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Daily Column
US Papers Wed: GIs Attacked by Uniformed Iraqis
Obama Expected to Set Date for Iraq Pullout, Counterterrorism in Diyala
By DANIEL W. SMITH 02/25/2009 02:00 AM ET
Today’s stories deal with the death of US servicemen (and interpreters who work wit them), their counterinsurgency challenges, and when they might be able to go home.

From Iraq
In Mosul on Tuesday, Iraqi policemen - or men dressed as Iraqi policemen - opened fire on four American soldiers and two Iraqi interpreters, the third deadly attack on U.S. troops in two weeks in the still-volatile provinces of Nineveh and Diyala. What we know is that is happened inside a police station in Mosul, that the US confirms the death of one of its soldiers, and one interpreter. Three more GIs are reported wounded, plus one additional interpreter and an Iraqi police chief. We also know that the attack seemed well planned, and the attackers evaded capture.

The Washington Post’s Sudarsan Raghavan writes that the two were policemen, and gives details of the changes in the US confirmations – first just of soldiers wounded, then of one killed. He covers the brazen nature of the attack.
Tuesday's assault occurred in broad daylight. About 2 p.m., the American soldiers were inside the headquarters of a brigade that protects bridges in the western section of the city, said Brig. Gen. Saeed al-Jubouri, a spokesman for the Nineveh provincial police. ...After firing their weapons, the policemen ran outside the station and up the stairs of a nearby bridge. "They got into a car that was waiting for them and escaped," Jubouri said. By the time police forces went to the assailants' homes, their families had also fled, police officials said.

"Al-Qaeda has infiltrated the police forces in Mosul," said an Interior Ministry official in Baghdad, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject. The ministry oversees the police.
Marc Santora of the New York Times question whether the attackers were in fact policemen or not, describing them as “Iraqi insurgents wearing police uniforms.” If, as mentioned in the Washington Post article above, police forces went to the assailants’ homes and their families had fled, their identity seems confirmed. Santora writes of efforts to purge security forces whose loyalty is questionable.

In the past year, some 62,000 people have been dismissed from the Interior Ministry, which oversees the police. In Baghdad and other cities across the country, there are few complaints about fake checkpoints. But in Mosul and a number of other cities where the insurgents remain entrenched, there is still concern about infiltration of the security forces, according to Iraqi officials.
Both cover the statements by Sunni leader Saleh al-Mutlaq, responding to government accusations of involvement in several illegal acts against fellow lawmaker Mohammad al-Daini. He complains that Shi’a politicians’ criminal behavior is not given the same scrutiny as that of Sunni lawmakers. “Let’s begin a real effort to disclose information about those involved in killings and sectarian displacement,” Mr. Mutlaq said at a news conference on Tuesday. “Then we will discover that there are leaders inside the political process who took part in these events.”

Tom A. Peter of the Christian Science Monitor files from Baquba reports on the difficulty US forces can have distinguishing who's insurgent, and who isn’t. He speaks to US Army Lt. Drew Vanderhoff, while looking over a canal to a small village.
"We know for a fact that there is AQI in that village," he says. Although he has the names and even biometric data of everyone in the village, 25 miles outside of Baghdad, he's still not sure exactly who's working with the home-grown Sunni insurgent group and who's not.

...During a joint US-Iraqi patrol, the shadow of an active insurgency loomed large. Searching a dried-up canal, members of Vanderhoff's platoon discovered "spider holes" and tunnels dug into the sides of the empty waterway. Insurgents use these tunnel systems to hide from passing helicopters and stash everything from weapons to motorcycles.
It is a basic counterinsurgency story, quoting US military on the ground and Rand folks from the states. Things are said to be improving, but pesky insurgents remain. "Everywhere we go people tell us they're here and they're around, so you know they're here," says a Staff Sgt.

The New York Times’ Peter Baker and Elisabeth Bumiller and the Washington Post’s Ann Scott Tyson and Anne E. Kornblut write about signals that the Obama administration is sending out, suggesting that a pullout of “combat troops” by mid 2010, about three months later than his election promise of a 16 month withdrawal, from the time of taking office.

Both articles are comparable, and you can guess it from the headline, mostly. Here is a paragraph from the Post to stop the presses for.
"He is approaching a decision on this very soon," said one official, speaking, as others did, on the condition of anonymity because no announcement has been made. A senior administration official said Tuesday night that Obama is "nearing a decision" but insisted that no final plans had been made.
The expected decision would set in motion a major logistical effort by the U.S. military of pulling out a combat brigade about every five weeks. Gen Odierno says that “significant” numbers will need to remain to train Iraqi troops. A decision might be announced on Friday.

Wall Street Journal, USA Today no Iraq coverage.
Comments on the US Papers roundup are welcome at


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