"BASRA, Iraq (AFP) - The British military will transfer security control of the southern province of Basra to Iraqi forces on Sunday, Iraq's government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh told reporters on Wednesday. 'The handover of Basra will take place on December 16,' Dabbagh said."
Gosh, that was sudden! But what about MSR Tampa?
Earlier on, in Spetember, IHT reported:
"As British troops pull out of their last base in Basra, some military commanders and civilian government officials in the area are concerned that the transition could leave them and a major supply route to Baghdad [MSR Tampa] at greater risk of attack . . . According to officers at the U.S. 3rd Army forward headquarters in Kuwait, which oversees the vast shipments of supplies flowing north into Iraq, on any given day more than 3,000 vehicles are on the road in convoys hauling food, fuel, ammunition and other equipment."
That could be a problem, no?
Because, the British plan on not only bugging out of Basra but also of getting out of the country entirely by the end of the year, if not sooner. The British say their job is basically done. During his "surprise" visit to British troops in Iraq, UK PM Gordon Brown said: "It's because of all the operations we have done over the past few months that the security situation has not only improved, but he is now recommending a move to provincial Iraqi control within two weeks."
Right. . .
The Journal-Standard reports:
"The police chief of Iraq's southern Basra province acknowledged Thursday that his forces lack the means to maintain security in the region after a British troop withdrawal later this month. . . 'I'm faced with a lot of hardships,' Maj. Gen. Jalil Khalaf, commander of the Basra Police Division, told The Associated Press. 'Frankly speaking, we have rifles, machine-guns and a few armored vehicles, which aren't as advanced as the British weaponry and are insufficient to maintain full control of the province.' So far, in tough situations, he said Iraqi police have had to rely on calling in 'support from Baghdad' or the U.S.-led coalition."
Additionally, Maj-Gen Khalaf told the BBC "There is a terrible repression against women in Basra. . . .They kill women, leave a piece of paper on her or dress her in indecent clothes so as to justify their horrible crimes"
BBC: "Forty-two women were killed between July and September this year, although the number dropped slightly in October, he said."
So, you see, the security situation in Basra is cleary under control.
Good luck with getting any help from the government in Baghdad to curb these abuses against women. Many of al-Maliki's buddies in government think women are getting a little too uppity these days anyway.
And Good luck with geting help from the Americans. U.S. General David Patraeus is also contemplating the improved security situation in his neck of the woods and has plans to begin pulling five combat brigades out of Iraq by the end of the summer. Patraeus seems to think even without the British presence down south things will be fine.
Coalition and Iraqi security forces can get the job done. Naturally, Patraeus said that during his visit to London in September he and his UK counterparts would "talk tasks" and that "among the tasks is the need to continue line-of-communications security, certainly."
Certainly, but what about the situation in Maysan province, the area the Brits turned over to the Iraqi in April? Could this be any indication of what we might have in store for us in the near furture in Basra?
"Four car bombs killed at least 33 people in Iraq on Wednesday, including 28 in the southern city of Amara [the capital of Maysan]. Triple car bombs in Amara killed at least 28 people and wounded another 151, 10 of them children, said Zamil Shia'a al-Oreibi, director general of Amara health department. Amara police Lieutenant Ali Kadhim Hassan said the bombs exploded within minutes of each other, the first going off at 10:30 am (0730 GMT)."
It seems to me both the Brits and us are trying to use this little interlude of relative peace (and I do mean relative) in Iraq as cover to bug out. In the case of Gordon Brown, he figures he doesn't want to take over ownership of the Blair's debacle so he's more than happy to get out. Patraeus has taken ownership of Bush quagmire but he's on the clock. There is no way he doesn't drive the Army into the ground if he keeps the kind of troop levels he's got now past the summer.
Everybody is crossing their fingers and toes hoping things hang on long enough to bow out gracefully. It all looks like wishful thinking to me. Let's see what happens once provincial elections are allowed to go ahead.
But what about MSR Tampa? Our lines of communication are a little precarious right now. We're hoping the Turks keep playing ball in the north and in the south?
Well, Lieutenant Colonel James Hutton, a spokesman for the Multinational Corps-Iraq, says he's noted a "recent drop in both the number and effectiveness of attacks on these convoys." He credits this on "aggressive patrolling" and Muqtada al-Sadr's recent retolling cease-fire which Hutton says might lead to "further reductions of violence in the southern provinces."
That's a pretty thin reed to hold on to: Let's hope Muqtada behaves himself?