Monday, January 03, 2005

Turning the Corner, part 2

BBC NEWS | Iraq 2004: What went wrong
In 2004, Iraq went badly wrong - except for supporters of the insurgency, in which case it went grimly well.

Deadly year in Iraq has grown worse as military struggles to adjust tactics.
By key measures of the level of insurgent violence against American forces in Iraq -- numbers of dead, wounded and insurgent attacks -- the situation has grown worse since summer.

Falloujans Get an Unsettling Look at Their City
Refugees eager to return change their minds after seeing the ruin


Blogger Management said...

Iraq 2004: What went wrong

By Paul Reynolds
World affairs correspondent, BBC News website

In 2004, Iraq went badly wrong - except for supporters of the insurgency, in which case it went grimly well.

2005 does not hold out much hope of an improvement, although there are still some optimists around who feel that the elections on 30 January will prove a milestone.

The problem in 2004 was that neither of the two main strands of American policy worked. Neither politics nor security took hold.

Power was formally handed over to an interim government at the end of June but this government failed to develop popular legitimacy, especially in the heartland of the insurgency, the Sunni areas of central Iraq.


On the security front, things went from bad in 2003 to worse in 2004. The insurgents, whether nationalist or Islamic, gained in strength and even took over the city of Falluja.

Iraqi security forces and police proved hopelessly inadequate.

Kidnappings and videotaped beheadings moved from nightmarish fears to reality.

Prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib provided lasting images of brutality.

This left the US occupation troops isolated. And they are too few and too distrusted to do the job.

The only bright spot was in the south where Shia unrest was quelled. The Shias are biding their time for the election in which they expect their majority to prevail.

The former British representative to the coalition authority, Sir Jeremy Greenstock, who a year ago was talking about Iraq being dangerous but "do-able", is now sounding much more pessimistic.

He believes that while there has been political progress, the lack of security "has let everything down."

We are leaving political structures but Iraqis do not see the improvements that would have brought their support
Sir Jeremy Greenstock, former British representative to the ICA
"Mistakes were made and the insurgency was underestimated," he said.

"The biggest mistake was to allow a security vacuum to develop. It motivated insurgents and gave them opportunities to get weapons and get new people in.

"The security vacuum is irremediable at the moment. Foreign forces will not be able to eradicate the violence. The Iraqis themselves will have to do that. The insurgents at present can be chased out of one place only to emerge in another. They are ineradicable unless Iraqi society as a whole actively turns against them."

Credibility blow

His analysis is that the Iraqis would have had the patience to wait for the new political structures to work if they had seen improvements in their daily lives.

"We are leaving political structures but Iraqis do not see the improvements that would have brought their support," he said.

Sir Jeremy concluded that in 2004 the United States had "lost credibility in the eyes of Iraqis and the region".

"This year the worst thing has been the steady leak of that credibility. Abu Ghraib dealt an enormous blow," he said.

One reason for the failure on the security front was the inadequacy of Iraqi forces. 2004 was supposed to be the year in which they came into their own.

However, the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington has tracked this issue throughout the year and, in December 2004, its analyst Anthony Cordesman concluded that the result was "to leave many Iraqi forces without anything approaching adequate organisation, training, equipment and facilities."

He said in his report that "for political and other reasons, the [Bush] Administration, the CPA [Coalition Provisional Authority] and US command emphasised quantity over quality to the point where unprepared Iraqis were sent out to die."

Bad planning

Mr Cordesman also came to wider conclusions: "The report documents a tragic US failure to develop a strategy during the first year of its occupation of Iraq. It is a failure to understand the strategic situation in Iraq and the realities of Iraqi politics. It is a failure at every level to prepare for a co-ordinated US effort at nation building."

Michael O'Hanlon, an analyst at another US think-tank, the Brookings Institution, was even more scathing. In an article for the Hoover Institution's Policy Review, he said: "One of the most brilliant invasion successes in modern military history was followed almost immediately by one of the most incompetently planned occupations."

So what of 2005?

A great deal is riding on the election. This is for a "transitional national assembly". It will select the government and prepare a constitution upon which further elections will be held at the end of the year.

