Thursday, August 30, 2007

Troubled times for Bush's War on Terror

In Iraq this week Shi’ite gunman believed to be members of the Maadi Army loyal to Moqtada al Sadr engaged in gun battles with Iraqi security forces. The battles took place on Monday night in Kabala where religious festivities were taking place. At least 50 were killed in the fighting, many of them believed to be Iraqi police [BBC]. The incident later prompted Moqtada al Sadr to announce a ‘ceasefire’ whilst he attempted to draw his factionalized army together [BBC]. This was welcomed by the Iraqi government [BBC].
The political fallout of the continued conflict has hit the Bush administration hard. Several key members have resigned in recent weeks. On Monday the US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales resigned [BBC]. Karl Rove, sometimes referred to as Bush’s brain [BBC], and Hariet Miers [BBC] have also quit in recent weeks. The timing is partly brought about by rules requiring resignations to be tendered before Labour Day.

On Tuesday, George Bush, speaking to veterans in Nevada, spoke of his new strategy to quell the continuing insurgency. He said the initiative was “designed to help clear the terrorists out of Iraqi cities and communities so that local government could take control. It was designed to help Iraqi security forces time to grow in size and capability so that they can ultimately bring security to their country.”

“The central objective of this strategy was to aid the rise of an Iraqi government to protect its people, deliver basic services and be an ally in this war on terror.”

“To carry out this new strategy I sent reinforcements to Baghdad and Anbar province. I put a new commander in place, General David Petreaus, an expert in counter-insurgency. Those reinforcements have been in operation for a little over two months, yet there are unmistakable signs that our strategy is achieving the objectives we set out.”

Quite what achievements have been accomplished is difficult to reconcile with the increased numbers of coalition casualties and continuing insurgent attacks. However President Bush said his initiative had resulted in the capture or killing of 1,500 enemies of the Iraqi government. Meanwhile a GAO Report says little progress has been achieved in the country [CNN].

Sky News covered much of his address to the veterans Live, though the sound quality was poor with much distortion. The BBC carried some of his speech in later bulletins with similar poor quality recordings. CNN, which broadcast the event Live, provided a clean audio feed.

As he continued his address the President set out his plans to deal with Iranian interference in Iraq. He said Shia death squads had been targeted and accused Iranian agents of supplying missiles to anti-US forces in Iraq. In order to stop this supply President Bush said he had authorised US commanders to confront “Iran’s murderous activities.” [BBC]

He said that the “International community increasingly understands the importance of a free Iraq. They understand that a free Iraq is important for world peace and that is why we will continue to rally the world for this noble and necessary cause.”

In Britain, Prime Minister Gordon Brown set out his commitment to the war on terror [BBC]. In his visit to the US in July Mr Brown said, “In Iraq we have duties to discharge and responsibilities to keep” and in response to a recent letter from Menzies Campbell, the Liberal Democrat leader, he said there would be no early pull-out. However as the British forces are scaled down in areas such as Basra, there is a feeling that his words are somewhat hollow. The war has cost Britain over £6 billion according to one estimate stated on a CNN report. And the costs are likely to play an important part in decision making in the future. General Sir Richard Dannatt, head of British Armed Forces, has said the British Army was involved in a “wider conflict that may last a generation.” This interpretation will provide little comfort to the UK government as it struggles to fund the continuing battle against domestic terrorism and the war on terror in general.

Whilst Bush threatened to reign in Iranian agents, Mahmoud Ahmedinejad said he was willing to fill the political vacuum in the region. US troops were later reported to have detained Iranian diplomats at a Baghdad hotel. But while the US stated the arrests were part of an ongoing operation, Iran said the men were on official business and were electricity experts helping to build a power station. Iran said they were also making a formal complaint to US authorities. Pictures of the blindfolded men were shown being led from a hotel by US troops. But within hours the eight men were released after the US conceded the men were indeed diplomats [BBC].

It is not the only blunder that has been cited against Bush and his war on terror in recent days. A week ago he appeared to criticize the Iraqi government in one address which prompted the Iraqi Prime Minister to react angrily. Nuri al-Maliki released a statement saying, “We can find our own friends …no-one has the right to put a timetable on Iraq.” [BBC]

Mr Bush had said there was a level of frustration with regards not being able to get laws past and whether the Iraqi government was responding to the demands of the people. The US President was later forced to make a statement saying that it was not up to US administrators to decide how Iraq was run, but the Iraqi people.

Besides the political rhetoric the killing has continued unabated. At least 28 were killed by truck bomb at a police station in Baiji, 240 km north of Baghdad last Wednesday. Another 45 were injured. And on the same day 14 US troops died after their Black Hawk helicopter crashed [BBC]. It brings the total US losses to 3,735 since the war started in March 2003.

And as the battle against the Taleban continues in Afghanistan, families of three British soldiers killed in a "friendly fire" incident have demanded an inquiry [BBC]. The men died after a U.S. fighter plane dropped a bomb on allied troops during a clash with Taliban militants in Helmand province last Thursday. Another British troop died in Afghanistan yesterday bringing the UK death toll to 74 [BBC].

To add to Mr Bush’s worries President Musharaff of Pakistan has said he may step down as head of the Pakistan Army [BBC. Earlier this month a wanted terrorist was released from custody by a high court judge further worrying the sincerity of Pakistan’s commitment to the War on Terror [BBC].
Posted by Picasa

No comments: