Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Perspective: On This Day In Iraq -- April 18th edition

April 18, 2003: A US soldier raises the US flag at a checkpoint near the national bank in Baghdad

April 18, 2002:

US blunder 'let Bin Laden escape'

The US military commander in the Afghan war, General Tommy Franks, came under fire yesterday for his conduct of the campaign after a report that Osama bin Laden had been allowed to slip away from a major battle in early December.

The Washington Post quoted US intelligence officials as saying there was strong evidence that the Saudi fugitive had been in the eastern Afghan highlands of Tora Bora when US forces and their Afghan allies launched an assault on the al-Qaida mountain hideout. The failure to commit large numbers of US ground troops and the reliance instead on Afghan militias with ambiguous loyalties was the "gravest error in the war", civilian and military officials said.

The defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, dismissed the report yesterday as speculation, and insisted there had been no hard evidence that Bin Laden had been in Tora Bora. He defended Gen Franks's performance, saying the decision to work with Afghan allies had been taken by the US administration as a whole, and had been mostly successful.

Read the rest at the Guardian

April 18, 2003:

Chalabi Expects Iraqi Self-Rule Within 'Weeks'

BAGHDAD, Iraq — Iraqi opposition leader Ahmad Chalabi, in his first public appearance in Baghdad, said Friday he expects an Iraqi interim authority to take over most government functions from the U.S. military in "a matter of weeks rather than months."

Chalabi, head of the Iraqi National Congress, was vague about how an interim government would be selected. At a news conference, he reiterated that he is not a candidate to be the leader of Iraq, and did not indicate that he favored any individual for the leadership.

U.S. officials have said the process will include a series of meetings by representatives of different Iraqi groups, the first of which took place Tuesday in the ruins of the ancient Sumerian city of Ur in southern Iraq.

Chalabi said that once such an authority is established, the U.S. military will have three functions: to eradicate any weapons of mass destruction, to dismantle the ousted regime's "apparatus of terror," and to disarm the previous regime's army.

Read the rest at Fox News

April 18, 2004:

Bremer says Iraqi security forces will not be capable by June 30 to face insurgent threat

BAGHDAD, Iraq – Iraq's police and armed forces will not have the capability to secure the country from the threat of insurgents by the time the United States hands power to an Iraqi government on June 30, the top U.S. administrator said Sunday.

The comments by L. Paul Bremer aimed to defend the continued heavy presence of U.S. troops in Iraq after the occupation officially ends, but also delivered a rare, blunt assessment to the Iraqi people.

"It is clear that Iraqi forces will not be able, on their own, to deal with these threats by June 30 when an Iraqi government assumes sovereignty," Bremer said in a statement issued by the U.S. coalition.

"Events of the past two weeks show that Iraq still faces security threats and needs outside help to deal with them. Early this month the foes of democracy overran Iraqi police stations and seized public buildings in several parts of the country," he said. "Iraqi forces were unable to stop them.

Read the rest at the San Diego Tribune

April 18, 2005:

Iraq militias 'could beat rebels'

Iraq's new president has said the insurgency could be ended immediately if the authorities made use of Kurdish, Shia Muslim and other militias.

Jalal Talabani said this would be more effective than waiting for Iraqi forces to take over from the US-led coalition...

Asked how long it would take for Iraqi security forces to be in a position to replace the US-led coalition, President Talabani said the transition could take place straight away if a new strategy were adopted.

"In my opinion, Iraqi forces, the popular forces and government forces, are now ready to end the insurgency and end this terrorism," he said.

"But there is a kind of thinking inside the [outgoing interim] government that they must not use [them]."

The Kurds have in the past offered the use of their estimated 80,000 Peshmerga guerrillas for security tasks but have been turned down.

So, too, has the Iranian-influenced Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (Sciri) and its Badr brigade, another well-trained fighting force.

"We cannot wait for years and years of terrorist activity because we haven't enough government forces," the president said.

Read the rest at the BBC

April 18, 2006:

Fears grow over Sunni backing for Iraq insurgency

Sunni politicians on Tuesday condemned government forces who battled guerillas in a Baghdad neighbourhood, feeding fears that rising sectarian violence and Shia militia activity may be pushing Iraq’s Sunni population toward supporting the insurgency.

“What happened in Adhamiya is an evil act by an armed militia backed by security and government operatives,” said Dhafer al-Ani, a member of the Sunni-led Iraqi Consensus Front, the largest Sunni block in parliament. Mr Ani was one of several politicians who on Tuesday condemned an early Monday morning raid by Iraqi security forces into the Sunni district that was attacked by rebels.

The prominent Iraqi newspaper al-Zaman claimed that the “people of Adhamiya had foiled a night assault by a death squad whose members were disguised as police”...

It is significant that the street fighting in Adhamiya has been portrayed, by the Iraqi media and Sunni leaders, as neighbourhood self-defence rather than an insurgent attack on security forces. It could strengthen the insurgents’ claim to be fighting for the Sunni population as a whole.

It comes after months of accusations from Sunni leaders that the Shia-dominated government is sanctioning death squad activity, both by the security forces and by independent Shia militias such as the Mahdi Army or Badr Forces.

Read the rest at the Financial Times