Thursday, July 12, 2007

We have met the enemy, and they are us (sort of) By Gregg Zoroya

A previously undisclosed Army investigation into an audacious January attack in Karbala that killed five U.S. soldiers concludes that Iraqi police working alongside American troops colluded with insurgents.

The assault on the night of Jan. 20 stunned U.S. officials with its planning and sophistication. A column of SUVs filled with gunmen who posed as an American security team passed through Iraqi police checkpoints at a provincial headquarters in the Shiite holy city.

Within a few minutes, the attackers killed one American, wounded three and abducted four. The captives were later found shot to death; the gunmen escaped.

The U.S. 'defense hinged on a level of trust that … early warning and defense would be provided by the Karbala Iraqi police. This trust was violated,' the report dated Feb. 27 says. ...

The investigation reveals several new details about the assault, including:

•Iraqi police suddenly vanished from the government compound before the shooting started.

•Attackers, evidently briefed on how U.S. forces would defend themselves, bottled up more than three dozen soldiers in a barracks and headquarters complex using a combination of smoke and fragment grenades and satchel charges to blow up Humvees.

•Gunmen knew exactly where to find and abduct U.S. officers.

•Iraqi vendors operating a PX and barbershop went home early.

•A back gate was left unlocked and unguarded. ...

American soldiers also told investigators that, as the assault ended, they saw an Iraqi police commander in the complex talking on his cellphone and laughing.

The infiltration of local police units by sectarian militias "remains a significant problem," according to a Pentagon status report on Iraq issued in June.

Such collusion is almost unavoidable, experts say.

"There's no way you can fight this kind of war without significant problems with infiltrators. It was a major problem in Vietnam. It was a major problem in Korea. It's a problem in any kind of campaign where you are working closely with local forces," says Anthony Cordesman, a military analyst and Iraq expert withthe Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

Does this constitute news to anyone who is paying attention?
For all our efforts to train and equip Iraqi forces (both military and police units), do we actually know where their ultimate loyalties lie? Do the "Iraqi" "authorities" themselves? (I use both terms advisedly-- I'm not convinced there are many "Iraqis", as opposed to varying flavors of Shi'as, Sunnis, Kurds, etc., left in the country at this point, and I don't know that those holding formal offices are actually those calling the shots in today's Iraq.)

"As they stand up, we will stand down." But they are pulling the chairs out from under us, and beating the chairs on our heads. We are training and equipping the enemy, who are killing us for fun and profit (not to speak of revenge or the occasional ideological commitment).

It just doesn't make any sense for us. We are not making things better for anyone, except perhaps a group of incompetents cowering in the Green Zone, propped up by our military and political and financial support, and unable or unwilling to take and enforce the decisions necessary to move Iraq (or more likely, its successor states) out of chaos to some sustainable order.

This is a losing game, in which we are spending lives and treasure to buy time toward no good end.

It is time to get out.

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