Archive for the 'Iraq SOFA' Category

Should U.S. Troops Return to Iraqi Cities?

BY Herschel Smith
14 years, 8 months ago

Omar at Iraq The Model had previously observed that Iran’s IRG was most likely behind the recent bombing attacks in Baghdad (or so it was reported by Azzaman).  Mohammed updates us with news that Maliki is blaming the Syrian administration for the attacks, and is demanding that certain Ba’athists be handed over to Iraq.  He further speculates that Maliki is going after Syria as the weakest link in the trouble-makers in the region as a straw man.

I had initially suspected not the Ba’athists, nor AQI, but Iran and the IRG or perhaps the Quds.  I believe that AQ is essentially dead in Iraq.  But this doesn’t mean that the Sunni insurgency is dead.  The New York Times has a happy report on lake Habbaniya being enjoyed by Sunni and Shi’a alike, but a more clear headed assessment is given to us by Jane Arraf through the Council on Foreign Relations, entitled Reappraising U.S. Withdrawal from Iraqi Cities.

When you talk to Iraqi officials, they believe this is a fight for survival. The Shiite-led government believes that there are Baathists who want to topple them. There are Iraqi officials who firmly believe that there are military people, former Baathists, who want to launch a coup. And that doesn’t make the Sunnis feel very secure, particularly since we’ve seen things like the governor of Baghdad, Salah Abdel-Razzaq, saying that they might arrest some Sunni members of parliament in connection with these bombings. That creates a huge division.

Iraqi and U.S. officials always say the key to stability is reconciliation, and by that they mostly mean reconcilitation by the Maliki government [Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki] with the Sunni groups including, former insurgents and the Sunni political parties. In the aftermath of the bombings, it’s hard to see where they go from here with all the accusations that have been thrown around. And then there are Iraq’s relations with its neighbors. Over the weekend, the governor of Baghdad said Saudi Arabia was behind this. The interior ministry released a taped confession which may or may not have actually been a confession from someone who says that Syria was involved in this. That doesn’t really bode well for Iraq’s relations with neighboring countries. And we have to draw a difference there between the government and the foreign ministry. The foreign minister, who is Kurdish, actually has very good personal relations with the Saudis. But the Saudis hate Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and they hate the Shiite-led government. Iraq is a really complicated place to begin with but this attack, and its repercussions, could really threaten stability.

There is no question that the recent bombing, along with the sectarian behavior and ineptitude of the ISF, causes the Maliki administration to look weak and unable to ensure security.  She then goes on to discuss the issue of the withdrawal of U.S. troops from the Iraqi cities.

There’s a very delicate dynamic right now. The whole idea was that after June 30, the United States would step down from security in the towns and cities. There wouldn’t be combat troops in the street and it would truly be an Iraqi show. And it’s happened perhaps to a faster extent than even the U.S. commanders would have envisioned. I was in Ramadi and Anbar Province and the local Iraqi police wanted the Marines to help, but decisions to ask for U.S. help had to be made by the Anbar operations command, which is an arm of the operations apparatus attached to the prime ministry. It has not made a single request for help from the Marines since June 30 and that’s the case in a lot of these towns. Which was all well and good up until last Wednesday. Those bombings indicated to a lot of people that we have to stop pretending that things are fine and that applies to the U.S. commanders as well. One Iraqi senior official told me literally that they can’t pretend that everything’s fine as they engage in a responsible drawdown. Because in some cases, Iraqi security cannot handle it. They don’t have the intelligence capability. They don’t have the technology to detect explosives.

They don’t have a lot of the more sophisticated skills and the technological assets they actually would need to be able to fight this insurgency. They certainly have what it takes in terms of cultural knowledge, obviously, but this is still an insurgency. When you can build two-ton truck bombs in the middle of Baghdad, which is, according the interior ministry, where it happened, and then drive them through the streets, there’s got to be something wrong there.

But the discussion doesn’t drive to the root of the issue with whether the Marines could ever again perform combat operations in the Anbar Province.  On the occasions that Marine bases in Anbar take rocket attacks, the first reaction is to call Iraqi Police.  The Status of Forces Agreement has the Marines’ hands tied.

At the security meeting this week, Marine officers reminded their Iraqi counterparts that US forces were available to help with intelligence and surveillance, biometrics to identify suspects, and defusing explosives.

The security agreement, which requires the Marines to give the Iraqis 72 hours notice to move outside their base and then only with Iraqi escorts, has left part of the battalion with so little to do that more than 500 Marines are being sent home early.

While looking inept, the Maliki administration has “bet the farm” on the readiness of the ISF, virtually ensuring that the U.S. forces do not contribute to the future stability of Iraq.  This bet might prove to have been a bad one, and regardless of being in the minority, if the Sunnis feel that they haven’t been included in the power sharing, there will be trouble.  While the Sunnis still must be addressed, it is clear that Iran has not been.

The Marines will leave Anbar, and very soon.  They will not be back inside the cities or anywhere else for that matter, nor should they be under the current SOFA.  Any future participation in the affairs of Iraq by the Marines should be under a revised SOFA that gives them the latitude to close with and destroy the enemy, project force, and ensure their own protection.

Baghdad Under Attack as Maliki Re-Evaluates Security Plans

BY Herschel Smith
14 years, 9 months ago

It was a bloody day in Baghdad.

Iraqis gather as fire fighters respond to a massive bomb attack near the Iraqi Foreign Ministry in Baghdad, Iraq, Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2009. A series of explosions struck the Iraqi capital Wednesday, targeting primarily government and commercial buildings, killing scores of people and wounding many more, Iraqi officials said. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed)

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) — A series of bombings rocked Iraq’s capital within one hour Wednesday, killing at least 95 people and wounding 563 others, an Iraqi Interior Ministry official said.

The six explosions marked the country’s deadliest day since the United States pulled its combat troops from Iraqi cities and towns nearly two months ago and left security in the hands of the Iraqis.

In one attack, a truck bomb exploded outside the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The blast blew through the front of the building, sending some vehicles flying and leaving others in mangled twists of metal in the area, which is just outside the restricted International Zone, also known as the Green Zone.

Nearby, Iraqi security forces stood with shocked expressions as ambulances screamed past.

Another truck bomb went off outside the Ministry of Finance building.

