ON Point Newshttp://uscavonpoint.com/blogs/reconstructing_iraq/default.aspxen-USCommunityServer 2.0 (Debug Build: 60217.2664)Pakistan accepts larger US rolehttp://uscavonpoint.com/blogs/reconstructing_iraq/archive/2008/01/17/18287.aspxThu, 17 Jan 2008 15:23:00 GMT899d85c8-63ec-432e-a4a1-f1a0bb719f98:18287ON Point1http://uscavonpoint.com/blogs/reconstructing_iraq/comments/18287.aspxhttp://uscavonpoint.com/blogs/reconstructing_iraq/commentrss.aspx?PostID=18287<FONT color=#000000 size=5><B><FONT face=Times>Admiral: Pakistan OKs Bigger U.S. Role<BR></FONT></B></FONT><FONT face=Times color=#000000 size=4>By Robert Burns, Associated Press, 1/17/08<BR><BR>ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Pakistan is taking a more welcoming view of U.S. suggestions for using American troops to train and advise its own forces in the fight against anti-government extremists, the commander of U.S. forces in that region said Wednesday.<BR><BR>Navy Adm. William J. Fallon, commander of U.S. Central Command, said he believes increased violence inside Pakistan in recent months has led Pakistani leaders to conclude that they must focus more intensively on extremist al-Qaida hideouts near the border with Afghanistan.<BR><BR>He called this an important change from Pakistan's traditional focus on India as the main threat to its security, and it meshes with Defense Secretary Robert Gates' recent comment that al-Qaida terrorists hiding in the border area are increasingly aiming their campaign of violence at targets inside Pakistan.<BR><BR>"They see they've got real problems internally," Fallon said in a 20-minute interview with three reporters accompanying Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, at a private conference here of military chiefs from Middle Eastern countries, hosted by Fallon. Pakistan was not attending.<BR><BR>In the latest sign of trouble, the Pakistani military said Wednesday that Islamic militants overran a military outpost close to the Afghan border in a battle that killed seven Pakistani soldiers and left 20 missing.<BR><BR>Although Pakistan has been a close U.S. ally in the war against terrorism since Sept. 11, 2001, the extent of U.S. military involvement inside Pakistan is a highly sensitive subject among Pakistanis.<BR><BR>"My sense is there is an increased willingness to address these problems, and we're going to try to help them," Fallon said. He said U.S. assistance would be "more robust," but he offered few details. "There is more willingness to do that now" on Pakistan's part, he said.<BR><BR>The Bush administration's anxiety about Pakistan's stability has grown in recent months, not only because of its potential implications for U.S. stability efforts in neighboring Afghanistan but also because of worry about the security of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal.<BR><BR>Senior U.S. military officials have visited there recently, including Navy Adm. Eric Olsen, commander of U.S. Special Operations Command.<BR><BR>In the interview in the seaside hotel where he and Mullen were meeting with Middle Eastern military chiefs, Fallon said he is concerned about weak coordination of U.S. and NATO efforts to stabilize Afghanistan. But he stressed that the security situation in Afghanistan is better than many realize.<BR><BR>"Our guys really get it," he said, referring to the 27,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan. He said they are making inroads against the Taliban insurgency and he sees prospects for more gains this year.<BR><BR>Asked to assess the performance of NATO troops, who are in charge of the overall security mission, Fallon demurred.<BR><BR>"I will not pass judgment" on NATO's efforts, he said, noting that he was aware of a Los Angeles Times story published Wednesday that quoted Gates as questioning the competence of NATO forces operating in southern Afghanistan, heartland of the Pashtun tribal area that gave rise to the Taliban movement.<BR><BR>"I'm worried we're deploying (military advisors) that are not properly trained and I'm worried we have some military forces that don't know how to do counterinsurgency operations," Gates was quoted as saying in a Times interview.<BR><BR>In Washington, Gates' spokesman Geoff Morrell said the secretary had "read the article and is disturbed by what he read."<BR><BR>Morrell did not challenge the accuracy of the quotes in the story, but said he thought it left the wrong impression -- that Gates had singled out a particular country.<BR><BR>"For the record he did not -- to the L.A. Times or at any time otherwise -- ever criticize publicly any single country for their performance in or commitment to the mission in Afghanistan," Morrell told Pentagon reporters in Washington.<BR><BR>Instead, Morrell said Gates had pointed out that "NATO as an alliance, does not train for counterinsurgency. The alliance has never had to do it before."<BR><BR>Fallon said he is overseeing a review of the Afghanistan mission, including not only the security effort but also the work in the political and economic realms.<BR>"A lot of this is less coordinated than it might be, and if we could figure out how to get it harnessed together we might be able to leverage all the (contributions) ... to better effect," Fallon said.<BR><BR>Fallon said expanded U.S. military assistance to Pakistan would include, but is not limited to, a U.S. training program for tribal groups in the federally administered tribal areas bordering Afghanistan.<BR><BR>The admiral is to visit Pakistan and Afghanistan next week.<BR><BR>He said he has been impressed with Pakistan's new military chief, Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, who took over in December from President Pervez Musharraf. "I was very heartened by his understanding of what the problems are and what he's going to need to do to meet them," Fallon said.<BR></FONT><FONT color=#000000 size=4><I><BR></I></FONT><img src="http://uscavonpoint.com/aggbug.aspx?PostID=18287" width="1" height="1">Afghanistan heading towards disaster http://uscavonpoint.com/blogs/reconstructing_iraq/archive/2008/01/17/18285.aspxThu, 17 Jan 2008 15:21:00 GMT899d85c8-63ec-432e-a4a1-f1a0bb719f98:18285ON Point7http://uscavonpoint.com/blogs/reconstructing_iraq/comments/18285.aspxhttp://uscavonpoint.com/blogs/reconstructing_iraq/commentrss.aspx?PostID=18285<FONT face=Arial color=#000000 size=5><B>Afghanistan Heading Toward Crisis, Says Opposition Party<BR></B></FONT><FONT color=#000000 size=2><BR><FONT face=Arial>By REUTERS<BR><BR></FONT></FONT><FONT face=Arial color=#000000 size=2><B>Jan 17, 2008 Filed at 5:11 a.m. ET</B></FONT><FONT color=#000000 size=2><BR><BR><FONT size=3>KABUL (Reuters) - Worsening security is pushing Afghanistan towards a crisis, the country's main opposition group said on Thursday, days after a deadly Taliban raid near the presidential palace.<BR><BR>Attacks by the al Qaeda-backed Taliban have dramatically jumped in the past two years in Afghanistan, the bloodiest period since U.S.-led troops overthrew the militants from power in 2001.<BR><BR>In the most brazen raid so far, several Taliban stormed a highly protected five-star hotel next to the presidential palace, killing seven foreign civilians and Afghan security guards in a combined suicide bomb and gun attack on Monday.<BR><BR>The National Front main opposition group, which includes a number of key current and ex-members of President Hamid Karzai's government, said the attack was a matter of great concern for the country where nearly 160,000 foreign and Afghan forces are trying to defeat the militants.<BR><BR>"If a serious move and serious decision is not adopted regarding the maintenance of the security situation in the country, we consider ... the outcome will be dangerous and warn the world that Afghanistan is on the verge of being drowned in a swamp which would be very difficult to sort out," said front spokesman Fazel Sangcharaki.<BR><BR>The front, formed last year, called for more coordination between foreign and Afghan forces.<BR><BR></FONT></FONT><img src="http://uscavonpoint.com/aggbug.aspx?PostID=18285" width="1" height="1">Petraeus - More troop cuts undecidedhttp://uscavonpoint.com/blogs/reconstructing_iraq/archive/2008/01/17/18280.aspxThu, 17 Jan 2008 15:19:00 GMT899d85c8-63ec-432e-a4a1-f1a0bb719f98:18280ON Point0http://uscavonpoint.com/blogs/reconstructing_iraq/comments/18280.aspxhttp://uscavonpoint.com/blogs/reconstructing_iraq/commentrss.aspx?PostID=18280<P><FONT face=Times color=#000000 size=5><B>Petraeus Is Undecided About Deeper Troop Cuts<BR></B></FONT><FONT face=Times color=#000000 size=4>By Gina Chon and Yochi J. Dreazen</FONT></P> <P><FONT face=Times color=#000000 size=4>Wall Street Journal, 1/17/08<BR><BR>WASIT PROVINCE, Iraq -- The top American commander in Iraq said that 30,000 American troops would leave the country by July but that he had yet to make up his mind about whether to recommend any additional reductions.