Thursday, May 15, 2008


Top Taliban leader vows revenge on America after alleged missile strike in Pakistan

May 15, 2008 12:01 EST

A top Taliban leader vowed Thursday to target the U.S. after an alleged missile strike killed several people in northwest Pakistan, a threat that could undermine the new government's efforts to negotiate peace deals with militants.

Blasts destroyed a compound Wednesday in Damadola village, a militant stronghold in the Bajur tribal region near the Afghanistan border. A similar attack in 2006 reportedly missed al-Qaida's No. 2 leader, Ayman al-Zawahri.

The governor of the turbulent North West Frontier Province condemned the incident as an "attack on the sovereignty of Pakistan" that would hamper the country's efforts against terrorism. He said the dead included an 8-year-old boy.

Residents said they saw a U.S. aircraft flying in the area before two explosions rocked the village. The U.S., which has not commented on the incident, is believed to operate unmanned drones out of Afghanistan.


McCain: U.S. can win Iraq war within 4 years

GOP presidential candidate spells out his vision for White House
The Associated Press

COLUMBUS, Ohio - John McCain , looking through a crystal ball to 2013 and the end of a prospective first term, sees "spasmodic" but reduced violence in Iraq and Afghanistan, Osama bin Laden dead or captured and government spending curbed by his ready veto pen.
The Republican presidential contender also envisions April's annual angst replaced with the option of a simpler flat tax, illegal immigrants living humanely under a temporary worker program, and political partisanship driven by weekly news conferences and British-style question periods with joint meetings of Congress.
In a speech Thursday, McCain conceded he cannot make the changes alone, but he wanted to outline a specific governing style to show the accomplishments it can achieve. He backed up his remarks with a Web ad featuring similar content.
"I'm not interested in partisanship that serves no other purpose than to gain a temporary advantage over our opponents. This mindless, paralyzing rancor must come to an end. We belong to different parties, not different countries," McCain told several hundred in the capital city of Ohio, a general election battleground. "There is a time to campaign, and a time to govern. If I'm elected president, the era of the permanent campaign will end; the era of problem-solving will begin."


Witnesses: Abu Ghraib bomber was a teenage boy
Story Highlights
Falluja police official: Witnesses say attacker was about 13 or 14 years old
U.S. military: Bomber was "old enough to carry out this horrible attack"
Attack hit mourners gathering for the principal of a technical school
Among those killed in the attack was the principal's 3-year-old son

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Police are investigating witness accounts that the suicide bomber who struck the Iraqi town of Abu Ghraib on Wednesday was a teenage boy, a local police official told CNN.

The U.S. military said it doesn't know the bomber's age, but he was old enough to carry out the "horrible attack."

The source -- a Falluja police official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he isn't authorized to speak to the media -- said Thursday that witnesses say the attacker was about 13 or 14 years old, "wearing jeans, modern clothing and had a youngster's hair style."

A roadside bomb struck the security detail of Baghdad's governor Thursday, killing one person and wounding six others, an Interior Ministry official said. Gov. Hussain Tahhan was not traveling with the convoy in central Baghdad when the bombing occurred. The one person killed and four others wounded were members of the security detail. Two civilian bystanders were injured.
Another bombing killed an Iraqi soldier and wounded four others when a roadside bomb struck an Army patrol in western Baghdad on Thursday.


Source: Click on "BLUE" in name for additional details.
Place of Death - Province
Cause of Death
US: 1 UK: 0 Other: 0

Baghdad (northwestern part)
Hostile - hostile fire - IED attack
US: 1 UK: 0 Other: 0

Corporal Jessica A. Ellis
Baghdad (northwest of)
Hostile - hostile fire - IED attack
US: 1 UK: 0 Other: 0

Specialist Joseph A. Ford
Al Asad - Anbar
Non-hostile - vehicle accident
US: 1 UK: 0 Other: 0

Specialist Mary J. Jaenichen
Iskandariyah - Babil
Non-hostile - injury
US: 2 UK: 0 Other: 0

Private 1st Class Aaron J. Ward
Anbar Province
Hostile - hostile fire - small arms fire

Specialist Alex D. Gonzalez
Mosul - Ninewah
Hostile - hostile fire - small arms fire, RPG
US: 1 UK: 0 Other: 2

