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May 19th, 2009

Election Delay Complicates Timetable for U.S. Withdrawal

May 18, 2009

BAGHDAD — National parliamentary elections will be held Jan. 30, Iraqi officials announced Monday, sliding the date into next year in a move that could complicate the U.S. timetable for drawing down its forces.

The new parliament will choose a prime minister and Cabinet, a process that could take months. A long and turbulent delay in setting up a new government could force President Barack Obama to revise his goal of removing most of American troops from Iraq by the end of August 2010.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki will be hoping to build on his success in last January’s provincial balloting to form a strong government capable of dealing with the security and economic challenges facing this country as the American role fades.

But a recent spate of deadly bombings in Baghdad has tarnished his image, and the threat of more violence could rise as U.S. forces redeploy outside of urban areas by June 30 as scheduled.

The election for the 275-member parliament had been expected in December, four years after the current assembly was chosen. But the current parliament did not hold its first session until March 2006, or about three months after the December 2005 election. …

Timing of the election is critical to Obama’s plan to end the American combat role in Iraq next year and withdraw most of the 135,000 U.S. troops by September 2010.

Obama accepted a recommendation by U.S. officials in Baghdad to maintain substantial military forces in Iraq until after the election to help guarantee a safe ballot.

Once the vote is over, the U.S. expects to speed up the troop withdrawal, leaving between 30,000 and 50,000 soldiers here after September 2010 to train Iraqi forces and provide logistical and other support.

All U.S. troops are due to leave Iraq by the end of 2011 under terms of the U.S.-Iraq security agreement that took effect this year. …



Top U.S. Officer Warns Civilian Deaths Could Cripple Obama

“We cannot succeed … in Afghanistan by killing Afghan civilians.”

epa01725388 A picture made available on 10 May 200...
Afghan children injured in a airstrikes receive medical treatment at a hospital in Farah province, Afghanistan on May 9, 2009. Afghan officials said dozens of civilians were killed when U.S.-led warplanes bombed several houses in Bala Boluk district of the province. (Photo credit: Stringer / EPA file)

May 18, 2009

WASHINGTON — The nation’s top military officer warned Monday that the deaths of Afghan civilians caught up in U.S. combat operations could cripple President Barack Obama’s revamped strategy for the seven-year-old war.

“I believe that each time we do that, we put our strategy in jeopardy,” Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said. “We cannot succeed … in Afghanistan by killing Afghan civilians.”

Mullen said additional forces and new tactics can help the United States turn a discouraging tide in Afghanistan. He said he was hopeful that “in the next 12- to 24 months, that we can stem the trends which have been going very badly in Afghanistan the last three years.”

But speaking at the Brookings Institution, Mullen sounded frustrated that as the first of 21,000 U.S. reinforcements arrive, Taliban insurgents are having a seemingly easy time using America’s military prowess against it.

Mullen pointed to this month’s disputed U.S. airstrikes in Farah province, in which women and children were apparently among dozens of civilians killed. The United States says the Taliban is responsible for at least some of the deaths, but Mullen didn’t spend much time defending U.S. actions.

The May 4-5 incident is still under investigation and Mullen indicated the details may always remain murky. …

Afghans blame U.S. airstrikes for the deaths and destruction in two villages in the western province. American officials say the Taliban held villagers hostage during the fight. …

It is unclear how many people died. The Afghan government has paid out compensation to families for 140 dead, based on a list gathered from villagers. The U.S. military has said that figure is exaggerated, but it has not provided its own estimate.

If the Afghan toll is correct, it would be the largest case of civilian deaths since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion to oust the Taliban. …


1.5 Million Flee Fighting in Pakistan

New refugees who have fled from fighting in Pakist...
New refugees who have fled from fighting in Pakistani troubled Swat Valley, arrive at the Jalozai camp in Peshawar, Pakistan on Monday, May 18, 2009. The Pakistani Taliban have vowed to resist until the “last breath” as security forces entered two militant-held towns and fought on the outskirts of a third in what could turn into bloody urban battles near the Afghan border. (Photo credit: Mohammad Sajjad / AP)

May 18, 2009

GENEVA — The U.N. refugee agency said Monday that nearly 1.5 million people have fled their homes in Pakistan this month, saying that fighting between government forces and Taliban militants is uprooting more people faster than probably any conflict since the Rwandan genocide of the 1990s.

“It has been long time since there has been a displacement this big,” said UNHCR spokesman Ron Redmond, trying to recollect the last time so many people were uprooted in such a short period. …

He said the newly uprooted added to over 550,000 people who were already registered as displaced in northwest Pakistan, meaning there are over 2 million people separated from their homes in the country. …

2 Responses to “Iraq Postpones National Election”
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