<BR><BR>In an interview, Gen. David Petraeus said he was working to finalize an assessment of security conditions in Iraq and the wisdom of further military withdrawals in advance of a high-profile appearance before Congress in March.<BR><BR>When the 30,000 troops that were brought into Iraq as part of the Bush administration's surge withdraw, the total U.S. troop presence in Iraq will be down to 130,000, where it has held largely steady since the start of the war in 2003. Whether the troop levels go any lower remains an open question -- and one that threatens to reignite the debate over the Iraq war.<BR>Defense Secretary Robert Gates has said he hopes to see the U.S. military presence fall below 130,000 by the end of 2008, a position shared by many senior Pentagon commanders who worry the high troop levels in Iraq are causing growing manpower strains on the army.<BR><BR>"The surge has sucked all of the flexibility out of the system," Army Chief of Staff George Casey said in an interview this week. "And we need to find a way of getting back into balance."<BR><BR>But President Bush made clear this week that additional troop withdrawals were far from a sure thing. After a meeting in Kuwait with Gen. Petraeus and Ryan Crocker, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Mr. Bush said he was open to slowing or stopping the withdrawal of troops to avoid jeopardizing recent security gains in Iraq. "My attitude is, if he didn't want to continue the drawdown, that's fine with me in order to make sure we succeed," Mr. Bush said, referring to Gen. Petraeus.<BR><BR>The president's remarks highlighted the unusually central role Gen. Petraeus plays in formulating U.S. policy in Iraq, which will be on full display when the general testifies before Congress in March.<BR><BR>In the interview, Gen. Petraeus said he and his commanders were analyzing three different scenarios to determine the pace and timing of any subsequent troop reductions. In one scenario, Iraq's security situation continues to improve as the surge forces leave, while in the other scenarios conditions hold steady or deteriorate. Gen. Petraeus declined to say how the various scenarios would affect future troop withdrawals, but Mr. Bush's comments suggest that reductions would stop if conditions worsened.<BR><BR>"We're just into the early stages of the initial substantial drawdown," Gen. Petraeus said. "We need to work our way through this." As he toured the bustling Zurbitiya port of entry on the Iraqi-Iranian border, Gen. Petraeus said the U.S. military was struggling to determine whether Iran was honoring a recent pledge to stem the flow of Iranian weaponry and explosives to Shiite extremist groups in Iraq.<BR><BR>Some State Department officials argue that the Iranian government is actively trying to reduce the amount of armaments entering Iraq, but many senior U.S. commanders have long been more skeptical. In early January, the number of attacks against U.S. troops featuring powerful armor-piercing bombs that American officials have long linked to Iran increased, Gen. <BR>Petraeus said. But he said there has been a downturn in recent days, making it difficult to conclusively settle the question of Iran's role -- and intentions -- in Iraq. "Only time will tell," he said.</FONT></P><img src="http://uscavonpoint.com/aggbug.aspx?PostID=18280" width="1" height="1">State's lousy Iraq record caught by GAOhttp://uscavonpoint.com/blogs/reconstructing_iraq/archive/2008/01/17/18279.aspxThu, 17 Jan 2008 15:16:00 GMT899d85c8-63ec-432e-a4a1-f1a0bb719f98:18279ON Point3http://uscavonpoint.com/blogs/reconstructing_iraq/comments/18279.aspxhttp://uscavonpoint.com/blogs/reconstructing_iraq/commentrss.aspx?PostID=18279<FONT face=Times color=#000000 size=5><B>State Dept. Official Disputes Iraq Report<BR></FONT><FONT face=Times color=#000000 size=4><I>GAO Challenged Claims of Progress<BR></I></B></FONT><FONT face=Times color=#000000 size=4><BR>By Walter Pincus, Washington Post Staff Writer, 1/17/08<BR><BR>Officials from the State Department and the Government Accountability Office disagreed yesterday over whether spending by Iraqi government ministries in 2007 accurately reflected claims of progress the Bush administration made last fall.<BR><BR>In a much-publicized September report on benchmarks in Iraq, the White House said that Iraqi ministries had spent about 24 percent of their capital budget through July 15, 2007, and that the government was making "satisfactory progress in allocating funds to ministries and provinces."<BR><BR>The Baghdad government's "budget execution is, indeed, a focal point as they continue to improve governance and move toward self-reliance," the administration said at a time when Congress was debating fiscal 2008 funding for Iraq.<BR><BR>In a report this week, however, the GAO found that of their $6.4 billion budget for capital projects, the ministries "had spent only 4.4 percent of their investment budget as of August 2007," citing official Ministry of Finance reports. State Department officials told the GAO that they had relied on "unofficial" Ministry of Finance data that were more current.<BR><BR>U.S. officials have touted Iraqi government spending as a sign of political progress. U.S. Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker said recently that "different parts [of Iraq] are moving at perhaps different paces. . . . The economic elements, the budget formulation and execution is going increasingly well."<BR><BR>A senior State Department official said yesterday that more recent data collected in Iraq will show that the ministries spent far more than 24 percent of their budgets. "We are predicting that when the final tallies are done in a month or two from 2007, we will have hit and may have exceeded 60 percent of the capital budget," he said.<BR><BR>Joseph Christoff, the GAO official responsible for the report, said yesterday that his figures were reported by U.S. Treasury officials working with Iraq's Ministry of Finance. His latest numbers, which cover spending through October, show only a slight increase -- up to 8 percent of the total 2007 budget. He said the State Department is considering not just money spent on capital projects but also money allocated to such projects but not yet spent. "It is not just comparing GAO's apples to State's oranges," Christoff said. "State is including also bananas, apples and oranges."<BR><BR>"The discrepancies . . . highlight uncertainties about the sources and use of Iraq's expenditure data," the GAO report concluded. It added that the "strikingly large" gap between the different assessments required the U.S. Treasury to work with the Iraqi ministry "to reconcile these differences."<BR><BR>The administration has long recognized the problems with Iraqi government budgeting and has instituted a variety of programs to remedy the situation. Nevertheless, according to the GAO report, U.S. and foreign officials working in Iraq have said that "weaknesses in Iraqi procurement, budgeting and accounting procedures impede completion of capital projects."<BR><BR>Spending by Iraq's Oil Ministry provides an example of the divergence between the administration's figures and the GAO's findings. According to the GAO, the Bush administration reported that Iraq's Oil Ministry had spent $500 million of its $2.4 billion capital budget by mid-July. However, the GAO found that spending on oil capital projects reached only $270,000, according to Ministry of Finance data.<BR><BR>The State Department official, who discussed the data on the condition of anonymity, said the focus was misplaced. "The real test is: Are we seeing the effects of these capital expenditures on the ground? And we are seeing it," he said. "Services are being delivered [and the] slow, downward spiral of worsening services has stopped and is starting to come back." Delivery of services, he said, is "our number one goal" in Iraq for 2008.</FONT><FONT face=Geneva color=#000000 size=2></FONT><BR><img src="http://uscavonpoint.com/aggbug.aspx?PostID=18279" width="1" height="1">US increases air strikes in Iraqhttp://uscavonpoint.com/blogs/reconstructing_iraq/archive/2008/01/17/18276.aspxThu, 17 Jan 2008 15:14:00 GMT899d85c8-63ec-432e-a4a1-f1a0bb719f98:18276ON Point1http://uscavonpoint.com/blogs/reconstructing_iraq/comments/18276.aspxhttp://uscavonpoint.com/blogs/reconstructing_iraq/commentrss.aspx?PostID=18276<FONT face=Times color=#000000 size=5><B>U.S. Boosts Its Use Of Airstrikes In Iraq<BR></FONT><FONT face=Times color=#000000 size=4><I>Strategy Supports Troop Increase<BR></I></B></FONT><FONT face=Times color=#000000 size=4><BR>By Josh White, Washington Post Staff Writer, 1/17/08<BR><BR>The U.S. military conducted more than five times as many airstrikes in Iraq last year as it did in 2006, targeting al-Qaeda safe houses, insurgent bombmaking facilities and weapons stockpiles in an aggressive strategy aimed at supporting the U.S. troop increase by overwhelming enemies with air power.