"Evil is powerless if the good are unafraid" - Ronald Reagan

New York

EXCLUSIVE: Report sees recipe for civil war in Iraq

From The Washington Times.

A report to be published this month by the U.S. government's prestigious National Defense University warns that the Iraqi army and police are becoming pawns of sectarian political parties -- a trend that it calls "a recipe for civil war."

The report by Najim Abed al-Jabouri, a former Iraqi mayor and police chief who helped run the first successful counterinsurgency campaign in Iraq after the U.S. invasion, also concludes that U.S. forces have failed to use their remaining leverage as trainers to insulate the Iraqi army and police from the influence of powerful Shi'ite and Sunni Muslim and Kurdish parties.

This article is very interesting in that it accurately portrays many dynamics currently ongoing in Iraq. The Iraqi Security Forces are for the most part nonsectarian and generally do operations which are nonsectarian, especially the Iraqi Army. However, there are loyalties to political parties which occassionally swing operations for purposes of different political parties. It will be interesting to see how this plays out over the course of the next year as US Forces withdraw from Iraq.

To read the complete article, click here.

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Control of Awakening Councils transferred to Iraqi government

From M & C.

Full administrative control of some 54,000 Awakening Councils members in Baghdad was transferred from US forces to the Iraqi Shiite-led government effective Wednesday the al-Arabiya news channel reported.

The transition of the Awakening Councils to be under the control of Iraq's government was inevitable and was initiated by Baghdad, which will take over the payment of their contracts, US forces Deputy Commanding General William Grimsley said in a statement.

The Awakening Councils - also know as Sons of Iraq - are some 99,000 Sunni tribe members, who, repulsed by al-Qaeda's killings of civilians, allied themselves with US forces. They crushed al-Qaeda militants and have succeeded in driving out a large number of militants since 2005.

Time will tell how well this transfer goes.

For a full read, click here.

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Iraq: Al-Qaeda suspects killed in military raid in Baaquba

From AKI.

Three suspected members of Al-Qaeda, including a leading operative, were killed in a raid conducted by Iraqi army forces outside Baaquba, north of Baghdad on Monday.

The raid, reported by the news agency Voices of Iraq, came after a dramatic resurgence of violence in Iraq at the weekend.

"Troops from the Iraqi army's 5th Division in Diyala raided some strongholds of Al-Qaeda in the area of Anjar, 45 km east of Baaquba, killing three members, including an emir (leader)," Brig. Khaled Jawad told VOI.

While insurgents try to regroup in Iraq, the Iraqi Army continues to pursue and kill or capture its leaders.

For a full read, click here.

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‘Sons of Iraq’ Meet With Iraqi Leaders to Clarify Changeover

From MNF-I.

The Sons of Iraq (SoI) program is noted for significantly reducing violence and assisting to secure the populous in Iraq. Shortly, SoI members will be transitioned from US Army to Iraqi Security Force control. Maj. Gen. Abdulkreem Abdulrahman Al-Izi, commander of Rusafa Area Command and 1st NP Div., had this to say,

“We want to show that we are working with the SoI to coordinate our work with them,”....

One SoI leader asked for clarity concerning rumors about the GoI hiring and immediately firing SoI from the positions the Iraqi government are giving them as a reward for their service to Iraq. He said he heard only 20 percent would be hired to work with the ISF and everyone else in the SoI would be unemployed.

Abdulrahman explained that the prime minister’s order outlines that 20 percent of the SoI will work with the ISF and 80 percent will be employed with the civilian Iraqi government as a reward for their efforts, as long as they have not committed crimes against innocent Iraqis.

Future security and prosperity of Iraq is dependent upon the successful handover of SoI contracts to the GoI. While this transition is worrisome, one has to believe that Iraqi leaders nor the American military would allow this transition to occur in such a way to increase violence in Iraq. It will take a long time for Iraqi leadership to trust SoI members as many are possibly former insurgents. However, continued committment by the GoI and SoI can make this transition more transparent. The recent meeting held by General Abdulrahman goes a long way in ensuring all parties of the government's committment to SoI members.

It is good to see that not only will 20 percent be employed in the Iraqi Security Forces, but the other 80 percent will most likely be given civilian sector employment. For now, American Forces need to monitor this transition and ensure all sides are maintaining their committments.

For a full read, click here.

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Report: Iranians Behind Recent Attacks In Iraq


Qassem Ata, spokesman for the Baghdad Security Plan, has warned residents of the city of possible suicide operations by Iranian infiltrators in holy places during the 'Eid Al-Fitr holiday.

He said that Iranians who had infiltrated into Iraq were behind recent suicide attacks in the country.

Iran has recently pushed Special Group operatives across the border into Iraq to continue to promote instability in the region. Iraq's ability to thwart these attacks will be a test of their ability to maintain security in their country. The full analysis of these Special Groups is in the above link.

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Iraq launches major offensive against Qaeda

From Alsumaria.

Interior Ministry spokesman Brigadier Abdul Karim Khalaf announced that Iraqi Forces launched a wide scale military operation against Al Qaeda strongholds in Diyala since Wednesday in counter to the most violent attack Iraqi Forces were subject to in the province.

Separately, the death toll of the armed ambush set against a joint police and awakening council patrol in Al Dulaimat village in Khan Bani Saad in Diyala rose to 35 deaths, security sources reported.

The sources clarified that deaths include 27 policemen among whom 3 officers and eight members of awakening councils.

Meanwhile, one US soldier was killed in a suicide bombing targeting awakening councils and police, the US military reported.

Moreover, Defense Ministry spokesman Brigadier Mohammed Al Askari announced that three leaders were killed including a Saudi while three other Al Qaeda members were arrested in a crackdown on Thursday in Mosul.

After a brief amnesty period, another offensive is launched in Diyala.

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Iraqi Officials Say 22 Troops Killed in Ambush Northeast of Baghdad

From FOX News.

Gunmen ambushed Iraqi forces raiding a Sunni village northeast of Baghdad on Wednesday, killing 22 policemen and U.S.-allied fighters, U.S. and Iraqi officials said.

The attackers in the insurgent stronghold of Othmaniyah apparently had been tipped off about the raid and were waiting for the Iraqi forces to arrive, officials said.

For a full read, click here.

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Iraqi Government Will Now Pay ‘Sons of Iraq’ Citizen Volunteers

From MNF-I.

The government of Iraq (GoI) has pledged millions of dollars to begin paying the ‘Sons of Iraq’ (SoI), the highly-successful, volunteer groups of citizens who have been instrumental in decreasing violence throughout the country.

Beginning, Oct. 1, 2008, American taxpayers will no longer pay to support the SoI program.

The United States currently pays SoI members $300 a month. By the end of November, the Iraqi Army will pay SoI members in Iraqi Dinar, said Maj. J.D. Highfill, deputy team leader with embedded Provincial Reconstruction Team Baghdad – 5, 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team “Warrior,” 25th Infantry Division.

A good news story.

For a full read, click here.

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Iraqi Army Surging Ethics Training

From MNF-I.

The Iraqi Army wants every Iraqi Soldier to receive ethics training just like he receives marksmanship or drill and ceremony training.

Since 2003, the primary focus for the Iraqi Army has been building the force. Getting Soldiers trained to fight took precedence over many other military functions. Iraqis came from all locations and all walks of life to join the fight to secure their country from terrorists.

Every one of those Soldiers brought a unique set of values with him: personal values, family values, community values and religious values. Creating a culture of ethical behavior means that each Soldier must now learn and accept Iraqi Army values.

Those core values are the same as the United States Army’s: loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity and courage. [emphasis added]

Why is the Iraqi Army leadership now focusing on ethics training?

The decline in violence in Iraq has given the center some breathing room to push training out to the field. Mobile training teams are visiting all the Basic Combat Training locations as well as the four military academies. [empahsis added]

For all those folks which still believe Iraq is surrounded in violence, this should be proof enough that the focus in Iraq is shifting from security to reconconstruction. One of parts of reconstruction is to ensure the Army also reconstructs itself correctly. It is also of note that the Army is using the same values which are used by American Soldiers.

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Al-Qaeda attack networks impaired (Bayji, Kirkuk)

From MNF-I.

Iraqi and Coalition forces killed two terrorists and detained 13 suspected terrorists during operations to degrade al-Qaeda in Iraq attack capabilities around the country Thursday and Friday.

Thursday, Coalition forces captured an alleged AQI leader in Bayji, about 160 km south of Mosul. The alleged leader is believed to oversee all terrorist attacks in Bayji, including an attack Sep. 8 that killed two Iraqi policemen and wounded another four. During a separate operation in Bayji on Thursday, Coalition forces captured a wanted man suspected of working in the AQI bombing network that extends through the Tigris River Valley. Five additional suspects were detained in the two operations.

A man who identified himself to Iraqi and Coalition forces as the leader of AQI bombing operations in Kirkuk was captured Friday in the city. As part of his self-proclaimed role of overseeing bombing attacks, the man is assessed to be responsible for suicide and roadside bombings from Kirkuk to Hawijah. He also reportedly has ties to senior AQI leadership in Tamim province.

In a remote area near Qara Tappa, about 130 km northeast of Baghdad, Coalition forces targeted two terrorists Friday, one of whom is a known AQI cell leader in the area. Surveillance teams positively identified the two terrorists and called for supporting aircraft to engage them. Both terrorists were killed. The cell leader was part of an AQI network in the Hamrin Mountains region that operates terrorist training camps and recruits female suicide bombers to conduct attacks against civilians and security forces.

A targeted individual believed to be part of the AQI network that brings foreign terrorists into Iraq identified himself to Coalition forces during an operation south of Baghdad Friday. Two additional suspected terrorists were detained.

Coalition forces in Ramadi, about 100 km west of Baghdad, targeted members of an extremist group aligned with AQI and detained five suspected terrorists Friday.

Articles like these are the predominate news coming out of Iraq these days. An interesting change in this article is AQI members are coming forward and identifying themselves to Coalition and US forces. One has to wonder how low morale is among AQI members to freely offer themselves up to Coalition and Iraqi forces knowing they will very well spend a long time in prison. These self-disclosures are not indicative of an organization which is waiting in the wings until a US withdraw.

It appears the back of AQI is broken by the surge of US and Iraqi forces last year, the increase in ISF capabilities, and the coming provincial elections. While all these factors brought about the defeat of AQI, key leaders turning themselves in will bring the distruction of the entire network in Iraq.

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New procedures to enroll Awakening members

From Al Sumaria.

Baghdad Operations Spokesman, Maj. Gen. Qassim Atah announced that Prime Minister Nuri Al Maliki ordered on September 8 to join in Awakening Councils members who enjoy conditions of enrolment in Iraq armed forces, i.e. Iraqi police and Army. In an interview with “Newsmatic” on the sidelines of a conference organized by the office of Prime Minister for a number of Awakening Councils leaders in Baghdad, he clarified that the resoluition that was issued 3 days ago stipulates many conditions to approve the enrolment of Awakening councils members in the security apparatuses including being able to read and write, their educational level as well as passing the medical exam. To that, it is necessary that Awakening Councils members’ criminal records shall be clean.

To that, the head of National Reconciliation Committee in the Council of Ministers Mohammad Salwan said that the resolution regarding merging Awakening Councils will include all Awakening Councils members in all the Iraqi Provinces. In the same context, Baghdad Operations Command, Maj. General Abboud Kanbar affirmed in a statement during the conference that the conditions of enrolment that were established in order to accept Awakening Councils members was used as a deterrent measure to prevent militants from infiltrating into Awakening Councils. Kanbar said that Baghdad Operations Commandment will be responsible of accepting Awakening Councils members in the security apparatuses. Enrolment applications will be submitted to the military unit in charge in each of the capitals regions and afterwards a High Committee including representatives of Baghdad Operations Command and National reconciliation Committee in order to study the same, he said.

This statement is a significant change from previous statements. As of a few days ago, only the Al Anbar Awakening movement (a political organization) was going to be brought into the ISF. Now it appears that all Awakening movements have a path for being accepted into the ISF. This apparent change should be watched for how well it accepts Sons of Iraq members from other provinces.

A few days ago, it was announce the GOI would take control of Sons of Iraq in Baghdad beginning on 01 Oct 08. This hand-over is the first step to eventually take control of all Sons of Iraq organizations.

The Sons of Iraq organizations have been credited with reducing the influence and violence of insurgent groups such as Al Qaeda in Iraq and the Mahdi Army.

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How to Leave a Stable Iraq - Building on Progress

From Foreign Affairs.

