Archive for September, 2013


BAGHDAD — As a former interpreter for the American military, and as a gay man, Hassan says he is a focus of frequent discrimination by his fellow Iraqis.

That is why Hassan, who asked to be identified only by his middle name because he fears for his safety, does not see any future in his own country, where he is shunned for his sexuality and viewed as a traitor.

His last and best hope, he said, is a visa to the United States.

But that chance is now fading for Hassan and many others who worked for the American military. As they face increased violence here, they find themselves trapped in a glacially paced visa program set up for Iraqis that will expire at the end of the month unless new legislation is enacted to save it.

“The United States is my last hope for salvation,” said Hassan, whose case is being assisted by a New York-based organization, the Iraqi Refugee Assistance Project at the Urban Justice Center. “It’s a place where I can be who I am, where people will accept me for who I am.”

That many Iraqis who worked with the American military are still in the pipeline for special visas to emigrate to the United States — the State Department will not say how many, but activists estimate it is in the low thousands — remains an unresolved legacy of the American war.

It is also a reflection of the perilous state of the country nearly two years after the departure of American troops: the rising violence, which includes the remobilization of militias that once targeted Iraqis who helped the United States, has raised new fears and led more former interpreters to apply for the program, just as it is set to expire.

Becca Heller, the director of the refugee assistance group, said she was hopeful that legislation would eventually be enacted to preserve the program. But she is worried that if the program goes dark for even a few months, current applicants may have to start the onerous process again under a new law.

Senator Jeanne Shaheen, a New Hampshire Democrat who is backing new legislation to save the program, said: “We have a responsibility as Americans to provide assistance to those people who have been helpful, who risked their lives to help our country. And I think we need to make sure we fulfill that obligation.”

A group of representatives and senators in Washington, including some lawmakers who are themselves Iraq veterans, is hurrying to save the program, which was enacted in 2007 and has been hampered all along by long delays because of security checks.

The original legislation earmarked 25,000 visas over five years, and over that time roughly 8,000 have been issued. So far this year, the State Department has issued just 454 special immigrant visas for Iraqis. Lawmakers say there is little actual opposition in Congress, but the issue has been caught in a legislative logjam, and has been given little attention by many politicians who would prefer to forget about the Iraq war.

As the deadline approaches, options are running out. Attempts at passing immigration and defense bills that included provisions for the visa program failed, and now lawmakers hope to include it in a continuing resolution that would keep the government running from October through the end of December.

Representative Adam Kinzinger, a Republican from Illinois who served two tours in Iraq before entering politics, is among the lawmakers trying to save the visa program.

As a pilot, Mr. Kinzinger did not work much with Iraqi interpreters. But he was moved to action after reading a book by Dakota Meyer, a Marine who earned the Medal of Honor for bravery in Afghanistan. Mr. Meyer spoke out about his interpreter’s difficulty in securing a visa to the United States, despite his having been with Mr. Meyer at the battle for which he was awarded the medal.

“Look,” Mr. Kinzinger said in an interview, “we’re a big country. We’re a country with plenty of room. And when you have people willing to fight alongside of us, and put them and their family’s lives in danger, then we ought to repay them.”

About a year ago Hassan gave his passport to the American Embassy in Baghdad, and believed it would be returned within a few months with a visa. His last communication with the State Department was an automated reply to an e-mail telling him that his case was in “administrative processing” and warning him that the program may expire at the end of September.

He is living with a sister in northern Iraq, where it is safer, but is still without his passport.

“I can’t get out of Iraq at all,” he said.

Former interpreters not only worry about their safety, but say their employment prospects in Iraq are bleak because of discrimination against anyone who aided the American war effort. Some see a visa as a ticket for a better life for their children.

“I’m trying to give my son the opportunity to be an astronaut, if he wanted to be,” said Yousif al-Timimi, another former interpreter caught in the visa backlog. “If he’s in Iraq, these options are not available. If he goes to the states and fails to be something important, it is his fault. My job as a father is to make these options available to him.”

On a recent afternoon, another Iraqi man in a similar predicament, and who also asked his name not be published because of safety concerns, unzipped a black briefcase and pulled out a laptop and a thick file folder containing his case documents.