<BR><BR>Top commanders said that better intelligence-gathering allows them to identify and hit extremist strongholds with bombs and missiles from above, and they predicted that extensive airstrikes will continue this year as the United States seeks to flush insurgents out of havens in and around Baghdad and to the north in Diyala province.<BR><BR>The U.S.-led coalition dropped 1,447 bombs over Iraq last year, an average of nearly four a day, compared with 229 bombs, or about four each week, in 2006.<BR><BR>"The core reason why we see the increase in strikes is the offensive strategy taken by General [David H.] Petraeus," said Air Force Col. Gary Crowder, commander of the 609th Combined Air Operations Center in Southwest Asia. Because the United States has sent more troops into areas rife with insurgent activity, he said, "we integrated more airstrikes into those operations."<BR><BR>The greater reliance on air power has raised concerns from human rights groups, which say that 500-pound and 2,000-pound munitions threaten civilians, especially when dropped in residential neighborhoods where insurgents mix with the population. The military assures that the precision attacks are designed to minimize civilian casualties -- particularly as Petraeus's counterinsurgency strategy emphasizes moving more troops into local communities and winning over the Iraqi population -- but rights groups say bombings carry an especially high risk.<BR><BR>"The Iraqi population remains at risk of harm during these operations," said Eliane Nabaa, a spokeswoman for the U.N. Assistance Mission for Iraq. "The presence of individual combatants among a great number of civilians does not alter the civilian character of an area."<BR>UNAMI estimates that more than 200 civilian deaths resulted from U.S. airstrikes in Iraq from the beginning of April to the end of last year, when U.S. forces began to significantly increase the strikes to coordinate with the expansion of ground troops.<BR><BR>The strategy was evident last week, as U.S. forces launched airstrikes across Iraq as part of Operation Phantom Phoenix. On Thursday morning in Arab Jabour, southeast of Baghdad, the U.S. military dropped 38 bombs with 40,000 pounds of explosives in 10 minutes, one of the largest strikes since the 2003 invasion. U.S. forces north of Baghdad employed bombs totaling more than 16,500 pounds over just a few days last week, according to officers there.<BR><BR>"The purpose of these particular strikes was to shape the battlefield and take out known threats before our ground troops move in," Army Col. Terry Ferrell, commander of the 2nd Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division, said at a news conference in Baghdad last Friday, describing the Arab Jabour attacks. "Our aim was to neutralize any advantage the enemy could claim with the use of IEDs and other weapons," he said, referring to improvised explosive devices.<BR><BR>Counterinsurgency experts said the greater use of airstrikes meshes with U.S. strategy, which calls for coalition troops to clear hostile areas before holding and then rebuilding them. U.S. forces have put the new counterinsurgency efforts into play by using their increased numbers to home in on insurgent strongholds.<BR><BR>Colin Kahl, a professor of security studies at Georgetown University who studies the Iraq war, said airstrikes rose in 2007 because of a combination of increased U.S. operations and a realization that air power can have a strong psychological effect on the enemy.<BR><BR>"Part of this is announcing our presence to the adversary," said Kahl, who recently returned from a trip to the air operations center. "Across this calendar year you will see a reduction in U.S. forces, so there will be fewer troops to support Iraqi forces. One would expect a continued level of airstrikes because of offensive operations, and as U.S. forces begin to draw down you may see even more airstrikes."<BR><BR>Senior Air Force officials said the greater use of airstrikes stems from better intelligence that provides a clearer picture of the battlefield. Commanders said the additional U.S. forces in Iraq over the past year have pushed insurgents out of urban areas and into places that are easier to target.<BR><BR>"You see an increase in the number of kinetic strikes because we have found the enemy, we are finding the enemy's emplacement sites, manufacturing facilities for IEDs and caches of weapons," said Air Force Lt. Gen. Gary L. North, the U.S. Central Air Forces and Combined Forces Air Component commander. "And we're striking them."<BR><BR>The Marine Corps keeps its own statistics for airstrikes in western Iraq but could not provide 2007 data.<BR><BR>In Afghanistan, where U.S. and NATO bombings picked up in the middle of 2006, coalition airstrikes reached 3,572 last year, more than double the total for 2006 and more than 20 times the number in 2005. Many of the strikes have targeted the Taliban and other extremists in Helmand province, and military officials said they have been able to use air power to support small Special Forces units that engage the enemy in remote locations.<BR><BR>Human rights groups estimate that Afghan civilian casualties caused by airstrikes tripled to more than 300 in 2007, fueling fears that such aggressive bombardment could be catastrophic for the innocent.<BR><BR>Marc Garlasco, a military analyst at Human Rights Watch who tracks airstrikes in Iraq and Afghanistan, said the strikes carry unique risks. "My major concern with what's going on in Iraq is massive population density," he said. "You have the potential for very high civilian casualties, so you need really granular intelligence on what you're going to hit. But I don't think they're being careless."<BR><BR>In preparation for last week's major airstrikes near Baghdad, North said, he met two weeks ago with Army Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, commander of the 3rd Infantry Division and U.S. forces in Baghdad, to walk through the plans.<BR><BR>"What you're seeing in the last few days is a very deliberate process honed by intelligence, targeted and aligned to get the desired effect in a particular area," North said.<BR><BR>Commanders also said they are using air power more creatively, in some cases dropping bombs that explode in the air to detonate insurgent roadside bombs. Other U.S. munitions have cut off small bridges or roads to isolate insurgent movement. As seen in Air Force videos, some attacks have been extremely precise, such as when a Predator unmanned aircraft fired an AGM-114P Hellfire missile to kill three extremists who were setting up a mortar attack on Nov. 7 in Balad.<BR><BR>North said the Air Force has at times used concrete-filled bombs to detonate IED sites and is using 250-pound GBU-39 small-diameter bombs to make blasts safer for civilians. Commanders also have been using airstrikes on houses suspected to be rigged with explosives, called "house-borne IEDs."<BR><BR>Such a strike happened Jan. 6, when soldiers with the 2nd Battalion, 1st Cavalry Regiment, 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team spotted five suspected insurgents with rocket-propelled grenades and AK-47 rifles apparently rigging a house with explosives near Khan Bani Saad, northeast of Baghdad. Lt. Col. Stuart Pettis, air liaison officer for Multinational Division North, said the unit asked for airstrikes.<BR><BR>"After doing a show of force to get civilians out of the area, they engaged the house and the fighters with a 500-pound bomb," he said of the attack by two British Tornado GR4 jets. <BR><BR>"They took the fighters out."</FONT><FONT face=Geneva color=#000000 size=2></FONT><BR><BR><img src="http://uscavonpoint.com/aggbug.aspx?PostID=18276" width="1" height="1">Marines to Afghanistan !!http://uscavonpoint.com/blogs/reconstructing_iraq/archive/2008/01/16/17703.aspxWed, 16 Jan 2008 14:12:00 GMT899d85c8-63ec-432e-a4a1-f1a0bb719f98:17703ON Point4http://uscavonpoint.com/blogs/reconstructing_iraq/comments/17703.aspxhttp://uscavonpoint.com/blogs/reconstructing_iraq/commentrss.aspx?PostID=17703<P><STRONG><FONT face=Arial size=5>U.S. Sending 3, 200 Marines to Afghanistan<BR></FONT></STRONG><FONT face=Arial><FONT color=#000000 size=2>By REUTERS<BR><BR></FONT><FONT color=#000000 size=2><B>Filed at 4:51 p.m. ET</B></FONT></FONT></P> <P><STRONG><FONT face=Arial size=2>( Note : 24th MEU and 2/7 are the Marine units sets to deploy - Andrew )</FONT></STRONG><FONT color=#000000><BR><BR><FONT face=Arial><FONT size=2>WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States will send an additional force of about 3,200 Marines to Afghanistan this spring to help NATO troops and Afghan security forces confront rising Taliban violence, the Pentagon said on Tuesday.