At the same time, the Australian defense minister said his government will send a logistics team to Iraq to help train the Iraqi military, and the government of Japan extended the deployment of its troops in Iraq beyond December 14, when they were supposed to depart. The December 11-12 International Herald Tribune also reported that for several months German officers have been in the United Arab Emirates training Iraqi policemen. The paper said that Berlin and Paris are among six governments that continue to refuse to train Iraqi security forces inside Iraq.
Two Navy jets based on the USS Harry S. Truman aircraft carrier dropped three 2,000-pound bombs on targets along the Syrian border, reported the December 10 Virginia Pilot. They were joined by three Marine warplanes from the carrier that dropped six 500-pound bombs.
Washington has accused the Syrian government of giving sanctuary to former officials of the Hussein regime and allowing armed groups to cross its border into Iraq in order to attack U.S. forces and troops of the Iraqi interim government.
On December 11 a U.S. warplane dropped a half-ton bomb on a Baathist position in Mosul north of Baghdad after a U.S. patrol came under attack attempting to capture an arms cache. The U.S. military says that Baathist officers and leaders of Tawhid and Jihad, the group headed by Jordanian Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, may have moved to Mosul after being routed in Fallujah in mid-November. Hundreds of bodies have turned up in the city, the apparent result of a campaign targeting Iraqis accused of collaborating with U.S. occupation forces.
Fallujah air strikes
The same weekend, U.S. warplanes bombed Baathist positions in Fallujah in ongoing operations against pockets of Baathist resistance. A reporter for al-Jazeera TV described the fighting as the fiercest in two weeks. Former officers in Husseins Republican Guard had used Fallujah as their base of operations against U.S. and Iraqi troops.
Fallujah is located in the Sunni Triangle in central Iraq, where most of the countrys Sunnis, who comprise about a third of Iraqs population, live. The Hussein regime, based largely among Sunnis, used brutality and fear to rule. This party police state discriminated against Shiites, who comprise nearly 60 percent of Iraqs population, and the Kurds in the north. Because of this record, there has been little outcry in Iraq against the U.S. assault on Fallujah, despite the citys devastation and the uprooting of virtually all its residents. The U.S.-led occupation forces are now using this military victory to go after organized units of Husseins former army throughout the country.
Baathist units in Fallujah collaborated with other groups, like Tawhid and Jihad, that have claimed responsibility for numerous bombings of civilian and military targets in Iraq and kidnappings and beheadings of hostages. Thousands of U.S. troops launched a massive ground assault on the city November 7 that routed the Baathists and their supporters after one week of fighting.
Most of the citys 250,000 residents had fled before the U.S. assault. When the displaced residents will be allowed to return remains an open question, reported the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Lt. Col. Michael Paulk, one of the Marine engineers assigned to rebuilding efforts, said that reconstruction would take months and that for parts of the city we might as well take a bulldozer and start from ground zero. Conditions that may be imposed on returning residents include wearing ID badges at all times, conscription of males into work brigades, and prohibition of cars because of their frequent use in bombings. The latest proposal would allow only heads of households to return to the city to inspect damage to their property in order to file claims for compensation.
Red Cross officials have now been allowed again into areas of the city considered safe. The U.S. military had ordered the Iraqi Red Crescent to leave Fallujah earlier.
U.S. troops continue to take casualties in the area, including eight U.S. soldiers killed December 11-12 in Fallujah and elsewhere in Al-Anbar province, which includes the Sunni Triangle. They hole themselves up in houses and wait to kill an American, said Marine Lt. Rex McIntosh about the fighting in the outskirts of Fallujah. We had very, very heavy contact against a group, you could call it a cellwhich was bypassed in previous sweeping operations.
According to the Pentagon, 1,019 U.S. soldiers have been killed in combat in Iraq since the March 2003 invasion of the country. Non-combat deaths bring the total U.S. toll to about 1,300. Nearly 10,000 U.S. troops have been wounded in the same period.
The occupation forces make no attempt to record Iraqi deaths. The British research group Iraq Body Count estimates that as many as 16,800 Iraqi civilians have been killed since the invasion. The group uses morgue and hospital records and press accounts to compile its figures. According to the Iraqi interior ministry, 850 Iraqi police have been killed since May 1.
Many U.S. troops have been killed by roadside bombs while traveling in vehicles with inadequate armor.
When a U.S. soldier asked U.S. defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld while he was visiting troops in a U.S. base in Kuwait recently why his truck lacked armor, Rumsfeld answered, You go to war with the army you have, not the army you might wish to have at a later time.
Many are taking the exchange… as proof that the Bush administration has failed to give soldiers in Iraq the equipment they need to face combat, said former Army Captain Phillip Carter in the December 13 International Herald Tribune. Actually, he continued, the problem runs much deeper than the current administration: It stems from the Pentagons uneven effort over the last decade to turn a cold war military into a force able to meet todays challenges.
In the past truck and other transport vehicles operated in relative safety at the rear of operations as part of logistical support to the combat units on the front lines and did not require armor or .50-caliber machine guns. In Washingtons war on terrorism, U.S. troops must be equipped to fight under conditions where there is no front line, and thus no safe rear lines, Carter said. As part of what the Pentagon calls the transformation of the U.S. military, the Department of Defense is spending billions to purchase and develop light-weight and medium-weight armored vehicles that protect against small arms and rocket-propelled grenades. One of them is the Stryker medium-weight armored vehicle that can be deployed by airplane.
At a December 9 meeting of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization the German government joined those of France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Greece, and Spain in refusing to send officers into Iraq to train Iraqi cops and troops. We will send no German soldiers to Iraq, said Germanys foreign minister Joschka Fischer. Since March, however, officers from the German federal investigation office have been training Iraqis in forensics and bomb investigation techniques at a police academy in the United Arab Emirates.
The December 11 International Herald Tribune reported that Washington has declined a similar year-long offer from Paris to train hundreds of Iraqi cops because Paris also insists that the training be done outside Iraq.
Meanwhile, the Australian government announced it will send a logistics team of 50 to Iraq, reported the December 14 issue of The Age. The paper said there are 400 Australian troops in Iraq and 500 more elsewhere in the Middle East.
Tokyo also decided to extend the presence of its 600 troops in Iraq for another year, according to the December 10 Japan Today. Prior to the mission in Iraq, Japanese troops had not been sent abroad since the end of World War II. The Japanese rulers are using the deployment in Iraq to strengthen their ability to use their military more effectively around the world.
As U.S. forces and their allies have continued to strike blows at Baathist opponents and their backers in Iraq, more political forces are getting on the bandwagon to participate in upcoming national elections scheduled for January 30. Two of Iraqs largest Sunni-led political partiesincluding the Iraqi Islamic Party that led a campaign for six months to postpone the votehave now registered to run candidates in the elections. This party quit the U.S.-backed interim government in protest over the assault on Fallujah and several of its leaders have been arrested since then on suspicion of supporting the Baathist-led attacks.
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