“Where should we begin?” he said.

He displayed letters of recommendation from military officers who were his superiors. He waved another letter, this one documenting the threats he said he had received over the years from a Shiite militia. He has several relatives in the United States, and his mother lived there in the 1980s and 1990s before her death in 1999. As proof he showed a copy of his mother’s California driver’s license. He has been waiting three years for a visa, with little explanation for the delay.

Then he fired up his laptop, and started a photo slide show. Image after image showed him smiling, alongside American soldiers. One showed his daughter’s birthday party, held on an American base.

“Tell me if I’m one of the family or not,” he said.


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Mosul Public Safety Academy

Mosul Public Safety Academy


It was in Mosul, where he was commander from April 2003 to February 2004, that Petraeus’s reputation as the military’s number-one effective counterinsurgency strategist was firmly established in the news media. By the summer of 2003, Mosul was already known as the place for the news media and Congressional delegations to visit, because it was the one place where they were hearing the news was good. Congressional delegations would all get a PowerPoint briefing describing the positive things happening in Mosul – a police force being built, roads being fixed, insurgents being tracked down, and millions of dollars distributed for local development projects. The slogan “Money is ammunition” was always included in the briefing slides.

Petraeus understood that the Kurdish presence in Mosul could only help the Sunni insurgents in that majority Sunni city and sent the Peshmerga militiamen back to Kurdistan. He could see that the orders from Coalition Provisional Authority administrator Paul Bremer for disbanding the Iraqi army and radical de-Baathification were disastrous, and he was able to partly work around them. He chose a former Baathist general as his police chief.

But the main message that Petraeus and his staff pushed on politicians and journalists in the latter half of 2003 and early 2004 was that they had the insurgency under control. Washington Post Pentagon correspondent Vernon Loeb embedded with the 101st in Mosul in Fall 2003 and was given “unfettered access” to Petraeus and his command headquarters. Loeb has recalled how Petraeus had “largely pacified” Mosul in 2003.

Revealing the degree to which the Post and other major media outlets were willing dupes of Petraeus, Loeb turned up again as the ghostwriter for Broadwell’s fawning biography of Petraeus, which glorifies Petraeus’ accomplishment in Mosul. In that account, Petraeus is said to have returned to the United States “[a]fter pacifying Mosul.”

Loeb was not the only Petraeus fan at the Post. Military correspondent Tom Ricks, who wrote a glowing blurb for Broadwell’s book, had excoriated other generals in his own book Fiasco for their failed tactics against the insurgency in 2003-04, but praised Petraeus’ performance in Mosul. Ricks cited a January 2004 summary from Petraeus’ staff in Mosul showing that there were only five “hostile contacts” per day in the division’s area of operations that month, compared with 25 meetings per day between the division and local Iraqi figures.

Ricks concluded that Mosul was in “remarkably good shape.” But he and other journalists who bought Petraeus’ “pacified Mosul” line failed to ask what the trend line of insurgent attacks had been over the previous seven months. That information was compiled in a December 2006 student thesis at the Naval Postgraduate School (NPS). That study reveals that the monthly total for attacks in and around Mosul had been only 45 in June but had increased to 72 in August, 81 in October, 112 in November, 121 in December.

The five attacks per day in January cited by Ricks was the equivalent of 150 a month – more than three times the number in June – and represented one-fifth of the insurgent attacks countrywide recorded by the US command that month. And as Ricks acknowledges elsewhere in his book, 25 US troops had been killed in November alone in a clear signal of the growing power of the insurgency.

Did Petraeus Abandon “Cordon and Search”?

Petraeus has been credited by Ricks and other journalists with having abandoned violent “cordon and search” operations used everywhere else in Iraq that alienated the entire Sunni population, and having replaced them with “cordon and knock” operations. In the softer version of targeted raids, the targets’ homes were surrounded and the targets were invited to give themselves up peacefully. But again, the NPS thesis, based on the actual documents and the testimony of officers in Petraeus’s command, tells a rather different story.

