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More from the White House: Bush ``Strategy for Victory'' backgrounder. Response from Dem Senate Leader Harry Reid (D-N.V.)

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Strategy For Victory: Clear, Hold, And Build

Today's Presidential Action

Today, President Bush Discussed The Strategy For Victory In Iraq And Profiled The Northern Iraqi Town Of Tal Afar. Once a key base of operations for Al-Qaida, Tal Afar is a concrete example of progress in Iraq.

Tal Afar Shows How The Three Elements Of The Strategy For Victory In Iraq – Political, Security, And Economic – Depend On And Reinforce One Another. By working with local leaders to address community grievances, Iraqi and Coalition forces helped build the political support needed to make the military operation to drive terrorists out of that city successful. The military success against the terrorists gave the citizens of Tal Afar security, and this allowed them to vote and rebuild their city. The economic rebuilding taking place is giving Tal Afar's residents a real stake in the success of a free Iraq – and further marginalizing the terrorists.

Tal Afar Was An Al-Qaida Base

After Saddam Hussein's Removal In April 2003, The Terrorists Began Moving Into Tal Afar. With roughly the population of Akron, Ohio, Tal Afar is a city of more than 200,000 residents. It has dozens of tribes of different ethnicity and religions. Due to its strategic location, Tal Afar was a key base of operations for al-Qaida. Al-Qaida’s stated goal is to drive American forces out of Iraq so they can take over the country, overthrow moderate Muslim governments throughout the region, and use Iraq as a base to plan and launch attacks against America. They seek to do this by recruiting terrorists from across the Middle East to come to Iraq, infiltrate the cities, and sow violence. After Saddam Hussein's removal, the terrorists moved into Tal Afar seeking to divide its many ethnic and religious groups. The terrorists forged an alliance of convenience with those who benefited from Saddam's regime and others with their own grievances, skillfully used propaganda to foment hostility, and exploited the weak economy to recruit young men to their cause.

Ø We Drove The Terrorists And Insurgents Out Of The City, But They Returned. By September 2004, the terrorists and insurgents had seized control in Tal Afar. We launched a military operation that drove the enemy out after three days of heavy fighting. To keep the terrorists on the run, Coalition forces kept pursuing the enemy and rooting out the terrorists in other parts of Iraq. Unfortunately, the local Security Forces were not able to maintain order, and by November 2004, the terrorists had returned.

The Terrorists And Insurgents Imposed In Tal Afar The Brutal Reality They Seek For All Of Iraq. Ruling through fear and intimidation, the terrorists and insurgents controlled the only hospital, beheaded civilians who had worked as interpreters for Coalition forces, gunned down a popular city councilman, booby-trapped bodies, and deliberately fired mortars into playgrounds and soccer fields filled with children.

Building Support For Military Operations

In Response To Experiences In Tal Afar And Elsewhere, The Coalition Adopted A New Approach – Clear, Hold, And Build. The ability of al-Qaida and its associates to retake Tal Afar was a problem seen elsewhere in Iraq, and the Iraqi government and Coalition adopted a new approach. Instead of coming in, removing the terrorists, and then moving on, Iraqi and Coalition forces pursued a strategy of clearing a city of terrorists, leaving well-trained Iraqi units behind to hold the city, and working with local leaders to build economic and political infrastructure.

In May 2005, Iraqi And Coalition Forces Began Implementing This New Approach To Restore Order In Tal Afar And Give Residents Confidence The Terrorists Would Not Return.

Clearing And Holding Tal Afar

In The Summer Of 2005, Iraqi And Coalition Forces Launched Operation Restore Rights To Clear Tal Afar Of Terrorists. Iraqi forces took the lead. The primary force was 10 Iraqi battalions backed by three Coalition battalions. Many Iraqi units conducted their own anti-terrorist operations and controlled their own battle space. By focusing on securing the safety of Tal Afar's population, Iraqi and Coalition forces won the trust of the city's residents – which was critical to defeating the terrorists.

After The Main Combat Operations, Iraqi Forces Moved In To Hold The City. More than 1,000 Iraqi Army soldiers and emergency police were deployed to keep order, supported by a restored police force that would eventually number about 1,700 officers. We embedded Coalition forces with the Iraqi police and Army units to work with their Iraqi counterparts and help them become more capable and professional. Today, the Iraqi police have built stations throughout the city, and residents are stepping forward to provide vital intelligence about the terrorists. By turning control of these cities over to capable Iraqi troops and police, Coalition forces give Iraqis confidence that they can determine their own destiny – and our troops are better able to go after high-value terrorist targets.

