Thursday, October 13, 2005

This Is Comforting

Seems Knight Ridder correspondent Tom Lasseter, who's been in the Baghdad bureau for some time, spent a week with the 1st Brigade of the 6th Iraqi Division, and he didn't think too highly of President Bush's assessments of their rising capabilities (which would enable US troops to leave). Editor & Publisher has the story:

Lasseter ... suggests that the Bush exit strategy of turning over military control to the Iraqis "is in serious trouble. Instead of rising above the ethnic tension that's tearing their nation apart, the mostly Shiite troops are preparing for, if not already fighting, a civil war against the minority Sunni population."

Indeed, the soldiers he traveled with are "seeking revenge against the Sunnis who oppressed them during Saddam Hussein's rule."

American commanders often refer to the 1st Brigade as a template for the future of Iraq's military, and sometimes they operate on their own, other times with American firepower taking the lead. But Lasseter notes that increasingly "they look and operate less like an Iraqi national army unit and more like a Shiite militia."
[...]
After documenting one bloody incident, Lasseter quotes the brigade leader, Brig. Gen. Jaleel Khalif Shwail: "These people in Amariyah are cowards. I swear, I swear I'll have revenge." A U.S. military official tells Lasseter: "We never intended to create a Shiite army," the official said. "Clearly, one of our number one concerns going forward ... is sectarianism ... that revenge mentality."

Lasseter also details the horrific deaths and wounds suffered from sniper fire in insurgent-led towns. He quotes the response of a Shiite sergeant: "Just let us have our constitution and elections in December and then we will do what Saddam did -- start with five people from each neighborhood and kill them in the streets and then go from there."

Another sergeant tells him: "Your country had to have a civil war. It will be the same here. Everything in this world has its price. In Iraq the price for peace will be blood."

Here's a link to the full article. And while we're on the subject of pessimism in Iraq (I know, there are lots of good stories that aren't getting to the MSM...), you should check out this post by Jerome a Paris over at the European Tribune, which includes a translated summary from a story in the French La Canard investigative newspaper on how things in Iraq are going based on information culled from US military and intelligence services, including

there are Israeli military advisors on the ground, and they were instrumental in pushing for and designing the recent operations near the Syrian border (local sweeps, targetted bombings, moving in in force). But the "moving in in force" phase has happened 9 times already since May;

the US military expect the coming 75 days, with the Consitutional process, to be particularly brutal;

Both Generals Abizaid and Casey have confirmed, in internal assessments, that there is no way that any troops can be withdrawn any time soon. Casey apparently said that "typical counter-terrorism operations last 9-10 years". Iraqi forces will never be able to replace Americans, which are likely to remain stuck there for the foreseeable future.


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