a quarter-million Darfuri refugees, some 60,000 displaced persons from Central African Republic, having fled a growing civil conflict in their own country, have been moved to a cluster of new U.N. camps.
The Central Africans’ plight is widely overlooked in the as a result of the intense focus on the five-year-old civil war in Sudan’s Darfur region and the hundreds of thousands of refugees that that conflict has created. “It’s totally ignored,” one U.N. aid official in Abeche, in eastern Chad, said of the Central African problem. The official spoke on condition on anonymity."
War is Boring

PalTalk or Studying Iraqi Mentality

"I have been introduced to PalTalk, which is like any other Chat hosting program but with loads of control by administrators, and of course it depends which room you enter. Some are pure rubbish and other are quite decent.
Browsing through the Iraqi rooms I stumbled against many that Insult people, some glorifying Saddam, Some Glorying Terrorism and other ideas and Ideologies and religious matters. However I did find a Room that I have stuck to Called IRAQ University IRAQI. (the spoken Language in this room is in Arabic and Other than Iraqi's are not allowed to give an openion during the Political hours of the Room between 19:00 and Zulu)The reason is the owner of this Chat room is a decent person who you could say is unbiased to any Idea that is presented, I also found out that its one of the oldest rooms in PalTalk that is being mostly visited by Iraqi’s from overseas and Mainly Iraqi’s who took refuge in the Rafha Camp in Saudi Arabia back in 1991, but then that’s another story."
Where Date Palms Grow

Must feel strange to come out from under saddams cocoon, which was so warm and cozy, into the real world.
I bet London is looking better every day.

Kurdish regional leader stands by oil deals

BAGHDAD (AP) - The prime minister of Iraq's self-ruled Kurdish region said Saturday that oil deals unilaterally signed by the Kurds with foreign companies will stand despite opposition from the Iraqi central government.

The Shiite-led government in Baghdad considers any deals the Kurds have signed illegal since the country has not yet completed a new national oil law. Kurdish officials claim these contracts are in line with the Iraqi constitution.

Prime Minister Nechervan Barzani said the more than 20 production-sharing contracts the Kurds have signed with international oil companies since they drafted their own oil and gas law in August 2007 are "irreversible."

"Anyone who wants to put off these deals is a dreamer," he said in the Kurdish regional capital of Irbil.

Kurdish and Iraqi government officials ended talks this past week in Baghdad to try to settle their differences over a proposed new oil law but made little progress.

Barzani said the two groups have agreed to set up a committee headed by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki that will try to reach a final solution on the oil deals signed by the Kurds.

Barzani's comments are expected to deepen further the rift with the central government over the issue.

Iraqi political factions have been at loggerheads since February 2007 over the law that would set rules for foreign investment in Iraq's oil industry and determine how oil revenues will be shared among Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds.

Major obstacles include a dispute over the rights of regional administrations to negotiate contracts with foreign oil firms and who has the final say in managing oil and gas fields.

The Iraqi Oil Ministry has threatened to blacklist companies that sign deals with the Kurds, but that has not prevented firms from working with the Kurdish government.

On Wednesday, the Kurds announced a new package of oil deals with South Korea's state oil company.

Iraq has an estimated 115 billion barrels of oil and some 112 trillion cubic feet of natural gas reserves, the government says.

The Kurds, who control three northern provinces, sell the roughly 10,000 barrels of oil per day they produce to the domestic market since their region has no coastline to transport the resources.


Friday, June 27, 2008

Jason Reads the Heller Decision (So You Don't Have To!)

"Well, you don't have to. But I recommend you do, because the majority decision, written by Justice Scalia, is rich with historical evidence and anecdote from the founding era.

But if you are pressed for time, the Scalia's decision, for the 5-4 majority, can be encapsulated into four main points:

1.) The right to keep and bear arms is an individual, not a collective right.
2.) The right extends not just to service in a militia, but also for the purposes of self defense.
3.) The right applies to firearms in current common usage. The argument some raise that the 2nd Amendment protects only arms in existence in the 17th century "borders on the frivolous."
4.) Justice Stevens is an idiot."

What I found most illuminating is that the second amendment guarantees my right among other things, to wear armor.
And there seems to be a guarantee to "bear arms" in a way which does not involve a weapon of any kind on my person.

Very interesting

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Exclusive: No ice at the North Pole

It seems unthinkable, but for the first time in human history, ice is on course to disappear entirely from the North Pole this year.

The disappearance of the Arctic sea ice, making it possible to reach the Pole sailing in a boat through open water, would be one of the most dramatic – and worrying – examples of the impact of global warming on the planet. Scientists say the ice at 90 degrees north may well have melted away by the summer.

"From the viewpoint of science, the North Pole is just another point on the globe, but symbolically it is hugely important. There is supposed to be ice at the North Pole, not open water," said Mark Serreze of the US National Snow and Ice Data Centre in Colorado.