Recent Elections Demonstrate The Benefits Of A Secure Environment. Tal Afar is the largest city in Western Nineva province. In the elections held in January 2005, only 32,000 of about 190,000 registered voters cast a ballot. By the October constitutional referendum and December elections, Iraqi and Coalition forces had secured Tal Afar and surrounding areas. Voter registration increased to about 204,000, and more than 175,000 voted in each election – more than 85 percent of the eligible voters in Western Nineva province.

Rebuilding Tal Afar

The Residents Of Tal Afar Are Seeing Their City Come Back To Life. Terrorists who once exercised brutal control over every aspect of the city have been killed, captured, driven out, or put on the run. Children are going to school, electricity and water service are restored throughout the city, and the police force better reflects the ethnic and religious diversity of the communities they patrol. Markets are opening, buildings are going up, and homes are being repaired. Immediately following military operations, the Coalition helped Iraqis set up humanitarian relief for the civilian population, and we set up a fund to reimburse innocent Iraqi families for damage to their homes and businesses in the fight against the terrorists. The Iraqi government pledged $50 million to help reconstruct Tal Afar by rebuilding hospitals and schools and by improving infrastructure from the electric grid to the sewer and water systems.

Work Remains, But Tal Afar Exemplifies The Progress In Iraq

The Story Of Tal Afar Shows That With A Basic Level Of Safety And Security, Iraqis Can Live Together Peacefully. After the bombing of the Golden Mosque in Samarra, the reaction in Tal Afar was subdued, with few reports of sectarian violence. On the Friday after the attack, more than 1,000 demonstrators gathered in peaceful protest.

Ø Despite Progress, Challenges Remain In Iraq. Though most of the country has remained relatively peaceful, in some parts of Iraq the enemy is carrying out savage acts of violence – particularly in Baghdad and surrounding areas. Even in Tal Afar, the people still face many challenges, including age-old resentments, an economy that needs to create jobs and opportunity for its young people, and determined enemies. But the progress made in bringing more Iraqi Security Forces online is helping bring peace and stability to Iraqi cities.

In Tal Afar, A Free And Secure People Are Getting Back On Their Feet, Are Participating In Government And Civic Life, And Have Become Allies In The Fight Against The Terrorists. As Iraqis see the benefits of liberty, they will gain confidence in their future – and work to ensure that common purpose trumps narrow sectarianism.

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REID STATEMENT ON THE 3rd ANNIVERSARY OF THE IRAQ WAR

Washington, DC—Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid released the following statement on the third anniversary of the Iraq war. A fact check on President Bush’s remarks today in Ohio follows below.

“As Americans across the country mark the three year anniversary of the start of the Iraq war, I join them in praising our courageous men and women who have fought bravely to defeat Saddam Hussein and end years of tyranny. We salute their courage, recognize the sacrifices they and their families have made over these past three years, and stand with them as the struggle in Iraq continues.

“Three years after the start of the Iraq war, we find that the dangerously incompetent policies of the Bush administration and the civilian leadership of our military have made America less safe and left Iraq on the precipice of all-out civil war. The Congress called on President Bush to make 2006 a year of significant transition, yet we have seen no change in course or strategy to make this a reality.

“We stand united in wanting to achieve success in Iraq. The president must urgently exercise his personal leadership to forge the political compromises necessary to create a government of national unity that will create stability in Iraq and allow our troops to begin to come home. The Iraqis must take responsibility for their freedom and security. Simply telling the Iraqi people that our troops will stand down when the Iraqi security forces stand up is a slogan, not a strategy. We must make clear that our continued presence will be determined by progress on the ground both militarily and politically. Until he changes course, we cannot expect different results or to be in a different position on the fourth anniversary.��?

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FROM SENATE DEMOCRATS.......

Fact Check: George W. Bush

Bush Said Iraqi Troops Took the Lead in the Fight to Retake Tal Afar. Bush: “Iraqi forces took the lead. The primary force was ten Iraqi battalions backed by three coalition battalions. Many Iraqi units conducted their own anti-terrorist operations and controlled their own battle space. Hunting for the enemy fighters and securing neighborhoods block by block.��? [3/20/06]

FACT: Time Magazine’s Baghdad Bureau Chief, Michael Ware, Debunked this Claim in November – Iraqi Troops Not in the Lead.

