Basra Police Chief Dismissed
8 Bodies found in Najaf
The political violence in Iraq continues apace.
11 bodies were found dead in Najaf. One of them was an Iranian. This according to al-Hayat.
A roadside bomb killed an American soldier Saturday morning.
Basra Governor Muhammad al-Wa’ili suspended his police chief, Major-General Hassan Swadi, for being ineffective against local guerrilla groups. Al-Wa’ili, from the Fadilah Party, also called for the removal of the commander of the 10th Division, Major-General Abdullatif Taaban, on grounds of inefficiency.
Patrick Cockburn does his usual excellent job of penetrating the conflicting accounts of what happened at Dhulu’iyah on Friday. A roadside bomb killed and wounded Kurdish soldiers in a convoy. They headed for the local hospital, firing in the air to clear the streets, and killing a local man. A Shiite battalion then came running, apparently afraid that the Kurdish troops would take revenge for their fallen comrade. The two battalions fought, leaving another soldier dead and one wounded in the firefight. This army is supposed to make it possible for US troops to rotate out?
The NYT reports Gen. Barry McCaffrey, who teaches at West Point, as estimating that the US military should have a big presence in Iraq for 5 to 7 years, while partnering with and building up the Iraqi military. So in 5 years the Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish battalions will like each other more than they do now? Will be more willing to fight against armed groups from their own ethnicities?
My problem with that is that they seem to think that the Tal Afar operation was a success, whereas it is a political disaster, and if they are planning another 5 to 7 years of that sort of thing, then we are doomed. At Tal Afar they used Kurdish and Shiite troops to assault Sunni Turkmen, emptied the city on the grounds that it was full of foreign fighters, killed people and made them refugees, and then only took 50 foreign fighters captive. The Sunni Turkmen, not to mention the Turks in Ankara, will never forgive us. And the press reports show substantial disappointment in the city even among Shiites with the results. The Tal Afar operation is considered a “take and hold” or “oil spot” strategy, as opposed to search and destroy. But you can’t just empty out one Sunni city after another, bring in troops of other ethnicities to level neighborhoods, force people into tent cities in the desert or into relatives’ homes, and call that a counter-insurgency strategy. Every year the US military has been in the Sunni Arab heartland they have alienated more and more Iraqis.
So I think we should get the US ground troops out of there. As a matter of politics (“hearts and minds”), they aren’t making things better and have no early prospect of doing so. If it is a matter of keeping air capability, and some special ops and armor in the neighborhood, that might be necessary to keep things from collapsing. By the way, why does the Iraqi army have only 70 tanks after all this time? (In 1990 I think they had 8,000 tanks!) How can you take and hold territory with no armor? And what about helicopter gunships? My own guess is that the US doesn’t build up those capabilities because they can’t be sure the Iraqi military won’t at one point mutiny against them. But if that is the case, then the US troop presence really is stunting Iraqi capabilities.
I’m so dissapointed in al-Zaman. They carried this completely bogus report of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Salafi radical whose policy it is to blow up Shiites, meeting in Beirut with Hizbullah and Iranian Revolutionary guards and getting weaponry from them. Yeah, and W. secretly buys Ahmadinejad lunch, too. It is completely ridiculous and there is no evidence for it. Can you say, “black psy-ops”? The Badr Corps was trained by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards. They want Zarqawi to blow them up now why, exactly?