If it happens, it raises the prospect of the Arctic nations being able to exploit the valuable oil and mineral deposits below these a bed which have until now been impossible to extract because of the thick sea ice above.

Seasoned polar scientists believe the chances of a totally icefreeNorth Pole this summer are greater than 50:50 because the normally thick ice formed over many years at the Pole has been blown away and replaced by hugeswathes of thinner ice formed over a single year.

This one-year ice is highly vulnerable to melting during thesummer months and satellite data coming in over recent weeksshows that the rate of melting is faster than last year, when therewas an all-time record loss of summer sea ice at the Arctic.

"The issue is that, for the first time that I am aware of, the NorthPole is covered with extensive first-year ice – ice that formed last autumn and winter. I'd say it's even-odds whether the North Pole melts out," said Dr Serreze.

Each summer the sea ice melts before reforming again during the long Arctic winter but the loss of sea ice last year was so extensive that much of the Arctic Ocean became open water, with the water-ice boundary coming just 700 miles away from the North Pole.

This meant that about 70 per cent of the sea ice present this spring was single-year ice formed over last winter. Scientists predict that at least 70 per cent of this single-year ice – and perhaps all of it – will melt completely this summer, Dr Serreze said.

"Indeed, for the Arctic as a whole, the melt season startedwith even more thin ice than in 2007, hence concerns that we may even beat last year's sea-ice minimum. We'll see what happens, a great deal depends on the weather patterns in July and August," he said.

Ron Lindsay, a polar scientist at the University of Washington in Seattle, agreed that much now depends onwhat happens to the Arctic weather in terms of wind patterns and hours of sunshine. "There's a good chance that it will all melt awayat the North Pole, it's certainly feasible, but it's not guaranteed," Dr Lindsay said.

Thepolar regions are experiencing the most dramatic increasein average temperatures due to global warming and scientists fear that as more sea iceis lost, the darker, open ocean will absorb more heat and raise local temperatures even further. Professor Peter Wadhams of Cambridge University, who was one of the first civilian scientists to sail underneath the Arctic sea ice in a Royal Navy submarine,said that the conditions are ripe for an unprecedented melting of the ice at the North Pole.

"Last year we saw huge areas of the ocean open up, which hasnever been experienced before. People are expecting this to continuethis year and it is likely to extend over the North Pole. It isquite likely that the North Pole will be exposed this summer – it's not happened before," ProfessorWadhamssaid.

There are other indications that the Arctic sea ice is showingsigns of breaking up. Scientists at the Nasa Goddard Space Flight Centre said that the North Water 'polynya' – an expanse of open water surrounded on all sides by ice – that normally forms near Alaska and Banks Island off the Canadian coast, is muchlarger than normal. Polynyas absorb heat from the sun and eat away at the edge of the sea ice.

Inuit natives living near Baffin Bay between Canada and Greenland are also reporting thatthe sea ice there is starting to break up much earlier than normal and that they have seen wide cracks appearing in the ice where it normally remains stable. Satellite measurements collected over nearly 30 years show a significant decline in the extent of the Arctic sea ice, which has become more rapid in recent years.


Don't you feel better now, knowing you have a battle tested army to protect you?

Navy disputes restrictions to protect whales

HONOLULU (AP) - The Navy is challenging Hawaii's authority to protect whales by restricting the use of sonar during training exercises, environmentalists and military representatives say.

The Hawaii Coastal Zone Management Program, responsible for managing resources in state waters, asked the Navy in a May 22 letter to keep mid-frequency active sonar levels below 145 decibels and abide by sonar rules crafted by a federal judge for undersea warfare exercises off Hawaii.

In February, U.S. District Court Judge David Ezra barred the Navy from conducting its undersea exercises within 12 nautical miles, or 13.8 miles, of Hawaii's shoreline. Hawaii wants the Navy to follow Ezra's rules during all warfare drills near the islands and not just undersea exercises.

The Navy responded last week that doing so would prevent it from training its sailors properly. It also questioned whether Hawaii has the authority to use state law to enforce federal marine mammal protections.

"These conditions create a significant conflict with the Navy's obligations under U.S. federal law that the Navy provide trained and ready forces," the Navy said in a letter to the coastal management agency.

But the Navy indicated it was willing to discuss the matter with the state.

Earthjustice, which filed the lawsuit resulting in Ezra's sonar rules, said in a news release Wednesday that the Navy is relying on an outdated legal reasoning in questioning the state's jurisdiction over marine mammal protections.

"We don't believe the stance they're taking is valid legally. Their response is based on bad law that has been voided," said Koalani Kaulukukui, an Earthjustice lawyer.

Environmentalists argue that mid-frequency active sonar can disrupt whale feeding patterns, and in the most extreme cases can kill whales by causing them to beach themselves. But scientists aren't sure why sonar affects some species more than others. They also don't fully know how it hurts whales.

