Sunday, September 16, 2007

Bloggers Meet President Bush in White House

Mudville Gazette on the Milblogger's Sit-down with the Commander in Chief.

Tribute: Sheikh Abdul Sattar Abu Risha and Army Capt. Travis Patriquin

  • Obituary: Abdul Sattar Abu Risha Sept. 13, 2007:
    Sheikh Abdul Sattar Abu Risha was a key Sunni Arab ally of the US and Iraqi governments in Iraq's western Anbar province.

    The 37-year-old leader of the Al Bu Risha tribe was killed in a bomb attack near his home in the provincial capital, Ramadi, on Thursday.

    He was reportedly a top target for assassination by al-Qaeda in Iraq, whom he is widely credited with having defeated in much of western Iraq.

    Abu Risha, who also ran a construction and import-export business with offices in Jordan and Dubai, was among a group of tribal leaders who met President George W Bush during his visit to Iraq last week.

    Abu Risha was part of a group of young tribal sheikhs whose power grew after more senior leaders fled Anbar or were killed in the insurgency that gripped the province.

    In September 2006, angered by the killings of both his father and two brothers by al-Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Risha approached the US military about forming an alliance to fight the Sunni extremist group. . . .

  • Sunni Tribal Chiefs vow revenge against al-Qaeda Sept. 15, 2007:
    Baghdad (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The funeral of Abdul Sattar Abu Risha, leader of an Iraqi Sunni alliance against Osama bin Laden’s terrorist organisation was transformed into an anti al Qaeda protest. The leader had been collaborating with US forces against the terror group, when a car bomb in Ramadi, chief town in Anbar province, killed him. Today in an internet message al-Qaeda claimed responsibility.

    More than 1,500 mourners attended the funeral in Ramadi. Iraq's national security adviser, interior minister and defence minister all attended the funeral under heavy security, along with the second-in-command of US forces in Iraq, Lt-Gen Raymond Odierno. Mourners chanted "We will take our revenge" and "There is no God but Allah and al-Qaeda is the enemy of Allah" as the procession continued to the family cemetery.

    Sheikh Rashid Majid, a leader of the al-Bufahad tribe in Ramadi, said: "The killing will give us more energy... to continue confronting al-Qaeda members and to dispose of them”.

  • With U.S. backing, abu Risha rose from young clan leader to head of Sunni fight against al-Qaida International Herald-Tribune Sept. 13, 2007:
    Smoking profusely, Abu Risha — sporting a pistol at his waist — took endless calls on his cell phone.

    "We fought with our own weapons. I myself fought al-Qaida with my own funds," Abu Risha, who runs a construction and import-export family business with offices in Jordan and Dubai, was quoted by the Wall Street Journal as saying this week.

    He was usually mobbed by crowds and greeted with chants of support every time he shows up on the streets of Ramadi, the war-ravaged provincial capital 115 kilometers (70 miles) west of Baghdad.

    "We owe Abu Risha and his people for giving us back our lives," said Saad Ibrahim, who runs a falafel eatery in the Malaab district of Ramadi where he says bands of al-Qaida fighters ruled supreme until driven out by fighters of Abu Risha's Anbar Awakening Council.

  • Iraqis name police station for slain soldier, by Brian Gartlan. Daily Southtown Sept. 17, 2007:
    During his time in Ramadi, Army Capt. Travis Patriquin grew close to the Iraqis.

    He spoke their language. He understood their culture.

    Now some there have honored the slain officer by naming their new police station after him.

    Patriquin, 32, formerly of Lockport, was killed by a roadside bomb in December.

    Before he died, Patriquin built a relationship with Sheik Abdul Sattar Abu Risha . . .

    The police station in Tameen, a district in Ramadi, was dedicated in Patriquin's name last month.

    "I consider it an honor," said his father, Gary Patriquin. "(Sattar) thought highly enough of my son to make him a part of his tribe."

  • Captain Travis Patriquin - "An American Martyr" Sept. 6, 2007.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Petraeus Report

  • Gen. Petraeus reports to Congress, by Bill Roggio. The Long War Journal Sept. 10, 2007:
    Gen. David Petraeus, the commander of Multinational Forces Iraq, has released the much anticipated report to Congress. . . . Petraeus stated the military aspect of the surge has succeeded in reducing violence and has "generated momentum," the Iraqi Security Forces are growing while taking on a greater role in securing the country, and political progress at the local level will allow US forces to draw down the surge brigades. He predicted the force levels can be drawn down from 20 to 15 combat brigades starting in December and ending by July 2008, given that progress in the security situation continues. Ultimately, Petraeus advised against drawing down forces to conduct a strictly counterinsurgency and support role.

    Petraeus also focused a significant amount of time to Iran's involvement with the Special Groups and the rogue Mahdi Army. The threat of Iran's involvement was not fully understood until just this year. "None of us earlier this year appreciated the extent of Iranian involvement in Iraq, something about which we and Iraq’s leaders all now have greater concern," said Petraeus.

