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Monday, December 24, 2007

News and Views from the GWOT

Here is the latest from Michael Totten...

Fallujah today is an impoverished ramshackle mess, but it's not a war zone anymore. In 2004 it was by far the worst place in the country. It was still a hotbed of insurgent activity as recently as the first half of 2007.“

The unit we relieved was monitoring the city, watching the city,” Corporal Koch said. “We took that over from them. Then we started our push. It was a couple of months before the regular civilians got back in the city.”“Months after you came in?” I said.“We came in in November, on November 6th,” he said.

It took about two or three weeks altogether. The civilians stayed out of the city for another month or month and a half after that. We were still doing operations then, but it wasn't an all out push. It was just cleaning up. It was loose ends. Weapons caches. Just basically getting this place ready for the civilians to come back in. We made sure people weren't going into their homes while they were rigged to blow.”

The latest from Omar...
Unlike previous operations, this one is different in that the troops were sent following a request submitted to the government by the department of Sunni endowment, an entity in charge of overseeing Sunni mosques and other religious activities. The chief of the Sunni endowment, Sheikh Ahmed Abdul Ghafour Samarraie, is a moderate Sunni cleric who has renounced the insurgency and explicitly accused the association of assisting al-Qaeda by justifying their murderous attacks against Iraqis.

For four years now we’ve been waiting for this to happen. This al-Qaeda apologist, so-called association of Muslim scholars had to be dealt with and honestly it was frustrating to see them operate freely when the damage they caused was widely known, in nature if not in extent.

This incident, I believe, is not to be seen as abstract and it’s no coincidence that the raid on their office came amid efforts to prosecute corrupt officials from Sadr’s movement and the Fadheela Party. The list includes the former deputy minister of health, a Sadr follower who’s been accused of running sectarian death squads and the chief of the integrity committee in the parliament; a member of the Fadheela Party which is believed to be involved in massive oil smuggling operations in the south. He is now about to lose parliamentary immunity over corruption charges.

Bill Roggio gives us the latest in a battle in Afghanistan to retake a Taliban stronghold.

The battle for the Taliban stronghold of Musa Qala in the southern Afghan province of Helmand is well underway. Officially launched on December 7, international and Afghan forces have prepped the battlefield for well over a month. A British armored column launched a feint to the outskirts of the town in mid-November and leaflets have been dropped on the town warning civilians to flee the impending attack.

The final assault on Musa Qala began after the Afghan government convinced a key Taliban tribal leader to defect. Last month there were reports Mullah Abdul Salaam was seeking to negotiate a deal with the Afghan government. The Times Online reported Salaam has indeed defected to the Afghan government, and "brought with him up to one-third of the fighters who had been defending Musa Qala."

British spy chiefs have weighed in with their skepticism over the latest NIE report on Iran.
The timing of the CIA report has also provoked fury in the British Government, where officials believe it has undermined efforts to impose tough new sanctions on Iran and made an Israeli attack on its nuclear facilities more likely.

The security services in London want concrete evidence to allay concerns that the Islamic state has fed disinformation to the CIA.

The report used new evidence - including human sources, wireless intercepts and evidence from an Iranian defector - to conclude that Teheran suspended the bomb-making side of its nuclear programme in 2003. But British intelligence is concerned that US spy chiefs were so determined to avoid giving President Bush a reason to go to war - as their reports on Saddam Hussein's weapons programmes did in Iraq - that they got it wrong this time.

The Washington Post reports today that members of Congress including Nancy Pelosi were briefed on interrogation techniques at Gitmo including waterboarding.
In September 2002, four members of Congress met in secret for a first look at a unique CIA program designed to wring vital information from reticent terrorism suspects in U.S. custody. For more than an hour, the bipartisan group, which included current House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), was given a virtual tour of the CIA's overseas detention sites and the harsh techniques interrogators had devised to try to make their prisoners talk.

Among the techniques described, said two officials present, was waterboarding, a practice that years later would be condemned as torture by Democrats and some Republicans on Capitol Hill. But on that day, no objections were raised. Instead, at least two lawmakers in the room asked the CIA to push harder, two U.S. officials said.

Gordon Brown has declared the war in Iraq over for the remaining British troops in Iraq.
The PM was cheered as he praised UK troops and revealed combat operations in Basra will end “within two weeks”.Iraqi forces will take over as the 4,500-strong British force switches from front-line duties to a training role.

By early next year, our contingent in Southern Iraq will be cut to 2,500 – and may be withdrawn completely in March.

In a not unsurprising turn of events, the Pakistan elections are being challenged on fairness grounds.
Pakistan's election campaign began in earnest Monday, a day after former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif dropped threats to boycott the balloting to protest the authoritarian rule of President Pervez Musharraf.

Sharif embarked on a tour of the country to stump for his Pakistan Muslim League-N party, even though election authorities have rejected his own candidacy.The two-time prime minister was to address a rally Monday in the central city of Faisalabad and proceed to Multan, Rawalpindi, Quetta, Karachi and Peshawar in coming days, party officials said...

There you have the updated goings on from most of the hotspots of the war on terror.

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