Archive for the ‘Baghdad’ Category

Iran, Iraq, Longtime Enemies, Can’t Agree on PM’s Visit

December 26, 2008

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki canceled an official trip to Iran, officials said yesterday, surprising colleagues in his government.

Mr. Maliki’s office said the trip was postponed after officials in the two neighboring countries failed to agree on specific dates.

The cancellation prompted speculation among Iraqi officials that Mr. Maliki changed his plans for a possible visit to Baghdad by President-elect Barack Obama, or because of the tumult in parliament following the resignation this week of its abrasive and sometimes strident speaker. Others suggested that Mr. Maliki was simply required to be in Baghdad ahead of the implementation of a new agreement that, starting Jan. 1, regulates the authority of the U.S. military in Iraq.

Relations with Iran remain one of Iraq’s most contentious issues and are sure to gather importance ahead of provincial elections next month that could reorient power in the country.

Violence punctuated the day in Baghdad. In the worst episode, a bomb killed five in the Shuala neighborhood.

By Dalya Hassan and Aziz Alwan
Special to The Washington Post
Friday, December 26, 2008; Page A13

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Iraq’s Parliament Wants Non-U.S. Troops out, U.S. Soldiers Pick Up Slack

December 21, 2008

American troops will move into southern Iraq early next year to replace departing British forces, the top U.S. general in Iraq said.

The news came as Iraq’s parliament rejected a draft law requiring all foreign troops other than Americans to depart by July.

Associated Press

Britain says its 4,000 troops will withdraw from the southern city of Basra by the end of May.

Army Gen. Ray Odierno, the overall commander of U.S. and allied forces in Iraq, said in an interview with The Associated Press late Saturday that he is considering moving either a brigade or division headquarters — about 100 personnel — as well as an undetermined number of combat troops to Iraq’s second-largest city.

In this Sep. 16, 2008 file photo, Gen. Ray Odierno listens to ... 
In this Sep. 16, 2008 file photo, Gen. Ray Odierno listens to a question during a press briefing at camp Victory in Baghdad, Iraq. American troops will move into southern Iraq early next year to replace departing British forces, Odierno, the top U.S. general in Iraq said. The news came as Iraq’s parliament rejected a draft law requiring all foreign troops other than Americans to depart before the end of July 2009. Britain says its 4,000 troops will withdraw from the southern port city of Basra by the end of May.(AP Photo/Dusan Vranic, Pool)

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Bush: Iraq Has Hope Due To Difficult, Sustained U.S. Effort

December 14, 2008

His legacy forever linked to an unpopular war, President George W. Bush flew under intense security to Iraq on Sunday and called the nearly six-year conflict hard but necessary to protect the United States and give Iraqis hope.

By JENNIFER LOVEN, AP White House Correspondent

President George W. Bush, right, walks with Iraqi President ... 
President George W. Bush, right, walks with Iraqi President Jalal Talabani Sunday, Dec. 14, 2008, in Baghdad.(AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Bush visited the Iraqi capital just 37 days before he hands the war off to President-elect Barack Obama, who has pledged to end it. At the end of nearly two hours of meetings at an ornate, marble-floored Salam Palace along the shores of the Tigris River, Bush defended the 2003 invasion and occupation.

“The work hasn’t been easy, but it has been necessary for American security, Iraqi hope and world peace,” the president said. “I’m just so grateful I had the chance to come back to Iraq before my presidency ends.”

The president wanted to highlight a drop in violence in a nation still riven by ethnic strife and to celebrate a recent U.S.-Iraq security agreement, which calls for U.S. troops to withdraw from Iraq by the end of 2011.

But in many ways, the unannounced trip was a victory lap without a clear victory. Nearly 150,000 U.S. troops remain in Iraq fighting a war that is intensely disliked across the globe. More than 4,209 members of the U.S. military have died in the conflict, which has cost U.S. taxpayers $576 billion since it began five years and nine months ago.

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Bush makes surprise Iraq visit

December 14, 2008

President George W. Bush on Sunday made a farewell visit to Iraq, a place that defines his presidency, just 37 days before he hands the war off to a successor who has pledged to end it.

Air Force One, Bush’s distinctive powder blue-and-white jetliner, landed at Baghdad International Airport in the afternoon local time, after a secretive Saturday night departure from Washington and an 11-hour flight. In a sign of modest security gains in this war zone, Bush was welcomed with a formal arrival ceremony — a flourish that was not part of his previous three trips to Iraq.