Lieutenant Giorgi Margiev
Diyala Province
Hostile - hostile fire - IED attack

Corporal Zura Gvenetadze
Diyala Province
Hostile - hostile fire - IED attack

Private Corey L. Hicks
Baghdad (eastern part)
Hostile - hostile fire - IED attack
US: 5 UK: 0 Other: 0

Lance Corporal Casey L. Casanova
Al Anbar Province
Hostile - hostile fire - IED attack

Corporal Miguel A. Guzman
Al Anbar Province
Hostile - hostile fire - IED attack

Lance Corporal James F. Kimple
Al Anbar Province
Hostile - hostile fire - IED attack

Sergeant Glen E. Martinez
Al Anbar Province
Hostile - hostile fire - IED attack

Specialist Jeffrey F. Nichols
Baghdad (central)
Hostile - hostile fire - IED attack (VBIED)
US: 12 UK: 0 Other: 2


The puppet Prime Minister of Iraq, Nouri al-Maliki, can't get his government together to do anything constructive, but he has no problem telling off the Bush administration and United States when the United States accused Iran of sending in arms to Iraq to fight the US military as well as segments of the Iraqi society.

Maliki Stalls US Plan to Frame Iran

by Gareth Porter

Early this month, the George W. Bush administration's plan to create a new crescendo of accusations against Iran for allegedly smuggling arms to Shiite militias in Iraq encountered not just one but two setbacks.
The government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki refused to endorse US charges of Iranian involvement in arms smuggling to the Mahdi Army, and a plan to show off a huge collection of Iranian arms captured in and around Karbala had to be called off after it was discovered that none of the arms were of Iranian origin.
The news media's failure to report that the arms captured from Shiite militiamen in Karbala did not include a single Iranian weapon shielded the US military from a much bigger blow to its anti-Iran strategy.
The Bush administration and top Iraq commander Gen. David Petraeus had plotted a sequence of events that would build domestic US political support for a possible strike against Iran over its "meddling" in Iraq and especially its alleged export of arms to Shiite militias.
The plan was keyed to a briefing document to be prepared by Petraeus on the alleged Iranian role in arming and training Shiite militias that would be surfaced publicly after the al-Maliki government had endorsed it and it used to accuse Iran publicly.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, told reporters on Apr. 25 that Petraeus was preparing a briefing to be given "in the next couple of weeks" that would provide detailed evidence of "just how far Iran is reaching into Iraq to foment instability." The centerpiece of the Petraeus document, completed in late April, was the claim that arms captured in Basra bore 2008 manufacture dates on them.
US officials also planned to display Iranian weapons captured in both Basra and Karbala to reporters. That sequence of media events would fill the airwaves with spectacular news framing Iran as the culprit in Iraq for several days, aimed at breaking down Congressional and public resistance to the idea that Iranian bases supporting the meddling would have to be attacked.
But events in Iraq diverged from the plan. On May 4, after an Iraqi delegation had returned from meetings in Iran, al-Maliki's spokesman, Ali al-Dabbagh, said in a news conference that al-Maliki was forming his own Cabinet committee to investigate the US claims. "We want to find tangible information and not information based on speculation," he said.
Another adviser to al-Maliki, Haider Abadi, told the Los Angeles Times' Alexandra Zavis that Iranian officials had given the delegation evidence disproving the charges. "For us to be impartial, we have to investigate," Abadi said.
Al-Dabbagh made it clear that the government considered the US evidence of Iranian government arms smuggling insufficient. "The proof we have is weapons which are shown to have been made in Iran," al-Dabbagh said in a separate interview with Reuters. "We want to trace back how they reached [Iraq], who is using them, where are they getting it."
Senior US military officials were clearly furious with al-Maliki for backtracking on the issue. "We were blindsided by this," one of them told Zavis.
Then the Bush administration's campaign on Iranian arms encountered another serious problem. The Iraqi commander in Karbala had announced on May 3 that he had captured a large quantity of Iranian arms in and around that city.
Earlier the US military had said that it was up to the Iraqi government to display captured Iranian weapons, but now an Iraqi commander was eager to show off such weapons. Petraeus' staff alerted US media to a major news event in which the captured Iranian arms in Karbala would be displayed and then destroyed.
But when US munitions experts went to Karbala to see the alleged cache of Iranian weapons, they found nothing that they could credibly link to Iran.
The US command had to inform reporters that the event had been canceled, explaining that it had all been a "misunderstanding." In his press briefing May 7, Brig. Gen. Kevin Bergner gave some details of the captured weapons in Karbala but refrained from charging any Iranian role.
The cancellation of the planned display was a significant story, in light of the well-known intention of the US command to convict Iran on the arms smuggling charge. Nevertheless, it went completely unreported in the world's news media.
A report on the Los Angeles Times' Blog "Babylon & Beyond" by Baghdad correspondent Tina Susman was the only small crack in the media blackout. The story was not carried in the Times itself, however.
The real significance of the captured weapons collected in Karbala was not the obvious US political embarrassment over an Iraqi claim of captured Iranian arms that turned out to be false. It was the deeper implication of the arms that were captured.
Karbala is one of Iraq's eight largest cities, and it has long been the focus of major fighting between the Mahdi Army and its Shiite foes. Moqtada al-Sadr declared his ceasefire last August after a major battle there, and fighting had resumed there with the government operation in Basra in March. Thousands of Mahdi Army fighters have fought there over the past year.
The official list of weapons captured in Karbala includes nine mortars, four antiaircraft missiles, 45, RPGs and 800 RPG missiles and 570 roadside explosive devices. The failure to find a single item of Iranian origin among these heavier weapons, despite the deeply entrenched Mahdi Army presence over many months, suggests that the dependence of the Mahdi Army on arms manufactured in Iran is actually quite insignificant.
The Karbala weapons cache also raises new questions about the official US narrative about the Shiite militia's use of explosively formed penetrators (EFPs) as an Iranian phenomenon. Among the captured weapons mentioned by Gen. Jawdat were what he called "150 antitank bombs," as distinguished from ordinary roadside explosive devices.
An "antitank bomb" is a device that is capable of penetrating armor, which has been introduced to the US public as the EFP. The US claim that Iran was behind their growing use in Iraq was the centerpiece of the Bush administration's case for an Iranian "proxy war" against the US in early 2007.
Soon after that, however, senior US military officials conceded that EFPs were in fact being manufactured in Iraq itself, although they insisted that EFPs alleged exported by Iran were superior to the homemade version.
The large cache of EFPs in Karbala which are admitted to be non-Iranian in origin underlines the reality that the Mahdi Army procures its EFPs from a variety of sources.
But for the media blackout of the story, the large EFP discovery in Karbala would have further undermined the credibility of the US military's line on Iran's export of the EFPs to Iraqi fighters.
Apparently understanding the potential political difficulties that the Karbala EFP find could present, Gen. Bergner omitted any reference to them in his otherwise accurate accounting of the Karbala weapons.
(Inter Press Service)