In some quarters, the election is being portrayed like the roll of the dice that could solve all problems.

However, it is unlikely to be that simple.

Rosemary Hollis, of the Royal Institute for International Affairs in London, says the risk is that those supporting the insurgency will either not vote or will be marginalised by the Shia majority.

"Elections might, therefore, not solve the problem of the insurgency," she said.

This fear is also shared by senior British officials, although they phrase it more delicately. One, just back from a visit to Iraq, said the priority in 2005 would be to "ensure that the views of all elements are reflected in the constitution. That cannot just depend on the outcome of the election."

'Brave decisions'

The official retained some hope from the attitude of the leading Shia cleric Ayatollah Sistani. The Ayatollah has called on the Shias to vote and has unified many of their factions. But he has also spoken of the need to respect other traditions. Ayatollah Sistani might well be the man to watch in 2005.

If, however, the election simply encourages the divisions of the country, then a break-up into its three parts -- Shia, Sunni and Kurd -- cannot be ruled out.

An optimistic note was struck by Jonathan Paris of St Antony's College, Oxford. He still believes in the so-called "J-curve" effect, in which things go downhill before they start climbing again.

"We are nearing the bottom of the curve. I stand by it. I am cautiously optimistic that if the election goes well, things will turn out all right," he said.

Sir Jeremy Greenstock said: "One has to be very realistic. Iraqis have to keep going and need to take brave decisions. They do not have any real political alternative. Only they can take on the violence in their communities. Having in place a government which they have elected themselves might help them make that decision.

"It depends on the Iraqis. We have lost the primary control."

He summed up the prospects: "The train is wobbly but it is still on the track."

2:50 PM  
Blogger Management said...

raq-US Troops
Deadly year in Iraq has grown worse as military struggles to adjust tactics

(Washington-AP, Dec. 30, 2004 Updated 3:43 PM) _ By key measures of the level of insurgent violence against American forces in Iraq -- numbers of dead, wounded and insurgent attacks -- the situation has grown worse since summer.

While those numbers don't tell the full story of the conflict in Iraq, they suggest insurgents are growing more proficient, even as the size of the U.S. force increases and U.S. commanders succeed in soliciting more help from ordinary Iraqis.

For example:

-- The U.S. military suffered at least 348 deaths in Iraq over the final four months of the year, more than in any other similar period since the invasion in March 2003.

--The number of wounded surpassed 10,000, with more than a quarter injured in the last four months as direct combat, roadside bombs and suicide attacks escalated. When President Bush declared May 1, 2003, that major combat operations were over, the number wounded stood at just 542.

-- The number of attacks on U.S. and allied troops grew from an estimated 1,400 attacks in September to 1,600 in October and 1,950 in November. A year earlier, the attacks numbered 649 in September, 896 in October and 864 in November.

U.S. commanders insist they are making progress, in part by taking the fight more directly to the insurgents. And they remain hopeful that more U.S.-trained Iraqi security forces will join the fight soon.

Some observers are more doubtful.

"The prospects in Iraq are grim," Dan Goure, an analyst at the private Lexington Institute think tank in Washington, said Thursday. He assessed the conflict as a standoff, with no clear indication that either side will achieve victory in the coming year.

"Neither side can truly come to grips with the other so far and defeat them," Goure said.

U.S. commanders constantly analyze the insurgents' tactics and make adjustments. Yet although U.S. forces have found tons of hidden weaponry and ammunition, the insurgents kill almost daily with makeshift bombs known as improvised explosive devices, or IEDs. They plant the bombs along roads or stuff them into cars for suicide attacks.

Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Sorenson, a senior Army acquisition official, said Thursday it has taken the Army many months to counter the IED threat because war planners had not foreseen its scope.

"The violence of the IEDs, the sophistication of some of those IEDs, was never anticipated," Sorenson said. "I can certainly attest to that."

The toll is clear.

Pentagon statistics show that for all of 2004, at least 838 U.S. troops died in Iraq. Of that total, more than 700 were killed in action, by far the highest number of American battlefield deaths since at least 1980, the first year the Pentagon compiled all-service casualty statistics.

It almost certainly is the highest KIA total for any year since the Vietnam War.