<BR><BR>The U.S. troop expansion, which increases the number of U.S. forces deployed to Afghanistan by more than 10 percent, follows months of unsuccessful U.S. efforts to persuade NATO allies to provide extra combat forces.<BR><BR>A Pentagon spokesman insisted that the deployment did not eliminate the need for more NATO troops and the effort to persuade allies to send more forces would go on.<BR><BR>Violence has surged in Afghanistan over the past two years, with the hard-line Islamist Taliban fighting a guerrilla war in the south and east and carrying out high-profile suicide and car bombings across the country.<BR><BR>Extra U.S. combat forces are needed to help thwart an expected offensive by Taliban militants as snows melt in the coming months, U.S. defense officials say.<BR><BR>President George W. Bush approved the Marine deployment on the recommendation of Defense Secretary Robert Gates.<BR><BR>The Pentagon said 2,200 troops from the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit would be sent in March to serve under the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in southern Afghanistan, where the Taliban resistance is strongest.<BR><BR>About 1,000 Marines from another battalion will deploy in April to expand training for Afghan national security forces.<BR><BR>TALIBAN, AL QAEDA THREAT<BR><BR>"President Bush is committed to seeing an Afghanistan that is free of the Taliban and al Qaeda and has an army and security force that can defend the country. These additional Marines will help defeat extremists that threaten all of us," White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe said.<BR><BR>Analysts said the Bush administration had found it could not get NATO allies to provide a large share of extra combat forces needed in southern Afghanistan to help clear and retain territory taken from militants.<BR><BR>"NATO's need is in the south at the moment. But what the U.S. has found is that most NATO countries are not willing to deploy forces to conduct combat operations where they're needed most," said Seth Jones, an Afghanistan expert at RAND Corp.<BR><BR>Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said the deployment would not eliminate the need for troops from NATO allies. "We've made it clear that this is seven months. This is a one-time deal, that's it," he told reporters.<BR><BR>"Beyond that we are going to need our allies' help to either back-fill this deployment or perhaps match us in the numbers we're putting forth now," Morrell added.<BR><BR>Canada, which has about 2,500 combat troops in Afghanistan's southern Kandahar province, welcomed the Marine deployment. "This would allow us to have the assets available to be able to expand into some of the key areas," a Canadian official told reporters.<BR><BR>The prospect of sending forces into combat is too politically sensitive for some NATO countries, while others believe the battle against the Taliban can best be waged through development rather than military force, analysts said.<BR><BR>The United States has about 27,000 troops in Afghanistan -- the most since leading the 2001 invasion. About half serve in a 40,000-strong NATO-led force, while the rest conduct missions ranging from counterterrorism to training Afghan troops.<BR><BR></FONT></P></FONT></FONT><img src="http://uscavonpoint.com/aggbug.aspx?PostID=17703" width="1" height="1">Marine advertsing campaign widenshttp://uscavonpoint.com/blogs/reconstructing_iraq/archive/2008/01/16/17702.aspxWed, 16 Jan 2008 14:11:00 GMT899d85c8-63ec-432e-a4a1-f1a0bb719f98:17702ON Point1http://uscavonpoint.com/blogs/reconstructing_iraq/comments/17702.aspxhttp://uscavonpoint.com/blogs/reconstructing_iraq/commentrss.aspx?PostID=17702<FONT face=Times color=#000000 size=5><B>Marines' Ad Campaign Targets Wider Audience<BR></B></FONT><FONT face=Times color=#000000 size=4><BR>By a WALL STREET JOURNAL Staff Reporter, 1/16/08<BR><BR>The U.S. Marine Corps is rolling out a new ad campaign this week in an effort to target teachers, coaches, clergy and other groups that tend to have influence on kids' career paths. The ad, which will appear on Fox's hit-show "American Idol," marks a shift for the Marines, which has previously aimed its marketing directly at young adults and depended solely on programs that air on networks such as Walt Disney's ESPN or News Corp.'s FX. "American Idol" has a broader audience that includes adults as well as kids. One of the commercials, made by WPP Group's JWT, features a line of Marines standing in formation in front of landmarks across the U.S. such as the Golden Gate Bridge and Independence Hall. The ad campaign also includes an online and print component. The Marines is targeting adults because "not many youngsters nowadays have grown up with grandfathers or fathers in the service," says Lt. Col. Michael Zeliff, a spokesman for the U.S. Navy.</FONT><FONT face=Geneva color=#000000 size=2></FONT><BR><BR><BR><img src="http://uscavonpoint.com/aggbug.aspx?PostID=17702" width="1" height="1">French now in Persian Gulfhttp://uscavonpoint.com/blogs/reconstructing_iraq/archive/2008/01/16/17700.aspxWed, 16 Jan 2008 14:05:00 GMT899d85c8-63ec-432e-a4a1-f1a0bb719f98:17700ON Point1http://uscavonpoint.com/blogs/reconstructing_iraq/comments/17700.aspxhttp://uscavonpoint.com/blogs/reconstructing_iraq/commentrss.aspx?PostID=17700<P><FONT face=Times size=4>Washington Post</FONT><FONT color=#000000><BR></FONT><FONT face=Times color=#000000 size=4>January 16, 2008 </FONT><FONT face="Lucida Grande" color=#000000><BR></FONT><FONT face=Times color=#000000 size=4>Pg. 11<BR></FONT><FONT face=Times color=#000000 size=5><B><BR>France Announces Base In Persian Gulf<BR></FONT><FONT face=Times color=#000000 size=4><I>Deal With U.A.E. Seen as Warning to Iran<BR></I></B></FONT><FONT face=Times color=#000000 size=4><BR>By Molly Moore, Washington Post Foreign Service<BR><BR>PARIS, Jan. 15 -- President Nicolas Sarkozy announced Tuesday that France would establish a military base in the United Arab Emirates, making it the only Western power other than the United States to have a permanent defense installation in the strategic Persian Gulf region.</FONT></P> <P><FONT face=Times color=#000000 size=4><BR>Sarkozy signed the deal in Abu Dhabi with Sheik Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahyan, president of the U.A.E., describing it as "a sign to all that France is participating in the stability of this region of the world."<BR><BR>The base, announced at the end of a three-day visit by Sarkozy to Persian Gulf countries, is part of his effort to raise France's international and diplomatic profile.<BR><BR>Though small in size -- at least 400 navy, army and air force personnel -- the installation would be an important symbol for both countries.<BR><BR>The announcement signals a shift in the political realities and sensitivities of the region from the days of the first U.S.-led war against Iraq in 1991, when most Persian Gulf countries demanded that the United States keep its bases in the region officially secret.<BR><BR>Sarkozy also used his visit, with stops in Qatar and Saudi Arabia, to cement his alliance with the United States in demanding that Iran -- seen by many of its Persian Gulf neighbors as a growing threat -- halt its uranium enrichment program. President Bush is also in the region this week, issuing similar pointed criticism of Iran.<BR><BR>French officials said the U.A.E. military base, coupled with an agreement to help the Emirates build two nuclear reactors for energy production, is intended in part to warn Iran against taking aggressive steps toward any of its neighbors.<BR><BR>"France responds to its friends," Sarkozy told reporters after signing the military agreement. <BR><BR>"France and the Emirates signed a reciprocal defense accord in 1995. Our friends from the Emirates asked that this accord be prolonged and asked that a base with 400 personnel be opened."<BR><BR>France is a major arms supplier to the U.A.E. and other Middle Eastern countries and stages regular joint military exercises with the Emirates.<BR><BR>In two of the largest weapons sales to the U.A.E. in recent years, France signed a $3.4 billion deal involving 63 Mirage 2000 fighter aircraft and a $3.4 billion agreement to supply 390 Leclerc tanks.<BR><BR>The French base will be set up in Abu Dhabi, the largest and wealthiest of the seven emirates, and will become operational in 2009, according to French officials. Officials declined to provide specifics of the base's operations. Abu Dhabi is just across the Persian Gulf from Iran.