Wednesday, July 11, 2007

More Time Needed to Assess Effectiveness of Iraq Surge

More time is needed to gauge the effectiveness of the ongoing military offensive against insurgents in and around Baghdad and elsewhere in Iraq, the top U.S. general there said.

"I can think of few commanders in history who wouldn't have wanted more troops, more time or more unity among their partners. However, if I could only have one (item) at this point in Iraq, it would be more time,"
Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of Multinational Force Iraq, said during a question-and-answer session published in the New York Post today.

Petraeus is overseeing several ongoing operations that are part of an overall offensive against insurgents in Iraq called Operation Phantom Thunder, which began June 15, once all of the surge troops were in place. President Bush directed a deployment of about 30,000 additional U.S. troops to Iraq earlier this year as a surge of forces to assist the Iraqi government in confronting the insurgency.

By July 15, the general and U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan C. Crocker are to present an interim report to the president and Congress outlining the surge's progress so far. Another surge report is slated for September.

"This is an exceedingly tough endeavor that faces countless challenges," Petraeus said of current operations directed against al Qaeda in Iraq terrorists as well as Sunni and Shiite insurgents.

Petraeus said he's encouraged that tribal leaders in Anbar province and other areas of Iraq are rejecting al Qaeda terrorists as well as Sunni- and Shiite-backed insurgents.

"We're beginning to see a revolt of the middle against both extremes," Petraeus observed, noting the Anbar tribes' turning against the terrorists is a very heartening development.

"Al Qaeda in Iraq's key weaknesses are an ideology that does not resonate with Iraqis and an indiscriminate brutality that alienates people. Popular sentiment has begun to shift against them," the general said.


However, "the political dimension is the most significant current challenge" in Iraq, Petraeus said. Iraqi lawmakers' bickering is similar to what the United States government went through early in its history, he said.

Unfortunately, Iraqi lawmakers' progress to date "has been less than what all of us -- the Iraqis as well as coalition leaders -- had hoped to see," the general said.

Petraeus praised the performance of Iraq's security forces during current surge operations, noting there are some very good Iraqi units that operate largely independently. Other Iraqi units, he added, require "considerable" coalition help.

Yet, Iraqi soldiers and police have "been willing to fight, especially when their leaders set the example," Petraeus said. Iraqi security forces' losses in June, he noted, were triple the number of coalition casualties that month.

American military forces in Iraq "know they're engaged in a critical endeavor, one that's larger than self," Petraeus said. The mission in Iraq is important not only for Iraqis but it is also critical to America and the world, he said.

"Despite multiple tours and separations from loved ones, not to mention the impatience, frustration and other emotions we all feel at times, our men and women in uniform want to see Iraqis succeed. And, of course, they have a fierce desire not to let down their buddies," Petraeus said. "The bonds of those who have served together in combat are particularly strong."
On the Fourth of July almost 600 U.S. servicemembers in Iraq re-enlisted for further service, Petraeus recalled. In another ceremony that day, he said, 161 soldiers and Marines serving in Iraq took the oath to become U.S. citizens.

Petraeus urged the American people to be patient as surge operations in Iraq continue.

"None of us, Iraqi or American, are anything but impatient and frustrated at where we are," Petraeus said. "But there are no shortcuts. Success in an endeavor like this is the result of steady, unremitting pressure over the long haul.

"It's a test of wills, demanding patience determination and stamina from all involved," the general said.


Talk Show America 7/13/2007

Troops Detain 19 Suspects, Seize Weapons in Iraq

Iraqi and coalition forces detained 19 suspects and captured weapons caches during recent operations in Iraq.

Tips from two Iraqi residents near Dhour, south of Baghdad, helped coalition forces nab seven suspects yesterday, including an al Qaeda network leader, military officials said.

The first tipster called soldiers of the 10th Mountain Division's 89th Cavalry Regiment and alerted them to a weapons cache. Soldiers responded, located the buried weapons, and had been digging up the cache for five minutes when they received another phone call.

The second caller claimed he had the 2nd Brigade Combat Team's top high-value target and would deliver him to coalition custody. This tipster arranged a meeting place to hand the detainee over to Army Capt. Adam Sawyer, the Troop C commander.

Soldiers hastily re-buried the cache and departed for the meeting place, where they took custody of the high-value detainee and two other suspects.

During the exchange, some of the soldiers observed the cache from their vantage point, and were surprised to see a civilian pickup truck stop near the cache. As four men began to load the weapons into the truck bed, troops engaged the vehicle with an M-240 machine gun.

