Jun 03

NASSIRIYA, Iraq (Reuters) – About 500 Australian combat troops pulled out of their base in southern Iraq on Sunday, fulfilling an election promise by Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to bring the soldiers home this year.

A British military spokesman in the southern city of Basra said the pullout from Talil base in Nassiriya was under way, but a spokesman for the governor of Dhi Qar province said it had been completed, with U.S. forces replacing the Australians.

“The Australian battle group is pulling out,” the British military spokesman said.

Australia, a staunch U.S. ally, was one of the first countries to commit troops to the Iraq war. In addition to the combat troops, it also deployed aircraft and warships to the Gulf to protect Iraq’s offshore oil platforms. Continue reading »

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Apr 09

A secret draft agreement is being drawn up to allow United States forces to remain in Iraq indefinitely, it has been reported.

  • Iraqi Shia leader wants to disband Mahdi army
  • Watch: Iraq Surge report presented to politicians
  • The document, which was written a month ago and is and marked “secret” and “sensitive”, is intended to replace the United Nations mandate for coalition troops, including British forces, to remain in Iraq, which expires at the end of the year.

    Gen Petraeus
    Watch: Gen Petraeus delivers the Iraq report

    The draft authorisation would allow for the US to “conduct military operations in Iraq and to detain individuals when necessary for imperative reasons of security”.

    It does not set a time limit, but describes the arrangement as temporary and points out that the US does not want “permanent bases or a permanent military presence” in the country. It also states that the US does not seek to use Iraq as a base to launch operations against other states.

    The draft agreement is unlikely to emerge unscathed from political scrutiny in Baghdad or Washington. There appears little appetite in the US for a drawn-out occupation of Iraq. In Baghdad, both Shia and Sunni political groups opposed to the American presence are likely to oppose the agreement in its draft form.

    Moqtada al-Sadr, a vocal critic of the occupation, said yesterday that he would consider disbanding his powerful Mahdi army – but only after consulting the ayatollahs, or religious leaders.


    Iraq’s prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, said that if the militia, which has battled American and government forces in Basra and Baghdad for the past two weeks, was not disbanded its political wing would be barred from provincial elections.

    “They no longer have a right to participate in the political process or take part in the upcoming elections unless they end the Mahdi army,” said Mr Maliki.

    Sadr said he would consult religious figures, including Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the moderate Shia leader who is revered as a “source of emulation”.

    By putting the fate of his powerful militia in the hands of the religious hierarchy, the cleric appears to be gambling that he will establish his credentials as a figure capable of unifying Iraq’s majority Shia community under his leadership.

    However, Sadr said ayatollahs in the Iranian city of Qom, home to his spiritual mentor Grand Ayatollah Kazim al-Haeri, a known hard-liner, would also have a say.

    The cleric’s supporters will tomorrow attempt to mount a “million-strong” march in Baghdad to mark the fifth anniversary of the city’s fall. It will follow a report on Iraq to the US Congress in Washington by General David Petraeus and Ryan Crocker, the ambassador to Baghdad.

    By Damien McElroy

    Last Updated: 2:10am BST 09/04/2008

    Source: Telegraph

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    Apr 03

    Justice Department document said Bush could ignore torture bans

    WASHINGTON – The Pentagon on Tuesday released a now-defunct legal memo that approved the use of harsh interrogation techniques against terrorism suspects, saying that President Bush’s authority during wartime trumps any international ban on torture.

    The Justice Department memo, dated March 14, 2003, outlines legal justification for military interrogators to use harsh tactics against al-Qaida and Taliban detainees overseas – so long as they did not specifically intend to torture their captors.

    Even so, the memo noted, the president’s wartime power as commander in chief would not be limited by the U.N. treaties against torture. Continue reading »

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    Mar 14

    Dozens of U.S. troops in Iraq fell sick at bases using “unmonitored and potentially unsafe” water supplied by the military and a contractor once owned by Vice President Dick Cheney’s former company, the Pentagon’s internal watchdog says.


    A report obtained by The Associated Press said soldiers experienced skin abscesses, cellulitis, skin infections, diarrhea and other illnesses after using discolored, smelly water for personal hygiene and laundry at five U.S. military sites in Iraq.

    The Defense Department’s inspector general’s report, which could be released as early as Monday, found water quality problems between March 2004 and February 2006 at three sites run by contractor KBR Inc., and between January 2004 and December 2006 at two military-operated locations. Continue reading »

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