The Navy acknowledges sonar may harm marine mammals but says it takes steps to protect whales.

The Supreme Court agreed Monday to review a federal appeals court ruling that limited the use of sonar, or sound waves, in naval training exercises off Southern California's coast because of the potential harm to marine mammals.


Bombings kill dozens, 3 US Marines in Iraq attacks

BAGHDAD (AP) - A suicide bomber attacked a meeting of pro-government Sunni sheiks west of Baghdad on Thursday, killing at least 23 people, including three U.S. Marines. At least 18 more people died in a car bombing in the northern city of Mosul.

Both attacks happened in Sunni Arab areas where al-Qaida in Iraq has been active. They appeared to be part of a campaign by both Sunni and Shiite extremists to undermine U.S. efforts to shore up local administrations and secure the security gains achieved since early last year.

The target of the Mosul blast appeared to be the provincial governor, who was near the explosion but escaped injury.

The U.S. military announced that al-Qaida's top leader in Mosul, known by his nickname Abu Khalaf, was killed in a raid two days earlier. U.S. officials say Mosul is the last major Iraqi city where al-Qaida has a significant presence.

Thursday's other bombing took place at a building in Karmah, 20 miles west of Baghdad, where dozens of sheiks had gathered for a meeting attended by U.S. officials, said Col. Fawzi Fraih, civil defense director of Anbar province.

Local police Capt. Amir al-Jumaili said 20 Iraqis were killed and 20 others wounded.

The U.S. command said two interpreters were killed along with three Marines assigned to Multinational Forces-West. It was unclear if the interpreters were among the 20 dead reported by the Iraqis.

U.S. authorities suspected al-Qaida in Iraq was behind the attack.

Two policemen said the bomber was able to penetrate security because he was a wearing camouflage uniform of the Iraqi police commandos. Both policemen spoke on condition of anonymity for security reasons.

The blast took place only days before U.S. troops are to hand over security responsibility for Anbar to the Iraqis, marking a major milestone in the campaign to lower the U.S. profile in an area that had once been center-stage of the war.

Anbar sheiks spearheaded the Sunni revolt against al-Qaida, one of the key reasons behind the dramatic drop in both overall violence and American casualties since 2006.

The media office for Anbar province said the dead included the town's administrative director and at least two chiefs of major Sunni tribes in the area.

The bomb in Mosul went off between the government headquarters and a market, where the governor of surrounding Nineveh province, Duraid Kashmola, was inspecting damage from an earlier rocket attack, police said.

U.S. authorities said 18 people were killed and nearly 80 wounded - mostly civilians. Mosul is the scene of an ongoing Iraqi military operation against al-Qaida and other Sunni extremist groups.

The street where the blast occurred had been blocked with concrete barriers but was reopened about three weeks ago as part of a government move to improve the quality of life and undermine support for extremists.

Adil Khalid, a 35-year-old grocer, said he went to the market to buy food from wholesalers when he saw a parked car explode about 100 yards away.

"It was like doomsday. People were panicked, running to escape," Khalid said. "Even policemen fled the scene but came back to evacuate the victims. I saw two or three bodies burned beyond recognition."

The U.S. military says violence in Iraq has dropped to its lowest level in more than four years, but attacks are continuing as Sunni and Shiite extremists try to regroup and undermine security gains.

The two bombings were part of an uptick in violence that has pushed the monthly death toll for U.S. troops in Iraq to at least 29. That's well below figures of last year but an increase over the 19 who died in May, the lowest monthly tally of the war.

In all, at least 4,113 U.S. military service members have died in the Iraq war since it began in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count.

Ten people, including four Americans, were killed Tuesday in a bombing in a municipal council office in the Shiite area of Sadr City in Baghdad.

Two Americans were shot dead and four wounded Monday when a disgruntled official opened fire as they left a municipal building in Salman Pak about 15 miles south of the capital.

In a Web statement posted Thursday, the al-Qaida front group the Islamic State of Iraq claimed responsibility for a bombing that killed three American soldiers and their interpreter in Nineveh two days ago.

The statement said the attack was in retaliation for the killing of a Muslim family in Mosul.

Also Thursday, American troops killed two suspected al-Qaida militants and captured 15, including two Egyptians, in raids in central and northern Iraq, the U.S. military said.

The two extremists were killed in Sharqat, about 135 miles north of Baghdad, after they refused to surrender to U.S. troops who had surrounded the building where the pair had taken refuge, the U.S. said in a statement.

One of the dead was identified as a militant cell leader who was the target of the raid, the U.S. said. Three people were taken into custody.

The two Egyptians were detained in Abu Ghraib on the western edge of Baghdad for allegedly helping mount suicide attacks in the area, the U.S. said. A third person was seized near Abu Ghraib for allegedly providing weapons and suicide vests to Sunni militants.