In central Baghdad, a roadside bomb exploded on Kifa Street, and another bomb exploded in the Salhiya neighborhood, where on Tuesday security forces had avoided injuries by successfully defusing a truck bomb. Wednesday’s other two bombs exploded in eastern Baghdad’s Beirut Square, officials said.

“The terrorism attacks that took place today require, without a doubt, the re-evaluation of our plans and our security mechanisms to face the challenges of terrorism,” Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said in a written statement.

Omar at Iraq The Model mentions based on his sources that the casualty count could in fact be much higher.  He also mentions that major general Qasim Ata blamed the Iraqi security forces for the unfortunate setback in security. According to the Iraqia state TV, he said the incompetent units that failed to prevent the attacks have had their ranks infiltrated.

Michael Rubin writing at NRO’s Corner weighs in saying,

The blame for the terrorist bombing in Baghdad, today, rests solely on the terrorists who planted the bomb.

The terrorists, however, very much exploit an environment made possible by the “Anti-Surge” withdrawal timeline sought by Obama during his campaign and, unfortunately, agreed to by the Bush administration in its twilight weeks.

Whenever national security and military strategy is determined by Washington’s political calendar, rather than the situation on the ground in various areas of operation, the results are disastrous. Creating security vacuums is never wise. Hopefully Obama will recognize the very real linkages between Iraq and Afghanistan in terms of insurgent tactics and strategy.

Normally I agree with Michael, but do not in this instance.  I think the diagnosis points more towards the felt need for legitimacy on the national stage.  When the U.N. agreement expired there needed to be another agreement, or so the administration thought.  Enter the Iraq-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement, or SOFA.  We have well documented the absurd restrictions on U.S. forces under this agreement (and its application by the ISF and Maliki administration), to the point that the U.S. forces are under essential house arrest.  But there are serious questions as to the readiness of the ISF to take over security.

The problem isn’t the timeline for leaving, but what we’re allowed to do there in the mean time.  Relegation to the countryside means that we must await ISF request for assistance, and even then must operate under intense scrutiny by the ISF.

But as we have pointed out, not only does allowing the ISF to utilize U.S. air assets and intelligence gathering capabilities place the U.S. at risk (the ISF have not been trained to and don’t know how to use U.S. air assets), but the best way to allow the ISF to understand its true state of readiness is for daddy to take away the car keys and see just how far junior thinks he can get without help.

Success in maintenance of security would confirm the ISF readiness.  Failure confirms that the SOFA must be undone in order to re-institute U.S. effectiveness.  Maliki can re-evaluate all he wants.  It isn’t about plans or security mechanisms.  It’s all about the SOFA – and about an ISF and administration that is apparently still to sectarian to matter to the people down on the street.

While U.S. forces are safely squirreled away aboard large bases, the ISF is just now figuring out what it means to be responsible for the security of a country.  It’s what they wanted, isn’t it?

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Leaving Iraq

BY Herschel Smith
14 years, 9 months ago

A recent review of the U.S. efforts in Iraq has yielded quite a negative assessment.  The following is taken from the text of a memorandum from Col. Timothy R. Reese, Chief, Baghdad Operations Command Advisory Team, MND-B, Baghdad, Iraq.

” … we aren’t making the GOI and the ISF better in any significant ways with our current approach. Remaining in Iraq through the end of December 2011 will yield little in the way of improving the abilities of the ISF or the functioning of the GOI. Furthermore, in light of the GOI’s current interpretation of the limitations imposed by the 30 June milestones of the 2008 Security Agreement, the security of US forces are at risk. Iraq is not a country with a history of treating even its welcomed guests well. This is not to say we can be defeated, only that the danger of a violent incident that will rupture the current partnership has greatly increased since 30 June. Such a rupture would force an unplanned early departure that would harm our long term interests in Iraq and potentially unraveling the great good that has been done since 2003. The use of the military instrument of national power in its current form has accomplished all that can be expected.” The general lack of progress in essential services and good governance is now so broad that it ought to be clear that we no longer are moving the Iraqis “forward.” Below is an outline of the information on which I base this assessment:

1. The ineffectiveness and corruption of GOI Ministries is the stuff of legend.

2. The anti-corruption drive is little more than a campaign tool for Maliki

3. The GOI is failing to take rational steps to improve its electrical infrastructure and to improve their oil exploration, production and exports.

4. There is no progress towards resolving the Kirkuk situation.

5. Sunni Reconciliation is at best at a standstill and probably going backwards.

6. Sons of Iraq (SOI) or Sahwa transition to ISF and GOI civil service is not happening, and SOI monthly paydays continue to fall further behind.

7. The Kurdish situation continues to fester.

8. Political violence and intimidation is rampant in the civilian community as well as military and legal institutions.

9. The Vice President received a rather cool reception this past weekend and was publicly told that the internal affairs of Iraq are none of the US’s business.

The Colonel goes on to outlines the problems with the Iraqi Security Forces.

a) Corruption among officers is widespread b) Neglect and mistreatment of enlisted men is the norm c) The unwillingness to accept a role for the NCO corps continues d) Cronyism and nepotism are rampant in the assignment and promotion system e) Laziness is endemic f) Extreme centralization of C2 is the norm g) Lack of initiative is legion h) Unwillingness to change, do anything new blocks progress i) Near total ineffectiveness of the Iraq Army and National Police institutional organizations and systems prevents the ISF from becoming self-sustaining j) For every positive story about a good ISF junior officer with initiative, or an ISF commander who conducts a rehearsal or an after action review or some individual MOS training event, there are ten examples of the most basic lack of military understanding despite the massive partnership efforts by our combat forces and advisory efforts by MiTT and NPTT teams.

And in what could be the most telling testimony of the increased danger to U.S. forces, as well as the expenditure of U.S. reputation to no avail, Colonel Reese goes on to outline the changes in atmosphere and attitude since the signing of the SOFA.

It is clear that the 30 Jun milestone does not represent one small step in a long series of gradual steps on the path the US withdrawal, but as Maliki has termed it, a “great victory” over the Americans and fundamental change in our relationship. The recent impact of this mentality on military operations is evident:

1. Iraqi Ground Forces Command (IGFC) unilateral restrictions on US forces that violate the most basic aspects of the SA

2. BOC unilateral restrictions that violate the most basic aspects of the SA

3. International Zone incidents in the last week where ISF forces have resorted to shows of force to get their way at Entry Control Points (ECP) including the forcible takeover of ECP 1 on 4 July

4. Sudden coolness to advisors and CDRs, lack of invitations to meetings,

5. Widespread partnership problems reported in other areas such as ISF confronting US forces at TCPs in the city of Baghdad and other major cities in Iraq.