The Iraq war has become one of the most polarizing issues in American politics. Most Democrats, including Senator Barack Obama (D-Ill.), want large, early troop cuts; most Republicans, including Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.), want U.S. troops to stay until Iraq's stability is guaranteed. Years of bad news from the front have hardened these divisions along partisan lines and embittered many on both sides. Today, however, there is reason to believe that the debate over Iraq can change. A series of positive developments in the past year and a half offers hope that the desire of so many Americans to bring the troops home can be fulfilled without leaving Iraq in chaos. The right approach, in other words, can partly square Obama's goal of redeploying large numbers of U.S. forces sooner rather than later with McCain's goal of ensuring stability in Iraq.

This article is one of the most comprehensive articles which accurately describes the current security and political situation in Iraq. The authors detail the history of violence in Iraq and how this violence has transformed into a relative, but tenuous, peace.

This remarkable change in Iraq's security situation results from the interaction of AQI's errors, the surge in U.S. troop levels, the growing capacities of the ISF, and the downstream consequences of all of this for the Shiite militias. AQI's first big mistake was bombing the Shiite Askariya shrine in Samarra in February 2006. The attack drew the Shiite militias (many of which had been merely defensive) into the civil war in force and on the offensive, and so began the battle of Baghdad -- a yearlong wave of sectarian violence pitting Sunni insurgents and their AQI allies against JAM and its allies. At the time, Americans saw this wave of bloodshed as a disaster, and in terms of human life it clearly was. But it enabled a later wave of cease-fires by fundamentally changing the Sunnis' strategic calculus. The battle of Baghdad gave the Sunnis a clear view of what an all-out war would really mean, and they did not like what they saw.

When discussing troop projections, the authors cite troop projections are not time, but situation dependent and note that by 2011 it would be possible to reduce our presence in Iraq by half if the security situation remains stable.

Exact projections of troop requirements are difficult to make, but current trends suggest that the United States should be able to cut its presence in Iraq substantially -- perhaps by half -- over the course of 2010 and 2011. Doing so would be contingent on making further progress against the insurgency, keeping the peace during the upcoming provincial and parliamentary elections, and continuing to assist the Iraqis as they work toward healing their sectarian divisions. A destabilizing election, a renewal of sectarian violence sparked by badly handed refugee returns or poor resolution of the Kirkuk dispute, or more destabilizing activity by Iran would change this timing. Any schedule for withdrawal will be subject to the inherent uncertainty of a conflict as complex as the one in Iraq.

While this article is long, it is also extremely detailed and provides a good background and way ahead for US forces in the region.

For a full read, click here.

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Al-Maliki appoints interior minister to lead Diyala probe (Extra)

From Monsters and Critics.

Iraqi Premier Nuri al-Maliki on Wednesday appointed his interior minister as head of committee that will investigate Tuesday's crackdown on the Diyala province by US-led Iraqi special forces, reports said.

Jawad al-Boulani and his team would study details of the crackdown, including the raid on Diyala government headquarters in Baquba that sparked clashes in which the secretary to Diyala Governor Raad Rasheed al-Mulla was killed, according to the Voices of Iraq news agency.

A number of Diyala government officials, including Hussein al-Zubeidi, who heads Diyala's security committee, were arrested in the raid.

As part of the crackdown, US-led forces also arrested the head of Diyala University and clashed with university security guards. Four people were killed in clashes.

Al-Maliki ordered an investigation on Tuesday.

PM Maliki ordering an investigation of recent Sunni arrests in Diyala is an interesting development. Jawad al-Boulani is know for his apolitical views.

For a full read, click here.

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Iraqi Sunnis outraged over Diyala raids, arrests

From Yahoo via AFP.

Iraq's largest Sunni party accused government security forces of sectarian bias Tuesday after soldiers arrested a Sunni university president and a Sunni provincial council member northeast of Baghdad.

The raids in Diyala province follow an Iraqi crackdown there against U.S.-backed Sunni Arab volunteers who turned against al-Qaida and joined the fight against the terror movement.

Yesterday, Iraqi troops raided the Provincial Governor's office, who is a Shiite, but arrested a Sunni Provincial Council member, who is a Sunni.

The troops stormed the office of the provincial governor, Raad Rashid al-Tamimi, triggering a gunfight that killed his secretary and wounded four of his guards, police said.

The Sunni head of the provincial council's security committee, Hussein al-Zubaidi, was arrested, police said.

Apparently, Iraqi troops had arrest warrants.

However, a senior Iraqi army officer who took part in the raid said troops carried arrest warrants for both the university president and the head of the security committee.

As more and more Al Qaeda in Iraq are arrested, they are undoubtedly turning up evidence implicating other members. Hopefully, these arrests are legitimate and not sectarian related.

For a full read, click here.

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Iraqi soldiers storm Diyala governor's office, killing one

From Yahoo via AFP.

soldiers stormed the governor's office in the restive province of Diyala before dawn on Tuesday, killing his secretary and firing on local police, the governor told AFP.

The incident in the provincial capital Baquba, which occurred about 2 am (2300 GMT Monday), sparked clashes between the soldiers and local security forces which governor Raad Rasheed Mulla Jawad said had caused casualties.

"During the night, Iraqi forces from Baghdad burst into the provincial council building," arriving in Humvee armoured vehicles, said Jawad, whose province northeast of the capital remains one of Iraq's most dangerous areas.

A very interesting development in Diyala indeed.

For a full read, click here.

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The Ultimate Sadrist Spin

From Nibras Kazimi at the Talisman Gate.

Muqtada al-Sadr throws down his arms at Maliki’s feat in the last act of his months-old saga of surrender; he officially disbands the Mahdi Army to everyone’s disbelief, including mine,

Mr. Kazimi continues,

I read Sadr’s directive yesterday: I have to admit that at first I dismissed it as a forgery, seeing that it appeared on an anti-Sadrist website that had peddled forged statements attributed to Sadr in the past. Not only was the wording weird and disjointed, but Sadr actually demobilizes the Mahdi Army, going far beyond “freezing” its activities as he did twice in the past year. He limits “resistance” to a “group that shall be authorized to do so by us in writing soon” and that they alone were the ones allowed to carry arms. Everyone else must turn pacifist.

This piece is very interesting. Beginning in March, PM Maliki began going after the Mahdi Army and Special Groups. He had success in Basrah and later repeated that success in Sadr City. Now Sadr is disbanding the Mahdi Army while Iraqi Army forces are going after his and Iranian elements in Maysan.

PM Maliki is also using the Iraqi Army against the last remaining remnants of Al Qaeda in Mosul.

Having just returned from Iraq recently, I can honestly say it is quite different from a few years ago. But more about that later.

For a full read, click here.

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Al-Sadr lawmakers denounce Iraqi government

From Yahoo via AP.

Lawmakers loyal to anti-U.S. cleric Muqtada al-Sadr accused the Iraqi government of trying to crush the movement and warned Saturday of "black clouds" on the horizon for truces that have eased fighting between al-Sadr's militia and security forces.

This statement was delivered by Sadr backed elements after Iraqi forces detained approximately 350 Sadr supporters this weekend in southern Baghdad and continues it pressure on Sadr forces in Basra. Sadrist lawmaker Aqeel Abdul-Hussein stated,

The government is "moving forward in its project to liquidate all the national figures in a more savage way than the previous (Saddam Hussein) regime," Abdul-Hussein told the press conference.

A couple things are interesting here.

1. The difference between the Maliki government and the Saddam government is that in 2009, if PM Maliki goes too far, his government can and will be voted out of office.

2. Sadr's forces are attempting to show the Maliki government is secular not understanding that Iraqis have always been and are becoming more and more secular daily. It is only a recent phenomena (2004-2007) where religious forces gained an upper hand in Iraq. This upper hand is now being lost again to secular forces, especally in the southern regions of Basra and Najaf, the western region of Al Anbar, and the northern region of Mosul. Non-secular figures and militia have caused the violent insurgency in Iraq.

3. Sadr's forces keep threatening to end the ceasefire, but constantly back down. Why? Everytime they end a ceasefire, Iraqi Security forces kill and detain them in numbers over 100 per day. They are able to do this not only because of their increased capacity, but also because this militia no longer enjoys the tacit support of the population. Al Qaeda used to have support from Sunnis. It no longer enjoys this support. Similarily, the Mahdi Army used to have this support among Shiites. It no longer enjoys this support, which is why is constantly backs down.

4. Iraqi Security Forces are seen as secular force which will ensure freedom and democracy in the region. Whether they have to battle extremists Shiites or Sunnis, they are doing their job professionally and effectively. All Sadr's spokesmen can do is to try to tarnish this image. However, they are not succeeding.

For a full read, click here.

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Iraq: Police arrest senior al-Qaeda members

From AKI.

Two senior members of the Islamic State of Iraq extremist group have been arrested, according to police in Diyala province, north-east of the capital, Baghdad.

The Islamic State of Iraq is the umbrella name adopted by al-Qaeda groups in the country.

"On Sunday our battalion carried out a raid with the US forces in the area of Buhroz, arresting 29 terrorists," said the chief of police, according to a report in London-based Al-Hayat newspaper.

"Among those captured were nine local emirs of al-Qaeda."

If true, this raid and subsequent capture marks another significant blow to Al Qaeda in Iraq. An insurgency cannot maintain itself if it continues to lose Tier 1 and 2 insurgents at the rate which is happening during operation "Mother of Two Springs".

For a full read, click here.

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Iraqi Troops Welcomed In Sadr City

From the Washington Post.

Iraqi soldiers moved unhindered through Baghdad's vast Sadr City district on Wednesday as Shiite militiamen who have long controlled the area faded from view and schools and businesses began to reopen after weeks of strife.

The Shiite-led government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is pursuing an increasingly successful effort to contain the militias of his Shiite rivals and to exercise authority over areas where Iraqi forces were once unwelcome. The strategy has won Maliki admiration from Sunni politicians and from U.S. and British officials, who credit him with exerting some of the political will necessary to achieve reconciliation.

Residents of Sadr City not only welcomed Iraqi Troops but gave them flowers and Korans. Iraqi troops have greatly increased in capacity in the last year thanks to the surge of US forces in the country. What does one Iraqi Soldier think?

Sayah said he was relieved that U.S. troops were not playing a central role in the operation, which would have provoked the militias. He said U.S. forces should leave Iraq. "I think it's time," he said. "The Iraqi army has proven itself."

Almost one year after the official start of the surge of US forces, the Iraqi Army now has the capacity to move into militia onclaves in Basra, Sadr City, and Mosul. Iraqi forces are now controlling their country. Al Qaeda is for all practical purposes defeated. Sadr's militia is standing down. Those elements which rise up against Iraqi forces are quickly killed or detained.

I agree with Sayah. I would now be appropriate to begin contemplating a slow and methodical withdraw of US forces from Iraq as capacity of Iraqi forces increases. Notice I did not say a withdraw of US forces should begin right now. But now, the US military is in a position to begin transitioning security more and more to Iraqi forces. As Iraqi forces prove they can maintain the peace in their country, US forces should begin to come home and not be replaced.

If we would have withdrawn one short year ago, trust in US forces in the Middle East would have been severely shakened. Now, one year later, having defeated Al Qaeda in Iraq and subdued Sadr's militia, US forces can begin a methodical withdraw knowing that the blood of over 4000 Soldiers has not been in vain. A vibrant democracy is taking hold in Iraq which is protected by a strong, robust Iraqi military.

For a full read, click here.

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Commander: Al-Qaida in Iraq is at its weakest

From Yahoo via AP.

The al-Qaida terror group in Iraq appears to be at its weakest state since it gained an initial foothold in the aftermath of the U.S.-led invasion five years ago, the acting commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East said Wednesday in an Associated Press interview.

The story continues with,

"Our forces and the Iraqi forces have certainly disrupted al-Qaida, probably to a level that we haven't seen at any time in my experience," said Dempsey, who served in Iraq in the initial stages as a division commander and later as head of the military organization in charge of training Iraqi security forces.

LTG Dempsey was in Iraq in command of 1AD and later trained Iraqi Security Forces. He has seen their capacity grow to the extent that PM Maliki can now maneuver his forces into Basra and subdue Special Groups and Mahdi Army, maneuver his forces in Sadr City and make the Mahdi Army stand down, and finally his latest battle in Mosul where over 1000 insurgents were captured in less than a week.

For a full read, click here.

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Iraqis begin to "despise" the Mahdi Army in Baghdad's Rusafa district

From Bill Ardolino at The Long War Journal filing the story from Baghdad, Iraq after interviewing locals in Rusafa. Citizens are beginning to turn away from the Mahdi Army and towards Iraqi Security Forces. One of several similar quotes:

“Originally the Jaish al Mahdi (Mahdi Army) in our area used to deceive people by using the name of the religion to do their purposes,” said Dhia, Hassan’s executive officer. “They were all corrupted. They have history in crime, robberies, murders, rapes and all kinds of bad things. They even reached the level of kidnapping people and demanding ransoms just because they have money. It didn’t matter if he is Shia or Sunni; just because he has money. They gave a bad reputation for Islam.”