U.S. deaths averaged 62 per month through the first half of the year. But since June 28, when U.S. officials restored Iraqi sovereignty and dissolved the U.S. civilian occupation authority, that average has jumped to about 78.

Deaths among U.S. National Guard and Reserve troops are rising, reaching a single-month peak of 27 in November. At least 17 were killed in December. Nearly 200 Guard and Reserve troops have died since the war began, and more than one-third of those deaths happened in the past four months.

Bush administration and U.S. military officials had predicted that the insurgents would intensify their efforts to create chaos before the Jan. 30 elections for an Iraqi National Assembly. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said during a visit last week to U.S. troops in Iraq that he saw no reason to think the violence would abate even after the elections.

"All along the way it's bumpy," Rumsfeld told a group of Marines over lunch at their base outside of Fallujah, the city west of Baghdad where nearly 100 Marines have been killed over the past two months. "It's tough, and there are setbacks. It's not a smooth, easy, steady path to success."

Since the Marines regained control of Fallujah after fierce battles in November -- by far the bloodiest month of the war for the Corps -- the focus of insurgent violence has shifted to the northern city of Mosul.

A Dec. 21 attack on a military mess hall in Mosul killed 22, including 13 U.S. soldiers and a sailor -- the deadliest single attack on a U.S. installation in the war. At least six other U.S. troops died in other attacks in Mosul during December.

Even as U.S. losses mount, the brunt of insurgent violence is hitting the Iraqi security forces being trained by U.S. troops, as well as Iraqi political figures and Iraqis seen as supporting the Americans.

On Tuesday, for example, insurgents lured Iraqi police to a house in Baghdad with an anonymous tip about an insurgent hideout. Then they set off explosives, killing at least 29 people, including seven Iraqi policemen, and wounding 18.

Across the restive area north and west of Baghdad, known as the Sunni Triangle, car bombs, ambushes and assassinations killed at least 54 people on Tuesday, including 31 policemen and a deputy provincial governor.

On the brighter side, the U.S. military says ordinary Iraqis are beginning to speak up, making it easier for troops to uncover weapons caches and capture insurgents. That is true around Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province in western Iraq, according to the Marines.

"The atmospherics in and around Ramadi seem to show that the local populace is tired of the insurgents and their intimidation and violence," 1st Lt. Nathan Braden, spokesman for the 1st Marine Division, said in an e-mail exchange Wednesday.

3:11 PM  
Blogger Management said...

Falloujans Get an Unsettling Look at Their City
Refugees eager to return change their minds after seeing the ruin. Will balloting be feasible?
By Edmund Sanders
Times Staff Writer

December 30, 2004

BAGHDAD — Yasser Abbas Atiya swore he'd sooner sleep on the streets of his beloved hometown of Fallouja than spend another night in the squalid Baghdad shelter where his family had been squatting.

Thirty minutes after he returned home this week, however, Atiya had seen enough. He left in disgust and had no plans to go back.

"I couldn't stand it," the grocer said. "I was born in that town. I know every inch of it. But when I got there, I didn't recognize it."

Lakes of sewage in the streets. The smell of corpses inside charred buildings. No water or electricity. Long waits and thorough searches by U.S. troops at checkpoints. Warnings to watch out for land mines and booby traps. Occasional gunfire between troops and insurgents.

"I thought, 'This is not my town,' " Atiya said Tuesday after going back to the abandoned Baghdad clinic his family shares with nearly 100 other displaced Falloujans. "How can I take my family to live there?"

The initial clamor by an estimated 200,000 refugees to return to the homes they had fled last month is being replaced by a bitter resignation that the city remains largely uninhabitable and unsafe. Hopes of quickly restoring normality to the restive Sunni Muslim city are fading, raising questions about whether Fallouja will be ready to participate in the Jan. 30 national election.

"We have no intention of going back," said Yasser Mowfauk Abbas, 20, a university student who was among the first residents allowed in to inspect their homes. "No one is staying."

U.S. and Iraqi officials say that they tried to warn Falloujans that it was too soon to return, but that they let them go last week after a groundswell of protest. Officials also face pressure to reopen the city before the election. The U.S.-led invasion of the city last month was prompted, in part, by a desire to clear the way for the vote.