COOPER: The president also said today that, in the battle of Tal Afar, the assault in the north of Iraq, that he said it was led primarily by Iraqi security forces, 11 Iraqi battalions, backed by five coalition battalions providing support.

WARE: With the greatest respect to the president, that's completely wrong and is extraordinarily misleading.

COOPER: How do you know that?

WARE: I was in that battle from the very beginning to the very end.

I was with Iraqi units, right there on the front line, as they were battling with al Qaeda. They were not leading. They were being led by the U.S. Green Beret special forces with them, Green Berets who were following an American plan of attack, who were advancing with these Iraqi units as and when they were told to do so by the American battle planners. The Iraqis led nothing. [CNN, 11/30/05]

Bush Said He Never Linked 9/11 and Saddam Hussein. “First, if I might correct a misperception. I don't think we ever said -- at least I didn't say that there was a direct connection between September the 11th and Saddam Hussein.��? [3/20/06]

Ø FACT: President Bush Linked “End of Major Combat��? in Iraq with September 11th Attacks. In his speech aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln, President Bush stated “The liberation of Iraq is a crucial advance in the campaign against terror…We have not forgotten the victims of September the 11th -- the last phone calls, the cold murder of children, the searches in the rubble. With those attacks, the terrorists and their supporters declared war on the United States. And war is what they got.��? [Remarks by the President, 5/1/03]

Ø FACT: Bush Repeatedly Linked al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein to Argue for War in Iraq. For Example:

“[Y]ou can’t distinguish between al Qaeda and Saddam when you talk about the war on terror.��? [President Bush, Photo Opportunity, 9/25/02]
“The regime has long-standing and continuing ties to terrorist organizations. And there are al-Qaeda terrorists inside Iraq. The regime is seeking a nuclear bomb, and with fissile material, could build one within a year.��? [President Bush, remarks at Rose Garden, 9/26/02]
“Evidence from intelligence sources, secret communications, and statements by people now in custody reveal the Saddam Hussein aids and protects terrorists, including members of Al Qaeda. Secretly, and without fingerprints, he could provide one of his hidden weapons to terrorists, or help them develop their own.��? [President Bush, State of the Union, 1/28/03]
“We also know that Iraq is harboring a terrorist network, headed by a senior al -Qaeda terrorist planner . . .The danger that Saddam Hussein poses reaches across the world.��? [President Bush, Statement in the Roosevelt Room, 2/6/03]
“Saddam Hussein has longstanding, direct and continuing ties to terrorist networks. Senior members of Iraqi intelligence and Al Qaeda have met at least eight times since the early 1990s. Iraq has sent bomb-making document forgery experts to work with Al Qaeda. Iraq has also provided Al Qaeda with chemical and biological weapons training…We also know that Iraq is harboring a terrorist network headed by a senior Al Qaeda terrorist planner. This network runs a poison and explosive training camp in northeast Iraq, and many of its leaders are known to be in Baghdad.��? [President Bush, radio address, 2/8/03]
“Senior members of Iraqi intelligence and al Qaeda have met at least eight times since the early 1990s. Iraq has sent bomb-making and document forgery experts to work with al Qaeda. Iraq has also provided al Qaeda with chemical and biological weapons training. We know that Iraq is harboring a terrorist network, headed by a senior al Qaeda terrorist planner. The network runs a poison and explosive training center in northeast Iraq, and many of its leaders are known to be in Baghdad.��? [President Bush, press conference, 2/6/03]
“…And it [Iraq] has aided, trained and harbored terrorists, including operatives of al Qaeda.��? [President Bush, Address to the Nation, 3/17/03]

Bush Described Three Categories of People Fighting Against Democracy in Iraq. “I think in Iraq there are three types of folks that are trying to stop democracy. First of all, I think it's very important for people to understand one reason they're so violent and desperate is because they're trying to stop a society based upon liberty and you've got to ask why. The reason why is because it's the exact opposite of what they believe. There are three types. One is al Qaeda and al Qaeda is headed into there. Al Qaeda understands the danger of democracy spreading. So al-Zarqawi -- this fellow al-Zarqawi is in charge of al Qaeda inside of Iraq which recruits foreign fighters and they embedded into Iraq because they wanted to fight us. They wanted to stop democracy. Secondly, there are Saddamists. These are folks that really enjoyed a life of privilege. These are people that were at the top of the heap. They have all of it and they don't like it. So they're trying to regroup. And the third group are rejectionists. These are essentially Sunnis as well who really weren't sure about what it meant to have minority rates and whether or not they're protected.��? [3/20/06]