6. ISF units are far less likely to want to conduct combined combat operations with US forces, to go after targets the US considers high value, etc.

7. The Iraqi legal system in the Rusafa side of Baghdad has demonstrated a recent willingness to release individuals originally detained by the US for attacks on the US.

As an initial comment, the first Middle Eastern Army that is able to develop and implement a strong NCO corps will dominate the region.  We have tried exceedingly hard to instill this concept into the ISF, only to fail it would appear.

Uncle Jimbo at Blackfive isn’t appreciative of Colonel Reese’s position.

Amidst all of his caterwauling, and again I’m not saying that hs (sic) complaints don’t have merit, but he fails to consider that one gargantuan reason for us to stay a bit is to avoid leaving a power vaccuum (sic) that would undoubtedly be filled by Iran. That means we have a huge incentive to put up with the endemic craptasticness of the nascent Iraqi institutions and work to form a long term strategic relationship. We need to be their number one ally or Iran will be and that would negate many of the security gains a free deomcratic (sic) Iraq represents. So suck it up sir, and drive on with your mission.

Well, I appreciate the sentiment, and my own son risked his life in Fallujah in 2007; but it just isn’t that simple.  We have previously discussed the actual increased danger to U.S. troops stemming from Iraqi interpretations of the SOFA.

U.S. officials told the Post there have been numerous disagreements between the two forces. The newspaper reported one clash in which a U.S. unit wanted and failed to get permission to send out a patrol to trap insurgents allegedly planning a mortar attack on a U.S. base from an adjacent Iraqi neighborhood named Amiriyah. “I understand you have your orders,” the Iraqi commander told the American commander, “but I have my orders, too. You are not allowed to go inside of Amiriyah.” Iraqi soldiers have blocked American convoys, U.S. officials said.

So there is a very real danger to U.S. troops with the increased ISF chest-thumping.  But beyond the near and present danger, there is the very real diminution of U.S. reputation that we predicted would occur.  As for Iran, the current SOFA restricts the ability we have to be a counterbalance to its power.  Just recently, ISF attacked the home base for the MEK, an anti-Iranian group within Iraq The Captain’s Journal had been watching for some time.  This attack was a nod to Iranian influence and power in Iraq.

Should we leave?  Not exactly.  We had previously recommended that we withdraw the logistical and air support for the ISF to see if they are capable of holding terrain.  There are current reports of violence in Haditha.  Contra the views of Pollyanna Iraq analysts like Nibras Kazimi (who believes that the Shi’ites have defeated the Sunnis in Iraq), I have long believed that despite the fact that the Sunnis comprise only 15% of the population, rejection of the Sons of Iraq program would lead to further violence and potential undermining of the Maliki government.  Then again, I have always thought of Maliki as a stooge who is too driven by sectarian interests even to see threats to his own administration.

We had suggested that U.S. focus be the Iranian border and training operations.  Along with a standdown of troops over the next 24 months in order to supply troops to the campaign in Afghanistan, this should be sufficient to keep U.S. troops busy.  Keeping busy and doing the minimum we can to prevent cross border operations may be all that we are capable of doing.  Bush’s failure to see and address this as a regional war is only exacerbated with the new administration and the SOFA.

Let’s not fool ourselves into thinking that we are able to do the things we have in the past in Iraq.  We are under new rules, and these rules have a draconian affect on even our ability to ensure force protection.  Actions have consequences, and the SOFA should never have been signed.  Left impotent inside the cities, in order to ensure force protection, we must withdraw to the countryside and focus on different things.  I believe that Colonel Reese understands this.


Redux on U.S. Troop Restrictions in Iraq

House Arrest for U.S. Forces in Iraq

Iraqi Commanders Move to Restrict U.S. Troops Under SOFA

The Violence Belongs to Iraq Now

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Redux on U.S. Troop Restrictions in Iraq

BY Herschel Smith
14 years, 10 months ago

Remember in Iraqi Commanders Move to Restrict U.S. Troops Under SOFA we said:

The notion that the U.S. would be restricted to logistical operations only during certain hours is outrageous, and a manifest increase in risk to the force.  When the fundamentals of force protection are being targeted by Iraq, it has come time for some hard lessons.

The WSJ gives us the view of some commanders in Iraq:

American troops withdrew from Iraq’s urban areas on June 30 as part of a security agreement that requires all American forces to leave Iraq by the end of 2011. But some U.S. officers said in recent days that the Iraqi government has been overly restrictive in applying the terms.

The officers said Baghdad had sharply reduced the numbers of joint patrols with the U.S., made it harder for the American military to move troops and supplies around the country, and effectively banned the U.S. from conducting raids with time-sensitive intelligence. “The basic message is, ‘you’re not wanted, go back to your base,’ ” an Army captain in Baghdad said by email.

Some U.S. officers believe the restrictions endanger the safety of their troops by making it harder to prevent insurgent attacks on the U.S. bases that sit outside many Iraqi cities. The officers also worry that advance information about the routes of U.S. convoys, which American commanders are increasingly being asked to provide to the Iraqis, could wind up in the hands of militants.

The reason for the increased risk is because information on logistical routes and times is OPSEC, and this kind of information is not divulged to anyone, especially Iraqi Security Forces who may still be badly affected by sectarianism and the presence of insurgents.

Maliki has made noises of extending the SOFA beyond 2011.

Speaking to an audience at the U.S. Institute of Peace in Washington, Maliki said the accord, known as the Status of Forces Agreement, would “end” the American military presence in his country in 2011, but “nevertheless, if Iraqi forces required further training and further support, we shall examine this at that time based on the needs of Iraq,” he said through translation in response to a question from The Washington Independent. “I am sure that the will, the prospects and the desire for such cooperation is found among both parties.”

Maliki continued, “The nature of that relationship – the functions and the amount of [U.S.] forces – will then be discussed and reexamined based on the needs” of Iraq…

The chances of the SOFA being extended beyond 2011 are nonexistent given the conditions under which it is being applied.  Any re-negotiation of the SOFA must provide maximum latitude to U.S. troops.