From another Iraqi:

“Right now because of the fighting Sadr City, people have started to despise [the Mahdi Army] because of the situation they created,” said “Rammie,” an Army interpreter raised and living in Rusafa. “People have started to know the truth of [the Mahdi Army] as kidnappers, killers, car-jackers and agents of the Iranian government. But the recent fighting against the [Iraqi security forces] means they are also against the government. They are not trying to just fight the invasion forces as they claim, but they fight whoever interferes with their mafia activity.”

These are two key points why the Mahdi Army is suffering from lack of recruits. Their actions are against Islam and against the democratic government. Another quote shows distrust for Sadr's forces due to Iranian connections. These are all fissures which ISF and GOI elements should use to decrease Sadr's influence in Iraq.

For a full read, click here.

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Command and control center of armed militias in Sadr city bombed, destroyed

From KUNA.

The U.S. army in Iraq reported on Saturday that its troops and Iraqi forces bombed and destroyed today a centre for the leadership of the armed militias in Sadr City, north-east of the Iraqi capital Baghdad.

Doesn't sound like the Mahdi Army is fairing very well in Sadr City.

For a full read, click here.

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Iraqi forces see victory in Basra

From Times Online.

Iraqi soldiers are standing proud in Basra one month after launching a surprise offensive to wipe out murderous gangs of Shia militants that had been allowed to flourish under Britain’s watch.

Many of them say the operation has boosted their confidence, but the militiamen warn that the only reason the fledgling Iraqi army had any success was because they continue to observe a ceasefire order by the radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.

This article is posted by Deborah Haynes from Basra. Yes, Basra. To prove it, one of the photos shows here sitting on a tank, specifically a T-55 Tank.

So, what is the significance of a T-55 Tank? The Iraqi Army only owns T-72s. So, where did the T-55 come from? Must be Sadr. This begs the question of where did Sadr get it? Interesting to say the least.....

For a full read, click here.

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One month after the launch of Operation Cavalry Charge...

From Nibras Kazimi at the Talisman Gate.

Deborah Haynes of the The Times becomes the first western journalist to see the situation in Basra with her own eyes, exactly one month to the day since the launch of Operation Cavalry Charge. She is taken along on a tour of Hayyaniya of all places by Gen. Fraiji, who's been described by some anonymous British military sources in earlier media reports as a "dangerous lunatic"; oddly enough, he doesn't come off that way in Haynes' piece.

Haynes paints the picture of a city that has undergone dramatic changes for the better.

So, Basra is not the debacle all western journalists have been reporting. In fact, it appears to have been a resounding success. Mr. Kazimi also point out something else which is quite interesting.

Radio Dijla is reporting that the Emiratis have handed over Ismail al-Wa'ili, the brother of Basra's governor, who is wanted by an Iraqi arrest warrant on charges of oil smuggling and other criminal activity. I had heard that he was hiding in Kuwait rather than Dubai ever since Operation Cavalry Charge began. The story of the arrest warrant is true but I'm unsure about the handover, but if it checks out then that's an indication that Maliki is also moving against the Fadhila Party.

I find this fact interesting. The Fadhila (Virtue) Party pulled out of the Maliki coalition in March 2007 and was recently looking at re-entering the Maliki coalition. Now, just a few days later, Maliki's forces possibly arrested Wa'ili's brother.

This can only mean two things. The Fadhila Party did not reach concensus with Maliki's coalition and he is having his brother arreted or the Iraqi Army is just plainly going after all law breakers in Basra. From accounts, it appears to be the later. The Fadhila Party can still rejoin the coalition; however, Maliki is bringing the rule of law to Iraq. If you are associated with militias or criminal elements, then the Iraqi Army is taking these people down.

It will be interesting to see if there is any linkage between the Wa'ili and Iran as this story unfolds.

For a full read, click here.

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Ultimatum issued to Mahdi Army in Basrah; 15 Mahdi fighters killed in Sadr City

From Bill Roggio at The Long War Journal.

The senior-most Iraqi general in charge of the security operation in Basrah has issued an ultimatum for wanted Mahdi Army leaders and fighters to surrender in the next 24 hours as the Iraqi and US military ignore Muqtada al Sadr's threat to conduct a third uprising. US troops killed 15 Mahdi Army fighters in Baghdad yesterday and have killed 56 fighters since Sadr issued his threat last weekend.

In Basrah, General Mohan al Freiji, the chief of the Basrah Operational Commander and leader of the security operation in the province, has issued warrants "for 81 people, including senior leaders of the Mahdi militia, and they have 24 hours to give up," The Associated Press reported.

For a full read, click here.

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Operation Charge of the Knights begins phase 3 in Hyyaniyah

From MNF-I.

BASRA, Iraq – Operation Saulat al Fursan, or Charge of the Knights, began a new phase of operations April 19.

Phase 3 of the operation focuses on the criminal militia strongholds within the Hyyaniyah district area. Iraqi Army soldiers from the 1st and 14th Infantry Divisions are conducting the deliberate clearance operation.

The operation began at approximately 6 a.m. when British artillery and US aircraft released ordnance against known criminal rocket and mortar sites west of Hyyaniyah.

British and American Military Transition Teams are working alongside Iraqi Army units to provide leaders with advice, access to surveillance and the ability to “call for fire” and other support, if needed.

“As with the earlier phases of Operation Charge of the Knights, this remains an Iraqi led, planned and executed mission,” said Major Tom Holloway, the British Army’s spokesman in southern Iraq. “Coalition troops are ready to provide support to Iraqi Security Forces as requested and required.”

Operation Charge of the Knights began on March 24.

For all those who believe MSM reports which say the Iraqi Security Forces pulled out of Basra with their heads between their legs, they continue to clear district in Basra. Today, they are entering Phase 3 of yet an undetermined number of phases to clear Basra of criminal elements and militias.

While the Mahdi Army laid down weapons and agreed to a unilateral ceasefire which the Iranian Qods Force Commander was dispatched to Iraq to directly validate, Iraqi Security Forces continue to clear, secure, and hold more and more districts in Basra. Those Mahdi Army forces which did not lay down their weapons and other criminal and militia elements continue to be rolled up.

It must be noted again what is going on operationally to have a strategic outcome. Baghdad is being secured by US and IA forces. Mosul (the second largest city) is being secured by IA and US forces. Basra (the third largets city) is being secured by IA forces with US/British assistance. The three largest cities in Iraq are being secured and criminal elements are being pushed out, whether they be Al Qaeda, Iranian sponsored, or just plain opportunistic thugs. Finally, the Sadr stronghold of Sadr City, in Baghdad is systematically being cleared of rogue elements. US forces in the region signaled a shift of focus from Al Qaeda to Special Groups almost a month ago. The battles are now happening.

It must also be remembered, the Mahdi Army suffered major setbacks in Hillah, Najaf, Karbala, Diwaniyah, Amarah, Kut, and Nasiriyah within the first 48 hours of PM Maliki's surge into southern Iraq. Many of these represent the next largest cities in Iraq behind the top three noted above. These operations, along with operations ongoing in Basra is why an Iranian Qods Forces Commander was dispatched to Iraq to broker a Mahdi Army ceasefire. He had to at least keep what remaining elements under Sadr's command still existed in hopes of fighting another day.

Today, the New York Times is reporting,

Iraqi soldiers took control of the last bastions of the cleric Moktada al-Sadr’s militia in Basra on Saturday, and Iran’s ambassador to Baghdad strongly endorsed the Iraqi government’s monthlong military operation against the fighters.

Just last week, the New York Times reported on the dismal showing of Iraqi forces, mass defections within the Iraq Army, and resiliency of Sadr's forces. Now, just a week later, the New York Times is reporting the "last bastions" of Sadr's forces are being rolled up in Basra. What many miss, including the New York Times, is PM Maliki, after securing Hillah, Najaf, Karbala, Diwaniyah, Amarah, Kut, and Nasiriyah within the first 48 hours and much of Basra within the same timeframe, demanded that the Iranian Qods Forces commander come to Basra to guarantee the surrender of Iranian-backed Special Groups, chiefly among them the Madhi Army. In addition, Sadr directly told his force to lay down their weapons.

Those groups now fighting against Iraqi Army forces now have no backing from Iran, as such they are being systematically destroyed. Of course the Iranian Ambassador is going to support the continual operations in Basra after its failed attempt to take over the southern part of the country. First, it is the only thing Iran can do to save a little face in the region by signaling it support for ongoing operations, now into their third week. Second, it main sponsored ally in the region, Sadr and his Madhi Army, have either been killed, captured, wounded, or disarmed in all the southern cites and is being systematically cleared in Basra and Sadr City.

What many people outside the region do not understand is Sistani's power and how it plays into this battle and the region in general. Tithes are given to sects which people in this region believe is their Ayatollah or spirtual ruler. The overwhelming plurality of Shiites in Iran, Iraq, and Lebanon give their tithes to Sistani, not Hezbollah's Nasrallah nor Iran's Ayatollah Ali Khamenei nor Sadr. The Badr Organization in the south is completely loyal to Sistani also. Religiously, Iran and Sadr now coming out in support of Sistani, who supports the Basra (and Sadr City) operations to disarm militias is the only logical thing Iran and Sadr can do to save face. The difference between Basra is it is a completely Iraqi led operation while the clearance of Sadr City, while Iraqi led, is seen as more US influenced. Hence the Iranian Ambassador can come out and claim "The Great Satan" is indiscriminantly killing civilians.

The battles for control of Southern Iraq and Sadr City is just plainly the next phase of the surge which initially focused on Al Qaeda and has now shifted to focus on Special Groups. Iran has seen its largest Special Groups element effectively wiped out in about 48 hours, with only Basra and Sadr City elements able to hold on longer. If the New York Time article cited above is correct, the "last bastions" of Basra are now under IA control, meaning Mahdi elements have been completely defeated in Basra. The next focus will be Sadr City and then possibly a larger effort in Mosul.

Following these actions, we should see low level insurgencies as Al Qaeda and Special Groups remnants attempt to regain some footing in their respective regions. However, provincial elections in October will drastically change the local landscape in Iraq and who controls the distribution of the country's oil wealth. Moving into national elections with a country which is rather secured, PM Maliki has a good chance of resuming his Prime Ministership as he will not only have the backing of a small but influential Shiite sect, but also have the backing of Sunni and Kurds, which he signed a memorandum of agreement with in December of 2007.

In sum, PM Maliki has consolidated power in Iraq. While his party does not have a militia, he now controls the Iraqi Security Forces, the largest and best equipped force in the region. He was able to do this by establishing agreements with both Sunnis and Kurds. His old alliances, namely Sadr, has now been formally dissolved and its militia is quickly being defeated in Basra and Sadr City. Al Qaeda is only a remnant of its former self, and its leaders are the walking dead. If they stay too long in one place they are ratted out by the Sons of Iraq and Special Forces teams move in to detain or kill them. Iran's attempt to co-op southern Iraq has failed wholesale and now they are actually publically supporting the Mahdi Army's distruction. Oil revenues into the Iraqi treasury are at an all time high, which Iran does not get its fair share due to sanctions. Major oil contracts have just been announced in Iraq. Iraq is now a net oil exporter. Finally, Iraqi Security forces are gaining in capacity and experience. Let there be no mistake why the two greenist divisions were put directly into the fight in Basra and Sadr City. It was to give them combat experience, which shortly, may very well be hard to come by in Iraq.

The future of Iraq has greatly changed not only in the last year during the American military surge, but also in the last three weeks during the Iraqi Army surge.

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Numbers, Accounts Get Disputed (Updated)

From Nibras Kazimi at Talisman Gate.

The Chief of Staff of the Iraqi Armed Services, Lt. Gen. Babekr Zebari (Kurd), disputed the numbers of “deserters” that was first announced by an Interior Ministry spokesman five days ago. Zebari, speaking to Radio Sawa yesterday (Arabic), alleged that only 144 soldiers had “fled from their duties” in the initial stages of the fighting—Operation Cavalry Charge is still in effect three weeks after its launch—adding that, in his opinion, this is a very low number that surprised the commanders who had anticipated larger numbers of desertions.

Again, over 30,000 Soldiers were involved in the fighting in Basra. If 1,300 deserted, it only represent 4% of the Soldiers which means 96% of the Soldiers stayed, fought, and are still fighting thru Basra. If the number is 144, then all the better. Similar divergent numbers come out of the Soldiers fighting in Sadr City. NYT states 80. Iraqi General states 3. But Nibras Kazimi points out the real issue.