<BR>French Vice Adm. Jacques Mazars, who will head the project, said that in addition to the 400-plus people at the base, as many as 150 French navy personnel would be assigned to a U.A.E. naval base in Abu Dhabi, according to news service accounts from the region.<BR><BR>The United States has strategic military bases in many parts of the Middle East, including the Navy's 5th Fleet headquarters in Bahrain. The British military is part of the coalition naval task force based in Bahrain and operates aircraft from a U.S. air base in Qatar.<BR><BR>Sarkozy also used his trip to solidify other ties. He extended agreements in the U.A.E. for economic, education and cultural projects and signed new accords on transportation and intellectual property rights.<BR><BR>Both the French and U.S. presidents cautioned the petroleum-producing states about the high price of oil, currently around $90 per barrel, and urged them to raise production to help bring down prices.</FONT><FONT face=Geneva color=#000000 size=2></FONT><BR><BR><BR></P><img src="http://uscavonpoint.com/aggbug.aspx?PostID=17700" width="1" height="1">Lawmakers try to halt Saudi Arms saleshttp://uscavonpoint.com/blogs/reconstructing_iraq/archive/2008/01/16/17696.aspxWed, 16 Jan 2008 14:03:00 GMT899d85c8-63ec-432e-a4a1-f1a0bb719f98:17696ON Point0http://uscavonpoint.com/blogs/reconstructing_iraq/comments/17696.aspxhttp://uscavonpoint.com/blogs/reconstructing_iraq/commentrss.aspx?PostID=17696<P><FONT face=Times color=#000000 size=5><B>Lawmaker Moves To Block Sale Of JDAMS To Saudi Arabia<BR></B></FONT><FONT face=Times color=#000000 size=4>By Jen DiMascio</FONT></P> <P><FONT face=Times color=#000000 size=4>Defense Daily, 1/16/08<BR><BR>Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y. ) said yesterday he is moving to block the president's proposed sale of precision-guided missiles to Saudi Arabia.<BR><BR>The president on Jan. 14 formally notified Congress about its intent to sell up to 900 Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAM) worth as much as $123 million to the Middle Eastern country, according to a statement from the Defense Security Cooperation Agency.<BR><BR>Lt. Gen. Gary North, commander of Central Command's Air Forces, yesterday discussed the sale, saying that having similar equipment helps build the nation's relationships in the Middle East and helps the nations work together as a joint team.<BR><BR>"It's our western equipment. It's our western technology. It's our western tactics. And when we are willing to share the releaseable technologies, it goes a long way to breed trust and avoid conflict in the region," North said at a breakfast sponsored by </FONT><FONT face=Times color=#000000 size=4><I>DieticaDFI</I></FONT><FONT face=Times color=#000000 size=4>. "This is where our congressional support for foreign military funding and foreign military sales becomes so vitally important to our business."<BR><BR>Weiner and Rep. Robert Wexler (D-Fla.) are cosponsoring a resolution that would pull the plug on congressional support for the sale of the GPS-guided weapons made by Boeing. They argued yesterday that Saudi Arabia has not been a good partner in terms of applying sanctions to Iran or bringing down the price of oil.<BR><BR>Congress has 30 days to pass that kind of resolution; Weiner acknowledged doing so will be a difficult task.<BR><BR>Rep. Tom Lantos (D-Calif.) leads the House Foreign Affairs Committee, which has jurisdiction over foreign military sales.<BR><BR>A spokesman for the committee said early this week he is not providing support for moving Weiner's resolution from the committee to the House floor.<BR><BR>During a press briefing yesterday, Weiner said leadership has provided no commitment to consider the resolution. He said he intended to meet last night with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to discuss it.<BR><BR>In the meantime, Weiner and Wexler are trying to gather cosponsors, in the hopes that the Foreign Affairs Committee would reconsider.<BR><BR>Currently 51 members have signed the resolution, including two Republicans--Rep. Mike Ferguson (N.J.) and Rep. Walter Jones (N.C.).</FONT><FONT face=Geneva color=#000000 size=2></FONT><BR></P><img src="http://uscavonpoint.com/aggbug.aspx?PostID=17696" width="1" height="1">Progress in HOAhttp://uscavonpoint.com/blogs/reconstructing_iraq/archive/2008/01/16/17692.aspxWed, 16 Jan 2008 13:54:00 GMT899d85c8-63ec-432e-a4a1-f1a0bb719f98:17692ON Point1http://uscavonpoint.com/blogs/reconstructing_iraq/comments/17692.aspxhttp://uscavonpoint.com/blogs/reconstructing_iraq/commentrss.aspx?PostID=17692<P><FONT color=#000000 size=5><B><FONT face=Times>Combined Joint Task Force Commander Reflects On Progress In Horn Of Africa<BR></FONT></FONT><FONT color=#000000 size=4><I><FONT face=Times></FONT></I></FONT></B></P> <P><B><FONT color=#000000 size=4><I><FONT face=Times>Education, water quality, health among improvements cited<BR></FONT></I></B></FONT><FONT color=#000000 size=4><BR><FONT face=Times>By Zeke Minaya, Mideast Stars and Stripes, 1/16/08<BR><BR>CAMP LEMONIER, Djibouti — Asked about his accomplishments as head of the Combined Joint Task Force — Horn of Africa, Rear Adm. James Hart talks about the village of Assamo.</FONT></FONT></P> <P><FONT color=#000000 size=4><FONT face=Times><BR>The small Djiboutian hamlet sits near the border with Somalia. During his year directing CJTF — HOA, the task force has built a medical clinic in the village, as well as constructed improvements to the local school and upgraded water quality.<BR><BR>Those kinds of civic enhancements — targeting education, water quality and health — were spread all throughout Eastern Africa, he said. “We are trying to do that in many different places,” Hart said.<BR><BR>Hart is due to step down from his post in February, when he will be replaced by Rear Adm. Philip Greene, Jr.<BR><BR>Greene is currently the director of policy, resources and strategy at U.S. Naval Forces Europe/Africa at Naples, Italy.<BR><BR>During his tenure, adding the U.S. military’s capability to the existing network of aid organizations and State Department initiatives took some coordination, Hart said.<BR><BR>Previously, the military had problems with continuity and credibility when it came to humanitarian projects in the region, according to leaders of African aid organizations.<BR><BR>Hart made it a priority to improve communication between the military, State Department, non-governmental organizations and the various African governments.<BR><BR>Hart said that he asked himself, “How do we take the great capability that the American country has and work through African organizations?”<BR><BR>Hart placed liaisons with embassy and aid organizations and reached out to African governments. The improvements were quickly evident.<BR><BR>“I’m glad to see the military get smart,” said Kevin A. Rushing, deputy mission director for USAID in Ethiopia.<BR><BR>Hart said he was glad to learn from organizations that had been in Africa longer.<BR><BR>“USAID has a long history and has a strong network,” Hart said. “By developing a relationship we have learned much from USAID.”<BR><BR>In the waning days of his tenure at CJTF-HOA, Hart is hoping to include Rwanda in the task force’s area of responsibility.<BR><BR>He also planned to escort a group of American businessmen through the region, to give them a glimpse of the potential in the area.<BR><BR>Hart said if he had more time he would have liked to spread the message of the task force on a grass-roots level through the radio.<BR><BR>“Everybody here has transistor radios,” he said. “That’s how they get their information here.”<BR>Hart would not reveal what his future plans were, but he said that he has enjoyed his time in Africa.<BR><BR>“It’s been a real pleasure for me to work with people here,” he said</FONT></FONT></P><img src="http://uscavonpoint.com/aggbug.aspx?PostID=17692" width="1" height="1">Marine Sword Gift to Honor Sheikhs’ Friendship, Sacrificehttp://uscavonpoint.com/blogs/reconstructing_iraq/archive/2008/01/15/17177.aspxTue, 15 Jan 2008 19:16:00 GMT899d85c8-63ec-432e-a4a1-f1a0bb719f98:17177ON Point0http://uscavonpoint.com/blogs/reconstructing_iraq/comments/17177.aspxhttp://uscavonpoint.com/blogs/reconstructing_iraq/commentrss.aspx?PostID=17177<P>Multi-National Force-West<BR>Public Affairs Office<BR>Camp Fallujah, Iraq</P> <P>Jan. 15, 2008</P> <P>Marine Sword Gift to Honor Sheikhs’ Friendship, Sacrifice<BR>Multi National Force – West</P> <P>CAMP FALLUJAH, Iraq – The Marine officer’s sword was presented to a number of key sheikhs in Anbar by Multi National Force - West leadership to honor the relationships developed and the progress made over the last year.