US probing Iraqi companies for insurance fraud
AP Exclusive: US investigating Iraqi companies for padding profits in alleged insurance scam

May 14, 2008 14:27 EST

Companies working on Iraq reconstruction have been accused of padding their profits through an insurance scam, leading to a criminal probe and hurried changes in the way many contracts are handled by the U.S. Army, according to internal military documents obtained by The Associated Press.

The investigation of two companies located in Tikrit — Sakar al-Fahal and al-Jubori — led the Army Corps of Engineers to scour its records for evidence of fraud by other contractors hired with billions of U.S. dollars to help rebuild Iraqi infrastructure devastated by the war, the documents reveal.

Whether Sakar al-Fahal and al-Jubori were paid for insurance they never obtained is a matter now being examined by the Army Criminal Investigation Command. The documents don't state the total amounts in question.

Congress is looking into the problem, too. Concerned that the U.S. is footing the bill for phony or overstated insurance payments, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee is to hold a hearing Thursday with witnesses from the Corps of Engineers, the Pentagon and the State Department.


24th MEU lingers in Afghan town

By Jason Straziuso - The Associated PressPosted : Wednesday May 14, 2008 22:12:51 EDT

GARMSER, Afghanistan — Marines who once planned to be in this southern Afghan town for just a few days are extending their mission by several weeks after facing an influx of Taliban fighters.

The change in plans shows that despite a record number of international troops in the country, forces are still spread thin and U.S. commanders must make tough choices about where to deploy them.

Manpower problems are acute in Helmand, the largest and probably the most dangerous province in Afghanistan, where the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit arrived late last month to open a route to move troops to its southern reaches near the border with Pakistan.