I think herein lies the quandary: there’s a divergence between those who see these problems as fixable, which they are, and between those using them as evidence that the sky is falling. Surely, there are many things that need to be fixed in Iraq, but one should take heart that there are those working very hard to fix them and they are succeeding. But then there are others who’re holding their breaths for any trip-ups so that they can scream that things are hopeless. Within this latter category one can place all the recent reporting from Basra.

This is truly the case in Basra, Sadr City, and Iraq in general. A lot of things have improved greatly in the last year, but have failed to be mentioned by the MSM. The contrast is astronomical between what is being reported and what is really going on in Iraq, as Mr. Kazimi details in this article.

For a full read, click here.

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When Sons of Iraq grow up

From Gordon Alanko at The Long War Journal.

Many folks are wondering what to do with Sons of Iraq after security is established. Right now, Sons of Iraq number approximately 91,000 members. The Iraqi government has stated about 20,000 will be welcomed into security forces. But what about the other 71,000. Will they go back to being insurgents?

Mr. Alanko attempts to explain the future of the Sons of Iraq by examining the town of Hawr Rajab is a town in the Arab Jabour region just south of Baghdad. In Hawr Rajab, the US military has established a vocational school called the "Village of Hope".

The “Village of Hope,” as the school is now called, will graduate a class of 50 men every three months, after training them in a variety of disciplines. Instructors cover basic skills in masonry, concrete, general construction, plumbing, and electricity. Trainees are graded on a pass or fail basis, and receive a certificate of completion and hiring preference on projects in the village once they graduate.

So, what is the future of the Sons of Iraq? According to Mr. Alanko,

This, then, is the future of the Sons of Iraq: Having established security in their towns and villages, those that had jobs will return to them. Those who prefer to remain an armed assurer of the security of Iraq will move on to the academies and boot camps of the security forces, and those that remain will gain the skills they need to reverse the destruction of war.

The Sons of Iraq will either go back to what they were doing before the war, go into the security services, or go on to reverse the destructions of war after gaining the needed skills in the "Village of Hope". The vocational training in Hawr Rajab will undoubtedly become the model for other areas. All Sons of Iraq members cannot be accepted into the Iraqi Security Forces. Many will to maintain security. However, most will be taught and skilled in technologies which will rebuild their wartorn country.

The "Village of Hope" in Hawr Rajab is just another example of grass roots reconciliation taking place in Iraq. At the grass roots in Al Anbar is where reconciliation started. It has now grown national as Maliki has shown Sunnis he is willing and able to go after Shiite militias as an Iraqi leader and not as a leader of Shiites.

Iraq has drastically changed since the tyrannical rule of Saddam. The economic principles under a dictatorship vice the economic principles under a democracy are vastly different. We see this difference in the northern part of Iraq as rice farmers are no longer cultivating rice, but instead are heading to the city for more money and a different form of employment. We are beginning to see this change south of Baghdad in Hawr Rajab where Sons of Iraq are being trained in different vocations to rebuild their country after five years of war. We are seeing this difference in southern Iraq at the port of Um Qasr which has just been secured by Iraqi Security Forces.

Al Qaeda in Iraq has been summarily defeated. Membership of 91,000 Sons of Iraq clearly shows this defeat as does tens of Al Qaeda in Iraq insurgents being killed or captured daily across Iraq. The next primary concern of Iraqis is Special Groups sponsored by Iran. These Special Groups have been defeated in Southern Iraq most notably marked by Iraqi Security Forces securing the port of Um Qasr. The last remaining bastons are being cleared out of Basra and Sadr City as this article is being typed.

The rule of law is being established in Iraq. Market forces which a democracy brings are beginning to dominate Iraq. As the country transitions from all out war to low level insurgency to reconstruction and then finally to a vibrant export economy, many folks will change jobs. Former insurgents will become carpenters. Former rice farmers will move to cities for better jobs. Iraq's wealth is centered around oil. Thirty-five companies have just qualified to bid for oil and gas contracts in Iraq.

Soon, Iraq may very well exploit another of its natural resources, that being the birthplace of civilization. Many historical sites remain unexcavated in Iraq. Ten or twenty years in the future, an American visiting Iraq's Tower of Babel may very well be talking to a tour guide who was once a Sunni insurgent, who became a Son of Iraq, who became a mason working helping to rebuild Iraq who then moved on to rebuild the Tower of Babel and now works as a tour guide.

The fact is a democracy allows for these types of career changes. A democracy is what is currently growing in Iraq. A few years down the road the Iraqi democracy will become of force to be reckoned with in the region. The American military is fostering this young democracy and its new citizens in places like the "Village of Hope".

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Coalition Forces Continue To Go After AQI

From MNF-I.

Even while Iraqi Security Forces are continuing to battle insurgents in Basra and Sadr City, Coalition forces are still going after AQI elements in Iraq with increasing persistence.

Coalition forces captured a reported al-Qaeda in Iraq leader and detained three additional suspected terrorists during operations in Mosul Tuesday.

In a precision operation in Mosul, Coalition forces captured an alleged AQI leader. The suspect is believed to be in charge of an illegal terrorist court system in the area, and is also suspected of involvement in a local bombing cell.

In the Tigris River Valley, Coalition forces also struck at AQI targets.

Coalition forces detained 18 suspected terrorists Monday and Tuesday during operations targeting the al-Qaeda in Iraq terrorist network in the Tigris River Valley and northern part of the country.

Coalition forces analyzed intelligence from several sources to develop a series of operations targeting key links in the AQI network west of Samarra. Ground forces conducted eight missions there Monday and Tuesday and detained 12 suspected terrorists.

And further south in Baghdad, Coalition forces detained more AQI individuals.

Coalition forces killed one terrorist and detained 14 suspected terrorists while targeting al-Qaeda in Iraq’s senior leaders and criminal operations Sunday and Monday.

In eastern Baghdad Sunday, Coalition forces used information from an operation Feb. 7 to target a senior leader in the Baghdad AQI propaganda network. When the ground force entered the building, one man drew a weapon. Coalition forces responded to the hostile threat by engaging and killing the armed man. One suspected terrorist was detained, and Coalition forces gathered information that led them to a second target in the area where they detained an additional suspect.

And today, 13 more AQI were detained.

Coalition forces detained 13 suspected terrorists during operations Tuesday and Wednesday targeting al-Qaeda in Iraq networks in the Tigris River Valley and northwest Iraq.

Coalition forces captured two suspected terrorists Tuesday during an operation west of Samarra, including an alleged close associate of a regional AQI leader. Intelligence gathered Tuesday also led the ground force to another target Wednesday morning, where they detained two more suspected associates of the AQI leader.

All typical Americans will read about is a VBIED kills 36, wounds 67 in Baquba or car bomb wounds 11 in central Baghdad. If one wants the whole truth, go to the MNF-I page.

Upon going to the MNF-I page, one thing become very clear. While AQI can still engage in spectacular attacks, its last remaining elements are being killed, wounded, or detained at an alarming rate. In just a few days, well over 50 AQI individuals have been killed or detained according to press releases above and other releases on the MNF-I page not cited specifically here.

Coalition forces are providing security in Central Iraq and taking down Al Qaeda elements at an alarming rate. Kurdish forces are providing security in Northern Iraq. Iraqi Security Forces are providing security in Southern Iraq and have begun to clear the streets in Sadr City.

In sum, what we are witnessing now in Iraq is Iraqi forces are on the offensive, attacking insurgents, moving into terrain that until recently has been in the hands of insurgents or militias, and providing security for their citizens. They are attacking and taking down insurgent strongholds whether they be Shiite militia or Al Qaeda in Iraq safehavens.

This new found capacity in Iraqi Security Forces, namely to be moved from place to place to battle insurgents and militia marks a new phase in Iraq. The Government of Iraq is establishing the rule of law within the country and is starting to look outward at its neighbors saying in effect, "Don't support criminal elements in Iraq." The recent battle in Basra showed this clearly to the Iranians.

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Iraq’s Moment of Truth in Baghdad and Basra

From Mohammed Fadhil at Iraq the Model.

Iraqi PM Nouri al-Maliki has been presented with a golden opportunity to build on political cohesion and bolster the rule of law by dismantling the Mahdi Army.


I think what encouraged Maliki to push the limits of the conflict to this unprecedented level was the first-of-a-kind success of the Political Council for National Security — an entity that includes the president, PM, and leaders of major parliamentary blocs — to reach consensus on a decision. This entity managed for the first time a week ago to overcome the impotence that had halted its mission since its inception. Evidence of the newfound potency of this entity is that Ayad Allawi, who had refused being part of it for a long time, is now sending delegates to negotiate terms for his membership.

Reconciliation is happening in Iraq. It is interesting that Sadr, or more specifically actions against Sadr, has become the impetus for reconciliation between the Shiites, Sunnis, and Kurds. Mohammed explains,

Everyone has come to realize that allegiance to the country provides more security in the long run than sectarian entrenchment does, and in my opinion the awakening of the Iraqi west and the uprising against the perverted violent practices of co-religionists have provided an example for a similar awakening among the Shia — of course, with the main difference we outlined in an earlier post; that is, while in the west we had a tribal uprising against extremist religious powers, in the south the uprising is religious-on-religious, with the target highly identified with one particular group.

An interesting perspective indeed.

For a full read, click here.

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Iraqi government: "We will continue until we secure Sadr City"

From Bill Roggio at The Long War Journal.

The Iraqi government has committed to wresting Sadr City from the control of Shia militias, an Iraqi government spokesman and a US military spokesman said in a press briefing today in Baghdad.

"We will continue until we secure Sadr City. We will not come out, we will not give up until the people of Sadr City have a normal life," Ali al Dabbagh, the spokesman for the government of Iraq, told AFP. "(Security forces) will do what they have to do to secure the area. I can't tell you how many days or how many months but they will not come out until they have secured Sadr City."

We should have taken care of the Mahdi Army in 2004. However, it is good that it will be dealt with by Iraqi Security Forces.

For a full read, click here.

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Port City is Open for Business

From MNF-I.

UmQasr, a port city southeast of Basra, is filled with daily activities, as Iraqi workers load export and unload imports last week.

“The estimated flow of goods into Iraq is 60,000 tons with 15,000 passing through UmQsar,” said Todd Stratton, Task Force to Support Business and Stability Operations in Iraq.

“The single largest commodity is food such as wheat, rice, sugar and other food items,” Stratton said. “The port is a critical gateway to supply the Iraqi nation with food imports.”

Why is MNF-I telling the story of Um Qsar being opened for business? It could be the same reason General Petraeus reported to Congress the port of Um Qasr is now under the control of Iraqi Security Forces.

Meanwhile, anti-insurgent operations in Basra continue, Petraeus reported, noting Iraqi security forces now have control of the city of Um Qasr, the country’s main port. Um Qasr is a major conduit for the smuggling of weapons and contraband into Iraq, the general said.

The major reason for the story is a little talked about victory in Basra. The port, which used to be under control of Sadr's forces backed by Special Groups from Iran, is now under control of the Iraqi Government. This means two things. Smuggling is now most assuredly way down -- smuggling which directly benefited Sadr's Mahdi Army. In addition, the Iraqi Government is now getting imports directly instead of Sadr.

Make no doubt about it, the recent battle in Basra was a major tactical and operational success for PM Maliki and the Iraqi Government. It was not executed perfectly, but it was and still is being executed well enough.

Reports are confirming that approximately 1300 Soldiers and police refused to fight the Sadr militia and Special Groups in Basra and other southern cities. These 1300 traitors are now identified and fired. The remaining 28,700 Soldiers PM Maliki has pushed into the southern region are completely loyal to him and the Iraqi Government. It is these loyal forces which are now in control of the port of Um Qasr, ensuring the Iraqi Government has control of all the supplies coming into and going out of Iraq. More importantly, it assures the Qods forces and Sadr's Mahdi Army are no longer able to smuggle these supplies into the country for economic benefit for their forces, nor more importantly, smuggle oil out of the country. These elements have just lost a major source of revenue.

PM Maliki used military force to regain control of southern Iraq. In turn, his tactical and operational victory has allowed him to gain control of the economies of this region. Politically, he is introducing legislation which will outlaw militias and prevent members from running for Parliament who maintain militias. Finally, if one hasn't noticed, he is on many international and national programs touting the success in the south. He is expertly using all the instruments on Iraqi National Power to reduce the influence of Sadr and Iranian-sponsored Special Groups in Iraq.

I stated before in this blog. The Kurds haved secured the North. The Americans have secured the Central part of Iraq to include Baghdad, the center of gravity in Iraq. PM Maliki is securing the South.