It turns out that Petraeus did not end kill-or-capture raids in Mosul: he continued to use them to kill or capture those believed to be hardcore insurgents, according to the NPS study. The less violent sweeps were used to capture “less dangerous but potentially active members of insurgent groups without alienating entire neighborhoods,” the authors wrote. And when insurgent attacks went over 100 for the month of November 2003, Petraeus ordered a major increase in the level of cordon-and-search raids in December, hitting 23 targets simultaneously in one night. The number of suspects detained in Mosul soared that month to 295 – nearly three times the average over the previous five months.

Those targeted raids on suspected insurgents depended on intelligence gathered by Petraeus’ own command, Special Forces operating in the area and the CIA. But how reliable was that intelligence? It is widely acknowledged that, especially that early in the war, US intelligence on the insurgency was woefully weak. The International Red Cross disclosed in a February 2004 report on detainee abuse in Iraq that US military intelligence officers had estimated that 70 to 90 percent of Iraqis they had detained were innocent. Petraeus’ operation, as elsewhere in Iraq, had to rely on Iraqis volunteering information as to who was an insurgent, and, as Ricks relates, Petraeus told him “there were so many phony tips passed by Iraqis feuding with each other that this softer approach helped sort those tips without unnecessarily insulting Iraqi dignity.”

One of Petraeus’ brigade commanders, Brig. Gen. Joe Anderson, told the authors of the NPS thesis that the “surge” in targeted raids in December 2003 had “effectively removed many former Ba’ath Party members from the streets of Mosul.” Considering that there were tens of thousands of former Baath Party members in the city, Anderson’s vague remark hardly convinces that the raids struck a serious blow to the insurgent organization.

Collapse and Failure in Mosul

The insurgents in Mosul were building up patiently and methodically for an uprising in the city. During the weeks after Petraeus and the 101st were replaced in Mosul by Task Force Olympia in February 2004, the insurgents kept their heads down. The CIA warned in May that the Sunni insurgents were being deliberately quiet, and that it wouldn’t last. The following month, Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, head of Special Operations Task Force in Iraq, told Coalition Forces Commanding Gen. George Casey that Mosul had become a safe haven for al-Qaeda leader Abu Musab Zarqawi.

In November 2004, about 200 insurgents attacked in Mosul, and the police force about which Petraeus had boasted to Congressional delegations disappeared, as Reuters reported November 20, 2004. Three thousand two hundred of the city’s 4,000 policemen deserted simultaneously from seven police stations. The insurgents made off with hundreds of weapons and radios, thousands of police uniforms and as many as 50 police cars.

The former officer from Saddam’s special forces whom Petraeus had picked as his police chief, Gen. Muhammad Khayri al-Barhawi, escaped with a bag of cash.

After the debacle in Mosul, Petraeus’ successor, Gen. Carter Ham, told Reuters the police had been thoroughly infiltrated by the insurgents. The senior analyst for Iraq at the Joint Staff Directorate for Intelligence, Col. Derek Harvey, concluded that Barhawi had been secretly working with the insurgents for some time. Petraeus defended his choice of Barhawi, arguing that he had been genuinely committed to the American counterinsurgency effort at the beginning but had eventually come under heavy pressure from the insurgents.

The fact that the Iraqi forces he had organized in Mosul had collapsed like a house of cards and that his hand-picked police chief had defected was hardly ever brought up in the media coverage of Petraeus, however. Years later, former diplomat who served in Iraq during the period called Petraeus “the Teflon General.”

The Mosul experience may have bruised his ego, but it also showed Petraeus that he could manage public perceptions of his performance in command so that both he and war would both come out looking good – even though his early statements and later demeanor suggest he knew Iraq was a losing cause.

Former Chief of Mosul Police Mohamed AL-Barhawi

Former Chief of Mosul Police Mohamed AL-Barhawi

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In January 2005 Kirk Johnson, then twenty-four, arrived in Baghdad as USAID’s only Arabic-speaking American employee. Despite his opposition to the war, Johnson felt called to civic duty and wanted to help rebuild Iraq.

Appointed as USAID’s first reconstruction coordinator in Fallujah, he traversed the city’s IED-strewn streets, working alongside idealistic Iraqi translators—young men and women sick of Saddam, filled with Hollywood slang, and enchanted by the idea of a peaceful, democratic Iraq. It was not to be. As sectarian violence escalated, Iraqis employed by the US coalition found themselves subject to a campaign of kidnapping, torture, and assassination.

