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US advice unheeded in Basra campaign: Petraeus

by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) April 11, 2008
Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki disregarded US advice in launching a campaign in Basra last month that plunged Iraqi troops in fighting without adequate preparation, the US commander in Iraq said Friday.

General David Petraeus said US and Iraqi officers had developed a more deliberate plan to restore order in the strategic port city over a period of several months.

But after they presented it on March 21, Petraeus said he was pulled aside by Iraq's national security adviser Muwaffaq al-Rubaie and quietly told that Maliki did not think it addressed the situation in Basra quickly enough.

"So we went over and met with him and he laid out what he had directed, and it was the deployment of two brigades and these high-end units that I talked about," he told reporters here.

The units were to move within 36 hours, he said.

"So then on Monday, (Maliki) went down there and all of a sudden they were in combat," Petraeus said.

The campaign quickly stalled with large numbers of police and army troops deserting or refusing to fight, and finally stopped April 1 after Iran got the two sides to pull back.

But fighting has continued in Baghdad and tensions are high in other southern cities amid threats by radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr to end a ceasefire he imposed on his followers in August.

A top aide to Sadr was gunned down Friday in holy city of Najaf, further inflaming the situation.

At a Senate hearing on Tuesday, Petraeus said the Iraqi campaign was "not adequately planned or prepared."

He was asked by reporters Friday what advice he had given Maliki.

"All I said was, 'Let's be careful here now, because we've made some progress, and we need to be thoughtful and deliberate as we move into this," he said.

"By the way, Maliki did it on his own," he added.

He said the Iraqis had laid out lines of operations for the campaign ahead of time, and they appeared to have been taken from the more elaborate plan drawn up by the US and Iraqi officers.

And yet, said Petraeus, "like I said all of a sudden 'boom', we're into it."

"And then there was a scramble," he said.

He said a company from the US Army's 82nd Airborne Division was attached to some Iraqi units as advisers "just really because we were having a problem figuring out where was the front line."

US and British aviation also joined the fight, he said.

"Initially there was a desire for this to be an Iraqi operation. This was a sovereignty demonstration," he said.

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Dogs of War: Military justice and PMCs
Washington, April 11, 2008
Two recent developments have highlighted different aspects of the accountability issue presented by the use of private military contractors by the U.S. government and military. This complex set of problems puts me in mind of Churchill's comment about the Soviet Union: "a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma."

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