</P> <P>Major Gen. W.E. Gaskin, commanding general of MNF-W, and Maj. Gen. John Allen, the deputy commanding general, presented the first Marine officer swords to Sheikh Amer Abid al Jabbar Ali Sulayman al Assafi of the Dulaimi Tribal Confederation and Sheikh Ahmed Bezia Ftaykhan Albu Risha, president of Sahwa al Iraq (the Awakening of Iraq). The gift is to honor them for their tribes’ dedication and sacrifice in fighting al Qaeda in Iraq, working with the local government, and beginning the process of rebuilding their areas.</P> <P>The “Proclamation of Friendship” was read as the sword was presented: “We, the friendly Coalition Forces, along with the great tribes and tribal leaders of Al Anbar, affirm the friendship that binds us, celebrate the alliance that unites us and commemorate the sacrifices of all Anbaris to achieve unity, security and prosperity for all the citizens of Al Anbar and the great nation of Iraq.”</P> <P>The traditional Marine officer’s sword, originally presented to Marine 1st Lt. Presley O’Bannon in 1805 by Prince Hamet of Tripoli as a sign of friendship, will be presented to a number of sheikhs from across Anbar to acknowledge their contributions and as a sign of continued friendship with Coalition Forces.</P> <P>Anbar province became a model for security and reconstruction in 2007.&nbsp; The Awakening movement, led by local sheikhs, spurred an influx of new Iraqi Police and Army soldiers.&nbsp; Partnered with a surge of Coalition Forces and with the support of their community, Iraqi Security Forces drove terrorists and insurgents out of their cities. Senior tribal leaders who fled the violence returned and the national government is working with the provincial leaders to help Anbaris rebuild their homes and businesses.</P><img src="http://uscavonpoint.com/aggbug.aspx?PostID=17177" width="1" height="1">Pak militants no longer controlled by Pak Govhttp://uscavonpoint.com/blogs/reconstructing_iraq/archive/2008/01/15/17053.aspxTue, 15 Jan 2008 15:11:00 GMT899d85c8-63ec-432e-a4a1-f1a0bb719f98:17053ON Point1437http://uscavonpoint.com/blogs/reconstructing_iraq/comments/17053.aspxhttp://uscavonpoint.com/blogs/reconstructing_iraq/commentrss.aspx?PostID=17053<P><STRONG><FONT face=Times size=5>Militants Escape Control Of Pakistan, Officials Say<BR></FONT></STRONG><FONT face=Times color=#000000 size=4></FONT></P> <P><FONT face=Times color=#000000 size=4>By Carlotta Gall and David Rohde, NY Times, 1/15/08<BR><BR>ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Pakistan’s premier military intelligence agency has lost control of some of the networks of Pakistani militants it has nurtured since the 1980s, and is now suffering the violent blowback of that policy, two former senior intelligence officials and other officials close to the agency say.<BR><BR>As the military has moved against them, the militants have turned on their former handlers, the officials said. Joining with other extremist groups, they have battled Pakistani security forces and helped militants carry out a record number of suicide attacks last year, including some aimed directly at army and intelligence units as well as prominent political figures, possibly even Benazir Bhutto.<BR><BR>The growing strength of the militants, many of whom now express support for Al Qaeda’s global jihad, presents a grave threat to Pakistan’s security, as well as NATO efforts to push back the Taliban in Afghanistan. American officials have begun to weigh more robust covert operations to go after Al Qaeda in the lawless border areas because they are so concerned that the Pakistani government is unable to do so.<BR><BR>The unusual disclosures regarding Pakistan’s leading military intelligence agency — Inter-Services Intelligence, or the ISI — emerged in interviews last month with former senior Pakistani intelligence officials. The disclosures confirm some of the worst fears, and suspicions, of American and Western military officials and diplomats.<BR><BR>The interviews, a rare glimpse inside a notoriously secretive and opaque agency, offered a string of other troubling insights likely to refocus attention on the ISI’s role as Pakistan moves toward elections on Feb. 18 and a battle for control of the government looms:<BR><BR>*One former senior Pakistani intelligence official, as well as other people close to the agency, acknowledged that the ISI led the effort to manipulate Pakistan’s last national election in 2002, and offered to drop corruption cases against candidates who would back President Pervez Musharraf.<BR><BR>A person close to the ISI said Mr. Musharraf had now ordered the agency to ensure that the coming elections were free and fair, and denied that the agency was working to rig the vote. But the acknowledgment of past rigging is certain to fuel opposition fears of new meddling.<BR><BR>*The two former high-ranking intelligence officials acknowledged that after Sept. 11, 2001, when President Musharraf publicly allied Pakistan with the Bush administration, the ISI could not rein in the militants it had nurtured for decades as a proxy force to exert pressure on India and Afghanistan. After the agency unleashed hard-line Islamist beliefs, the officials said, it struggled to stop the ideology from spreading.<BR><BR>*Another former senior intelligence official said dozens of ISI officers who trained militants had come to sympathize with their cause and had had to be expelled from the agency. He said three purges had taken place since the late 1980s and included the removal of three ISI directors suspected of being sympathetic to the militants.<BR><BR>None of the former intelligence officials who spoke to The New York Times agreed to be identified when talking about the ISI, an agency that has gained a fearsome reputation for interfering in almost every aspect of Pakistani life. But two former American intelligence officials agreed with much of what they said about the agency’s relationship with the militants.<BR>So did other sources close to the ISI, who admitted that the agency had supported militants in Afghanistan and Kashmir, although they said they had been ordered to do so by political leaders.<BR><BR>The former intelligence officials appeared to feel freer to speak as Mr. Musharraf’s eight years of military rule weakened, and as a power struggle for control over the government looms between Mr. Musharraf and opposition political parties.<BR><BR>The officials were interviewed before the assassination of Ms. Bhutto, the opposition leader, on Dec. 27. Since then, the government has said that Pakistani militants linked to Al Qaeda are the foremost suspects in her killing. Her supporters have accused the government of a hidden hand in the attack.<BR><BR>While the author of Ms. Bhutto’s death remains a mystery, the interviews with the former intelligence officials made clear that the agency remained unable to control the militants it had fostered.<BR><BR>The threat from the militants, the former intelligence officials warned, is one that Pakistan is unable to contain. “We could not control them,” said one former senior intelligence official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “We indoctrinated them and told them, ‘You will go to heaven.’ You cannot turn it around so suddenly.”<BR></FONT><FONT color=#000000 size=4><B><BR></P></B></FONT><img src="http://uscavonpoint.com/aggbug.aspx?PostID=17053" width="1" height="1">US-friendly Sunni's killed http://uscavonpoint.com/blogs/reconstructing_iraq/archive/2008/01/15/17052.aspxTue, 15 Jan 2008 15:05:00 GMT899d85c8-63ec-432e-a4a1-f1a0bb719f98:17052ON Point0http://uscavonpoint.com/blogs/reconstructing_iraq/comments/17052.aspxhttp://uscavonpoint.com/blogs/reconstructing_iraq/commentrss.aspx?PostID=17052<FONT face=Times color=#000000 size=5><B>Judge And U.S.-Linked Sunni Fighters Are Killed In Iraq<BR></B></FONT><FONT face=Times color=#000000 size=4>By Richard A. Oppel Jr. and Abeer Mohammed, NY Times, 1/15/08<BR><BR>BAGHDAD — Gunmen in two cars assassinated a respected and high-ranking Iraqi appellate court judge and his driver in western Baghdad on Monday morning, Iraqi officials said. Hours later, in Diyala Province, three American-backed Iraqi militiamen died after they entered a building that blew up and collapsed on them, the Iraqi police said.<BR><BR>Judge Amir Jawdat al-Naeeb, a Sunni Arab in his 60s, was killed by gunmen as he was being driven to work, shocking other Baghdad judges and lawyers, who regarded him as one of the country’s most competent and even-handed jurists.<BR><BR>The attack appeared to be part of a longstanding campaign by militants to kill doctors, professors, lawyers and other professionals. The judge’s friends said they could not think of any case or decision that might have prompted someone to kill him.