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Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri has issued his first specific guidelines for jihad, urging restraint in attacking other Muslim sects and non-Muslims, and in starting conflicts in countries where jihadis might find a safe base to promote their ideas.

The document, published by the SITE monitoring service, provides a rare look at al-Qaeda’s strategy 12 years after the September 11 attacks on the United States and the nature of its global ambitions from North Africa to the Caucasus to Kashmir.

Zawahiri endorsed the right of militants to fight Russians in the Caucasus, Indians in Kashmir and the Chinese in Xinjiang. He spelled out where conflict was inevitable, including Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Somalia. In Pakistan, where he is believed to be hiding, Zawahiri said fighting “aims at creating a safe haven…, which can… be used as a launching pad for the struggle of establishing an Islamic system…”

“Our struggle is a long one, and jihad is in need of safe bases,” Zawahiri said in his “general guidelines for jihad” posted on jihadi forums.

While al-Qaeda’s military aim remained to weaken the US and Israel, Zawahiri stressed the importance of “dawa”, or missionary work, to spread its ideas.

“As far as targeting the proxies of America is concerned, it differs from place to place. The basic principle is to avoid entering into any conflict with them, except in the countries where confronting them becomes inevitable,” he said.

Zawahiri also called on his followers to avoid attacking other Muslim sects, and said if they were attacked, they should limit their response to those involved in fighting.

They should also leave alone Christians, Hindus and Sikhs living in Muslim lands, respect the lives of women and children and refrain from targeting enemies in mosques, markets and gatherings where they mix with Muslims they were not fighting.


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Written By: FA ME

on Sept 11th which marks the anniversary of 9/11 attacks, the leader of Al-Qaeda terrorist organization “Al-Thawahiri”, whose is also mistakenly called “Al-Zawahiri” using the Egyptian form of the name, has announced or called for the lone-wolf attacks on U.S., as many news agencies have reported the news of this call taking it from an audio message he delivered to his followers around the globe.

This call comes after another call he announced back in August, when he called for attacks against U.S. interest in response to its military engagement in the “Muslim” world and its drone attacks in Pakistan and Yemen. Actually this call came to revenge the death of “Abu Sufyan Al-Azdi” who is Al-Qaeda leader in Arab Peninsula.

the lone-wolf attacks are one form of attacks carried by individuals who are not affiliated to Al-Qaeda, but very influenced by this ideology, such attacks happened in Boston during the Boston Marathon, which are believed to be an individual act of terrorism.

Generally, Al-Qaeda’s calls to carry attacks come in a form of retaliation to either an incident in the Arab world, which upsets islamists and fundamental Muslims, or in response to killing Al-Qaeda leader somewhere in the world. Al-Thawahiri’s call for lone-wolf attacks against U.S. seems to be unusual, because there is no such incident around the Arab or “Muslim” world. on the contrary, recent news and reports are in favor of Al-Qaeda’s operations especially in hot war zones, such as Syria represented in AlNusra Front, and in Iraq represented in different Al-Qaeda affiliates, or in Egypt represented in Muslim Brotherhood and Jihadist groups in Sinai. Even though this call comes in a critical time (9/11), which marks the anniversary of the attacks on NY Trade Centers, and Pentagon, but it seems to be a diverted message to somewhere else, to carry on different mission.

“The Boston incident confirms to the Americans … that they are not facing individuals, organizations or groups, but they are facing an uprising Ummah (Muslim community), that rose in jihad to defend its soul, dignity and capabilities,” he said.

“What the American regime refuses to admit is that al-Qaeda is a message before it was an organization.”

This was Al-Thawahiri praising the Boston Marathon Bombings, but the last line of his message is what I mean by diverted message – even though it’s unusual for a leader to compromise the ability of his organization to be only a message, unless it meant something else!

The terrorist leaders are famous of indicating their orders in forms of poetry or Quranic verses that they recite, something that the recent audio message of Al-Thawahiri lacks. But that doesn’t undermine the threat, and must all be alert to any danger that surrounding us.

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