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US Papers Sat: Waiting for News on the Missing
Maliki promises new offensive in Mosul; Brit Army clears in abuse investigation
By CHRIS ALLBRITTON 01/26/2008 01:35 AM ET
Features on MIAs in Iraq and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's promise to finish Al Qaeda in Iraq dominate the news today. But Kimberly Kagan gets in the usual bellicose op-ed on the -- where else? -- WSJ op-ed page.

Speaking of the Wall Street Journal, Gina Chon of the Journal has a heart-wrenching front-pager today on the families of the four soldiers categorized as "missing-captured" in Iraq. Their numbers are tiny compared to previous wars -- in Vietnam, some 2,600 soldiers were listed as missing or POWs -- but their agony is real. Perhaps the most well known is Army Reserve Staff Sgt. Matthew Maupin, who was captured in April 2004, when Iraq saw the dual uprisings of Fallujah and Moqtada al-Sadr. Another is Army Reserve Sgt. Ahmed Altaie of Ann Arbor, Mich. While the Maupins have conducted extensive campaigns to raise awareness, the Altaies are more private. Iraqis who fled to the U.S. in 1993, their son joined the reserve to help his adopted country and his native one. He worked as a translator for a military reconstruction team, but was captured in October 2006 when he left the Green Zone to visit his wife, a local Iraqi woman. The Altaies have found little sympathy among Arabs, they say, and have kept a low profile to avoid angering Ahmed's captors. While the story is good and tugs at the heartstrings, Chon's story is incomplete. Two other soldiers are missing, Army Sgt. Alex Jimenez and Army Pvt. First Class Byron Fouty, both of the 10th Mountain Division. They were captured together in May 2007.

Over there
Back in Iraq, Stephen Farrell and Michael R. Gordon of The New York Times report that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki would send more troops to Mosul in the wake of two bombings that killed almost 40 people. The provincial police chief was also killed in one of them. The two Times reporters note that by promising to drive al Qaeda in Iraq from the country's third-largest city, Maliki has set a test for the Iraqi security forces. "We have defeated Al Qaeda, and there is only Nineveh and Kirkuk left where the terrorists have fled to," Mr. Maliki said in the southern city of Karbala. "Today the forces started to move to Mosul, and the battle will be final." But Mosul isn't going to be easy. Nineveh is the only province where violence has gone up in the last year, thanks to militants fleeing there. There are also a small number of American troops there, only about 1,000. But the Iraqis are on the move. Before the bombing, a battalion of the Iraqi Second Division (about 700 soldiers) was moved up there and a second battalion will arrive in the next several weeks. Maj. Gen. Riyadh Jala has taken command of the Nineveh Operational Command. Two more Iraqi battalions will go to the western end of the province in the next month, and Iraqi national police and special operations forces in Baghdad will move up north. About 3,000 cops are being moved there, too, but it's not known when they'll arrive. So far, no additional troops have arrived, according to Brig. Karim Khalaf al-Jabouri, a commander of police operations in Mosul.

Joshua Partlow files a less detailed report for the Washington Post on Maliki's promise, but adds that parliamentarians and other officials from Nineveh and Mosul are ready for some relief. "We have repeatedly demanded that he increase the number of troops in this city. We asked him that before the winter, but the government did not respond," said Mahama al-Shangali, a parliament member from Nineveh province. "They never respond."

IN OTHER COVERAGE

The New York Times
John F. Burns of the Times reports that the British Army, after an investigation, found that there was no systematic abuse of Iraqi prisoners in southern Iraq, but that in some individual instances, "people behaved disgracefully." Echoing Abu Ghraib, the three-year-long investigation said the abuse suffered was at the hands of individual soldiers and there was no failure of responsibility at the higher levels of command. Human rights groups and the lawyers representing detainees quickly denounced the study.

Wall Street Journal
Oy. The Journal's op-ed page runs yet another "Don't end the surge!" piece by Kimberly Kagan, affiliate of Harvard's John M. Olin Institute of Strategic Studies, president of the Institute for the Study of War in Washington, and wife of the surge's main architect. Why doesn't the Journal clue readers in that the writer has a personal connection to boosting the surge? Anyway, not only does she advocate keeping the post-surge drawdown in July 2008 to the five combat brigades already mentioned, she questions whether even that withdrawal is wise. Yet never does she address the strain her and her husband's strategy has placed on the Army. Logistically, the surge just can't be sustained. Bear in mind she has a personal stake in seeing the surge continue.

USA Today and Christian Science Monitor
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