It only took four years this time

[Wednesday, again]

In Northern Ireland, thiry-eight years. In Iraq, four years.

Or so it goes in the Washington Post:

“The British have basically been defeated in the south,” a senior U.S. intelligence official said recently in Baghdad. They are abandoning their former headquarters at Basra Palace, where a recent official visitor from London described them as “surrounded like cowboys and Indians” by militia fighters. An airport base outside the city, where a regional U.S. Embassy office and Britain’s remaining 5,500 troops are barricaded behind building-high sandbags, has been attacked with mortars or rockets nearly 600 times over the past four months.

Britain sent about 40,000 troops to Iraq — the second-largest contingent, after that of the United States, at the time of the March 2003 invasion — and focused its efforts on the south. With few problems from outside terrorists or sectarian violence, the British began withdrawing, and by early 2005 only 9,000 troops remained. British Prime Minister Tony Blair announced further drawdowns early this year before leaving office.

The administration has been reluctant to publicly criticize the British withdrawal. But a British defense expert serving as a consultant in Baghdad acknowledged in an e-mail that the United States “has been very concerned for some time now about a) the lawless situation in Basra and b) the political and military impact of the British pullback.” The expert added that this “has been expressed at the highest levels” by the U.S. government to British authorities.

The government of new Prime Minister Gordon Brown has pointed to the current relative calm in three of the region’s four provinces — barring Basra — as evidence of success. According to one British official, Brown told President Bush when they met last week at Camp David that Britain hopes to turn Basra over to Iraqi control in the next few months. Although a further drawdown of its forces is likely, Britain will coordinate its remaining presence with Washington after an assessment in September by Gen. David H. Petraeus, the U.S. commander in Iraq.

As it prepares to take control of Basra, the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has dispatched new generals to head the army and police forces there. But the warring militias are part of factions in the government itself, including radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr — whose Mahdi Army is believed responsible for most of the recent attacks on the airport compound — as well as the Fadhila, or Islamic Virtue Party, and the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, the country’s largest Shiite party.

Meanwhile, the US armed forces have lost almost 200,000 pistols and AK-47s given to the Iraqi military and police:

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) says the Pentagon cannot track about 30% of the weapons distributed in Iraq over the past three years.

The Pentagon did not dispute the figures, but said it was reviewing arms deliveries procedures.

About $19.2bn has been spent by the US since 2003 on Iraqi security forces.

GAO, the investigative arm of the US Congress, said at least $2.8bn of this money was used to buy and deliver weapons and other equipment.

Correspondents say it is now feared many of the weapons are being used against US forces on the ground in Iraq.

The Iraqi interior ministry has blamed the Americans for the disappearance of the weapons.

It seems the only thing the US war machine can do is terrorise Iraqis:

US-led forces have killed about 30 militants in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, the US military has said.

[…]

A military spokesman said there had been women and children in the area during the raid, but denied any had died.

Later, men and young boys were seen weeping over coffins outside a nearby hospital and hundreds of residents marched through Sadr City in protest against the raid.

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