House Arrest for U.S. Forces in Iraq

Iraqi Commanders Move to Restrict U.S. Troops Under SOFA

House Arrest for U.S. Forces in Iraq

BY Herschel Smith
14 years, 10 months ago

Prior: Iraqi Commanders Move to Restrict U.S. Troops Under SOFA

U.S. forces in Iraq may as well be under house arrest according to one Iraqi Colonel.

The Iraqi military has turned down requests from American forces to move unescorted through Baghdad and conduct a raid since the transition of responsibility for urban security at the end of last month, an Iraqi military commander said Monday …

Col. Ali Fadhil, a brigade commander in Baghdad, said the transfer had occurred with minor friction in the capital where violence has dropped dramatically since the sectarian bloodletting and insurgent attacks that swept much of the country in past years.

Fadhil told The Associated Press about two occasions in which Iraqi troops turned down U.S. requests to move around the capital until they had Iraqi escorts, and one instance to conduct a raid, which the Iraqis carried out themselves.

“They are now more passive than before,” he said of U.S. troops. “I also feel that the Americans soldiers are frustrated because they used to have many patrols, but now they cannot. Now, the American soldiers are in prison-like bases as if they are under house-arrest.”

Outside urban areas, where U.S. troops are still free to move without Iraqi approval, Americans are assisting with the search and arrest of insurgents, manning checkpoints and continuing ongoing efforts to train Iraqi forces — from medics to helicopter pilots. U.S. soldiers recently advised Iraqi soldiers during a seven-hour humanitarian aid drop in Diyala province.

In Washington, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and the highest-ranking U.S. military officer, Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen, downplayed reports of tension. Both said cooperation is going well, and Gates said he has heard nothing to suggest that U.S. forces are in greater danger.

“There clearly are challenges, but I think the leadership is working its way through each one of those challenges,” Mullen said. “So I’m encouraged.”

Gates said he received a report on the issue Monday from the U.S. ground commander, Gen. Ray Odierno.

“He said that the level of cooperation and collaboration with the Iraqi security forces is going much better than is being portrayed publicly and in the media,” Gates told reporters at a Pentagon press conference.

As to whether U.S. forces are under “house arrest,” Gates offered a sly smile.

“It is perhaps a measure of our success in Iraq that politics have come to the country,” Gates said …

Hadi al-Amiri, a lawmaker and member of the parliament’s security and defense committee, said the Americans’ withdrawal from the cities went very smoothly — “like removing a hair from dough.”

Outside of cities, Americans are free to move without Iraqi approval, he said. “They have the right to respond to any attack. In Basra, the Americans have the right to return fire.”

On July 11, an American soldier shot and killed a truck driver, an Iraqi citizen, who did not respond to warnings to stop on a highway north of Baghdad. On July 9, a civilian Iraqi motorist died in a head-on collision with a U.S. Army Stryker vehicle, the lead vehicle of a joint U.S.-Iraqi convoy in western Diyala province.

But things are different under the restrictions in Baghdad.

Fadhil said an American patrol wanted to pass through an area in west Baghdad during daytime hours.

“I prevented them and told them they were not allowed unless they had approval, and even if they had approval, Iraqi forces had to accompany them,” Fadhil said. They were allowed to continue with Iraqi vehicle escorts.

Another time, Fadhil said a U.S. patrol wanted to leave the walled-off Green Zone, which houses the U.S. embassy and Iraqi government headquarters, to travel less than a mile to nearby Muthana Air Base. Again, they were allowed through, but only after Iraqi troops accompanied them.

When an American patrol wanted to arrest an enemy target in a Sunni area of west Baghdad, Fadhil said he told them: “No, you cannot.” He said he told the U.S. troops they had to hand over the tip about the target to Iraqi troops, who later made the arrest.

Iraqi military spokesman Maj. Gen. Qassim al-Moussawi cited three other incidents in early July when he said U.S. patrols violated the security pact in parts of Baghdad. He said these incidents were addressed at a committee of top U.S. and Iraqi officials, who meet regularly to resolve disagreements that surface about U.S. and Iraqi troop movements.

At the meeting on July 2 — two days after the new rules took effect — the Iraqis were annoyed, said al-Moussawi, who was told details of the tense discussion. The Iraqis complained that U.S. troop patrols in Taji and Shaab in northern Baghdad and Ur in northeast Baghdad were violations of the security pact, Moussawi said. The Iraqis told the Americans that they could conduct patrols only at night and only with permission from the Iraqis.

Minutes of the meeting read by an AP reporter, stated: “The Americans cannot move except from midnight until 5 a.m.”

We learned while previously addressing this issue of Maj. Gen. Daniel P. Bolger’s (commander of the Baghdad division) indignation at these new interpretations of the SOFA.

“Our [Iraqi] partners burn our fuel, drive roads cleared by our Engineers, live in bases built with our money, operate vehicles fixed with our parts, eat food paid for by our contracts, watch our [surveillance] video feeds, serve citizens with our [funds], and benefit from our air cover.”

Time to stop, said we.  Let them clear their own roads, develop their own intelligence, provide their own logistics support and do their own operations management.  If the ISF fails, then their next overtures to U.S. forces won’t be so haughty.  If they succeed, then it’s time to leave Iraq.

But there is something larger in this subsequent report by Iraqi Colonel Ali Fadhil.  The reputation of U.S. forces is at stake.  If the Iraqi people see U.S. forces as weak, impotent or otherwise in a subservient role to Iraqi forces, then the future of this and all other counterinsurgency campaigns has been placed on the bartering table for turnover and subsequent withdrawal.  Eventually U.S. forces must withdraw and the ISF must take over all operations.  But in the mean time, for U.S. forces to be in a situation in which they appear to be under effective “house arrest” is not conducive to appearing as the stronger horse (harkening back to UBL’s views that the people naturally gravitate to the stronger horse).

It isn’t good for the morale of the troops, the qualifications of the Army, or the reputation of America for troops to be sitting on FOBs waiting for permission to move from place to place.  The best option is to turn over operations in these areas fully and completely (except for force protection, logistics and transit of American nationals), and let the ISF succeed or fail without U.S. air support or logistics.  U.S. forces are better off in areas where there is no dispute concerning their authority.