The other arrests occurred during raids west of Sinjar in northern Iraq, Mosul and the Bijar area between Mosul and Baghdad, the military said.


US says top al-Qaida figure killed

BAGHDAD (AP) - Al-Qaida in Iraq's top leader in Mosul was killed during a raid this week in that northern city, the U.S. military said Thursday.

The "emir" of the terror movement in Mosul, known by his nickname Abu Khalaf, was killed along with two other extremists in a gunbattle Tuesday, the U.S. said.

One of those killed was a woman who was shot as she tried to detonate the explosive belt of one of her dead comrades, the statement said.

Associates identified one of the dead as Abu Khalaf, the statement added. It said the third extremist was a Syrian known by his nickname Abu Khalud.

According to the U.S., Abu Khalaf had been a deputy of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, leader of al-Qaida in Iraq who was killed by a U.S. airstrike in Diyala province in June 2006.

U.S. officials say Mosul is the last major Iraqi city where al-Qaida has a significant presence.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Illinois man ships pile of pizza to war zones

Mark Evans, a retired Air Force sergeant, has taken it upon himself to send hundreds of Chicago-style pizzas to soldiers who will be in Iraq and Afghanistan on the Fourth of July.

The Daily Herald says Evans got Lou Malnati's to give him a discount on deep-dish pizzas and DHL Global to ship the frozen pies at no charge. At first, he planned to send 300 pizzas. That number has grown exponentially since reporters learned about the plan. AP says they're now set to ship 3,000 pies.

Gitmo detainees should be considered guilty until proven innocent

"I have met a few Arabs who've claimed that the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay are "innocent" and should be released immediately. While a few Gitmo detainees may be innocent, it is obvious that many detainees are indeed guilty of horrendous crimes. One detainee is Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of the attacks on 9/11 and the person who beheaded WSJ reporter Daniel Pearl.

Nibras Kazimi has published a post about a former Gitmo detainee, released in 2005, who was responsible for murdering dozens of Iraqis since his release:"
Iraqi Mojo

National Police try to repair their reputation in Samarra

"(A joint patrol beginning in the early morning desert outside of Samarra.)

Samarra, Iraq-
Irreversible momentum. The kind that can't be undone by the assassinations and bombings. The kind that will continue to build among Iraqis and last when U.S. forces hand Samarra over to them.

The 2nd Battalion of the 327th Infantry partners with Iraqi National Police on almost daily patrols here, but the outsider police presence has been accepted by the city's residents more slowly."

Take a poll on cheating in the military!

"I have a poll over on the forum that I hope you will all do. The poll is on cheating in the military. I look forward to an interesting outcome. So go to the forum link and cast your vote. Pass the word so others will take the poll too.

I decided to do the poll because of all the posts I have written, none have taken on a life of their own except this topic. The original post I wrote nearly a year ago is still drawing about 3/4ths of my viewers and a steady flow of comments. It is unbelievable."
Hello Iraq

MKO: Iraqi Threat or Iraqi Asset?

"For the past week Iraqi MP's have been discussing what to do with the Mujahadeen-e Khalq Organization. In general the Shia Arab MP's see the MKO as a direct threat to Iraq and want them expelled from Iraqi soil because they believe them to be accomplices in Saddam's crimes when the regime brutally suppressed the 1991 popular revolt. Sunni Arab MP's disagree. They claim there is no substantiated evidence that implicates the MKO in any crime and have challenged the Shia MP's (on more than one occasion) to provide them with such evidence. The Sunni MP's also argue that the MKO is an Iraqi asset that should be used as a bargaining chip with the Iranians, to expel the MKO would be a "loss" for Iraq. The points the Sunni's raised in parliament were more or less the same ones I heard from Jamal Al-Deen two months earlier in Baghdad.

Saleh Al-Mutlaq, head of the National Dialogue bloc, said he would actually support having full ties with Iran if they stopped interfering in Iraqi affairs but that is not an option while Iran continues its barrage on Iraqi villages. He said that if any Shia MP's can provide documents proving the MKO has committed crimes against the Iraqi people he would "not only stop talking to them, but would be against them". He pleaded to the speaker that the MKO can be used to further Iraq's interests and that if they lose them, they will come to regret it."
Eye Raki

Feeding the crock

Coming to an end...

"Well, for a little update on where I am today, let me start by saying that I have less than 2 weeks until I sign out on terminal leave. Basically this is like regular leave, where you're not at work or anything, except this is tacked on to the end of your enlistment. Basically I'm taking a month of terminal leave, which means, I "leave" the Army and I still get paid for one for month, until I'm officially release from the Army.

