The New York Times’ Alissa J. Rubin and Michael R. Gordon cover the release of Laith al-Khazali, a Shi’a insurgent who was being held for his part in an attack in Karbala in 2007 which killed five American soldiers. The group to which he belongs (Asa’ib al-Haq) is thought to be backed by Iran, and also believed to be holding five British hostages who were kidnapped from the Iraqi Finance Ministry two years ago.
It is a well-written article, showing the apparent disconnect between the United States government’s public stance of not making such deals and what is actually happening on the ground. US officials say the release of al-Khazali is part of a “reconciliation” effort, but in an interview last week, chief negotiator for the Iraqi government Sami al-Askari said, “This is a very sensitive topic because you know the position that the Iraqi government, the U.S. and British governments, and all the governments do not accept the idea of exchanging hostages for prisoners.” He continued, “So we put it in another format, and we told them that if they want to participate in the political process they cannot do so while they are holding hostages. And we mentioned to the American side that they cannot join in the political process and release their hostages while their leaders are behind bars or imprisoned.”
Campbell Robertson, also in the New York Times, covers a bomb which exploded in the southern Baghdad neighborhood of Abu Dshir on Monday, killing as many as seven and wounding as many as two dozen. There were conflicting opinions on the nature of the bomb – with interior ministry officials announcing that a sticky bomb had been used, but witnesses saying that the force of the explosion (apparently large enough to blow a child’s body onto a nearby roof) was too extensive for a sticky bomb.
Some additional details are also included about the five American contractors who were arrested in connection to the killing of one of their own in the Green Zone last month.
In the Christian Science Monitor, Jane Arraf writes of the first taping of Stephen Colbert’s “The Colbert Report” in Baghdad. "It must be nice here, because I understand some of you keep coming back again and again and again," Colbert said, as his persona (a mock-Bill O’Reilly style host) said. Arraf sets the scene, writes of the dark humor which always seems to accompany the military, and provides some highlights.
Holding up a Risk boardgame and saying the rules state it's not over till someone declares victory, he said: "You heard it here first – I, Stephen Colbert, by the power invested in me by basic cable, officially declare: 'We won the Iraq war.' "Stateside
"That's a little concerning. We're not quite ready to declare victory yet," guest star Gen. Ray Odierno told him, adding there was still some work they had to do with the government of Iraq. "It's about long-term stability. It's still dangerous out here."
The Wall Street Journal’s Yochi J. Dreazen provides yet another demonstration of resources being redirected from Iraq to Afghanistan, IED-resistant MRAP vehicles are being retooled at about $100,000 per vehicle to operate in Afghanistan’s rocky, mountainous terrain. Iraq’s roads are largely developed, but in the Afghanistan, broken axles can be the result of driving such a monumentally heavy vehicle where there is no asphalt.
The effort is on full display at the Aberdeen Proving Ground, a sprawling military testing facility north of Baltimore. Engineers here are testing bomb-resistant trucks that have been outfitted with new suspension systems designed for Afghanistan's unpaved roads and rocky mountain passes.There is another tribute to a fallen U.S. soldier, which has been made possible by the lifting of the ban on media coverage of military funerals for GIs who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan. Today, Mark Berman writes of Spec. Jessica Sarandrea, of Miami, was killed in Mosul at age 22 when “enemy forces attacked her forward operating base with mortar fire”. She was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery on Monday.
On a recent visit, military contractor Mark Jackson maneuvered one of the trucks down a steep hill. The truck's cabin shook violently, but the vehicle -- a "mine-resistant ambush protected" truck, or MRAP -- made it to the bottom without any problems. "You'd never even have tried that with an old MRAP," Mr. Jackson said inside the truck. "It wouldn't have made it even halfway down the hill."
USA Today, no original Iraq coverage.
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