The upshot of this is that U.S. forces have been given a reprieve in their training.  The debate rages on concerning training in counterinsurgency tactics versus more conventional warfare.  Three U.S. Colonels have written a paper questioning field artillery’s ability to provide fire support to maneuver commanders in more conventional operations.  Rather than waste time sitting in FOBs waiting for permission to conduct operations while accompanied by Iraqi Security Forces, the solution is to redeploy to the more rural areas, inform the ISF that they are conducting training operations, and then re-train and qualify at the things that have been languishing during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

The Iraqi Security Forces can sink or swim on their own until they muzzle their haughty commanders.  The benefits of this approach are threefold: (1) The ISF demonstrates whether they are capable of fully independent operations, (2) the U.S. troops cross train in conventional operations that have been languishing, and (3) the reputation of U.S. forces is preserved.

Even if we don’t make the choice to train in fire and maneuver warfare and use of combined arms, U.S. forces can always better themselves by increasing their skill set in language, field medicine (e.g., combat lifesaver), marksmanship and even online college courses.  Anything is better than the damage done to American reputation by asking for permission to conduct operations in urban areas.

Finally, the lesson concerning Status of Forces Agreements is don’t enter into them, and even though the bit of history surrounding the Iraq-U.S. SOFA cannot be recapitulated, we can refuse such agreements in Afghanistan because we have seen the debacle it can become.

Prior: Iraqi Commanders Move to Restrict U.S. Troops Under SOFA

Iraqi Commanders Move to Restrict U.S. Troops Under SOFA

BY Herschel Smith
14 years, 10 months ago


The Iraqi government has moved to sharply restrict the movement and activities of U.S. forces in a new reading of a six-month-old U.S.-Iraqi security agreement that has startled American commanders and raised concerns about the safety of their troops.

In a curt missive issued by the Baghdad Operations Command on July 2 — the day after Iraqis celebrated the withdrawal of U.S. troops to bases outside city centers — Iraq’s top commanders told their U.S. counterparts to “stop all joint patrols” in Baghdad. It said U.S. resupply convoys could travel only at night and ordered the Americans to “notify us immediately of any violations of the agreement.”

The strict application of the agreement coincides with what U.S. military officials in Washington say has been an escalation of attacks against their forces by Iranian-backed Shiite extremist groups, to which they have been unable to fully respond.

If extremists realize “some of the limitations that we have, that’s a vulnerability they could use against us,” a senior U.S. military intelligence official said. “The fact is that some of these are very politically sensitive targets” thought to be close to the Shiite-dominated Iraqi government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

The new guidelines are a reflection of rising tensions between the two governments. Iraqi leaders increasingly see the agreement as an opportunity to show their citizens that they are now unequivocally in charge and that their dependence on the U.S. military is minimal and waning.

The June 30 deadline for moving U.S. troops out of Iraqi towns and cities was the first of three milestones under the agreement. The U.S. military is to decrease its troop levels from 130,000 to 50,000 by August of next year.

U.S. commanders have described the pullout from cities as a transition from combat to stability operations. But they have kept several combat battalions assigned to urban areas and hoped those troops would remain deeply engaged in training Iraqi security forces, meeting with paid informants, attending local council meetings and supervising U.S.-funded civic and reconstruction projects.

The Americans have been taken aback by the new restrictions on their activities. The Iraqi order runs “contrary to the spirit and practice of our last several months of operations,” Maj. Gen. Daniel P. Bolger, commander of the Baghdad division, wrote in an e-mail obtained by The Washington Post.

“Maybe something was ‘lost in translation,’ ” Bolger wrote. “We are not going to hide our support role in the city. I’m sorry the Iraqi politicians lied/dissembled/spun, but we are not invisible nor should we be.” He said U.S. troops intend to engage in combat operations in urban areas to avert or respond to threats, with or without help from the Iraqis.

“This is a broad right and it demands that we patrol, raid and secure routes as necessary to keep our forces safe,” he wrote. “We’ll do that, preferably partnered.”

U.S. commanders have not publicly described in detail how they interpret the agreement’s vaguely worded provision that gives them the right to self-defense. The issue has bedeviled them because commanders are concerned that responding quickly and forcefully to threats could embarrass the Iraqi government and prompt allegations of agreement violations.

A spate of high-casualty suicide bombings in Shiite neighborhoods, attributed to al-Qaeda in Iraq and related Sunni insurgent groups, has overshadowed the increase of attacks by Iran-backed Shiite extremists, U.S. official say.

Officials agreed to discuss relations with the Iraqi government and military, and Iranian support for the extremists, only on the condition of anonymity because those issues involve security, diplomacy and intelligence.

The three primary groups — Asaib al-Haq, Khataib Hezbollah and the Promised Day Brigades — emerged from the “special groups” of the Jaish al-Mahdi (JAM) militia of radical Iraqi Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, which terrorized Baghdad and southern Iraq beginning in 2006. All receive training, funding and direction from Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force.

“One of the things we still have to find out, as we pull out from the cities, is how much effectiveness we’re going to have against some of these particular target sets,” the military intelligence official said. “That’s one of the very sensitive parts of this whole story.”

As U.S. forces tried to pursue the alleged leaders of the groups and planned missions against them, their efforts were hindered by the complicated warrant process and other Iraqi delays, officials said.

Last month, U.S. commanders acquiesced to an Iraqi government request to release one of their most high-profile detainees, Laith Khazali. He was arrested in March 2007 with his brother, Qais, who is thought to be the senior operational leader of Asaib al-Haq. The United States thinks they were responsible for the deaths of five American soldiers in Karbala that year.

Maliki has occasionally criticized interference by Shiite Iran’s Islamic government in Iraqi affairs. But he has also maintained close ties to Iran and has played down U.S. insistence that Iran is deeply involved, through the Quds Force, in training and controlling the Iraqi Shiite extremists.

U.S. intelligence has seen “no discernible increase in Tehran’s support to Shia extremists in recent months,” and the attack level is still low compared with previous years, U.S. counterterrorism official said. But senior military commanders maintained that Iran still supports the Shiite militias, and that their attacks now focus almost exclusively on U.S. forces.

After a brief lull, the attacks have continued this month, including a rocket strike on a U.S. base in Basra on Thursday night that killed three soldiers.

The acrimony that has marked the transition period has sowed resentment, according to several U.S. soldiers, who said the confidence expressed by Iraqi leaders does not match their competence.

“Our [Iraqi] partners burn our fuel, drive roads cleared by our Engineers, live in bases built with our money, operate vehicles fixed with our parts, eat food paid for by our contracts, watch our [surveillance] video feeds, serve citizens with our [funds], and benefit from our air cover,” Bolger noted in the e-mail.