So right now I've been staying pretty busy with doing all the crap required to get out of the Army. Theres tons of briefs and this you need and that you have to do, plus I still have the worst part, which is the turn in of all my equipment. Doesn't sound so bad, but when for the last 3 1/2 years and a deployment later, all my stuff has been here and there and back again, and now I have to try and piece together everything that I have to turn back in. It doesn't help when they give you a list of stuff with names that give you NO clue as to what it actually is. Should be fun. Anyways, all this process has been going smoothly so far and I should be done with this "headache" soon. Besides the headache is well worth it since it means Im finally done!"
On the loose in Iraq

AFGHANISTAN: Goodbye Fallouja, hello Kabul?

Nothing official has been said, but more and more Marines of all ranks are saying that their future is in Afghanistan, not Iraq.
Two facts are giving the rumor extra boost: The Bush administration is known to be retooling its Afghanistan strategy, and the Marines on Saturday will formally turn over security responsibility for Anbar province in Iraq to the Iraqis.

The Marines will stay in Iraq to help the Iraqi forces, but indications are that a drawdown is being planned, maybe by end of the year.

Marine brass, including the commandant, Gen. James Conway, have made no secret of their desire to get back to Afghanistan. This spring, two Marine units, the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit from Camp Lejeune, and the 2nd battalion, 7th regiment from Twentynine Palms, were sent to Afghanistan for a seven-month deployment.

Few Marines feel a onetime deployment will be sufficient to thwart a resurgent Taliban and continue to train the Afghan forces. For the Marines from Camp Pendleton, a return to Afghanistan would represent an opportunity to complete some unfinished business.

Marines from the base were the first conventional U.S. troops into Afghanistan in 2001 after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, helping to topple the Taliban but missing a chance to kill or capture Osama bin Laden.

A return, of course, would not be casualty-free. In the past week, seven troops from Twentynine Palms have been killed.

Babylon & Beyond

And here I thought it had been announced publicly, and that I had agreed with the idea, months, and months ago. I guess.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Who is the Interpreter?

"The INTERPRETER word means: translating thoughts, points, meanings and actions, but it doesn't mean translating literally!!

the interpreter is a communications bridge between the Coalition Forces and the Local Iraqis, without the interpreter they cant communicate with each other and bad things will happen cuz of the misunderstanding!!

for example, I remember we were doing security operation in a city- west of Iraq, I was with my team. we were the strikers. and there were MET team( team deals with the Iraqi Army).. the MET team leader told his interpreter to call the IA's (Iraqi Army) through the radio and telling them to stay away from that house which we were getting fire from, cuz the air will bomb it...
the interpreter didn't understand what his team leader told him, but I was there and I heard what the team leader the interpreter called the IA's and told them "hey the Americans say get in the house and detain the bad guys inside the house"..

I heard him and I was like what the fuck r u tellin them???? Do u wanna kill them u stupid? he said "that what the team leader said!!" I said "call it off", then I asked the team leader what u just told him? he said "tell the IA's to be away from the house cuz the air will bomb it.." then the terp understood that he translated wrong and he almost kill IA's team by translating mistake...then he called the IA's again and told them "run far away from the house ASAP the air coming to bomb it..""
Interps Life

Monday, June 23, 2008

"It doesn't matter who you're best friends with, it doesn't matter who you hate. It doesn't matter who you get along with and it doesn't matter who you can't stand, or who you're indifferent about. It doesn't even matter who you haven't even had the chance to meet personally.

"War", for lack of a more specific term, doesn't care. It doesn't discriminate. It doesn't follow your bullshit Hollywood plot. It's ruthless and random and makes absolutely no sense.

The senior NCO that was the first CHILL guy you ever met, that would shoot the shit, that told stories in cattle trucks that you'd love to repeat if only you had the permission.

The young dude from the Dominican Republic. HUGE MySpace enthusiast. You never interfered with his MySpacing. And this guy, no matter how pissed and anti-social you were feeling, when he came around and said so much as, "Heyyyy, [Suspect], whassup man?", it didn't matter how pissy you were or how badly you wanted to choke the life out of everyone in the company. Somehow, this overly-motivated little dude got a free pass every time. You didn't mind hearing from him, even when he didn't have shit to say and neither did you.

Then a Sheryl Crow song plays on your boss's iPod when the news comes over the radio and gives the roster numbers of the guys that were hit. To this day you can't stomach hearing about any day being a goddamn winding road."
The Unlikely Soldier

‘Tis the Season to Bash Al-Hurra


-The Saudis have spent billions upon billions of petrodollars gobbling up Arab language newspapers and TV stations but though their money carries plenty of clout in Washington, they won’t be able to purchase Al-Hurra from the U.S. government. So what the Saudis tried to do is convince the Bush administration and Congress to scrap Al-Hurra (…I presume the WaPo’s story is part of that Saudi effort) and to subcontract America’s message about democracy and America’s justifications for its war on terror to the Saudis by using Al-Arabiya as Washington’s platform—yeah, right, as if that's ever gonna work! But it’s not that much of a stretch to get the administration to play along with such dangerous ploys, since America had previously subcontracted its Lebanon policy to the Saudis and even though that policy proved disastrous, nothing has been done to rectify it. By taking on such subcontracts, the Saudis would make sure that America’s policies in the Middle East would not endanger the survival of the Saudi regime. In that vein, the ratings numbers were cooked to give the impression that Al-Arabiya is the market-leader in Iraq, and consequently Bush administration officials gave face-time to Al-Arabiya thus further undermining Al-Hurra—this point goes unmentioned in the WaPo story."
Talisman Gate

"GOD, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference."