Troop C soldiers detained the suspects as they tried to flee, and called an explosive ordnance disposal team to destroy the weapons.

"All of this was possible because of sources we've developed, through local-national engagements and working with the residents of the area," Sawyer said. "It's our work with the people in these areas, our relations with them, paying off."

The high-value target allegedly is responsible for shooting down an AH-64 helicopter in April 2006, abducting two soldiers two months later, and mounting complex attacks against patrol bases, coalition forces and Iraqi civilians, military officials said. Additionally, he is believed to be the leader of an al Qaeda network known for murdering and intimidating those who oppose the terrorist organization.

One of the detainees had been wounded in a previous engagement, and was taken to a coalition hospital for treatment. The other suspects six are being held for further questioning.

During two operations in Baghdad July 8, Iraqi special operations forces detained 12 insurgents linked to the rogue Jaysh al-Mahdi militia. These insurgents allegedly are responsible for attacks against Iraqi and coalition forces, military officials said.

In the first operation, the Iraqi special operations forces and coalition advisors detained 11 targeted individuals believed responsible for attacks using explosively formed penetrators against combined forces in the Hay al Aamel area. EFPs are improvised explosive devices designed to penetrate armor.

In the second operation, combined troops detained the alleged leader of a cell responsible for direct and indirect fire, and improvised explosive devices attacks on Iraqi and coalition forces. His capture will disrupt this cell's ability to carry out death squad activities against innocent civilians, military officials said.

Troops also seized weapons and ammunition, cell phones and assorted documents. No Iraqi or coalition forces were injured during this operation.

Officials Warn of 'Premature Conclusions' About Iraq Surge

Defense officials do not want Americans to jump to "premature conclusions" about the troop surge in Iraq, a Pentagon spokesman said today.

The last of 21,500 combat troops ordered into Baghdad and other hot spots for surge operations arrived in Iraq just three weeks ago.
"It is important to give our commanders in the field the opportunity that we said we were going to provide,"
Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman told reporters today.

The Bush administration will deliver an initial report to Congress by July 15 on progress of 18 benchmarks specified in legislation granting funding for the war effort.

The emergency supplemental legislation Congress passed in April called for the July 15 interim report on the surge by. Another report is due by Sept. 15.

Whitman said the department is focused on the September report.

"It's focused on the operations that have been put in place that execute the strategy that was planned and agreed upon with an expectation that we would be in a better place in September to provide some assessments with respect to the way forward,"
he said.

Whitman said the July report has assumed "some prominence that wasn't anticipated." In fact, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates postponed a trip to Central and South America to concentrate on the report.

Whitman said the secretary will speak to members of Congress from both parties and will work with others in the administration in crafting the report.

The surge is having an effect on security in Iraq, Whitman said. In the three weeks since the final troops arrived, the surge is having a positive effect.

"They are seeing a difference and it is making an impact in their areas," he said. He added that "time will tell, and there are plenty of challenges remaining."


Talk Show America 7/13/2007

Poll: Younger Voters Turning Against Abortion

Younger voters, especially women, are embracing a pro-life position in surprising numbers and in sharp contrast to attitudes that held sway 15 years ago, according to a new study.

The study by Overbrook Research, a public consulting firm in Illinois, examines public opinion data from Missouri. With proportions of blacks, Catholics and union members in line with national averages, the state is viewed as "highly representative of the American electorate," the study says.

Over 30,000 survey interviews were conducted in the state between 1992 and 2006. Participants were asked: "On the debate over abortion policy, do you consider yourself to be pro-life, pro-choice or somewhere in between?" Those who gave a definitive answer were then asked how strongly they held their view.

Results in 1992 were largely in step with what study authors Christopher Blunt and Fred Steeper call the "self-interest hypothesis." Women and men under 30 were the most ardently "pro-choice" (39 percent) and the least likely to be strongly "pro-life"( 23 percent).

Today, by contrast, among the current generation of 18- to 29-year-olds, 36 percent say they are strongly "pro-life," while just 18 percent say they are strongly "pro-choice," the study authors said.

The trend was particularly evident among women in that age bracket. Forty 40 percent identify themselves as strongly "pro-life" and only 20 percent as strongly "pro-choice."

The data reverses a two-to-one ratio that was evident in 1992, the study noted.

