Around the Net:
Reuters: Briton among 11 hostages seized in Iraq
Arab television Al Jazeera showed the three Japanese, kneeling with their eyes bound with white cloth and surrounded by masked men holding rifles and also sitting on the floor without their bindings and talking to their captors. The walls of the room were riddled with bullets.
It said they had been taken hostage by a hitherto unknown Iraqi group called Saraya al-Mujahideen (Mujahideen Brigades).
“We tell you that three of your children have fallen prisoner in our hands and we give you two options — withdraw your forces from our country and go home or we will burn them alive and feed them to the fighters,” the group said. [emphasis mine]
Do they mean to literally eat the prisoners? Why isn’t this getting more air, if that’s actually what they said? Don’t want to make the militants appear unreasonable? (via The Command Post)
Winds of Change: An Appropriate Note For April 9
As Joe noted, today is the same day that the statue of Saddam Hussein came down in Firdus Square. In the wake of Sadr’s uprising, some readers have asked where all of the allegedly pro-US Iraqis are right now and why they aren’t opposing this Khomeini wannabe’s efforts to take over their country.
The answer? They are.
Apparently, when the Ukranian troops pulled out of Kut the other day, locals who are opposed to Sadr began fighting the militia. Kut has been retaken by coalition forces, probably with help from Shiite tribesmen. If true, this is incredibly significant.
Being American in T.O.: Iraq Endgame (Update)
CNN is still referring to the attacks this past week as “unexpected.” Unexpected by CNN correspondents who had been told repeatedly (and which they reported) after Centcom and DoD briefings that there would be an increase in attacks during the month of March and beyond as Iraq moved closer to the hand-over date? It baffles the mind.
“Unexpected” might not be accurate, but I’m also sure that no one expected quite this much excitement. I predicted in January that March would see greatly increased activity, too. They were a couple of weeks late. Still, this shouldn’t be described as a bolt out of the blue. I think our methodical response indicates that we were at least prepared for this contingency, if not for the widespread nature of it.
Airborne Combat Engineer: Iraq War 2, Phase 2; 1 yr after toppling of statue
Some Iraqis are saying they view the Coalition [and the US in particular] as merely an occupier now, and the media is quoting them, but the last poll I’ve seen showed 78% of Iraqis are glad Saddam is gone and want to give democracy and capitalism a chance. We’ll have to see how that number is trending.
No one wants to be occupied by a foreign army. Ever. Even if that army freed them from a tyrant. We badly need Iraqi police and security forces to step it up. We will remain the shock troops in Iraq for some time, but normal day-to-day security MUST be taken over by Iraqi forces. If this doesn’t happen, Joe Iraqi isn’t going to have the personal investment and interest in his own national security.
Andrew Olmsted: Expansion Time
It is possible that we can handle the insurgency without increasing the end strength of the Army, just as the Coalition was able to defeat Iraq’s armed forces with barely two divisions of ground troops. But doing so comes with a cost in additional loss of life, both Coalition and Iraqi, more time required to do the job, and more time for politicians to lose their nerve and quit before the work is done….
Two more light divisions would give the Army precisely the flexibility it needs to handle the demands of Iraq and Afghanistan without overstressing the Reserves. The Army is already looking to restructure its forces, moving from a division-oriented force to a brigade-oriented force. This is a good start, but I’m not convinced that moving the pieces around actually gives us any more pieces to work with.
After the 1991 Gulf War we had 18 active divisions in the US Army. We now have the equivalent of 10. Deactivating 8 divisions worth of troops saved a lot of money in the 1990s, and helped make the budget surpluses possible, but we don’t have that “peace dividend” available any longer. We don’t need 8 more divisions, but we need a few.
Captain’s Quarters: Hostaging: What It Reveals About the Enemy
The Marines aren’t “struggling” at all; they’re methodically implementing a sophisticated plan to reduce the resistance in each town. Hostaging is proof of this. The Japanese civilians, and others who have been similarly kidnapped, are insurance policies, bargaining chips for al-Sadr’s “army” and a way to try putting pressure on Washington to end the offensive without wiping them out. Note that the kidnappings started when the terrorists found out that hiding in mosques wasn’t going to save them from getting killed.
Not only “hostaging”, but “hostaging with threats to cannibalize”. Dangerous? Yes. But are these the actions of a serious group that has a legit claim to power? No, for the very same reasons that the Palestinians keep having trouble being taken seriously.
Belmont Club: Quick Notes
I’ve been looking at the casualty returns and the type of ops. The Marines killed in Ramadi, plus the Army soldiers who died in Saddam City are the bulk of the “spike” casualties so far and they seem to have been hit in vehicular ambushes. The kind of rear echelon attack or “counterseige” I’ve been talking about. In the Fallujah battle itself, very few Marines have died. That’s going into the end phase because the Marines now have position on them. They’re two klicks in from the south and one in from the north. The town is 4 klicks wide and deep, almost a square, so the enemy is compressed into a very narrow pocket. Probably cut in two by the times you get this. News is lagged. The Marines have got Iraqi Special Forces knocking on doors to while they do the maneuver. Things like this are like arm wrestling. Looks slow at first, but once you get on top, its a slaughter.
The Marines seem to be ready to pause, but resistance keeps getting them going again. I think they might be trying to let things cool down now that so many insurgents have been killed, but I don’t know if anyone in town is interested in cooling down. This is going to be a hotspot for some time.