Al Qaeda in Iraq is reduced down to at most 2000 remaining individuals who are hiding, but yet are still getting captured or killed daily. Sunnis, who have joined the Sons of Iraq, are now being screened for military/police service. The Sons of Iraq are, in addition, developing into a political party just in time for October Provincial Elections and National Elections in 2009. PM Maliki is no longer seen as a puppet of the Iranian government by Kurds and Sunnis. He is now seen as an secular Iraqi leader who will fight against Shiites for the betterment of Iraq. Sadr is politically isolated, he and his militia is in hiding in Iraq, and the head of the Sadr block in Iraq has just been assassinated. Iran, who attempted to exert political, economic, and military control in the South, now has to begin its carefully laid plans all over again after years of detailed planning. Finally, the Iraqi Security Forces have been independently tried and tested in the South and were victorious. In addition, 1300 traitors have been identified and expelled from the force to make it completely loyal to the government.

Not a bad month for the Government of Iraq. Not a bad month indeed.

The battle of Basra completely changed the political/diplomatic, informational, military, and economic landscape of Iraq. It solidified PM Maliki's power in Parliament. It will allow for reconciliation with Sunnis and Kurds. It completely isolated Sadr and highlighted Tehran/Qods' force efforts in Iraq. It has opened the way for free and fair elections in the south.

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Iran's Busted Iraq Bid - Basra "Rising" Was Tehran's Op

From Amir Taheri. Mr. Taheri always provides great insight into Iran. In this New York Post article, he discusses the Tehran connection in Basra.

A GAMBLE that proved too costly.

That's how analysts in Tehran describe events last month in Basra. Iran's state-run media have de facto confirmed that this was no spontaneous "uprising." Rather, Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) tried to seize control of Iraq's second-largest city using local Shiite militias as a Trojan horse.

Tehran's decision to make the gamble was based on three assumptions:

* Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki wouldn't have the courage to defend Basra at the risk of burning his bridges with the Islamic Republic in Iran.

* The international force would be in no position to intervene in the Basra battle. The British, who controlled Basra until last December, had no desire to return, especially if this meant getting involved in fighting. The Americans, meanwhile, never had enough troops to finish off al-Qaeda-in-Iraq, let alone fight Iran and its local militias on a new front.

* The Shiite clerical leadership in Najaf would oppose intervention by the new Iraqi security forces in a battle that could lead to heavy Shiite casualties.

It appears now that Iran misjudged PM Maliki and Sistani. While they thought they had the inside track on both of these leaders, they obviously did not as PM Maliki had the courage to stand up to Iran and Sistani gave his blessing to the Maliki led operation. More important; however, is the outcome of each side. On the Iraqi side,

Soon, however, the tide turned. Maliki proved that he had the courage to lead the new Iraqi Security Force (ISF) into battle, even if that meant confronting Iran. The ISF showed that it had the capacity and the will to fight.

Only a year ago, the ISF had been unable to provide three brigades (some 9,000 men) to help the US-led "surge" restore security in Baghdad. This time, the ISF had no difficulty deploying 15 brigades (30,000 men) for the battle of Basra.

Led by Gen. Mohan al-Freiji, the Iraqi force sent to Basra was the largest that the ISF had put together since its creation five years ago. This was the first time that the ISF was in charge of a major operation from start to finish and was fighting a large, well-armed adversary without US advisers.

During the Basra battles, the ISF did call on British and US forces to provide some firepower, especially via air strikes against enemy positions. But, in another first, the ISF used its own aircraft to transport troops and materiel and relied on its own communication system.

Iraq has shown Iran it is able to defend itself. Iran cannot directly attack Iraq due to US presence in the area so they tried to insight an "internal" uprising. It failed to materialize and the "internal" uprising was smashed. On the Iranian side,

After more than a week of fighting, the Iraqis forced the Quds commanders to call for a cease-fire through Sadr. The Iraqi commander agreed - provided that the Quds force directly guaranteed it. To highlight Iran's role in the episode, he insisted that the Quds force dispatch a senior commander to finalize the accord.

The Iran-backed side lost more than 600 men, with more than 1,000 injured. The ISF lost 88 dead and 122 wounded.

Some analysts suggest this was the first war between new Iraq and the Islamic Republic. If so, the Iraqis won.

Tactically and operationally, the Iraqis won this first war. However, strategically, it was a draw.

But the battle also showed that the ISF still lacks the weapons systems, including attack aircraft and longer-range missiles, needed to transform tactical victories into strategic ones. The Iranian-sponsored Special Groups and their Mahdi Army allies simply disappeared from the scene, taking their weapons with them, waiting for another fight.

Now, all the pieces are starting to fall together better. Ahmadinejad visits Iraq a few weeks ago to test the waters in Iraq. He was able to test the waters with Maliki, but obviously came out with the wrong data. He was unable to see Sistani, as Sistani quitely refused to see him. Sadr, still adhering to a ceasefire, allowed the Qod forces to use his forces to attempt to take control of southern Iraq. This action failed miserably. Sadr is both militarily and politically weakened. PM Maliki is both militarily and politically strengthened. In addition, he is now seen by Kurds and Sunnis as a true Iraqi leader and not just an Iranian puppet. Iran has shown it hand in Iraq and now must restart from ground zero.

Basra was not the defeat that many western media outlets touted. It was, in fact, a major military and operational victory for Iraq. While strategically it is considered a draw, now Iran is in a much worse position to influence affairs inside southern Iraq specifically, and Iraq in general.

This battle has significantly changed the tide in Iraq and the balance of power in the Middle East.

For a full read, click here.

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Lessons Learned from the Basra Fighting for the Iraq Hearings

From The Heritage Foundation.

The Maliki government's offensive in Basra sought to accomplish goals that the United States should support: weakening the Mahdi Army and other gangs supported by Iran. But the operation was poorly planned and executed and did not achieve the ambitious goals initially set out by Prime Minister Maliki.Although the Iraqi government did make some progress in curbing the militias in Basra, the campaign also demonstrated the continuing need for U.S. troops in Iraq.

James Phillips draws the following conclusions from the fighting in Basra

1. The Iraqi government's campaign to extend the rule of law to Basra was a step in the right direction.

2. Prime Minister Maliki has strengthened his nationalist credentials.

3. Iraq's security situation is fragile and the U.S. cannot afford to risk withdrawing troops too soon.

4. Iran exploited the Basra situation and will gain much more influence in Iraq if the next Administration rapidly withdraws U.S. troops.

For a full read, click here.

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The Basra Business -What we know and what we don't.

From The Weekly Standard. Frederick W. Kagan & Kimberly Kagan discuss what we know and what we don't know about PM Maliki's security operation in Basrah.

MUCH OF THE DISCUSSION about recent Iraqi operations against illegal Shia militias has focused on issues about which we do not yet know enough to make sound judgments, overlooking important conclusions that are already clear. Coming days and weeks will provide greater insight into whether Maliki or Sadr gained or lost from this undertaking; how well or badly the Iraqi Security Forces performed; and what kind of deal (if any) the Iraqi Government accepted in return for Sadr's order to stand down his forces. The following lists provide a brief summary of what we can say with confidence about recent operations and what we cannot.

What we know:

The legitimate Government of Iraq and its legally-constituted security forces launched a security operation against illegal, foreign-backed, insurgent and criminal militias serving leaders who openly call for the defeat and humiliation of the United States and its allies in Iraq and throughout the region. We can be ambivalent about the political motivations of Maliki and his allies, but we cannot be ambivalent about the outcome of this combat between our open allies and our open enemies.

What we don't know:

How well did the ISF fight in Basra and, in general, what actually happened there? The absence of partnered Coalition Forces in the city makes it extremely difficult to understand the nature of the fighting and the Iraqi forces' performance--long experience in the limitations of stringers and "eyewitnesses" or hospital sources in places where we did know what had actually happened should leave us skeptical of all initial reports of combat coming out of Basra.

Facts coming out of Basrah are sketchy and incomplete at best. But the Kagan's point out we have always wanted Iraqi Security Forces to take over their own security. This independent operation says politically they are ready even if militarily they are not. They are politically willing to start operations against criminal elements whether Shia in Basrah region or Sunni in Mosul.

A few things I add to the Kagan's comments is many have been complaining that national leaders are stuck behind American fortifications in the Green Zone. The fact that PM Maliki went down to Basrah to direct the fighting shows that the PM is not afraid to wonder out of the Green Zone. This fact is made even more important by the fact that it was an Iraqi directed and led operation with little American or British assistance.

In addition, the battle in Iraq is no longer centered in Baghdad. Iraqi Security Forces are now strong enough to take the battle to cities outside of Baghdad as this operation in Basrah shows as does the IA centered operation in Mosul also shows.

While insurgents are still able to attack civilians in Baghdad, the major battles are now not in Baghdad. All insurgents are now pushed far away from Baghdad, the center of gravity in Iraq. As operations outside Baghdad continue to occur, the Iraqi Army is getting better able to move forces to decisive points well outside of Baghdad. This new capacity is significant in terms of the Iraqi Army being able to project its forces throughout the country.

The Surge of forces in Iraq has provided the conditions for the young democracy to flourish and to allow the Iraqi Security Forces to build capacity. We are at a new milestone in Iraq with Iraqi Security Forces capable of moving around the country to battle insurgents. In turn, Iraqi leaders are using these forces more often without assistance from American forces.

Future battles may not be completely victorious, as the Basrah operations shows. However, the fact that these battles are occuring and Iraqi Security Forces at least are holding their own is a dramatic shift from just a short year ago.

For a full read, click here.

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Operation Cavalry Charge - Maliki's Show of Force in Basra

From Talisman Gate.

Today, the Iraqi Army launched its first major military operation to fully control Basra, the second largest city in Iraq, without any—ANY—Coalition assistance. One source tells me that during the preparation phase of this campaign the Americans offered to position some U.S. Special Forces and air-cover near the Basra battle theater to act as back-up if needed but their Iraqi counterparts planning this operation politely turned down the offer....

Its chief objective is to flush out the organized crime cartels that control the port of Basra and the oil pipelines of the province. One major criminal force in the Basrawi scene are groups that affiliate themselves with the Sadrist movement and its Mahdi Army. Many of these criminal rings are also associated with certain factions of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard that operate in Basra both for intelligence/sabotage purposes as well as enriching themselves. By knocking out these egregious manifestations of lawlessness, Operation Cavalry Charge will have the accrued benefit of mashing up the more subtle patterns of Iran’s malignant influence in Iraqi Shiism’s foremost economic prize, the oil fields and port of Basra.

The question always becomes, why now?

Maliki has sent 50,000 Iraqi soldiers to deal with about a dozen criminal cartels. Militarily, this will be an easy fight. Those counseling caution and delay stressed that smashing Sadrist-related criminal cartels would spark a large-scale Sadrist reaction across Iraq at a time when the Bush administration wants to keep Iraq quiet especially with the ‘4000’ milestone that was being approached and got passed a couple of days ago. Another argument against action counseled that the Iranians are angling for a fire-fight to sully any talk of progress that Gen. Petraeus may give in a couple of weeks when he appears before Congress, and that the Democrats and their allies in the US media would take these images out of Basra and elsewhere and package the news as a “security meltdown” (…which they would and have done so, irrespective of reality).

Talisman Gate believes Maliki does not care about US politics, but instead is concerned about Iraqi politics and its relations with it neighbors.

Maliki decided that he doesn’t give a damn about US presidential elections and that the only timeline that concern him are Iraq’s own upcoming elections. Maliki also concluded, from intensive intelligence reporting, that the Sadrists are weak and that Iran doesn’t really have much punch to its supposed influence in Iraq. That’s why he decided to go for it.Muqtada al-Sadr knows fully well that should a third all-out confrontation erupt between forces associated with him on the one hand and U.S. and Iraqi government troops on the other, then it can only end with his death, arrest or the much more unlikely prospect of escape to Iran from which he won’t return to Iraq for a very, very long time—Muqtada really doesn’t like being in Tehran from what I’ve heard.

What does Sadr think about the attack on his forces?

One well-placed source claims that al-Sadr is lashing out at his inner circle and crying out “You’re going to get me killed! You’re going to get me killed!” I cannot gauge the veracity of this account, but this source had in the past accurately corroborated accounts from al-Sadr’s inner sanctum given to me by a fully trustworthy source (now deceased).

This is the weakest that the Sadrist movement has ever been: they are divided, their leader is absent, some answer to Iran, and affluence has made them slothful and soft.

Finally, what about ordinary Iraqis?

Politically, too, the Shia middle class no longer sees a need to tolerate Sadrist hoodlums as the shock troops of the Shia sect in case a civil war breaks out with the Sunnis because that threat has long receded and is essentially forgotten, by both sides.