Britain has about 7,500 soldiers in the province, but does not have enough troops to move south of Garmser, a district still largely held by the Taliban and bursting with opium poppy fields.

The 2,400-strong Marine unit met stiff resistance as they moved in. Between 100 and 400 Taliban fighters moved into the Garmser area as the poppy harvest got under way, apparently to defend their interests in the lucrative drug trade.

Maj. Tom Clinton Jr. said the Marines would be in Garmser for several more weeks. It means the Marines might not take part in an operation that was planned in another southern province this month.

“The number of fighters that stood and fought is kind of surprising to me, but obviously they’re fighting for something,” Clinton said, alluding to poppies. “They’re flowing in, guys are going south and picking up arms. We have an opportunity to really clear them out, cripple them, so I think we’re exploiting the success we’re finding.”
Helmand is the hub of opium production in Afghanistan, which accounts for more than 90 percent of the global supply of this raw material of heroin. The Taliban are believed to derive tens of millions of dollars from the trade.
Still, the Marines have been careful not to alienate residents by destroying the poppy fields that poor farmers rely on for income. Commanders say their goal is to rid the region of Taliban fighters so the Afghan government can move in and tackle the drug problem.
The prospects of that happening appear remote. Although thousands of acres of poppy fields are eradicated annually in Afghanistan, it is only a small fraction of the total area sown. Year after year, production has soared and security has deteriorated.
In recognition of the growing threat posed by Taliban militants, there are now almost 70,000 international soldiers in Afghanistan. The U.S. has 33,000, the most since the U.S.-led invasion in late 2001 ousted the Taliban for giving haven to al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden.
U.S. forces have mostly operated in the east of the country, rather than the south, where NATO has struggled to find nations willing to fight the increasingly bloody insurgency.
U.S. Gen. Dan McNeill, the top NATO commander in Afghanistan, has said he needs three more brigades — two for combat and one to train Afghan soldiers, roughly 7,500 to 10,000 additional soldiers.
When the Marines eventually leave Garmser, any gains the 24th has made could be quickly erased unless other forces from NATO or the Afghan government move in.


Weeks of fighting have shut off many essential services in the Shia neighbourhood.

By an IWPR-trained reporter in Baghdad (ICR No. 258, 14-May-08)

Living conditions in Sadr City, already one of Baghdad’s most impoverished slums, have deteriorated sharply following weeks of fighting between Shia militiamen and United States-backed Iraqi troops that has killed hundreds, according to Iraqi lawmakers.

“The situation has deteriorated significantly because most of the services have been stopped,” said Aliyah Nassif Jassim, a member of parliament from the Iraqia bloc, who recently visited the district as part of a parliamentary delegation. “Many civilian homes have been destroyed as a result of the air strikes and the military operations.”

A fragile four-day ceasefire agreement between radical Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and the Iraqi government signed on May 12 has reduced but not halted fighting in the area, a Shia neighbourhood run by Sadr militiamen. The US military has maintained that Iranian fighters are supporting Sadr loyalists there. Iran has denied having a military presence in Iraq.

Salih al-Agili, an MP loyal to Sadr who lives in Sadr City, said more than 100 houses have been destroyed by the continuous skirmishing and air strikes since the outbreak of hostilities more than a month ago.

The district lacks an adequate water supply while medical provision and the sewage system have gone from bad to worse, say lawmakers. Trash has not been collected for weeks and is piling up in the streets and around houses.

Hospitals are short on electricity and small public and private clinics have shut down altogether. Government spokesman Tahssin al-Sheikhli said that six hospitals in Sadr City were temporarily closed during fighting because the militants used them to launch attacks.

He said more than 900 people have died and more than 2,600 have been injured – including civilians – since the fighting began. The government said it would use the ceasefire to allow aid to flow into the area.

While the government and military are claiming success in fighting terrorism and militias – and have gained popular support in their efforts to battle Sadr’s Mahdi army – some are critical of the tough stance taken by US and Iraqi forces.

“The air strikes have proven to be useless,” said Kurdistan Alliance MP Mahmood Osman, in reference to the US bombing raids on Sadr City. “Civilians are hurt the most. Israel tried it in Gaza, and it didn’t work.”

The reporter is an IWPR-trained journalist in Baghdad who asked to remain anonymous because of security concerns.

Click on link for full story.