Thursday, April 08, 2004

What have the Salvadorans gotten themselves into?

379 Salvadoran troops (one was killed last week) are stationed at a base in Najaf under the command of the Spanish-led Plus Ultra Brigade. Col. Hugo Omar Orellana Calidonio, the top Salvadoran commander in Iraq, told La Prensa Gráfica: "The information I have is that on the side of Kufa, there are still armed elements. On the side of Najaf, apparently the police are still carrying out their work."

Hmmm. He might want to get some better intelligence on the situation.

The New York Times reports today:

An official in the occupation authority said Wednesday that allied and Iraqi security forces had lost control of the key southern cities of Najaf and Kufa to the Shiite militia, conceding that months of effort to win over the population with civil projects and promises of jobs have failed with segments of the population.

"Six months of work is completely gone," the official said. "There is nothing to show for it."

He cited reports that government buildings, police stations, civil defense garrisons and other installations built up by the Americans had been overrun and then stripped bare, of files, furnishings and even toilet fixtures.

Meanwhile, back at the Defense Department press conference yesterday:

Question: Mr. Secretary, from what you understand, are there any areas of the country that are not under control of coalition forces?


Question: Could you tell us which areas those are?

SEC. RUMSFELD: Oh, An Najaf. I mean, clearly you've got what, how many -- I don't know how many millions -- I've heard all kinds of numbers of pilgrims that are in that general area. And we know that Sadr and his militia is in that general area. And we've made a conscious decision to -- at the request of Iraqis, to stand back during this pilgrimage period. And I in my opening statement pointed out that we think it's a dangerous place and a place that people who are considering engaging in the pilgrimage ought to very carefully calculate, because it's very clear we're not in a position to provide protection for them. And it's also very clear that Zarqawi has indicated he thought it was a good idea to go out and kill Shi'a.

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