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From the Gonzo

. . . somewhere near the event horizon.

Saturday, December 31, 2005

Travel warnings and coalitions

More nonsensical ramblings enuse.

Iraq, this war sucks. I don't care what the Bushies say about "progress." 18,328 American soldiers and civilians have been killed or wounded as of 10 a.m. Dec. 30. That's alot. Perhaps something good will come out of such carnage, I sincerely hope so, and if it does I would love to see it.

That aside, the U.S. Department of State issued a new travel warning for Iraq on Dec. 29. This may or may not be due to the revelation that a Florida teenager traveled to Iraq for a school project on immersion journalism. The warning is nothing new as the last State Dept. warning came June 28.

Sometimes all of these government releases and policy documents tend to contradict each other or at the very least bring into question some of the assertions made one place that are seemingly challenged in another.

Remember the president's "Victory Strategy in Iraq?" I posted one blog on it already.

The strategy outlines a number of points which will supposedly lead to the all-important "victory." As part of the evidence that this plan is not only already working but has been in place for some time the document presents some of the "progresses" Coalition forces have made in Iraq (and by Coalition I mean the United States, more on that later).

I found the comments concerning Fallujah to be of particular interest. Pay attention to the bolded text.

"Significant progress has been made in wresting territory from enemy control. During much of 2004, major parts of Iraq and important urban centers were no-go areas for Iraqi and Coalition forces. Fallujah, Najaf, and Samara were under enemy control. Today, these cities are under Iraqi government control, and the political process is taking hold. Outside of major urban areas, Iraqi and Coalition forces are clearing out hard core enemy elements, maintaining a security presence, and building local institutions to advance local reconstruction and civil society."

Then there is the State Dept. travel warning linked above. Which was issued the other day, about a month after the president first went on a public, campaign-style propaganda tour promoting his victory strategy.

The travel warning also mentions Fallujah:

"All vehicular travel in Iraq is extremely dangerous. There have been numerous attacks on civilian vehicles, as well as military convoys. Attacks occur throughout the day, but travel at night is exceptionally dangerous. Travel in or through Ramadi and Fallujah; travel between al-Hillah and Baghdad; travel between the International Zone and Baghdad International Airport; and travel from Baghdad to Mosul is particularly dangerous."

If you check out a map those places lie mostly within the area popularly known as the Sunni Triangle. Except for Baghdad to Mosul, which is a huge tract of northern Iraq.

I guess that's what the Bush administration calls "Iraqi government control" in its victory strategy. Under control must mean something different in Iraq than it does in my mind. I wouldn't envision an area referred to as "under control" as being somewhere one might not want to travel in fear of murder or worse. This warning is meant for civilians but logic dictates places that are unsafe for civilians are probably unsafe for military personnel as well.

So heck yeah to victory, I guess.

Related Notes on Terror

I have been finding some interesting terrorist propaganda on the Internet as well as some actual terrorist sites (mostly in Arabic) where some of the groups operating in Iraq and elsewhere post responsiblity claims and other items. Perhaps I will write something about those later.

The Coalition of the Willing

26 nations, some planning withdraws or drawdowns soon, have troops in Iraq right now (not including the United States). Of course, if you go to the Central Command web page you find that the Centcom says there are 37 nations in the "largest Coalition ever built," which is laughable. Centcom lumps all of the worldwide "war on terror" operations into one broad coalition. Many of the nations listed on the above link are participating in only Operation Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan).

But the global security article above tells us that beyond the United States and the United Kingdom there really aren't that many significant players as far as military contributions go in the Iraq theater.

South Korea, Italy and Poland have all been among the most significant contributors to military might during Operation Iraqi Freedom. However, Italy and Poland have both rethought their original commitments. Italy will pull out entirely, Poland will greatly reduce its forces, though they will stay. Meanwhile, South Korea, Bulgaria and Ukraine have all pulled out or authorized a drawdown of troops from Iraq.

So that means: 3,300 South Korean troops will be reduced to about 2,300, the 1,500 Polish troops will face gradual reduction through the end of 2006 until there are only about 600 Poles left in Iraq. Ukraine's 950 soldiers and Bulgaria's 450 soldiers have already left Iraq. Really just a drop in the bucket anyway considering that of all forces in Iraq only 23,000 are non-American. 8,500 of those are British.

Bah! Americans are doing just about all of the foreign work in Iraq and only the Iraqis are spilling more blood.

Alot of nations have already withdrawn their forces in addition to those above, which are the most recent. Not that the inclusion of Tonga or Moldova are really a powerful addition to any military coalition. Some of these nations include:

Hungary-Withdrew troops: Late-Dec. 2004
Nicaragua-Withdrew troops: Feb. 2004
Spain-Withdrew troops: Late-Apr. 2004
Dominican Republic-Withdrew troops: Early-May. 2004
Honduras-Withdrew troops: Late-May. 2004
Philippines-Withdrew troops: mid-Jul. 2004
Thailand-Withdrew troops: Late-Aug. 2004
New Zealand-Withdrew troops: Late-Sep. 2004
Tonga-Withdrew troops: mid-Dec. 2004
Portugal-Withdrew troops: mid-Feb. 2005
Moldova-Withdrew troops: Feb. 2005

From: globalsecurity.org

This coalition was hodge podge from the beginning. So much so that the fine folks over at Multi National Force-Iraq had almost nothing to say about the "coalition," save for:

"At this time, several nations are contributing to the ongoing stability operations throughout Iraq."

Good thing there are several nations contributing methinks. Though the 26 nations now participating are a far cry from the 49 participants announced by the White House at the onset of the war.

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