These are the changed circumstances of the Sadrists; they no longer have the appetite for a bruising fight as they did in the spring and autumn of 2004. It has become much more difficult as the Iraqi state is now associated with Shia power (…and wealth transfer) and the vast majority of Shias, who’ve grown wiser about these things, don’t want to see this historic achievement imperiled in any way.

Oil is the wealth of the Iraqi nation. As long as crime cartels and militants control sections of the country's wealth, it can never be truly free and self-sustaining. Maliki is ridding the country of it last main non-government militia (the Mahdi Army) and a entrenched criminal organizations, controlled mostly by Special Groups. He is seeking to limit Iranian influence in his country.

In addition, this operation officially ends his ties with Sadr, who's 30 parliamentary seats, put Maliki into power and has up to this time prevented the government from embracing reconcilitation to a greater extent.

Early in December, a "memorandum of understanding" was signed between the Kurds, the Sunnis, and the Dawa Party. Maliki also needed to enlist the support of Hakim's Badr Organization to seal his control of the country. Most military units in Southern Iraq are heavily Badr. Given that these forces are now listening to Maliki and attacking the Mahdi Army and Special Groups, it is obvious that Maliki is telling Iran to get out of Iraq and quit meddling in Iraqi politics by directly attacking those forces Iran supports. In turn, he intends to fully establish his government legitimacy over the country's oil wealth.

I concur with Talisman Gate. Far from this action being a flare up of violence, it is truly a consolidation of nationalistic power across the country and an indirect attack on Iranian influence in the region. The absence of US forces in the mix are a way for Maliki to show other countries his forces are now strong enough to stop defend his country. The presence of US troops in his country will prevent any overt attack. This operation is designed to stop subversive attacks within his country.

Kurdish forces have always been strong in the North and have continued to secure this region. Coalition forces in the center are busy defeating Al Qaeda in Iraq wholesale. The southern fight is Maliki's and he aims to show all Iraqis he can protect his country.

For a full read, click here.

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Sons of Iraq

From Alsumaria.

Heads of Awakening Councils have warned the US military of halting cooperation in fighting Al Qaeda unless financial dues are paid for awakening members. Success achieved so far in fighting armed factions disseminating fear and terror by gory explosions around Iraq mainly Anbar Province, is shaking. 80,000 members of Awakening Councils have threatened to strike if they don’t receive their payments of 10$ a day. They accused the United States of using them for dangerous jobs and then leaving them in the lurch.

In another story, Maliki agreeed to merge Awakenings in Iraq Forces.

While marking the birth anniversary of Prophet Mohammed, in Al Aazamiya District, Prime Minister Nuri Al Maliki pledged to merge Awakening councils in Al Aazamiya into security institutions. In a speech delivered in Imam Abu Hanifa Al Naaman mosque, Al Maliki said the government will work on easing hindrances and opening all closed institutions before Iraqis who have faced challenges fiercely. Al Maliki’s statements came in line with demands of head of Sunni endowment Sheikh Ahmad Abdul Ghafour Al Samirrai who called to merge eligible members of Awakening Councils with army and police ranks to be part of security and military institutions.

The Maliki government will have to merge Sons of Iraq into security institutions if they hope to maintain recent security gains.

The US has biometric data on all Sons of Iraq members. The Maliki government should integrate these members into their ranks after a vetting process. The integration of Iraqi Security Forces with Sunni Sons of Iraq is needed to complete reconciliation at the national level.

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32,000 Former Officers In Saddam's Army Join New Iraq Army


Iraq's Implementation and Follow up Committee for National Reconciliation (IFCNR) secretary Dr. Basameh Al-Sa'di said that Iraq was offering former security and military industry employees in the previous regime a choice: they could return to service, receive a civilian job, or retire.

He said that over 32,000 former officers in Saddam Hussein's army, from the rank of major on up, had joined the new Iraq army.

For a full read, click here.

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U.S. Soldiers, Iraqi Army Discover Huge Weapons Cache

From MNF-I.

In total, the three caches yielded one complete improvised explosive device, 190 pounds of unknown bulk explosive, 40 pounds of dynamite, (74) 82 mm mortar rounds, (18) 122 mm artillery rounds, (38) 60 mm mortar rounds, 400 additional projectiles between 23 mm and 155 mm, hundreds of assorted munitions pieces, several radios and documents.

More significant than the munitions is the documents found which will inevitably lead to more caches discovered and more insurgents detained.

For a full read, click here.

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Uncertainty Facing Iraq’s Awakening Movement Puts U.S. Strategy at Risk

From The Jamestown Foudnation.

As Iraq’s security situation deteriorates in the midst of resurgent violence, an increase in internal and external pressures facing the Awakening (Sahwa) Movement may jeopardize the prospects and goals set forth in the U.S. counter-insurgency strategy created by U.S. General David Petraeus.

The formation of the Awakening Councils seemed a promising linchpin to the “surge” strategy, which has shown concrete signs of improving Iraq’s security sector. Though the rise of the Awakening movement contributed substantially in limiting al-Qaeda in Iraq in the short term, its forces face uncertain and problematic long-term challenges. If the dilemmas confronting the Awakening members continue to be marginalized by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s government, Iraq’s improved security situation is likely to revert back to sectarianism and civil war-like conditions.

A very interesting article.

For a full read, click here.

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Iraqi, Coalition security forces detain 27, discover 4 caches in recent operations in Mosul

From MNF-I.

Iraqi Army and Coalition Forces detained 27 suspects and discovered four weapons caches in the Ninewa Province in recent joint operations.

During these operations joint forces also rescued a hostage from an underground prison. These operations are part of Multi-National Division – North’s continuing pursuit of criminals in the area.

“Now is the time for everyone, ISF, Coalition Forces and the people of Mosul to stand together in a united front against these monsters in order to end their wave of violence against the innocent,” said Maj. Daniel J. Meyers, spokesman for Task Force Iron.

The Battle for Mosul is heating up.

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Mosul military operation might be delayed

From Alsumaria.

Nineveh deputy governor Khasro Koran announced that Mosul operation might be delayed because military forces number is not sufficient to start a large-scale military operation which was announced by Prime Minister Nuri Al Maliki last month. He clarified that the operation might start within the coming weeks while US preparations are ongoing as US Forces are raiding insurgents’ strongholds.

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Senior al Qaeda in Iraq intel officer killed in Diyala

From Bill Roggio at The Long War Journal.

Multinational Forces Iraq has confirmed it killed a senior intelligence officer of al Qaeda in Iraq’s network in Diyala. Arkan Khalaf Khudayyir, also known as Karrar, was killed during a raid by “Coalition forces” in Khan Bani Sa’ad on February 17. Multinational Forces Iraq uses the generic term Coalition forces to describe Task Force 88, the special operations hunter-killer teams tasked with dismantling al Qaeda in Iraq’s senior leaders and wider network.

Karrar was described as a senior intelligence leader for al Qaeda in Iraq’s network in Baqubah. Karrar facilitated suicide bombing attacks in the Diyala River Valley. This network also has been responsible for attacks in Baghdad, “to include attacks by female suicide bombers.” (emphasis added)

One can only hope we have destroyed this network. Further on in the article, he notes,

While the region has not been named, Multinational Forces Iraq has reported numerous raids against al Qaeda in Iraq’s networks in the Hamrin Mountain region. The Hamrin Mountains, which span Diyala, Salahadin, and Tamin provinces, are believed to be a major fallback position for al Qaeda in Iraq and allied insurgent groups.

We have discussed the Hamrin Mountain region previously in this blog. It is believed to be a training area for insurgents in Iraq. Between Mosul and Hamrin, these are the last bastions of security for Al Qaeda in Iraq.

For a full read, click here.

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Dwindling Insurgent Forces Target of Operation Marne Grand Slam

From MNF-I.

Coalition forces began pursuit of remaining insurgent elements near Salman Pak Feb. 15 with the kickoff of Operation Marne Grand Slam.
The operation is designed to terminally disable the dwindling number of al-Qaeda in Iraq operatives remaining in the region southeast of Baghdad.

The first phase of Grand Slam involves clearing a peninsula that stretches into the Tigris River, directly south of the city of Salman Pak. In addition to targeting the terrorist network there, Coalition forces will go after AQI’s infrastructure of safe houses, weapon caches and firing points.

For a full read, click here.

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Pressure on Sadr and the Iranian-backed Special Groups continues

From Bill Roggio at The Long War Journal.

As previously reported at The Long War Journal, US and Iraqi forces have stepped up operations against the Iranian-backed and Mahdi Army-linked Special Groups terror cells. The increase in activity comes as Muqtada al Sadr is deliberating the reinstatement or cancellation of the self-imposed cease-fire.

Mr. Roggio has an excellent analysis of current Iraqi and US forces actions on Mahdi Army linked Special Groups.

Several of the press releases ended with the standard warning to Sadr and his Mahdi Army. "We will continue to disrupt the networks of those who choose not to obey al-Sayyid Muqtada al-Sadr’s ceasefire pledge. ... The people of Iraq have made it clear that they will not tolerate the criminal activities of these splinter groups." The US military is warning Sadr that ending the cease-fire will result in operations designed to dismantle the Mahdi Army. (emphasis added)

Mr. Roggio points out Sadr is in a Catch-22.

Sadr's decision to either continue or end the cease-fire has serious implications for his political movement. Ending the ceasefire puts him in the crosshairs of the US and Iraqi military, and expose the depth or shallowness of his support in the Shia community.... But extending the ceasefire may further erode Sadr's power within his political movement and the Mahdi Army.

In turn, the Iraqi and US government is not only using threat of military action and information operations against Sadr, but also beginning legal action.

The Iraqi government is also applying legal pressure on Sadr. The government will begin the trial of former Deputy Health Minister Hakim al Zamili and Brigadier General Hameed al Shimmari, who served as the chief of the ministry's security forces.

For a full read, click here.

One fact not mentioned by Mr. Roggio, but is worth noting is he cites ten recent actions against the Madhi Army (including the trial). Six of these ten incidents involved Iraqis policing their own. In only four of the incidents were US forces involved. The majority involved Iraqi government forces against Mahdi Army forces. As noted before, Iraqi forces and the government have come a long way. The Iraqi government is not ineffectual. Nor are the Iraqi Security Forces. The Surge has allowed both the government and Iraqi forces the room to grow, which was its intent.

In turn, Maliki joined forces with Sunni and Kurdish forces on 26 December 2007 when these parties signed the "memorandum of understanding". This signing allowed Maliki to reduce the influence of Sadr and paved way for national reconciliation with Ba'athist that shortly followed, recent budget resolutions, provincial elections slated for October 2008.

The Iraqi Government is coming into its own. It is becoming a vibrant democracy.

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US troops build forts in Al Qaeda’s stronghold

From Dawn.

US military engineers are defying nightly attacks in a race to build forts in devastated districts of downtown Mosul ahead of what has been billed as the next key battle against Al Qaeda in Iraq.

As night fell over the war-torn city on Saturday a huge convoy of dump trucks escorted by American tanks and armoured personnel carriers flowed out from Mosul’s main US base towards one of the city’s most violent districts.

The battle for Mosul continues as US and Iraqi forces continue to establish more of a presence in the city.

For a full read, click here.

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Al-Qaeda fighters flee cities, head for desert or out of Iraq -- report

From KUNA. An update on the current situation of Al Qaeda in Iraq in the MND-N region.

A surge in military operations and a shift in local support in northern Iraq has driven many Al-Qaeda fighters out of cities that once provided them safe haven and into the desert, or even out of the country, said a report by the Multi-National Force (NMF), quoting a commander in the region.

Citizens in the four-province region of Multi-National Division - North have begun shifting their support to Coalition and Iraqi forces in "droves," and security gains are increasingly putting extremists on the run with no clear place to go to be safe, said Army Maj. Gen. Mark P. Hertling, commander of Multi-National Division - North and the U.S. Armys 1st Armored Division.

Just how successful has Operation Iron Harvest been?

In Iron Harvest operations over the past 45 days, Coalition and Iraqi security forces there have conducted 74 missions. They have captured or killed more than 70 high-value individuals, and "hundreds" of enemy fighters, the general said.

They found more than 430 caches with tons of explosives and weapons, he added, and they have cleared 653 homemade bombs, 42 house bombs, 35 car bombs and three bomb factories.

For a full read, click here.

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Al-Qaida's ISI Reponds to Ongoing Events in Mosul

Counterterrorism Blog reports the NEFA Foundation has released the latest ISI communique. In it, Al Qaeda denies being behind the recent large explosion in Mosul. However, more interesting is this statement.

the battle is now in its final stages, and it will be a energizing victory for the Muslims, Allah willing. The enemy has begun to stagger, and now has reached its final page, so do not let the opportunity to participate in that historic battle pass you by. In the name of Allah, this battle is of critical importance.... and it will collapse the American strategy in Iraq and elsewhere across the fields of jihad in the Muslim world. (emphasis added)

Maliki also called it a decisive battle.