A spokesman for Bolger would not say whether the U.S. military considers the Iraqi order on July 2 valid. Since it was issued, it has been amended to make a few exemptions. But the guidelines remain far more restrictive than the Americans had hoped, U.S. military officials said.

Brig. Gen. Heidi Brown, the commander overseeing the logistical aspects of the withdrawal, said Iraqi and U.S. commanders have had fruitful discussions in recent days about the issue.

“It’s been an interesting time, and I think we’ve sorted out any misunderstandings that were there initially,” she said in an interview Friday.

One U.S. military official here said both Iraqi and American leaders on the ground remain confused about the guidelines. The official said he worries that the lack of clarity could trigger stalemates and confrontations between Iraqis and Americans.

“We still lack a common understanding and way forward at all levels regarding those types of situations,” he said, referring to self-defense protocols and the type of missions that Americans cannot conduct unilaterally.

In recent days, he said, senior U.S. commanders have lowered their expectations.

“I think our commanders are starting to back off the notion that we will continue to execute combined operations whether the Iraqi army welcomes us with open arms or not,” the U.S. commander said. “However, we are still very interested in and concerned about our ability to quickly and effectively act in response to terrorist threats” against U.S. forces.

Analysis & Commentary

The General said “Our [Iraqi] partners burn our fuel, drive roads cleared by our Engineers, live in bases built with our money, operate vehicles fixed with our parts, eat food paid for by our contracts, watch our [surveillance] video feeds, serve citizens with our [funds], and benefit from our air cover.”  Very well.  Then don’t clear the roads, provide them with air cover, supply them logistics, or give them vehicle parts.  It’s time for daddy to take away the car keys and see just how far junior thinks he can get without his old man’s money and stuff.

Seriously though.  This is both remarkable and dangerous.  A short review shows that The Captain’s Journal was dead set against the Iraqi-U.S. SOFA in any form and under any construction.  The SOFA already prohibits any kind of military operations against any of Iraq’s neighbors, even if the neighbors are guilty of supplying weapons and fighters to undermine the Iraqi government.  This isn’t surprising, given that Maliki sought Iran’s approval of the SOFA.

We also warned that the SOFA would make for reduced security for U.S. troops, and we were right.  The notion that the U.S. would be restricted to logistical operations only during certain hours is outrageous, and a manifest increase in risk to the force.  When the fundamentals of force protection are being targeted by Iraq, it has come time for some hard lessons.

Lesson #1: The stupid desire for “legitimacy” on the world stage created the situation in which we were seeking the approval of both Iraq and the U.N. for our continued presence in Iraq.  The mistake was in ever agreeing to a SOFA to begin with.  Too much national treasure (in blood and wealth) has been invested to allow Iraqi politicians to determine the disposition of U.S. forces in Iraq.  History has taught us the lesson that we cannot even fully trust U.S. politicians with the safety, troop strength and mission of U.S. troops.  A fortiori, the Iraqi politicians can be trusted even less.

Lesson #2: Legal agreements are always subject to “interpretations.”  Neither agreements nor interpretations should take priority over force protection of U.S. troops and the right of self defense.  Restricted lines of logistics is by its very definition an infringement on force protection.  When such demands are made by the ISF, they must be ignored.

Lesson #3: The support for the ISF must cease.  If the ISF wants to take on any remaining insurgency on its own, we should oblige them.  The only way to ascertain whether the ISF is ready to defend the nation is to allow them to take the training wheels off.  This part of it is a good sign.  Let them tackle problems of discipline, logistics, parts and supplies, intelligence and operations management without U.S. assistance.  If they fail they will back off of their demands.  If they succeed, then it’s time to leave Iraq.

However these lessons play out, we cannot and must not allow any agreement to threaten the safety of U.S. troops.  Any commander who does that should be relieved of command.  Finally, since Hamid Karzai has made his desired for an Afghanistan-U.S. SOFA known, this should serve as a harbinger to the way we should address Afghanistan.  The U.S. should not agree to an Afghanistan SOFA, no matter what international pressure is brought to bear.

The Violence Belongs to Iraq Now

BY Herschel Smith
14 years, 11 months ago

There are seasons in any campaign, in any counterinsurgency effort.  The Army Chief of Staff may have claimed that U.S. forces could be in Iraq for ten more years, but they will mainly serve to ensure that Iraq is a protectorate of the U.S.  American troops will not be performing classical constabulary operations.

In a sign of the nature of the current phase of the campaign, the last Marine artillery is headed home.

CAMP AL TAQADDUM, Iraq – As the security situation in the Al Anbar province continues to improve, the final Marine Corps artillery unit to operate its cannons in Iraq, Battery G, 2nd Battalion, 10th Marines, Regimental Combat Team 6, is preparing to go home, signifying a significant change in the nature of the conflict in Anbar.

Three Marine artillerymen currently deployed with RCT-6 were present during the initial push into Iraq in 2003, and these same men returned with a new mission – to see the conclusion of artillery’s chronicle in Anbar province.

On Monday, May 25, a roadside bomb blast killed three people in demonstration of the fact that Iraq has failed at the present to adequately address the issue of the Sons of Iraq.

A roadside bomb killed three Americans traveling in Falluja on Monday, including a State Department official working at the United States Embassy in Baghdad, American officials said Tuesday.

The State Department official, Terrence Barnich, was deputy director of the Iraq Transition Assistance Office in Baghdad. A resident of Chicago, he was hired for the job in January 2007, according to State Department officials.

The attack also killed an American soldier and a civilian working for the Defense Department. Their names were being withheld pending notification of relatives. Two civilians working for the Defense Department were wounded, the officials said.

The attack took place within a few miles of the bridge where four American contractors were killed in March 2004, their bodies burned and mutilated, and dragged through the streets. The jarring images of that attack were a major factor in the American military’s decision to begin its first major offensive in Falluja, a center of the Sunni insurgency, months later.

The insurgency is fundamentally defeated, but not completely absent.  But the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) has ensured that the U.S. forces don’t have the freedom, latitude or authority that was once theirs.  Each security incident brings with it the threat that Iraq will demand that U.S. Soldiers be tried in Iraqi courts for crimes against Iraqi citizens.

U.S. Soldiers and Marines will soon be out of cities altogether under the SOFA.  There are troubling signs, including the fact that there appears to be a stark failure to honor agreements made to the Sons of Iraq.  In the South, the Basra police are simply dreadful.

