Thursday, June 16, 2005

Syria and Iraq Discuss Placing UN Troops in Border Zone

The US is developing alternative intelligence sources on Jihadists now that Syrian-US security cooperation has been totally severed. This al-Hayat article says that Washington is counting on increased cooperation from Pakistan and an increased US intelligence presence in Lebanon.

Allawi, Iraq's former Prime Minister, says that Bashar al-Asad has responded favorably to establishing a buffer zone along the border with Iraq, which would be policed by UN troops.

بغداد : «الشرق الأوسط» والوكالات كشف رئيس الوزراء العراقي السابق، الدكتور إياد علاوي، أن الرئيس السوري بشار الأسد الذي التقاه أخيرا أبدى تجاوبا مع فكرة إقامة منطقة فاصلة على الحدود السورية ـ العراقية تحت إشراف الأمم المتحدة لمنع تدفق المتسللين الى العراق.
The following article about America's inadequet security in Tall Afar and Western Iraq explains why Jihadists coming through Syria to Iraq can stream across the border. If the United States refuses to assign the proper number of troops and sufficient resources to protect the border, it is hard to ask the Syrians to do the same.

If Syria were to do what American wants of it and to establish a real policy against Jihadists traveling into Iraq, it will be a costly enterprise.

To really stop insurgents, the Damascus government would have to demand that all Arab visitors to Syria file for a visa and undergo a background security check before entering the country, as the United States now demands of its Arab visitors. There are over 4 million Arab visitors and tourists who come to Syria every year; every one of them would have to be investigated and a security file established for them. This would not be a small undertaking, either monetarily or politically. It would mean banks of computers, centrally organized. It would mean hiring many more personnel, and it would mean angering tourists, many of whom would chose not to spend their money in Syria as a result.

It would mean treating Arabs as foreigners and potential villains much as the United States has done since 9-11. There would be a price to pay for this. Syrians can now travel to Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt without visas or security checks. Other countries would establish reciprocal security requirements and demand visa's of Syrians. It runs counter to Baathist logic to treat other Arabs as foreigners on the same scale as Western visitors to Syria.

For GI's, Iraqi city emerges as test case
By Richard A. Oppel Jr. The New York Times
THURSDAY, JUNE 16, 2005

TAL AFAR, Iraq Nine months ago the U.S. military laid siege to this city in northwestern Iraq and proclaimed it freed from the grip of insurgents. Last month, the Americans returned in force to reclaim it once again.

After the battle here in September, the military left behind fewer than 500 troops to patrol a huge region. With so few soldiers and the local police force in shambles, insurgents came back and turned Tal Afar, a dusty, agrarian city of about 200,000 people, into a way station for the trafficking of weapons and fighters from nearby Syria and a ghost town of terrorized residents afraid to open their stores, walk the streets or send their children to school.

It is a cycle that has been repeated in rebellious cities throughout Iraq, and particularly those in the Sunni Arab regions west and north of Baghdad, where the insurgency's roots run deepest.

"We have a finite number of troops," said Major Chris Kennedy, executive officer of the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, which arrived in Tal Afar several weeks ago. "But if you pull out of an area and don't leave security forces in it, all you're going to do is leave the door open for them to come back.

"This is what our lack of combat power has done to us throughout the country. In the past, the problem has been we haven't been able to leave sufficient forces in towns where we've cleared the insurgents out."....

"As far as foreign fighters coming in from the border control point, I can't say we've had any impact on that," said Captain Jason Whitten, the company commander whose troops oversee the Rabiah crossing.

In its first weeks here, the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment pressed sweeps deep into desert areas that had not seen a large American presence since the 101st Airborne Division left in early 2004. Instead, many areas had witnessed, at best, only sporadic patrols that had done little to deter insurgents, commanders say.

"Resources are everything in combat, and when you don't have enough manpower to move around you have to pick the places," said Major John Wilwerding, executive officer of Sabre Squadron, a 1,000-strong unit that now oversees Tal Afar.

Two weeks ago more than 1,000 troops from the new regiment poured into Biaj, a town of 15,000 about 65 kilometers, or 40 miles, southwest of Tal Afar, where insurgents had destroyed the police station, and the mayor and the police fled last autumn. Soldiers eventually searched every house in the town, capturing more than a dozen suspected insurgents without a shot being fired.

Biaj faces a severe water shortage, and streets are filled with trash and sewage. But the markets and neighborhoods teem with children who give passing American patrols waves and a thumbs-up. Indeed, the town appears to be an example of what happens if there are enough troops to pacify an area and police it effectively afterward.

But commanders plan to withdraw all except 150 American troops and leave a battalion of about 500 Iraqi soldiers, and 200 police, in Biaj. The real test, of course, as an American officer stationed there noted, will come once most of the American troops leave.

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