"Last Friday, a story broke in Turkish daily Taraf on a plan by the general saff plan to reshape Turkey. It strikes me, however, as an effort to maintain the status quo.

Zaman explains the background to the plan:
According to the document, the military's "Information Support Activity Action Plan" went into force in September 2007 and is composed of a series of "measures" against the government, which the military deems the source of a "religious reactionary movement." Taraf's story comes at a time when the Constitutional Court is at loggerheads with the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government; last month the court annulled a bill sponsored by the AK Party that would have allowed the Muslim headscarf to be worn on university campuses. The Turkish General Staff released a statement on Friday afternoon denying Taraf's report. "There is no such official document approved by the commanding ranks in General Staff records," the statement said. The military document Taraf published defines the plan's goals as "bringing public opinion into line with the TSK on issues the TSK is sensitive about, preventing the development of incorrect opinions about the TSK, ensuring the unity and solidarity of opinions and actions within the TSK." The same introductory chapter issues a caveat, stressing the need to avoid "conflict with other state agencies" and also avoid "the image of intervening in daily politics."
Well, of course, there is no such official document "approved by the commanding ranks" of the general staff: Even in Turkey, such a document would not be legal, so who would sign it? Illegal documents like this one are always unofficial"

Sweep, sweep, no one saw anything.

IRAQ: Summer music in Kurdistan

Once, Azzadi garden was a military base where tens of Kurdish citizens were executed under the rule of deposed dictator Saddam Hussein.

So the Kurdish folk songs wafting on its summer breeze last week had a special meaning for residents who gathered there to welcome the season with music.

"My body and soul moved as I listened to the music, especially in this environment," said Shireen Wihab, 29. "I never felt like this before."

Altogether, the Ministry of Culture put on 24 concerts across the three Kurdish provinces. The musicians played late into the night in gardens, hospitals, infirmaries and even jails."
Babylon & Beyond

IRAQ: Marines to turn over Anbar province to Iraqis but remain to advise

"After four years of effort, the Marines this week are set to turn security responsibility for once-violent Anbar province over to the Iraqi security forces.

But that does not mean the Marines are leaving the sprawling western province.

Marines will remain for the forseeable future, working with the Iraqi police and army, providing backup if insurgents attempt a counter-offensive to regain turf they once controlled.

The Marines, as well as Army units, have fought two major battles in Anbar (Fallouja, 2004) and innumerable smaller ones. According to the independent website, the U.S. has suffered 1,127 deaths in Anbar, second only to Baghdad, with 1,129.

Maj. Gen. John Kelly, the top Marine in Iraq, said the insurgents have not been totally defeated in Anbar, but they have been "generally neutralized in the cities and disrupted in the towns and villages."

"They are restricted to the wilds of the desert and separated from the population they sought to oppress," Kelly said. "Increasingly they appear as criminal gangs who extort, murder, and steal to maintain relevance."

Some observors are concerned that the Sunni sheiks, with whom the Marines have formed an alliance of convenience, will return to the vindictive ways of tribal justice, including torture and summary executions. Kelly disagrees and remains convinced that the sheiks will continue to support the security forces and the province's reconstruction efforts."
Babylon & Betond

What did he just say

Obama is on TV right now, burning on McCain about tax cuts to the rich corporations. The problem is he's in Miami, where the audience is made up of,,,rich corporations. I wonder why no one clapped?

You have to wonder, does he even know who he is talking too.

I was going to post the link but it's not available on C-SPAN.

Could it be that it was so bad, Obama had it pulled? I don't know. The venue was the U.S. Conference of Mayors, and you can get Bill Clintons speech..

If all else fails, watch C-SPAN for yourselves.

NATO says 6,000 troops urgently needed in Afghanistan

BERLIN: Up to 6,000 additional troops are urgently needed in Afghanistan and a failure to deploy them will only prolong the presence of Western forces in the country, a German NATO general said on Sunday.

Egon Ramms told public radio station Deutschlandfunk that alliance members would end up paying a price later if they did not boost troop numbers now.

"We are talking about a total of 5,000, 6,000 soldiers," Ramms said. "We need these soldiers now, very soon, because we need to hold specific areas, we need to win over Afghanistan's citizens and because at some point, in 2010, 2011 or 2012 we will want to hand over responsibility to Afghan forces.