In March 2008, about the same time the 793rd arrived in Baghdad, the Iraqi army swept through Basra and cleaned out the Shiite-backed militias who waged much of the violence in the area.

During the campaign, some Basra police either joined the militias or abandoned their posts, according to Marine 1st Lt. Mike Masters, the intelligence officer for an Iraqi army training unit inside Basra.

They are attempting to live down this reputation.  Nonetheless, violence against the Basra police is as prevalent as ever, and “earlier this month, the top police chief in Basra survived an assassination attempt outside his home. A police lieutenant colonel was not as lucky and died last weekend in an attack.”

But there are also encouraging signs.  The newly elected Speaker of Parliament is shaping that institution into one that might be able to hold the Maliki administration accountable for its ineptitude.  There will be both encouraging and discouraging reports coming from Iraq for a long time to come.  But given the basic framework for U.S. involvement and the phase of the campaign, the Iraqis have an opportunity at a functional society.  Any future violence is in their hands and on their collective conscience.  It belongs to them now.

Logistics will dictate troop withdrawal from Iraq

BY Herschel Smith
15 years, 6 months ago

The recent elections in the U.S. demonstrate, among other things, the basic inability of much of the population to ask even the most basic, probative questions. President-elect Obama ran on a platform of “ending this war” (referring to Iraq), but even moderately informed listeners might have asked the question, “what war?” There is no war in Iraq. There once was war in Iraq, and it became a counterinsurgency campaign, and is a currently peacekeeping, training and reconstruction operation.

As for the claim that the troops will be brought home, the President-elect has much less control over the means to deliver that promise than he might wish. The logistics of deployment are extremely complicated and manpower and budget intensive, and redeployment back to the States is likely to be even more difficult.

The reality is that it’s difficult to get out fast. It took the Soviets nine months to pull 120,000 troops out of Afghanistan. They were simply going next door, and they still lost more than 500 men on the way out. Pulling out 10 combat brigades — roughly 30,000 troops, along with their gear and support personnel — would take at least 10 months, Pentagon officials say. And that’s only part of the picture. There are civilians who would probably want to head for the exit when GIs started packing. They include some 50,000 U.S. contractors and tens of thousands of Iraqis who might need protection if we left the country.

Slowing things down further is the sheer volume of stuff that we would have to take with us — or destroy if we couldn’t. Military officials recently told Congress that 45,000 ground-combat vehicles — a good portion of the entire U.S. inventory of tanks, helicopters, armored personnel carriers, trucks and humvees — are now in Iraq. They are spread across 15 bases, 38 supply depots, 18 fuel-supply centers and 10 ammo dumps. These items have to be taken back home or destroyed, lest they fall into the hands of one faction or another. Pentagon officials will try to bring back as much of the downtime gear as possible — dining halls, office buildings, vending machines, furniture, mobile latrines, computers, paper clips and acres of living quarters. William (Gus) Pagonis, the Army logistics chief who directed the flood of supplies to Saudi Arabia for the 1991 Gulf War and their orderly withdrawal from the region, cites one more often overlooked hurdle: U.S. agricultural inspectors insist that, before it re-enters the U.S., Army equipment be free of any microscopic disease that, as Pagonis puts it, “can wipe out flocks of chickens and stuff like that.”

The most recent estimates have hinted at 18 months to two years redeploy the troops either stateside or to Afghanistan, remarkably about the same duration as the yet-to-be-approved Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) between the U.S, and Iraq which governs U.S. troop presence in Iraq through the year 2011. Obama’s promises notwithstanding, logistics officers rule. They will dictate when and how fast we withdraw from Iraq.

There are other promises (or at least, demands) that, now that the President-elect is in the position where he must deliver on them, might not prove so easy as merely mentioning them in a stump speech. As for more NATO troops for Afghanistan, Canada, at least, will say no in the future to any extension of commitment. “Canada’s foreign minister said Wednesday that Canada won’t remain in Afghanistan beyond its 2011 commitment even if Barack Obama, the U.S. president-elect, asks for an extension.”

John Adams said that facts are stubborn things. Just so. So too are promises.

Maliki Seeks Iranian Approval of SOFA

BY Herschel Smith
15 years, 6 months ago

In Iran and the Iraq Status of Forces Agreement we outlined our position that the best way to ensure the appearances of Iraqi sovereignty was to actually effect it. But Maliki seems to be doing just the opposite. He is seeking Iranian approval of the draft Status of Forces Agreement.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said on Friday he will submit the text of the controversial security pact with the United States to all of his country’s neighbours.

He would do so after Baghdad receives a US reply to five proposed amendments made by Iraq, a statement from his office said.

Maliki “will dispatch delegations to Iraq’s neighbours, including Turkey, to show them the security agreement after receiving the American replies to the proposed modifications,” he was quoted as telling Turkish President Abdullah Gul in a telephone conversation …

Iraq’s neighbours include Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Jordan.

Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Jordan are pro forma reviews. These countries are on the list for show. The real approval Maliki seeks is from Iran, since Syria is merely an apparatchik of Iran. Before the objection is lodged that Maliki is merely being a good neighbor by his regional kowtowing, we should recall the example of Qatar, a regional base of CENTCOM. It’s important to rehearse just how Qatar came to be this strong ally of the U.S.

In recent years, the ruler of Qatar, Shaikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, has embarked upon a limited course of political liberalization and aligned Qatar firmly with the United States. In 1992, Qatar and the United States concluded a Defense Cooperation Agreement that has been progressively expanded. In April 2003, the Bush Administration announced that the U.S. Combat Air Operations Center for the Middle East will be moved from Prince Sultan Airbase in Saudi Arabia to Qatar’s Al-Udeid airbase, which served as a logistics hub for U.S. operations in Afghanistan under Operation Enduring Freedom, as well as a key center for Operation Iraqi Freedom. Camp As-Sayliyah, the largest pre-positioning facility of U.S. equipment in the world, served as the forward command center for CENTCOM personnel during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Qatar also has assisted the United States in the war on terrorism by stepping up its efforts to prevent Al Qaeda from engaging in money laundering. With the third largest proven gas reserves in the world, U.S. companies, such as ExxonMobil, have worked to increase trade and economic ties with Qatar. Qatar has the highest per capita income of any country in the Middle East.