"We told them that until now there are areas where debris and wreckage are still not removed," said Kasim Daoud, Iraq's interim security minister. "We also told them that there are some streets that contain land mines. But our dear people insisted that they must return back."

Nearly 15,000 residents have reentered Fallouja during the last week, military figures show. The returnees have been given the option of staying permanently or leaving by the end of the day.

Military officials said they were not keeping track of how many were opting to stay.

U.S. Marines say they are working to make the city livable again but are grappling with decades of neglect and decay, as well as the results of last month's bombardment.

More than 700 workers have been hired for the rebuilding effort. Aid centers distribute bottled water, food and blankets. On Wednesday, a hospital reopened.

Military leaders are mindful that drawing Falloujans back into Iraqi society and into the election would send a powerful signal that the country was headed in a positive direction.

"We are attacking reconstruction efforts with the same grit, sweat and determination used to eliminate the malicious threat posed by the terrorists and insurgents," said Lt. Col. Dan Wilson, deputy operations officer of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force in Fallouja. "We want to help the residents, so they will be able to live in peace and enjoy the privilege of voting in the upcoming elections."

But the effort to win the hearts and minds of the local population has fallen flat as soon as returning homeowners see the burned buildings, piles of rubble and heavy troop presence. The residents say voting is the last thing on their minds.

"What election?" Atiya, 35, asked. "I'm a refugee. How can a refugee take part in an election? Let me get back home and then I'll talk about elections."

After enduring three hours of military checkpoints and searches, Atiya and two brothers anxiously reentered the city Monday, uncertain what to expect.

U.S. troops handed them leaflets warning against a myriad of dangers and advising them that the U.S. military could not guarantee their safety. Don't drink the water, the leaflets warned, or eat food left behind.

Every resident is required to carry a small card outlining special new rules for the city. There's a 6 p.m. curfew. No weapons are allowed. Graffiti and public gatherings are illegal. Cars and visitors are banned.

Males between the ages of 15 and 55 must carry special identification cards. U.S. military officials have announced plans to use fingerprinting and retina scans to prevent insurgents from returning.

As Atiya and his brothers traveled through the city and saw the destruction, they braced for the worst. When he caught a glimpse of his roof, Atiya's first emotion was relief. The house was still there.

As they drew closer, however, Atiya and his brothers began to curse. A gaping hole in the two-story house appeared to have been caused by a tank, whose tracks were visible in the mud, he said. Most of the furniture was smashed. "Half my house was demolished," Atiya said.

In the kitchen, cabinets had been ripped from the walls, he said. Others were emptied of their contents, which lay in heaps on the floor.

"Every dish was broken, every cup, every plate, as if someone had just stood there breaking one dish after another," said Atiya's brother Raaid Abbas, 37. "Why?"

The brothers don't know who ransacked the house, but they blame American troops, who they say left muddy boot prints.

Military officials expressed sympathy with the plight of returning residents but said the blame should rest with militants who took control of the city and continued to hide among the population.

"Our forces never intentionally damage structures or homes," said Wilson, the deputy operations officer. "After all, we, in partnership with the [interim Iraqi government], will be at the forefront of assisting in the restoration and cleanup of Fallouja."

The brothers quickly determined that the house, where all three had been born, was uninhabitable. They had wanted to leave with some supplies, such as a kerosene heater, for use at the Baghdad shelter.

But in an effort to prevent theft and looting, U.S. troops prohibited residents from removing property from the city. The most the brothers could do was sneak out some extra clothing, which they wore as they left.

When the brothers returned to Baghdad and recounted their stories, other Falloujans shook their heads in amazement.

"After I heard what they said, I'm not willing to go back," said Latif Jasim, 45.

Atiya broke the bad news to his wife and four children. His youngest daughter, Noora, 4, had trouble understanding why she couldn't return home. "I want my dresses," she said, hiding shyly behind an older brother.

Atiya said the family had no choice but to stay in the makeshift shelter until conditions in Fallouja improved. "We are fed up with being here," he said. "We just want to go home."

3:11 PM  

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