<BR><BR>“This is a disaster for the Iraqi judiciary,” said Aswad al-Monshedi, leader of the Union of Iraqi Lawyers. Judge Abdul Sattar al-Beragdar said that Judge Naeeb was known for his independence. “I think he was assassinated by outlaws and gangsters targeting good Iraqis,” Judge Beragdar said.<BR><BR>Bahaa al-Araji, a leader of the bloc of lawmakers loyal to the Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr, said that when he was working as a lawyer in the early 1990s he often appeared before Judge Naeeb. Mr. Araji described him as a one-man “legal reference for Iraq.”<BR><BR>He said the judge was from a well-known tribe in Ramadi, and moved to Baghdad many years ago. Despite being a Sunni with high standing in the government, he never joined the Baath Party of Saddam Hussein, Mr. Araji said.<BR><BR>At least eight other people were killed in Iraq on Monday, said reports from Iraqi authorities and wire services. The dead included Fayadh al-Moussawi, a senior official with Mr. Sadr’s political organization in Basra.<BR><BR>The worst attacks occurred just northeast of Baghdad in Diyala, which is the most dangerous region in Iraq. The province has a volatile mix of militant Sunnis and Shiites, as well as Shiite-dominated security forces with a history of sectarian conduct.<BR><BR>One week ago the American military began its third major initiative in the past year to drive Sunni militants from Diyala. Similar operations are under way in three other northern provinces. So far, 60 “suspected extremists” have been killed and 193 arrested in all four provinces, the military said in a statement on Monday.<BR><BR>The statement seemed to underscore the guerrillas’ wide-ranging infrastructure and weapons stockpiles. During the operations, American and Iraqi forces have discovered 79 weapons hideaways containing more than 10,000 light machine gun rounds, 2,000 heavy machine gun rounds and about 100 homemade bombs in various stages of construction.<BR><BR>In a particularly deadly area of central Diyala known as “the breadbasket,” soldiers also discovered an underground bunker system that included a bomb-making workshop and living quarters.<BR><BR>Many of the Sunni militants are believed to have fled in advance of the operation, just as they did before another large operation last summer. But they left plenty of deadly traps behind. Six American soldiers were killed last Wednesday in a house where a huge explosion, apparently set off by a hidden trigger wire, collapsed the home on them.<BR><BR>At least five other house bombs have been discovered in the past week. House bombs have become a common weapon of the insurgents in Diyala, who in many cases have been able to move large amounts of explosives into a house without being detected by American or Iraqi forces or reported by neighbors or onlookers.<BR><BR>The latest such attack happened Monday south of the provincial capital of Baquba and involved an American-Iraqi force and members of an American-recruited Sunni Arab militia known as an Awakening group. At least three Awakening guards were killed when they entered a house, only to have it explode, the Iraqi police said.<BR><BR>The force was searching for fighters from Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, the mostly home-grown insurgent group that American officials say is foreign-led.<BR><BR>Six Iraqi policemen were also wounded, the police said, and another Awakening guard was shot to death in a village nearby.<BR><BR>The American military also disclosed on Monday that Haji Uday, the leader of a large Sunni Awakening militia in Baquba, died on Sunday when his vehicle collided with a dump truck near Khalis while it was being escorted by the Iraqi police. The accident injured six other Iraqis. The military said it was investigating the crash.<BR></FONT><FONT face=Times color=#000000 size=4><I><BR></I></FONT><img src="http://uscavonpoint.com/aggbug.aspx?PostID=17052" width="1" height="1">Iraqi MoD see US troops thru 2018http://uscavonpoint.com/blogs/reconstructing_iraq/archive/2008/01/15/17047.aspxTue, 15 Jan 2008 15:02:00 GMT899d85c8-63ec-432e-a4a1-f1a0bb719f98:17047ON Point0http://uscavonpoint.com/blogs/reconstructing_iraq/comments/17047.aspxhttp://uscavonpoint.com/blogs/reconstructing_iraq/commentrss.aspx?PostID=17047<P><STRONG><FONT face=Times size=5>Iraq Defense Minister Sees Need For U.S. Security Help Until 2018</FONT></STRONG></P> <P><STRONG><FONT face=Times size=5><BR></FONT></STRONG><FONT face=Times color=#000000 size=4>By Thom Shanker, New York Times, 1/15/08<BR><BR>FORT MONROE, Va. — The Iraqi defense minister said Monday that his nation would not be able to take full responsibility for its internal security until 2012, nor be able on its own to defend Iraq’s borders from external threat until at least 2018.<BR><BR>Those comments from the minister, Abdul Qadir, were among the most specific public projections of a timeline for the American commitment in Iraq by officials in either <BR><BR>Washington or Baghdad. And they suggested a longer commitment than either government had previously indicated.<BR><BR>Pentagon officials expressed no surprise at Mr. Qadir’s projections, which were even less optimistic than those he made last year.<BR><BR>President Bush has never given a date for a military withdrawal from Iraq but has repeatedly said that American forces would stand down as Iraqi forces stand up. Given Mr. Qadir’s assessment of Iraq’s military capabilities on Monday, such a withdrawal appeared to be quite distant, and further away than any American officials have previously stated in public.<BR><BR>Mr. Qadir’s comments are likely to become a factor in political debate over the war. All of the Democratic presidential candidates have promised a swift American withdrawal, while the leading Republican candidates have generally supported President Bush’s plan. Now that rough dates have been attached to his formula, they will certainly come under scrutiny from both sides.<BR><BR>Senior Pentagon and military officials said Mr. Qadir had been consistent throughout his weeklong visit in pressing that timeline, and also in laying out requests for purchasing new weapons through Washington’s program of foreign military sales.<BR><BR>“According to our calculations and our timelines, we think that from the first quarter of 2009 until 2012 we will be able to take full control of the internal affairs of the country,” Mr. Qadir said in an interview on Monday, conducted in Arabic through an interpreter.<BR><BR>“In regard to the borders, regarding protection from any external threats, our calculation appears that we are not going to be able to answer to any external threats until 2018 to 2020,” he added.<BR><BR>He offered no specifics on a timeline for reducing the number of American troops in Iraq.</FONT></P> <P><FONT face=Times color=#000000 size=4><BR>His statements were slightly less optimistic than what he told an independent United States commission examining the progress of Iraqi security forces last year, according to the September report of the commission, led by a former NATO commander, Gen. James L. Jones of the Marines, who is retired. Then Mr. Qadir said he expected that Iraq would be able to fully defend its borders by 2018.<BR><BR>Mr. Qadir was in the United States to discuss the two nations’ long-term military relationship, starting with how to build the new Iraqi armed forces from the ground up over the next decade and beyond, with American assistance.<BR><BR>The United States and Iraq announced in November that they would negotiate formal agreements on that relationship, including the legal status of American military forces remaining in Iraq and an array of measures for cooperation in the diplomatic and economic arenas.<BR><BR>Negotiations have yet to begin in earnest, but both countries have begun sketching their goals, and Mr. Qadir’s visit certainly is part of measures by the Iraqi government to lay the foundation for those talks, which are to be completed by July.<BR><BR>“This trip is indicative of where we are in our military relationship with Iraq,” said Geoff Morrell, the Pentagon press secretary. “We are transitioning from crisis mode, from dealing with day-to-day battlefield decisions, to a long-term strategic relationship.”<BR><BR>Mr. Morrell said the goal was to end a period in which Iraq has been a military dependent and build a relationship with Iraq as “a more traditional military partner.”<BR><BR>Meanwhile, Mr. Qadir sketched out a shopping list that included ground vehicles and helicopters, as well as tanks, artillery and armored personnel carriers.<BR><BR>Those, he said, are needed as Iraq moves toward taking full responsibility for internal security. In the years after that, as his nation assumes full control over its defense against foreign threats, Iraq will need additional aircraft, both warplanes and reconnaissance vehicles, he said.