U.S. President George W. Bush waves as he walks on the South ... 

By JENNIFER LOVEN, AP White House Correspondent

Bush planned a rapid-fire series of meetings with top Iraqi leaders, including Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. He and Bush were marking the recent security agreement between the two nations.

Bush’s national security adviser, Stephen Hadley, said the agreement was “a remarkable document — unique in the Arab world because it was publicly debated, discussed and adopted by an elected parliament.”

Hadley said the trip “shows that we are moving into a different relationship … with Iraqis rightfully exercising greater sovereignty, we in an increasingly subordinate role.”

It was Bush’s last trip to the war zone before President-elect Barack Obama takes office Jan. 20. Bush’s most recent Iraq stop was over 15 months ago, in September 2007.

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Report Spotlights Iraq Rebuilding Disaster

December 14, 2008

An unpublished 513-page federal history of the American-led reconstruction of Iraq depicts an effort crippled before the invasion by Pentagon planners who were hostile to the idea of rebuilding a foreign country, and then molded into a $100 billion failure by bureaucratic turf wars, spiraling violence and ignorance of the basic elements of Iraqi society and infrastructure.
The history, the first official account of its kind, is circulating in draft form here and in Washington among a tight circle of technical reviewers, policy experts and senior officials. It also concludes that when the reconstruction began to lag — particularly in the critical area of rebuilding the Iraqi police and army — the Pentagon simply put out inflated measures of progress to cover up the failures.

The New York Times

In one passage, for example, former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell is quoted as saying that in the months after the 2003 invasion, the Defense Department “kept inventing numbers of Iraqi security forces — the number would jump 20,000 a week! ‘We now have 80,000, we now have 100,000, we now have 120,000.’ ”

Mr. Powell’s assertion that the Pentagon inflated the number of competent Iraqi security forces is backed up by Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez, the former commander of ground troops in Iraq, and L. Paul Bremer III, the top civilian administrator until an Iraqi government took over in June 2004.

Among the overarching conclusions of the history is that five years after embarking on its largest foreign reconstruction project since the Marshall Plan in Europe after World War II, the United States government has in place neither the policies and technical capacity nor the organizational structure that would be needed to undertake such a program on anything approaching this scale.

The bitterest message of all for the reconstruction program may be the way the history ends. The hard figures on basic services and industrial production compiled for the report reveal that for all the money spent and promises made, the rebuilding effort never did much more than restore what was destroyed during the invasion and the convulsive looting that followed.

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Gates visits Iraq to help prepare for troop cuts

December 13, 2008

Defense Secretary Robert Gates urged Middle East nations to support the fight against terror Saturday then traveled to Iraq to meet with commanders as the U.S. prepares to cut its troops levels and begin to pull forces out of the cities.

The unannounced visit to Iraq on Saturday comes as President-elect Barack Obama prepares to take office and begin to implement what many expect will be an accelerated withdrawal of troops. During Obama’s presidential campaign, he said he wanted combat troops out of Iraq in 16 months, but he has also said he would listen to the advice of his commanders on the ground.

A security agreement between the U.S. and Iraq mandates that combat forces leave the cities by next June, and leave Iraq in three years.

By LOLITA C. BALDOR, Associated Press Writer

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates arrives at the Ritz-Carlton ... 
U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates arrives at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel and Spa in Manama, Bahrain, where the International Institute for Strategic Studies is opening a regional security summit, Friday, Dec. 12, 2008. Gates met briefly with other senior officials participating in the Manama Dialogue, where Gulf Arab states’ concerns about Persian Iran as well as piracy and maritime security are expected to be among concerns addressed.(AP Photo/Hasan Jamali)

Earlier in Bahrain, Gates urged Middle East nations to help fight the spread of violent extremism by funding and training Afghan security forces and reaching out more aggressively to the fledgling government in Iraq.

Gates also assured the gathering of Persian Gulf leaders in Bahrain that Obama will continue the U.S. commitment to the Middle East, including efforts to fight terrorism and develop a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians.

And as the lone Republican holdover from the Bush Cabinet to the Obama team, Gates issued a public warning that any effort by terrorists to test the new administration would be a mistake because there has been extensive planning to ensure a smooth transition.

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