The Pentagon’s acting Inspector General says that despite the foreseeable need for armored vehicles in Iraq that could withstand roadside bombs, and despite the increasingly obvious need for such vehicles as the guerrilla war unfolded, the Pentagon was slow to deploy such vehicles.
The article does not mention the infamous exchange between Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and troops in the field on this issue in 2004:
‘One soldier, identified by The Associated Press as Army Spc. Thomas Wilson of the 278th Regimental Combat Team, a Tennessee National Guard outfit, asked Rumsfeld why more military combat vehicles were not reinforced for battle conditions. “Why do we soldiers have to dig through local landfills for pieces of scrap metal and compromised ballistic glass to uparmor our vehicles?” Wilson asked.’
Rumsfeld maintained that the Department of Defense was ordering armored Humvees as quickly as it could but that the factories could only produce so many. The factory owners then came out and said that no, if the DoD ordered more, they could easily ramp up production.
I wonder if we’ll ever really know why that crew took the screwy decisions they did. I have a strong suspicion that there were ulterior motives.
In any case, the IG says their decisions got a lot of US soldiers and Marines killed or wounded.
The British military, which has still not managed to conclude a Status of Forces Agreement with the al-Maliki government, may withdraw from Iraq by June, 2009. The US military is expected to take over the British base at Basra airport. Troops are needed in the south to guard fuel and supply convoys going up to Baghdad from the south.
Mohammad Abbas of Reuters describes the situation in Basra as it prepares for provincial elections. Although security is improved, the situation is still difficult:
‘ it is heaving with garbage and unemployment is rife. Waterways are clogged with waste, and the stench in even some genteel areas is overpowering. Most streets are potholed. Until a government crackdown in late March, militias and gangs ruled the city, and even now some of Basra’s elite go shopping with an escort of soldiers and armored cars.People are reluctant to venture out at night, when Basra largely becomes the preserve of packs of stray dogs, their barks echoing in the darkness. Basra’s potential has contributed to its decay as rival groups in Iraq’s Shi’ite south fought for control, scaring away foreign investment and expertise. Allegations of oil-smuggling and corruption abound, and bickering among the incumbent local politicians has held up development. Desperately needed cash has been returned to the central government because of delays in spending it.’
Abbas reports that in the Jan. 31 provincial elections, Basrans will be able to vote for individual politicians, not just for party lists, and that security is good enough that candidates may actually campaign. In the provincial elections of Jan. 31, 2005, it was too dangerous to campaign, and voters often did not know for whom they were voting. The Basra Province council has been dominated since 2005 by the Islamic Virtue Party (Fadhila), which is Sadrist but follows Ayatollah Muhammad Ya’qubi rather than Muqtada al-Sadr. It shares power with the Islamic Supreme Council of Abdul Aziz al-Hakim. The Islamic Mission Party (Da’wa) will run independently in this election, so that the council may be more diverse.
Basra is seeking to become a Regional Government or autonomous region, as allowed by the 2005 constitution. If the measure passes, the provincial council will have 100% claim on all new oil fields developed in the province, rather than having to share the profits with the central government. Reidar Vissar discusses this initiative here and also here. Al-Hayat reports in Arabic that ten percent of Basra voters will have to sign a petition for the referendum on this issue for it to be held.
Al-Zaman reports in Arabic that Muqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army has taken up a cultural struggle, to argue Iraqi youth into rejecting secular currents.