<BR><BR>Pentagon officials said that Mr. Qadir’s visit, which includes the usual agenda of meetings at the Pentagon, White House and on Capitol Hill, was expanded to include his first talks with commanders of American headquarters that are responsible for long-term military planning, training, personnel development and doctrine.<BR><BR>Mr. Qadir, a career armor officer who commanded Iraqi troops who fought alongside Marine Corps forces during the battle for Falluja in 2004, spent part of Monday here, at the headquarters of the Army’s Training and Doctrine Command, where he questioned senior officers on how the ground force trains its leaders, from sergeants through senior officers.</FONT></P> <P><FONT face=Times color=#000000 size=4><BR>Even in wartime, “it is a requirement for somebody to think about the future,” said Gen. William S. Wallace, the Army’s training and doctrine commander. While Army training cannot ignore “the urgency of the next assignment,” General Wallace told his visitor, the complexity of modern warfare proved the importance of the Army’s program of pulling its leadership out of the fight on a routine schedule to take courses on tactics, operations and strategy, as well as logistics.<BR><BR>At a meeting with senior officers at the nearby Joint Forces Command, Mr. Qadir was told of the American military’s latest efforts at synchronizing the efforts of its ground, air and naval forces for combat, and to use computer exercises to train headquarters units for deployment. “We are keenly aware that you are not engaged in an exercise in your country,” said Gen. James N. Mattis of the Marine Corps, the Joint Forces commander.<BR><BR>General Mattis acknowledged how different the dialogue with Mr. Qadir was on Monday from when the two served together in Falluja. Iraq is still at war, General Mattis said, but Mr. Qadir is carrying out the traditional functions of any regular defense minister.<BR><BR>It is a positive development that “it is just the norm to have an Iraqi come and visit us,” General Mattis said.</FONT><FONT face=Geneva color=#000000 size=2></FONT><BR><BR><BR></P><img src="http://uscavonpoint.com/aggbug.aspx?PostID=17047" width="1" height="1">Iraqi Gov succeeding ??http://uscavonpoint.com/blogs/reconstructing_iraq/archive/2008/01/15/17046.aspxTue, 15 Jan 2008 15:00:00 GMT899d85c8-63ec-432e-a4a1-f1a0bb719f98:17046ON Point2http://uscavonpoint.com/blogs/reconstructing_iraq/comments/17046.aspxhttp://uscavonpoint.com/blogs/reconstructing_iraq/commentrss.aspx?PostID=17046<FONT face=Times size=5><STRONG>U.S. Pushes Iraq To Clear More 'Benchmarks'<BR></STRONG></FONT><FONT face=Times color=#000000 size=4><I><STRONG>Signs of political reconciliation are emerging in Iraq, raising US hopes that a logjam has broken.<BR></STRONG></I></FONT><FONT color=#000000 size=4><BR><FONT face=Times>By Howard LaFranchi, Staff writer,The Christian Science Monitor,1/15/08<BR><BR>WASHINGTON -- The Bush administration is counting on Saturday's passage of a key piece of legislation in Iraq, easing measures against former Baathists, to act as a break in a logjam that has held up national reconciliation.<BR><BR>With violence down, insurgent groups quieted, and many of the forces affiliated with Al Qaeda in Iraq routed, the United States is hoping passage of the new law means the "surge" of 30,000 additional troops is succeeding. In announcing the surge a year ago, President Bush said its aim was to provide the conditions for Iraq's warring power blocs to find common ground on important political issues.<BR><BR>What the US has done is provide an "opportunity" for Iraqis – led by the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki – to compromise on unsettled power-sharing issues, including oil-revenue distribution, provincial elections and powers, and constitutional reform, some experts say. But with US troop levels beginning to shrink and with the US commitment to Iraq likely to weaken no matter who is elected president in November, it's now crunch time for Iraq's leaders.<BR><BR>"The US needs the Iraqis to come up with their own surge of political action, and pretty quickly here, if the effort is to be a long-term success," says James Phillips, a Middle East expert at the Heritage Foundation in Washington. "The US military surge did its job in improving conditions on the ground, but now the Maliki government must take the opportunity to transform those gains by reaching out to moderate Sunnis and bringing them into a political-power-sharing arrangement.<BR><BR>"If they miss this opportunity," he adds, "Iraq could slip back."<BR><BR>The law easing restrictions on former Baathists will have its greatest impact on Sunni Arabs who made up Iraq's power elite under Saddam Hussein. More ex-Baathists who had government posts before the war are expected to reclaim those jobs, while others previously barred from benefits will now receive government pensions.<BR><BR>Yet even as Iraqi politicians debate the new law's real impact – with some predicting it will actually lead to a purge of some Sunnis from Iraq's new security forces – some signs are surfacing that action could be imminent on other measures.<BR><BR>On the heels of passage of the de-Baathification measure, several Shiite, Sunni, and secular political groups announced formation of a common front to press for action on oil revenue-sharing legislation and on the prickly issue of control over the oil-rich city of Kirkuk. The new political alliance may be a sign that determination is growing among nationalist forces to blunt the regionalist tendencies of some Kurdish and Shiite blocs.<BR><BR>But others predict the new alliance could serve to boost Mr. Maliki by giving him a bargaining chip with those dragging out passage of national-reconciliation measures. If the alliance – which includes the parties of former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi and of firebrand cleric Moqtada al-Sadr – sticks together, it could potentially include the votes of about half the Parliament.<BR><BR>On a nine-day tour of the Middle East, President Bush hailed passage of the de-Baathification law as "an important step toward reconciliation." At the White House, officials hope more measures – which the US dubs "benchmarks" for Iraqi political action – will be approved by March, when Gen. David Petraeus is scheduled to deliver a progress report on Iraq to Congress.<BR><BR>Even as they note progress in Iraq as a result of the surge, some experts say long-term prospects for national reconciliation remain cloudy. One reason is that the surge succeeded in part by cooperating with and arming Sunni groups formerly opposed to the US, resulting in Sunni militias that may now feel less inclined to compromise with the dominant Shiite forces, they say.<BR><BR>"We have scattered the forces of Al Qaeda in Iraq, no question," says Wayne White, who headed the State Department's Iraq analysis until 2005 and is now at the Middle East Institute in Washington. "But we've made civil war far more likely down the road by making Sunni Arabs far more able to fight it."<BR><BR>Maliki is unhappy with how the US has empowered Sunni groups – ostensibly to fight Islamic extremists but potentially to stand up to Shiite-dominated security forces. The US, says Mr. White, needs to use the new reality on the ground to "scare" all of Iraq's political forces into making the hard compromises that can stave off a return to violence in the future.<BR><BR>White House claims that reconciliation is taking place in the grass roots even if progress stalls at the national level, he adds, won't be enough. "The Sunni Arabs will never believe you until it is enacted into national legislation," he says. "Until then, they are going to believe that, as the US loses more of its influence, everything gained informally will be lost."<BR><BR>The Heritage Foundation's Mr. Phillips says it would be misleading to claim that no progress has been made in the past year just because US-sought benchmarks aren't met. For example, he says, some revenues from Iraq's oil production have been distributed to regions despite no national legislation.<BR><BR>But he agrees that the US should pressure the Iraqis to pass the oil legislation for at least two reasons. One, he says, is that "brokering a durable power-sharing deal" would be a signal to Iraq's Shiites, Kurds, and Sunnis "that could take the steam out of a big part of the insurgency."<BR><BR>The other reason, he says, has to do with US politics. The Iraqis need to act now, he says, because they may not be able to count on the same level of support from the next US president.</FONT></FONT><FONT face=Geneva color=#000000 size=2></FONT><BR><BR><BR><img src="http://uscavonpoint.com/aggbug.aspx?PostID=17046" width="1" height="1">