Roughly 60,000 foreign troops are in Afghanistan, most of them part of the NATO-led International Security and Assistance Force (ISAF), but security has deteriorated over the past two years.

Some 6,000 people were killed in 2007, the deadliest year since U.S.-led and Afghan forces toppled the Taliban in 2007.

"The troops that I don't have now could lead to delays in the withdrawal of NATO and ISAF," Ramms said. "In other words, the costs that are not being paid now will have a negative impact on the bottom line at some point."

Ramms declined to say how many additional German troops he thought were necessary, but said Germany should increase the number of troops it can send to Afghanistan from a fixed ceiling of 3,500.

The parliamentary mandate for German troops operating in Afghanistan is due to expire in October and Defence Minister Franz Josef Jung is expected to request an increase of at least 1,000 in the troop limit.


Not to worry, Obama has promised to deploy them as soon as elected.

From Afghanistan, NATO Shells Militants in Pakistan

KABUL, Afghanistan — NATO forces in Afghanistan shelled guerrillas in Pakistan in two separate episodes on Sunday, as escalating insurgent violence appeared to be eroding the alliance’s restraint along the border.

NATO officials said they had retaliated against rocket and artillery attacks launched by militants from sanctuaries across the border in Pakistan, where they operate freely. The insurgents’ attacks, launched into Khost and Paktika Provinces, killed four Afghan civilians, at least two of them children, Afghan and NATO officials said. Casualty figures for Pakistan were not available.

The firing by NATO forces into Pakistani territory followed an American airstrike on a Pakistani border post earlier this month that killed 11 Pakistani soldiers. The Pakistani government denounced the strike, and the American government expressed regret, but it is still not entirely clear what happened.

Relations between the governments of Pakistan and Afghanistan were already extraordinarily tense. American and Afghan officials say the surging violence in Afghanistan is in large part caused by the sanctuaries that militants enjoy in Pakistan. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, have assembled in Pakistan, most of them in the area along the remote and mountainous frontier where the government exercises no authority.

In those sanctuaries, the militants are free to train, regroup and plan new attacks in Afghanistan. American and NATO commanders have expressed frustration at the violence caused by the militants who cross from Pakistan, but they have so far been refused permission to conduct military operations there.

Last week, President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan threatened to send troops across the border to attack the militants if the Pakistani government did not prevent them from crossing the border. The Pakistani government has never exercised more than nominal control over long stretches of its border with Afghanistan, and Pakistani leaders say they do not have enough troops to secure the area.

The first attack came shortly after midnight in Khost Province, where militants inside Afghanistan fired 13 rockets, apparently at a base for the International Security Assistance Force, the NATO force charged with maintaining order in Afghanistan. One rocket hit the base, causing no casualties, but another killed an Afghan civilian, officials said.

Later, in a second volley, five rockets sailed in from Pakistan, striking the village of Kundai, where a woman and her two children were killed, officials said. The security forces there located the militants’ firing battery several hundred yards inside Pakistan and returned fire.

Officials from the security force gave no details of their own artillery barrage, except to say that Pakistani officials were immediately informed of the shelling. Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas of the Pakistani military said he knew nothing about any incidents along the border.

“We need to defend ourselves,” said Gen. Carlos Branco, a spokesman for the security force.

In the second episode, an Afghan Army post in Paktika Province came under artillery fire from Pakistan. The international security forces located the firing battery on the other side of the border and returned fire. Officials provided no other details.

Also on Sunday, the governor of Kunar Province in Afghanistan reported that a rocket from Pakistan struck a hospital on Saturday in the town of Asadabad in Kunar. The same day, an American bomb landed on the border near a Pakistani post in North Waziristan during fighting with militants, General Abbas said.


Sunday, June 22, 2008


Commemorated in Gevaş, Kurdistan's answer to the Loch Ness Monster: Van Gölü Canavarı--Lake Wan Monster


I knew there had to be something wrong with these Kurds!