"It is time to launch a decisive battle against terrorism," Maliki said after Saturday's meeting attended by US commander in Iraq General David Petraeus and Iraq's national security advisor Muwaffaq al-Rubaie.

"The battle that our armed forces will launch will destroy terrorism and the criminal gangs and outlaws in Nineveh," he said.

American commanders also believe the battle for Mosul is of strategic importance for the ISI.

"Coalition forces recognise the strategic importance of Mosul to Al-Qaeda in Iraq and our operations will continue in the area," said Commander Scott Rye, a US military spokesman.

"This is not a new plan but part of a larger, comprehensive effort to root out Al-Qaeda and disrupt its networks throughout Iraq... We will continue to coordinate closely with the government of Iraq and Iraqi security forces in our efforts to free all areas of Iraq from Al-Qaeda," Rye told AFP. (emphasis added)

The most interesting point of these quotes is both sides believe this will be the decisive battle. Given recent news reports of how Al Qaeda is on the run and making an apparently last stand in Mosul, I do not believe coalition forces are beginning to stagger as the ISI communique states but it is the ISI itself which is beginning to stagger.

In addition, the the ISI communique clearly lays out the importance of holding out in Mosul if the ISI is to have any possibility of continuing activities in Iraq, noting three times the importance of Mosul, "final stages", "historic battle", "critical importance". While two other references are pointed at Coalition forces ("final page" and "collapse"), it seems the ISI is predicting its own collapse in Iraq if it loses this battle.

What is even more telling is the the last line quoted,

and it will collapse the American strategy in Iraq and elsewhere across the fields of jihad in the Muslim world. (emphasis added)

It seems more realistic to substitute the acronym "ISI" for "American" in this quote. The ISI commander who put this communique believes a loss in Mosul will be a loss for not only Al Qaeda in Iraq, but the entire ISI movement in Iraq and jihadist activities across the world.

Al Qaeda called Iraq its central front in its stuggle to build a caliphate which would eventually encompass the world. While small pockets of Al Qaeda still exist in Iraq, Mosul is the last area where Al Qaeda in Iraq forces have concentrated. Destruction of their forces in Mosul will signal the death of the ISI both as a fighting force and a movement in Iraq. Loss of Mosul will be the final, organized battle for the ISI if it loses (and it surely will lose this battle).

While terrorist attacks will undoubtedly continue for months and possibly years to come, it appears Mosul will be the complete collapse of all organized resistance in Iraq from the ISI perspective. The commander of this communique also believes it will be the complete collapse of jihadist worldwide. Let's hope his predictions are correct in this aspect.

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US, Iraqi troops kill 11, capture 64 suspects in raids across central, northern Iraq

From the International Herald Tribune.

U.S. and Iraqi forces killed 11 suspected militants and captured 64 others in two days of raids across central and northern Iraq, officials said Sunday.

Iraqi troops killed eight suspects and arrested 28 overnight in Salman Pak, about 25 kilometers (15 miles) south of Baghdad, Iraqi police said. They also seized weapons, explosives and some vehicles in the raid, including a Humvee that was apparently stolen from the Iraqi army, police said.

Meanwhile, U.S. forces killed three suspects and detained 36 others in operations targeting al-Qaida in Iraq, the military said Sunday in a statement.

For a full read, click here.

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Troop buildup in Mosul in preparation for big offensive

From Earth Times.

The Iraqi army was gathering troops and military equipment in the northern city of Mosul Thursday in preparation for a big offensive against al-Qaeda militants expected to be launched within hours, local media reported. "All necessary steps have been taken for a successful implementation of the military campaign, which will be backed by air support from the coalition forces," Mosul police chief General Wathik al-Hamdani told the state-owned al-Sabah newspaper.

"The target is to enable security forces to take command of hot spots that are the bases of terrorist elements, such al-Qaeda and other loyal groups," the general said.

Iraq's Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said Friday a "decisive battle" would be fought against al-Qaeda insurgents in Mosul, the country's third largest city.

The Iraqiness of this upcoming operation is stunning. This is not a US force operation with support from the Iraqi Army nor is it US forces putiing an Iraqi face on the operation. This ooperation is a Maliki led operation with his army against some of the last remnants of Al Qaeda in Iraq which will be supported by US forces. This operation would have been unheard of just one short year ago.

For a full read, click here.

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The Mosul Offensive

From Bill Roggio at The Long War Journal.

Just over one year after the surge officially began Coalition and Iraqi forces continue to pursue al Qaeda in Iraq. After al Qaeda has been driven from its havens in Baghdad and the surrounding belts regions, and most recently in Diyala, the city of Mosul has emerged as the latest battleground....

"We have formed an operations centre in Ninewa (province) for a final war against Al-Qaeda and the remnants of the former (Saddam Hussein) regime," Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki said on Jan. 25. "Today our forces are moving towards Mosul. What we have planned in Ninewa will be final. It will be a decisive battle."

Mr. Roggio expertly evaluates the significance of Iraqi forces movement to Mosul to battle Al Qaeda in Iraq.

The Mosul deployment highlights the growing capacity of the Iraqi command to plan, deploy, and support its forces on short notice. This is a capacity that was nearly nonexistent just one year ago when the surge began, and represents the future of operations in Iraq as US forces begin to draw down.

Iraqi Security Forces are becoming more and more capable and are able to lead from the front and execute complex operations against Al Qaeda. As U.S. Forces draw down, Iraqi Security Forces will continue to build capability to eventually defeat Al Qaeda in Iraq.

For a full read, click here.

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Iraqi Security Forces Gain in Capability, Professionalism

From MNF-I.

Iraqi security forces increasingly demonstrate their professionalism and willingness to step up to protect the Iraqi people, a spokesman for Multinational Corps Iraq told reporters Sunday.

During a briefing in Baghdad, Navy Rear Adm. Gregory J. Smith pointed to numerous signs of progress in training and equipping the Iraqi army and police forces and the greater role these forces now play in Iraq’s security.

“We continue to see examples of the increasingly professionalized Iraqi security forces stepping up to protect their people,” he said.

Smith noted the gains being made by soldiers, police officers and groups such as “The Awakening” and concerned local citizens. For example, last week in Karmah, an Iraqi army unit discovered two critical stockpiles that together included more than 2,500 pounds of homemade explosives.

A functioning government with a capable military are more signs of progress in Iraq.

The Surge clearly provided the Iraqi Government with the breathing room it needed to begin to function. Everyday the government is growing stronger as are its forces.

For a full read, click here.

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The Final Mission, Part I

From Michael Totten at the Middle East Journal reporting from Fallujah.

At the end of 2006 there were 3,000 Marines in Fallujah. Despite what you might expect during a surge of troops to Iraq, that number has been reduced by 90 percent. All Iraqi Army soldiers have likewise redeployed from the city. A skeleton crew of a mere 250 Marines is all that remains as the United States wraps up its final mission in what was once Iraq's most violent city.

Mr. Totten noted a Marine officer instructing his men,

"What do the Iraqi Police watch?" the officer said. "What are they looking at on a daily basis?"

"Us," said several Marines in unison.

"They will emulate you, gents," the officer said. "They. Will. Emulate you. Why? Because we came over here twice and kicked their ass. I do not trust the Iraqi Police today. Our job is to get them up to speed. They don't need to be up to the standard of Americans. But they do need to be better than they are right now."

Fallujah, once the hotbed of the insurgency and a safehaven for Al Qaeda in Iraq is now being policed by Iraqis and a small 250-man contingent of Marines.

Why were we successful in Fallujah? Not only because we "kicked their ass" as the senior Marine who's intent was to rally his men, but because we took the moral high ground and stayed to fight Al Qaeda in Iraq. The Marines fought tenaciously, but always maintained the honor of the Marine Corps. Foreign armies and people respect this fact about American Soldiers and Marines. They also respect that when the fight got tougher, we surged forces to the region and quelled the insurgency.

As Michael Totten states, we are the power brokers in Fallujah because we are fair, morally respected, trained to deliver justice swiftly, and most importantly, stayed to finish the job. This fact is why we won the hearts and minds in Fallujah. This fact is why we are winning in Iraq. This fact is why the Iraqi Army, emulating American Forces, is sending its forces into Mosul right now. This fact is why we will win in Afghanistan. This fact is why the Taliban and Al Qaeda are divided in Pakistan.

Say what you want about The Surge, but I find it difficult to believe that Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan would all be positioned right now on the verge of a democratic revolution if we had pulled out forces from Iraq as defeatist liberals wanted us to early 2007.

If we had pulled out, this senior Marine would not be saying we "kicked their ass", but instead believe we had gotten ours handed to us, along with the people of Fallujah and with all the people of Iraq. Instead, we surged forces and have all but eliminated Al Qaeda from Iraq.

As the quote at the top of this blog states, "Evil is powerless if the good are unafraid". Thank you President Reagan for reminding us of this fact. Thank you President Bush for being unafraid and surging forces precisely when defeatist liberals were trying to force you to withdraw troops. I am sure the people of Iraq are saying thank you too. Soon, the people of Afghanistan and Pakistan will be saying thank you too.

For a full read of Michael Trotten's article, click here.

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Iraqi forces mass outside Mosul

From The Columbus Dispatch.

Iraqi army reinforcements moved yesterday into positions near the northern city of Mosul, ready to strike al-Qaida in Iraq targets in the militant group's last urban stronghold, a top Iraqi officer said.

Maj. Gen. Riyad Jalal, a senior officer in the Mosul region, said the additional forces would open an offensive against al-Qaida fighters "immediately after all the added troops arrive."

The significance of the upcoming battle in Mosul is discussed later in the story.

The U.S. military does not plan to send additional forces to Mosul, which a military spokesman said this month was the last urban safe haven for al-Qaida-led insurgents.

The United States has said Iraqi security forces will take the lead in Mosul -- a major test of Washington's plan to shrink its force and ultimately leave it as backup for Iraqi security forces.

Iraqi Forces are taking the lead in the battle in Mosul. American Forces are still tied up in Diyala and Tigris River Valley. PM Maliki independently moved Iraqi Forces to Mosul to secure the city. While definitely being assisted by U.S. Forces in the form of Rangers and attack aircraft, the battle of Mosul, where the last significant amount of Al Qaeda in Iraq forces are holed up, will be dealt with by Iraqi Forces. This battle will not have Iraqi Forces being led by U.S. Forces, but Iraqi Forces planning, preparing, and executing the fight.

Combat actions have tested Iraqi Forces. They clearly past all tests. Now, they will be taking their final exam, so to speak. That final exam is Mosul.

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Iraq to go after al-Qaida in Mosul

From Yahoo/AP.

Iraq's prime minister announced Friday that the government was launching a major offensive against al-Qaida in the northern city of Mosul after two days of deadly bombings that killed nearly 40 people.

He promised the fight "will be decisive."

The announcement by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki came after warnings by the U.S. military that Mosul was the last major city where al-Qaida maintains a strong presence after largely being driven from Baghdad and other major population centers.

Al-Maliki said the government was sending troops to Mosul and an operations room had been established to fight the insurgents.

This move by Maliki is significant in that he does not mention U.S. forces. He only mentions Iraqi Army forces. While U.S. Forces are already in Mosul, there numbers are small. While Iraqi Army Forces will undoubtedly link up with U.S. Forces, it appears that Maliki wants this fight to be mainly an Iraqi Army fight.

It will be interesting to see how far Iraqi Army forces have come. Can they clear and secure an ethnically diverse city such as Mosul while maintaining support from the populous in this religiously mixed city?

For a full read, click here.

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General sees more Iraqi security forces

From Yahoo/AP.

A senior military commander told a House panel on Thursday that Iraq's security forces are on track to add another 80,000 personnel by the end of the year, putting them well within reach of their goal of more than 600,000. He said the forces are still a long way from becoming self-sufficient.

The reason most units are not self-sufficient is they cannot support themselves, do not have engineers, or indirect fire units. The Iraqi government and US forces focused on combat troops first and foremost because we can support Iraqi troops with these other items. However, this year, Iraqi forces will begin to add this capacity. What is important right now is can they take the fight to Al Qaeda? According to LTG Odierno,

"In terms of them being able to fight, they've really increased their capacity to do that."

But, as the Anne Flaherty reports,

Still, the burgeoning force remains plagued by numerous issues, including a large absentee rate with 23 percent gone at any one point. Also, the Iraqi army lacks enough midlevel officers needed to lead units. Equipment and infrastructure also are lacking, particularly a logistics system that can sustain combat units with such necessities as food and fuel.