Shaikh Al-Thani didn’t lick any regional boots to secure the agreement with CENTCOM. Maliki also wants details of the recent U.S. attack at the Syrian border, and since this operation was conducted by Special Operations Forces, its details will be OPSEC. It would be interesting to see if the U.S. divulges these details to Maliki (and if in turn he divulges them to any of his neighbors). Unfortunately we will never know this information, but what we do know is that it is immoral in the superlative to give an enemy of the U.S. the honor of weighing in on the Status of Forces Agreement. But such is the disposition of our “ally,” Prime Minister Maliki.

Iran and the Iraq Status of Forces Agreement

BY Herschel Smith
15 years, 6 months ago

Nibras Kazimi, who by his own insistent claims is an Iraqi expert, has written an analysis of the status of the SOFA (Status of Forces Agreement).

After months of wrangling and getting the Americans to make all sorts of compromises on the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), Iraq’s Shia Islamists suddenly found that they are unable to agree to the very same terms that they themselves had negotiated. This conundrum became abundantly clear on Sunday, October 19th, when the luminaries of the United Iraqi Alliance (UIA) parliamentary bloc–much diminished by sizable defections–met and failed to sign onto the agreement as presented to them by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, whose Da’awa Party is a leading component of the UIA.

The Iraqi political class is adrift as it tries to find its political center, delaying an agreement with the United States about when and how to pull its forces out of Iraq.

This has much less to with the Americans than it does with local politics. The Islamists, both Sunni and Shia, are at a grave disadvantage as Iraq’s political discourse turns patriotic, rather than sectarian. In an odd twist, secular Shias have adopted the talking points of Sunnis when denouncing Islamist Shias, namely that they are agents of Iran, while secular Sunnis have adopted the talking points of Shias when denouncing Islamist Sunnis–they’re too close to the terrorists.

To confuse matters further, America’s top general in Iraq has recently accused Iran of sabotaging the SOFA agreement, provoking a sharp rebuke from Maliki who is at pains to demonstrate, to his detractors among the secular opposition, that he is not an Iranian stooge.

Only a creepy and twisted world view can see General Odierno’s charge – specifically, that Iranian agents were trying to buy votes in the parliament to reject the SOFA – as having confused matters. It is this attitude that has sabotaged the campagin from the beginning, i.e., this failure to see Operation Iraqi Freedom from within the context of the regional conflict that it is.

If Maliki wants to convince his people that he isn’t a stooge, then he shouldn’t act like one.  Charging General Odierno with instigating a problem because he pointed out the truth is like charging the homeowner for sedition because he points out that his taxes are too high.  We have laid out options in the past making it clear that Iraqi forces and their commanders weren’t Iranian stooges.  The first step might be arresting all special forces, Quds, and IRG in Iraq (and this, not by U.S. forces, but by Iraqi forces).  Other steps could follow.

Kazimi has a blind spot concerning Iraqi politics – Iran.  He didn’t always have this weakness. Before he was the staunch admirer and advocate for Maliki, he saw things more clearly. Immediately after the Iraqi elections of 2005, he was understandably disheartened at the horrible loss suffered by Chalabi. Said Kazimi of the results: “Which leaves us, incidentally, with all the people Iran has been cultivating for decades as the soon-to-be-crowned heads of the Shia community.”

We agree with this assessment rather than his later ones, and believe that most, if not all, of the elected officials and even the current Shi’a administration are in the service Iran (including Maliki,  Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, Moqtada al-Sadr, and religious leader Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, who has a following in Iran as well as Iraq and some minor theological disagreements with the Mullahs in Iran, and may not rise to the level of stooge, but at least has very close ties with Iran).

Sistani has recently said of the SOFA:

… the security pact being negotiated with Washington must not harm Iraq’s sovereignty, his office said on Wednesday.

“Ayatollah Ali Sistani insists that the sovereignty of Iraq not be touched and he is closely following developments until the final accord has been clarified,” said his office in the holy city of Najaf, AFP reported.

The statement was issued after a visit by two Shiite MPs.

Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani wields vast influence among the Iraqis and his explicit opposition could scuttle the deal.

Iraq wants a security agreement with the U.S. to include a clear ban on U.S. troops using Iraqi territory to attack Iraq’s neighbors, the government spokesman said Wednesday, three days after a dramatic U.S. raid on Syria.

The Captain’s Journal weighed in saying that the SOFA already prohibits raids like the one at the Syrian border under Article 4 [3]. Apparently, Sistani insists that it be made even clearer than it is now. Thus does Iran get their way, at least in part. If they cannot rid Iraq of U.S. troops, then they intend to ensure that the U.S. cannot effect operations against Iran or their boy-worshipers in Syria.

As for the good General Odierno, in addition to engaging in truth-telling concerning Iran’s influence in Iraq (The Captain’s Journal likes truth-telling), he has weighed in quantitatively concerning the SOFA.

In a blunt assessment, the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, Army Gen. Raymond Odierno, said Thursday that there is a 20 percent to 30 percent chance that the United States and Iraq won’t reach a deal to allow U.S. troops to operate in Iraq past Dec. 31.

On a scale of one to 10, “I’m probably a seven or eight that something is going to be worked out,” Gen. Odierno told The Washington Times during a visit to the 101st Airborne Division in Samarra, about 120 miles north of Baghdad. “I think it’s important for the government of Iraq. I think it’s important for security and stability here.”

Massoud Barzani, the president of the Kurdish Regional Government, told The Times on Wednesday evening that he would be happy to host U.S. troops if the central government in Baghdad refuses to do so.

“The people of Kurdistan highly appreciate the sacrifices American forces have made for our freedom,” Mr. Barzani said at a reception in Washington after meetings with President Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

And if the Kurds threaten to undermine the Iraqi Parliament and cut a deal with U.S. troops, that’s what they will do and Iraq won’t be able to stop them. And there is no love in Kurdistan for Iran or the brutal Iranian treatment of the Kurdish people in Iran.

But it would be an odd solution given the enormous mega-bases constructed for the balance of U.S. time in Iraq.   Whatever the outcome of the political machinations in Iraq, if U.S. troops are prohibited from interdicting, arresting and interrogating Iranian forces and destroying terrorist cells across the border in Syria, then the next several years in Iraq will suffer from the same lack of vision that has plagued it thus far.


Analysis of U.S. Attack on Syrian Border

U.S. Combat Action Across the Syrian Border

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