[R-G] [com-news] US brass in Iraq put new Iraqi face on the retreat from Fallujah battle
ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Tue May 4 03:24:28 MDT 2004
The US itary in Iraq, which seems to have initiated for the moment a
kind of de facto "separate peace" by retreating from Fallujah in favor
of a basically PROSPECTIVE Iraqi force which is not on the ground yet,
is putting a new face on the deal to please the Pentagon and White
House. Will this change the current situation on the ground -- which
today, in Fallujah, is controlled by the various rebel groups? Are they
still counting on Saleh, who seems to have influence and even a
following among some of the militias, to help them control the situation
behind the more acceptable front man? Or does this represent a break
with Saleh and the prospect of more conflict with his militias and
others, which the local military brass seem to strongly wish to avoid?
Of course, the fact that the US forces have pulled back from Fallujah
and are not, apparently, presently attacking the city represents an
enormous pullback, and also seems to reflect strains or possibly even a
partial breakdown in the chain of command running from Bush's (or
Cheney's) and Rumsfeld's offices. If this is what is happening at the
top, what is the mood in the military rank and file?
By the way, I have probably been missing some things, but this article
is the first confirmation I have seen that Spanish troops have actually
pulled out. Their ACTUAL withdrawal is not a development that the US
media has been following closely.
The General in Charge of Iraqi Force Is Replaced
By DEXTER FILKINS
Published: May 4, 2004
AGHDAD, Iraq, May 3 - American military commanders said Monday that they
had selected a new commander for the Iraqi security force in Falluja,
dropping a general who had been accused of involvement in widespread
repression under Saddam Hussein.
The American commanders said they had chosen Muhammad Latif, a former
intelligence officer, to lead the Iraqi security force. Unlike the man
he is replacing, Jasim Muhammad Saleh, Mr. Latif appears to have been
regarded as an opponent of Mr. Hussein.
According to a former Iraqi officer who served under him, Mr. Latif was
imprisoned for seven years in the 1990's after he disobeyed an order
from Mr. Hussein involving the movement of his troops.
"They have done initial vetting of Latif, and he has passed the
vetting," a senior American officer said.
General Saleh, on the other hand, was regarded by many Iraqis as so
close to Mr. Hussein that his resurrection by the Americans ran the risk
of putting in charge of the city the very people they had been fighting
to expel. Several Shiite members of the Iraqi Governing Council had
protested General Saleh's involvement because of his reported role in
the violent crushing of the Shiite uprising against Mr. Hussein in 1991.
The American officer said Monday that General Saleh would most likely
retain some responsibilities in the security force, possibly as a
commander of one of the battalions.
The Falluja security force, a hastily assembled group of about 900
Iraqis, is seen by the Americans as a means to secure control over the
city without an assault by the Marines. Fighting over the past month,
set off by the killing and mutilation of four American contractors, has
left hundreds of Iraqis and dozens of American soldiers dead.
Fighting continued in many parts of Iraq on Monday. South of Baghdad, an
American soldier was killed and two others were wounded in an attack on
a group of soldiers who were guarding a weapons cache that had been
discovered the night before. An American marine was killed in Al Anbar
Province west of Baghdad during a "security and stability" operation
In the holy Shiite city of Najaf, sustained gun battles broke out
between American soldiers and the followers of Moktada al-Sadr when
members of his militia, known as the Mahdi Army, attacked an American
base and a convoy. Witnesses said that each of the gun battles lasted
more than an hour.
American soldiers recently took up positions in the city after the
departure of Spanish troops.
While there were no reports of American casualties, hospital officials
in Najaf reported that five Iraqis had been killed and 20 wounded. As in
many of the encounters in Iraq, where the guerrillas do not wear
uniforms, hospital officials in Najaf said they were unable to determine
whether those killed were insurgents or civilians.
There were indications Monday that the violence in Iraq would intensify,
much as American officials predicted it would as they prepared to hand
over sovereignty to the Iraqi people on June 30. On Monday morning, a
Baghdad neighborhood was papered with leaflets warning people to stay
off the main road to Baghdad International Airport, which is heavily
traveled by American soldiers and civilians.
By Monday evening, heavy fighting had broken out near the airport
between American soldiers and guerrillas, with the Americans calling in
heavy artillery, which could be heard from miles away. The road to the
airport was closed, at least temporarily.
The continuing violence raised new questions about the ability of the
Americans and the United Nations to implant a political process here.
On Monday, a United Nations official outlined a process by which Iraqis
would nominate members of an Iraqi electoral commission, which would be
empowered to help draw up rules and create an electoral infrastructure
for nationwide elections scheduled for January.
Under the process described by the official, ordinary Iraqis could
nominate people to serve on the electoral commission, though the final
decision on membership would be left up to the United Nations, the Iraqi
Governing Council, and L. Paul Bremer III, the chief American
administrator in Iraq.
But because of the violence, only 13 of the country's 18 governorates
are currently able to nominate members of the commission. The official
said his team would push ahead with the process anyway, and hope that
the security situation improved.
One of the few bright spots for the Americans this week was the escape
of Thomas Hamill from his Iraqi kidnappers, which was spelled out in
greater detail Monday. Mr. Hamill, a private contractor from
Mississippi, was kidnapped by insurgents on April 9, but managed to slip
away from his captors Sunday and run to a group of soldiers from the New
York National Guard who were on patrol near the city of Samarra.
On Monday, as Mr. Hamill left the country for an American hospital in
Germany, the American soldiers described how they found him. Mr. Hamill,
they said, was holed up inside a small mud-brick hut in a desolate area
when he heard the sound of American Humvees. He pushed his way through
the door and ran toward the American troops.
"He was shouting, 'I'm an American, I'm an American P.O.W.' " said L
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