At least one aspect of next monthâ€™s anticipated report on Iraq is suddenly becoming apparent. Yesterday, the administration, through its various spokespersons, launched aÂ multi-barreled attack on Britain for its preparations to â€œcut and runâ€ from its involvement in the southern city of Basra, and its immediate area.
A senior U.S. officer was quoted in the English on-line news service, The Telegraph, as saying: â€œThe short version is the Brits have lost Basra if, indeed they ever had itâ€¦.For a long time - more than a year - they have not been engaged in Basra and have tried to avoid casualties.
"Quite frankly what they're doing right now is not any value-added. They're just sitting there. They're not involved. The situation there gets worse by the day. Americans are disappointed because, in their minds, this thing is still winnable. They don't intend to cut and run."
Then, General Jack Keane, the architect of the surge strategy, who has just returned from Baghdad, and who is closely allied with Vice President Dick Cheney and Stephen Hadley, President George W Bush's national security adviser, told The Sunday Telegraph: "It is disappointing and frustrating to see a situation in Basra that was once working pretty well, now coming apart. The situation there has been getting worse for some time."
US Marine Colonel Gary Anderson, who has conducted recent Iraq war games for the Pentagon, was also quoted in todayâ€™s report. He said the situation Britain would leave behind in Basra "could be the most bloody part of the transitionâ€¦.The primary issue in Basra will be a struggle between various Shia factions for control of the region, and frankly the regular government in Baghdad as well. It will be between pro-Iranian factions and those that are more nationalistic. It's going to be nastyâ€¦..British troops did the best they could, but I'm not sure they did as good a job as they did traditionally. This isn't Northern Ireland. They thought they had a pretty good model but Iraq is a different culture."
Another Pentagon official said that they were predicting a virtual civil war in Basra, once the British troops leave.
The Brit bashing continued in another report also filed in London, yesterday. Stephen Biddle, a member of a group that advised U.S. Gen. David Petraeus in Iraq last year, told the Sunday Times that insurgents and militia groups were likely to target British soldiers with ambushes, roadside bombs and rocket-propelled grenades as they leave. It will be a hard withdrawal. They want the image of a British defeatâ€¦.It will be ugly and embarrassing."
Britain has incurred a total of 168 military deaths in Iraq since the March 2003 invasion and it is expected to hand over control of Basra to Iraqi troops in the next few months.
However, despite all of the attention being focused on Basra,Â the cityÂ has rarelyÂ been mentioned in reports of violence.Â According to todayâ€™s LA Times, last week brought â€œthe deadliest suicide bombings since the American-led invasion in 2003.â€ The attacks occurred in Baghdad, Ramadi and the Kirkuk area, but none in Basra.Â Â On Tuesday, synchronized truck bombings killed an estimated 400 people who were members of the Yazidi religious sect in three northern villages.
In his weekly radio address, yesterday, Bush reassured the nation that he saw â€œsigns of progressâ€ in Iraq. He said: â€œAmericans can be encouragedâ€¦that the rule of law is being restored.â€ He cited the work of the American-led provincial reconstruction teams in promoting political and economic development in each province.
However, a report just put out by the nonpartisan Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank, noted that the teams â€œhad not achieved notable results.â€
Meanwhile, the Department of Defense, last week, released the obituaries of 22 military personnel killed in Iraq, ranging in age from 20 to 39.
According to the website www.icasualties.org, U.S. deaths in Iraq now stand at 3,706, including six whose relatives are being notified today.
Also, last week, the Department of Defense released the obituaries of six soldiers killed in Afghanistan. Total U.S. deaths in Afghanistan were 358, as of August 11th, according to the Pentagon.
Fourteen (50%) of the total casualties, were caused by improvised explosive devices.
Among the fallen heroes was Army Sgt. Travon Johnson, 29, of Ontario, California, who was serving his third deployment in Afghanistan. A report in todayâ€™s LA Times said that, as a student in high school, â€œTJ,â€ as he was known to his friends, was always involved in helping others. He served as a student assistant, and, after school, he would volunteer at Westwind Community Center. He also participated in a recruiting drive for the California Conservation Corps.
He eventually wanted to settle down with his wife, Sara, and make a profession of serving in the Riverside County Sherriffâ€™s Department. Friends described him as a patriot who believed in America and in President Bush.
He was killed when a roadside bomb exploded near his vehicle in a district just east of Kabul.
His grieving family includes his two children.