Petraeus Guidance And Application in the Punditsphere

"Multi-National Force Iraq has released COIN guidance from General Petraeus. The directives are nothing new to people who follow counter-insurgency doctrine or soldiers with boots on ground. But two bullets of interest are applicable to bloggers following events while in our underwear back stateside:
Be first with the truth. Get accurate information of significant activities to your chain of command, to Iraqi leaders, and to the press as soon as is possible. Beat the insurgents, extremists, and criminals to the headlines, and pre-empt rumors. Integrity is critical to this fight. Don’t put lipstick on pigs. Acknowledge setbacks and failures, and then state what we’ve learned and how we’ll respond. Hold the press (and ourselves) accountable for accuracy, characterization, and context. Avoid spin and let facts speak for themselves. Challenge enemy disinformation. Turn our enemies’ bankrupt messages, extremist ideologies, oppressive practices, and indiscriminate violence against them.
Fight the information war relentlessly. Realize that we are in a struggle for legitimacy that in the end will be won or lost in the perception of the Iraqi people. Every action taken by the enemy and United States has implications in the public arena. Develop and sustain a narrative that works and continually drive the themes home through all forms of media.
Petraeus is speaking of countering the enemy's information war which seeks to portray the U.S. as bloodthirsty savages (frequently seen in Iranian media) or uses simple, emotional messaging about complex issues to incite indiscriminate violence (as seen with Al-Qaeda messaging). These information apparatuses are fair game under current military doctrine, but domestic media and DC politics remain off-limits for the military. This policy is designed to prevent military subversion of democracy, and even the superb COIN-themed Small Wars Journal steers clear of politics like a teenage couple from a prom night dumpster baby. Most high-ranking officers may harbor their own opinions, but are terrified of having their politics being broadcast...even to the point of not sharing them with subordinates during dinner at the chow hall. With this lack of engagement through mediums such as the blogosphere, a certain willful ignorance of the nation's punditry class is fostered. This has had terrible consequences over the past five years due to our apathy:"
LT Nixon Rants

100 Iraqi Blogs In 100 Minutes Or Something Like That

"Mohammed Fadhil of The Barbecue Brothers, LOL, says change must come from without as regards the Middle East and Arabic society. Sounds like a cop out to me. Sure, let America do the regime changing, while the Arab intelligensia runs off to graduate school in the U.S., when things become difficult. Well, I'm sorry, but if you want your culture and society changed, you have to be willing to stay within it, shed your blood, and fight for the changes you believe in. Change from without in Iraq led to a more sectarian, less secular society."
IBC ~Mister Ghost

MG presents an amazing list of Iraqi blogs with funny quotes. Worth a look.

Fallujah security strengthen in numbers

"FALLUJAH, Iraq (June 19, 2008) – Marines geared for war walk in tactical columns through the once mean streets of Fallujah, ready for what may lay around the next corner.

“Mister, mister shokalata! Shokalata!”shout exuberant children from a crowded neighborhood as Marines and Iraqi Police pass out candy.

Marines with Company B, Police Transition Team 8, Regimental Combat Team 1, have been working diligently over the past few months to help train Iraqi Police to take over their respective areas and become self-supportive in day-to-day operations in the city.

Recent increases in the number of Iraqi Police have drastically subdued the violence in the city.

According to the Fallujah Headquarters Chief of Police Col. Faisal, the number of Iraqi Policemen has increased this year by more than 1,000 officers, and that is why security is better than it has been in four years."
Fearless 1st Marines

Maysan: Phase II & Sadrist Reaction

"Phase two of the Maysan operation is proving to be fruitful. On Saturday security forces discovered a bomb making factory in the 'Hussein' district in central Amara. The factory was being used to make "smart" IED's. The advanced armour piercing explosives, that many US and Iraqi officials have long accused Iran of supplying the Mehdi Army and other criminal gangs in Iraq, were found by the Ministry of Interior's Rapid Intervention Force and local police.

Roughly 20 weapons caches have already been discovered since the operation began on Thursday. General Mohammed Al-Askari (Arabic link) gave details about two of these caches, which were found hidden by the Sadrists in "Majidiya" and "Qadisiya" in central Amara. They included artillery shells, 60mm rockets, mortar rounds, RPG's and binoculars. He also mentioned that 14 of the arrested criminals captured by the security forces were high profile."
Eye Raki

Final Salute

"I just finished a book called "Final Salute: A Story of Unfinished Lives," a book by Pulitzer Prize winner Jim Sheeler. It centers around a Marine casualty assistance officer and the stories of the families most affected by the war. It'd behoove the nation to read it. I wrote a little something about it on VetVoice. Please do take a look!"
Army of Dude

Iraqi Sunnis after the Awakenings

"Mohammed Abu Rumman, a Jordanian journalist who follows the Iraqi Sunni scene very closely, has a fascinating article up at al-Hayat on recent developments there. It's a detailed, rich essay, which makes a few key points. First, Awakenings leaders seem to be uncertain about their future and about American intentions, with unpredictable ramifications - possibly moving them into the political process and integration into the state, possibly inflaming them against American 'betrayal'. Second, the emerging Sunni political scence is intensely fragmented, with a bewildering array of parties and movements competing rather than any coherent Sunni bloc. Is Iraq really entering a post-Awakenings period? What would that mean?

First, Abu Rumman leads with indications from sources close to the Iraqi Resistance that the Americans are abandoning the Awakenings, asking them to stand down in the face of the Iraqi armed forces. While some describe this as a betrayal, the prominent Sahwa leader from the Islamic Army Abu Azzam al-Tamimi argues that it is a natural and appropriate response to changes on the ground. With the influence of al-Qaeda on the decline and the Mahdi Army on the run, he claims, the Awakenings are less needed for self-defence and now should pursue Sunni interests through other avenues - such as his own political party (see below)."
Abu Aadvark