Let's attack these one by one.

1. Twenty-three percent gone (on leave) at any one point. In the American Army we get one month leave per year, or eight percent. So Iraqis are triple our numbers. Two items are worth mentioning here. One, we get to go home after a year, reconstitute, retrain, and go back after say one year off. That is equivalent to about a 58% absentee rate. Iraqi forces continue to fight year after year after year. Their absentee rate is 23%. In addition, to account for this absentee rate, Iraqi Security Forces are filling their ranks to 120%. Therefore, most units will be manned at 97%, on average (and that is taking into account that the 23% absentee rate is accurate). So, actually their annual absentee rate will become 3% down from 23% but still significantly less than the US forces absentee rate of 58% on average.

2. Mid level officer shortage. The Iraqi government just passed the Accountability and Justice Law which has the potential to bring in several mid level officers. The US forces are not much better with regards to mid level officer shortages. We too have significant shortages in this range especially as we are expanding our forces.

3. Logistics, equipment, and infrastructure lacking. Again, the focus was on combat units. We can resupply Iraqi forces, we can house Iraqi forces. Over time, they will get new equipment. Another way to look at this is prior to Desert Storm, Iraq was the fourth largest Army with 4000 tanks. After Desert Strom they had 2000 tanks, many of which had significant mechanical problems. After OIF, they had about zero. It took Saddam 20 years to go from zero to 4000. It will take a little time to rebuild the equipment capacity.

But I go back to what LTG Odierno stated,

"In terms of them being able to fight, they've really increased their capacity to do that."

This is what is key. We can supply them beans and bullets (food and ammo). We can assist with mid level officer shortages with MTT (pronounced mitt) teams. Their absentee rate is better than our vacancy rate, and they have a plan in 2008 to fix their absentee rate.

Iraqi forces are now proficient at their combat mission, to close with and destroy the enemy. Are they as proficient as US forces? Heck, I should hope not. Are they more proficient than Al Qaeda forces, clearly. Did we totally destroy and disband their Army infrastructure almost five years ago? Yes, we did. And in five short years, they have become a tactically proficient force. Are they technically proficient? Not yet, but they are getting there.

Were we a tactically and technically proficient force during our Revolution? Heck no. But over time, we got better. And during the revolution, our proficiency was good enough. Right now, during Iraq's revolution, their proficiency is good enough.

For a full read, click here.

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Iraq crackdowns take hold of Al Qaeda

From Alsumaria - Another Al Qaeda Emir killed.

Iraqi police killed Hamid Ukab, one of Al Qaeda Emirs in Salah Din Province, in crackdown operations in Al Shirqat District in northern the capital. In kirkuk, security forces found documents relevant to the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and arrested six gunmen.

In a separate incident, head of police unit in Al Fadel region was killed with six others in clashed with gunmen while six civilians were killed including two policemen due to a roadside bomb explosion near the national theatre in Karrada.A second bomb exploded when a police force arrived to the blast scene wounding two policemen.

What is most impressive about the death of this emir is the fact the crackdown operations were taken by Iraqi Police with no apparent involvement of Iraqi or US Army forces.

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Raid shows risks in new tactic to hunt al-Qaeda

USA Today has a great article about how US Army Rangers killed 1o terrorists in Mosul during a raid recently on 25 December 2007. The article is great in that it shows how US forces are closing in and defeating Al Qaeda who use women and children as human shields. While the article has its typical negatives the MSM is known for, it does show how US forces deal with tough situations vice how terrorists indescriminately use civilians to shield behind.

When the two Army Rangers slipped inside the house of suspected assassins in the dark on Christmas morning in Mosul, they expected a fight. They got one.

Two gunmen, using an 11-year-old boy as a shield, confronted the soldiers. One, a Ranger staff sergeant, shot them dead with his rifle. The boy was unharmed, according to an Army document that outlined the assault.

That clash — recounted to USA TODAY by four of the Rangers involved and confirmed by the military command in Baghdad — kicked off what U.S. military officials say was a 17-hour firefight that resulted in the deaths of 10 al-Qaeda in Iraq insurgents, including the head of an assassination cell, a financier and a military leader. At least one fighter was from Saudi Arabia, according to the military account of the raid. Intelligence gleaned from the fight led to 10 follow-up operations, the Rangers' commander said.

For a full read, click here.

What the writer of this article fails to understand is what I highlighted above. It is raids like this that lead to follow-up operations. This particular one not only resulted in 10 insurgents being killed, but also led to 10 follow-up operations not discussed in this article.

Similarly this author misses another important point. Even with a million troops in Iraq, we cannot be everywhere all the time. This fact is why it is necessary to builid Iraqi Army capacity and to ensure these force are in/around the population providing for their security. The population can be our eyes and ears, as is evident in this article where a tip from the population led to this raid.

General Petreous fully understands this fact which is why special forces go after terrorist cells like the one in this article. Regular US and Iraqi forces simultaneously clear towns of insurgents. Iraqi Army forces are left behind to secure the population. These forces are assisted by CLCs. All forces in towns report to Joint Security Stations (JSSs). We then move on to other cells and clear other towns of insurgents in classical attrition warfare.

Everyday, more and more terrorists cells are destroyed. Everyday, more and more towns are cleared. Everyday, more and more of the population is secured. Everyday, more and more CLCs are helping to protect their communities. When Al Qaeda attempts to reinfiltrate, the populous and CLCs point them out.

Al Qaeda is in a losing battle and is being routed in Iraq. Make not mistake about it, the tide is on our side, the side of freedom precisely because of encounters like those faced by the Rangers in Mosul on 25 December 2007. The terrorists hide behind innocent women and children. We protect these same people and are giving them freedom for the first time in three decades. This fact is why they are turning on Al Qaeda and chosing to side with Americans.

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Iraqi sees need for U.S. military until 2018

From Yahoo.

Iraq's defense minister said on Monday his country would need foreign military help to defend its borders for another 10 years and would not be able to maintain internal security until 2012.

Abdul Qadir's remarks, in an interview with The New York Times posted on the newspaper's Internet site, could become an issue in the U.S. presidential campaign.

"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," Qadir said.

"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 said.

Note, he did not say that the large contingent of American Forces will be needed until 2018 to subdue an Al Qaeda threat although this is what will be reported in the MSM.

He stated that in the first quarter of 2009 (around the time a new president being sworn in) Iraqis will be in full control of internal affairs; however, they will need help with external threats until 2018 to 2020 and is currently in the U.S. seeking U.S. Military hardware and weapons to ensure his country's Soldiers have the best equipment money can buy.

For a full read, click here.

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At least four killed, 63 suspects arrested in Iraq - Update

From Earth Times.

In the Diyala province, some 60 kilometres north of Baghdad, a dozen of suspects of al-Qaeda terrorist network were killed and 63 were arrested during the joint US-Iraqi military operation given the code name "Operation Iron Harvest."

The operation was launched last Tuesday targeting al-Qaeda militants in the Iraqi province.

Earlier this week, at least 20 militant suspects have been killed and 10 were detained during this operation.

It will be difficult for Al Qaeda in Iraq to continue to suffer loses like these.

For a full read, click here.

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Iraqi official says al-Qaeda in Iraq is penetrated, has become an open book

From KUNA.

The Interior Ministry announced Friday that al-Qaeda in Iraq has been successfully penetrated by means of a recently formed government security apparatus and is virtually an "open book," confirming that the sectarian sedition in the country was at the end of its rope.

Major General Abdul Karim Khalaf, director of operations at the Interior Ministry, told KUNA here "we have succeeded in establishing a capable intelligence apparatus to penetrate the al-Qaeda organization in Iraq and all armed groups targeting Iraqi national security." He said emphatically that the sectarian sedition in Iraq has virtually ended, adding that the new intelligence apparatus is able to achieve its objectives regarding all armed groups operating in Iraq.

He went on to say that "al-Qaeda is now an open book for us, now that we have succeeded in penetrating it." Khalaf did not reveal the extent of al-Qaeda's reach in Iraq but asserted that trained Iraqi security elements currently operate under cover within this terrorist organization which he said will be dismantled soon.

As I have stated before, an organization cannot lose as many leaders as Al Qaeda has recently and hope to remain a viable, combat effective organization. There exists daily reports of emirs, commanders, and cell leaders being killed or detained in Baghdad and in the belts surrounding Baghdad.

Note, it appears Iraqi Special Operations Forces are inside Al Qaeda in Iraq's organization. Also note, that this Iraqi General is not afraid to tell Al Qaeda it has been completely infiltrated. As Al Qaeda in Iraq leadership is whittled down daily, we will now see it leaders not trusing of each other, causing its faster demise.

For a full read, click here.

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Iraqi Security Forces detain 4 suspected extremists (Mahmudiyah)

Udoubtedly as a result of the raid that netted Thirty-two most-wanted extremists near Salmon Pak, MNF-I is reporting that two more cell leaders have been detained in Mahmudiyah.

Iraqi Security Forces, advised by U.S. Special Forces, detained two suspected extremists and two extremist cell leaders in separate raids Jan. 4.

In Mahmudiyah, south of Baghdad, Iraqi Special Operations Forces detained two suspected extremists who are believed to be responsible for the kidnapping and murder of Iraqi citizens, weapons trafficking as well as attacks on Iraqi and Coalition Forces.

During the course of the operation, the assault force received small arms fire from an individual near the target objective. Iraqi and U.S. Forces engaged the individual, killing him.

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Key Al Qaeda Deputy Killed in Iraq (And 32 Most-wanted Terrorists Captured Too)

CNN, is reporting a key Al Qaeda deputy was killed in Iraq on 27 December 2007.

Muhammad Khalil Ibrahim, identified as the deputy military leader for the al Qaeda's network south of Baghdad, was killed along with two other terrorists in the air strike on their vehicle on Dec. 27, the military said.

Ibrahim was "a key planner in numerous attacks against Coalition forces operating in the Mahmudiyah area, and was also involved in the facilitation of foreign terrorists and weapons," the military said.

CNN's title of this article, "Key al Qaeda deputy killed in Iraq," misses a more significant operation noted in subsequent paragraphs in the article.

On Saturday, the U.S. military and Iraqi Army launched an assault south of Baghdad in the Ubaydi farmland area, described by one U.S. soldier as a place where "people are either aligned with al Qaeda in Iraq or they've been killed or chased away."

More than 40 suspected extremists were captured, including 32 that were on the Iraqi Army's "most-wanted list," the military said.

Coalition forces captured 32 extremists on the Iraqi Army's "most-wanted list." This operation is simply astounding and displays the level of intelligence penetration and coordination of forces currently being brought to bear against Al Qaeda in Iraq. Thirty-two most-wanted extremists were captured in one operation.

Not only was the deputy military leader for the al Qaeda's network south of Baghdad killed along with two associates on 27 December 2007, but two days later, during an apparent high level meeting, 32 senior Al Qaeda leaders were capture.

The inference that this meeting was a high level one is supported by the facts that a relatively small cache was recovered during the raid (four 120mm mortar rounds and 80 rounds of 20mm) and such a large number of cell leaders were present.

The raid took place along the Tigris River 20 miles south of Baghdad putting it in the Salmon Pak area, normally associated with the "triangle of death" where three US Soldiers were kidnapped in May 2007. Another important piece of information CNN does not tell us in their article is that 200 Iraqi Army and Policemen (half of the total force) were also involved in the raid. Again, the importance of this fact should not be sidelined. We have a high level meeting taking place with 32 most-wanted Al Qaeda members and Iraqi Forces are trusted with the intelligence of this raid beforehand and did not warn these 32 most-wanted Al Qaeda members. In fact, the operation on the southernmost of the three main objectives was planned, led and executed entirely by Iraqi soldiers.

These facts taken together demonstrates the once corrupt Iraqi Police Force have been made relatively free of corruption as they were used for the outer cordon. Iraqi Army Forces not only planned, led, and executed the operation, but found three of the 32 captured terrorists in a spider hole, again showing the level of expertise and lack of corruption in the Iraqi Army.

So four significant facts come out of this article when combined with other information that CNN did not feel important to highlight in this article.

1. This operation was an Iraqi planned, led, and executed raid (for the southernmost objective).

2. The level of corruption in Iraqi Security Forces has definitely been reduced otherwise this raid would not have netted 32 most-wanted terrorists.

3. Three of the 32 terrorists were found in a spider hole showing the level of expertise of Iraqi Forces.

4. A major terrorist network has been wiped out in Southern Iraq which led operations in the notorious "triangle of death" area south of Baghdad which ran through Salmon Pak and Mahmudiyah to Baghdad.

One can only hope the capture of 32 Al Qaeda leaders in this region will also help US force recover its two missing Soldiers.

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