  • Listening to Petraeus: The president had the courage to change course on Iraq. Does Congress?, by John McCain and Joe Leiberman. Wall Street Journal Sept. 10, 2007.

  • Trashing Petraeus: and the new standards of Democratic debate Wall Street Journal September 11, 2007:
    Important as was yesterday's appearance before Congress by General David Petraeus, the events leading up to his testimony may have been more significant. Members of the Democratic leadership and their supporters have now normalized the practice of accusing their opponents of lying. If other members of the Democratic Party don't move quickly to repudiate this turn, the ability of the U.S. political system to function will be impaired in a way no one would wish for.
  • Petraeus’s Success, by Charles Krauthammer. National Review Sept. 14, 2007.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Is The "Surge" Working?

  • How life returned to the streets in a showpiece city that drove out al-Qaeda - An American ‘martyr’ is being hailed in the Sunni Triangle for restoring peace to a town where soldiers now fight only water leaks. Times Online August 31, 2007:
    Captain Patriquin may have offered more than mere words. His main interlocutor, Sheikh Abdul Sittar Bezea al-Rishawi, told The Times that he gave them guns and ammunition too. The sheikhs did rise up. They formed a movement called the Anbar Awakening, led by Sheikh Sittar. They persuaded thousands of their tribesmen to join the Iraqi police, which was practically defunct thanks to al-Qaeda death threats, and to work with the reviled US troops. The US military built a string of combat outposts (COPs) throughout a city that had previously been a no-go area, and through a combination of Iraqi local knowledge and American firepower they gradually regained control of Ramadi, district by district, until the last al-Qaeda fighters were expelled in three pitched battles in March. What happened in Ramadi was later replicated throughout much of Anbar province.

    Ramadi’s transformation is breathtaking. Shortly before I arrived last November masked al-Qaeda fighters had brazenly marched through the city centre, pronouncing it the capital of a new Islamic caliphate. The US military was still having to fight its way into the city through a gauntlet of snipers, rocket-propelled grenades, suicide car bombs and improvised explosive devices (IEDs). Fifty US soldiers had been killed in the previous five months alone. I spent 24 hours huddled inside Eagles Nest, a tiny COP overlooking the derelict football stadium, listening to gunfire, explosions and the thump of mortars. The city was a ruin, with no water, electricity or functioning government. Those of its 400,000 terrified inhabitants who had not fled cowered indoors as fighting raged around them.

    Today Ramadi is scarcely recognisable. Scores of shattered buildings testify to the fury of past battles, but those who fled the violence are now returning. Pedestrians, cars and motorbike rickshaws throng the streets. More than 700 shops and businesses have reopened. Restaurants stay open late into the evening. People sit outside smoking hookahs, listening to music, wearing shorts – practices that al-Qaeda banned. Women walk around with uncovered faces. Children wave at US Humvees. Eagles’ Nest, a heavily fortified warren of commandeered houses, is abandoned and the stadium hosts football matches.

    “Al-Qaeda is gone. Everybody is happy,” said Mohammed Ramadan, 38, a stallholder in the souk who witnessed four executions. “It was fear, pure fear. Nobody wanted to help them but you had to do what they told you.”

  • Back from Hell: Baghdad's Haifa Street Story, by Ralph Peters. New York Post August 31, 2007:
    IF you saw any news clips of intense combat last January, you were probably watching the fighting unfolding on Baghdad's Haifa Street: 10 days of grim sectarian violence. Until we put a stop to it.
  • Surge Working": Top US General, by Dennis Shanahan. The Australian August 31, 2007:
    David Petraeus, the top US commander in Iraq, said the build-up of American forces in Baghdad since late January had produced positive outcomes. These included the killing or capture of al-Qa'ida fighters, causing the terrorist group to lose influence with local Sunnis.

    The strategic gains against insurgents would lead to a changed and possibly longer-term role for Australian troops, shifting from security operations to a focus on training Iraqi soldiers and police.

    General Petraeus told The Australian during a face-to-face interview at his Baghdad headquarters there had been a 75 per cent reduction in religious and ethnic killings since last year, a doubling in the seizure of insurgents' weapons caches between January and August, a rise in the number of al-Qa'ida "kills and captures" and a fall in the number of coalition deaths from roadside bombings.

  • Behind the Numbers In from the Cold August 31, 2007:
    Ahead of General Petraeus's report on the troop surge (due in a couple of weeks), the monthly casualty stories provide an opportunity for the MSM to prepare their "backdrop" for his assessment. It's a safe bet the press reporting will highlight the "failures" of Iraq's government, despite significant progress by coalition security forces. In a similar vein, the most casualty totals can be used to paint the "high cost" at which that progress was achieved.

    With the end of the month just a few hours away in Baghdad, the U.S. fatality total for August stands at 79--the same number recorded last month. That will likely generate such headlines as "American deaths hold steady in August," or "Combat deaths inch upward," (assuming that there are additional fatalities that have not yet been reported by DoD). In either case, the implication is the same: We're still losing 80 soldiers a month, so our "progress" is clearly limited.

    But that analysis is wrong on multiple levels. . . .