Where previous generations may have been inclined to "divorce sex from its consequences," new voters are entering the electorate at a time when medical advances highlight development in the womb and when public attention is focused on the "gruesome procedure" of partial birth abortion, the authors argued.

Blunt, who is president of Overbrook Research, told Cybercast News Service in an interview that "Generation Y" voters have a very different frame of reference on abortion now than was evident in 1992.

"The most surprising and compelling findings we have are on young people," he said. "They've grown up with high-quality ultrasound images of unborn babies, and their passage into adulthood coincides with the ascendance of partial-birth abortion as the issue's dominant frame."

Iran Building Tunnel Near Nuclear Site

Commercial satellite imagery shows Iran is building a new tunnel complex inside a mountain near a major nuclear site — a possible attempt to protect sensitive uranium enrichment activity from aerial attack, nuclear analysts said Monday.

The pictures taken on June 11 were obtained from DigitalGlobe, a commercial satellite imagery firm, by the Institute for Science and International Security, whose president is David Albright, a physicist and former United Nations weapons inspector in Iraq.

"The construction activity is taking place in the closest mountainous area to the Natanz site, strongly suggesting that the site is affiliated with Natanz,”
said a written analysis by Mr. Albright and a colleague, Paul Brannan.

The researchers said the construction is new and was not evident in images taken in January by DigitalGlobe.

Tunnel entrances are not visible in the satellite photos, but two roads under construction can clearly be seen going up the mountain, with one appearing to lead into a tunnel facility, the analysis said.

The researchers noted that Iran had earlier built a tunnel complex near the Isfahan uranium conversion plant to protect a range of nuclear-related equipment and materials and natural uranium hexafluoride.

"Iran may be constructing a similar facility near Natanz, fearing that the underground halls at Natanz are vulnerable to destruction by military attack,”
the researchers said.


"A tunnel facility inside a mountain would offer excellent protection from an aerial attack,”
the researchers added.

They also said that the mountain site could be for the direct defense of Natanz, possibly with antiaircraft batteries or other weapons.

Give 'Surge' a Chance

Recently Peter Hegseth of Vets for Freedom wrote an interesting opinion piece that appeared in the Wall Street Journal. In it he states concern over the current debates going on in Congress by Democrats and Rinos. He fears that those in Congress will paint the picture that the "surge" is a failure and that the American Public will buy into that falsehood.

So, in the article he outlines four falsehhoods that are being portrayed by some in Congress:


Falsehood No. 1:

The "surge" is already a failure.

Fact: The surge is just beginning. All of the brigades Gen. Petraeus requested have only been in place since mid-June and already there are promising indicators. Since January, sectarian murders are substantially down, arms caches are being found at three times the rate of last year and young Sunnis and Shiites are joining the Iraqi security forces in record numbers.


Falsehood No. 2:

Gen. Petraeus believes the military has done all it can do in Iraq.

Fact: Sen. Reid often quotes Gen. Petraeus to support his position that the war is "lost." But a fair survey of Gen. Petraeus's remarks confirms that he believes the U.S. military must set the conditions for political progress. The ultimate solution to Iraq's problem is political reconciliation, which can only come with the improvements in security the surge is designed to achieve.


Falsehood No. 3:

The U.S. is playing insurgent "whack-a-mole" throughout Iraq.

Fact: Gen. Petraeus's mission is called the Baghdad Security Plan for a reason: Its limited aim is to pacify Iraq's capital and center of gravity, thereby shifting the country's balance of power. The strategy is for U.S. and Iraqi forces to clear multiple insurgent safe havens in and around Baghdad at once to prevent insurgents from relocating, then to maintain security by remaining within the communities and building trust with the locals who were being intimidated by Sunni insurgents and Shiite militiamen.


Falsehood No. 4:

U.S. troops are not fighting an enemy in Iraq, just policing a "civil war."

Fact: America's enemies are invested in our defeat in Iraq. Al Qaeda leaders like Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri say they want to "expel the Americans from Iraq" and establish a "caliphate" to "extend the jihad to the secular countries neighboring Iraq." These killers are intent on spreading their violent ideology, and believe stoking sectarian violence is the best way to achieve their goals. Al Qaeda may only make up 10% of the insurgency in Iraq, but what they lack in numbers, they make up for in lethality. Gen. Petraeus has said that "80 to 90% of suicide bombers are foreign fighters," and by neutralizing them, we could stomp out the low-level civil war.

Talk Show America 7/13/2007