Ø FACT: According to General Abizaid, Sectarian Strife Has Eclipsed Terrorism as the Chief Threat in Iraq. “Sectarian violence in Iraq has reached a level unprecedented since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003 and is now eclipsing the insurgency as the chief security threat there, said Army Gen. John P. Abizaid, the top U.S. commander in the Middle East, who appeared with Rumsfeld.��? [Washington Post, 3/10/06]

Ø FACT: Former Interim Prime Minister, Iyad Allawi, Believes Iraq is in a State of Civil War. "’It is unfortunate that we are in civil war,’ the former prime minister told the British Broadcasting Corp. ‘We are losing each day, as an average, 50 to 60 people throughout the country, if not more. If this is not civil war, then God knows what civil war is.’��? [LA Times, 3/20/06]

Bush Said FISA is Out of Date. “The FISA law, he's referring to the FISA law, I believe, is -- was designed for a previous period and is slow and cumbersome and being able to do what Mike Hayden thinks is necessarily called hot pursuit. He designed a program that would enable us to listen from a known al Qaeda or suspected al Qaeda person and/or affiliate from making a phone call outside the United States in and in the united states out, with the idea to pick up quickly information for which to be able to respond in this environment we're in.��? [3/20/06]

Ø FACT: In Emergencies, the Government can Start the Surveillance and then Get a Warrant. “Under ‘extraordinary’ circumstances, the government also can wait 72 hours after beginning wiretaps to get a warrant, but the administration did not seek to do that under the special program, which monitors the international communications of some people inside the United States.��? [New York Times, 12/19/05]

Ø FACT: The Bush Administration Did Not Support Senator DeWine’s 2002 Proposal to Change the FISA Standards, Claiming that the Change was Unnecessary and Likely Unconstitutional. “The Bush administration rejected a 2002 Senate proposal that would have made it easier for FBI agents to obtain surveillance warrants in terrorism cases, concluding that the system was working well and that it would likely be unconstitutional to lower the legal standard. The proposed legislation by Sen. Mike DeWine (R-Ohio) would have allowed the FBI to obtain surveillance warrants for non-U.S. citizens if they had a "reasonable suspicion" they were connected to terrorism -- a lower standard than the "probable cause" requirement in the statute that governs the warrants.��? [Washington Post, 1/26/06]

Bush Said His Own Lawyers OK’d Warrantless Spying Program. “I was concerned about the legality of the program. So I asked lawyers which we have plenty of them in Washington to determine whether or not I could do this legally.��? [3/20/06]

Ø FACT: Justice Department Lawyers Have Left the Government because of Objections to Bush Policies. Deputy Attorney General James Comey led what Newsweek magazine described as a “Palace Revolt��? at the Justice Department. “These Justice Department lawyers, backed by their intrepid boss Comey, had stood up to the hard-liners, centered in the office of the vice president, who wanted to give the president virtually unlimited powers in the war on terror. Demanding that the White House stop using what they saw as farfetched rationales for riding rough-shod over the law and the Constitution, Goldsmith and the others fought to bring government spying and interrogation methods within the law. They did so at their peril; ostracized, some were denied promotions, while others left for more comfortable climes in private law firms and academia. Some went so far as to line up private lawyers in 2004, anticipating that the president's eavesdropping program would draw scrutiny from Congress, if not prosecutors.��? [Newsweek, 2/6/06]

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2 Comments

The Tal Afar Mayor did not write the letter. People need to start asking guestions. The letter was written with the help of a Captain assigned to the Headquarters at Tal Afar.

Twenty years of struggle against AIDS. Grassroots campaign against AIDS. The struggle to find a cure for AIDS has contributed to other areas... WBR LeoP

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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on March 20, 2006 5:49 PM.

McClellan with Bush aboard Air Force One en route to Ohio: More on ``our strategy for victory in Iraq.'' was the previous entry in this blog.

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