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  1. #1
    Senior Member AirborneSapper7's Avatar
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    Al-Qaeda: Decimated, on the run, and closing in on Baghdad

    Human Events

    Another Obama foreign-policy triumph produces the best-equipped, best-funded terror state in history.

    Al-Qaeda: Decimated, on the run, and closing in on Baghdad | Human Events
    Human Events

    Al-Qaeda: Decimated, on the run, and closing in on Baghdad

    By: John Hayward
    6/12/2014 09:03 AM

    Obama’s latest foreign-policy triumph has taken the cities of Mosul and Tikrit, and is now bearing down on Baghdad. We live in a world set ablaze by this President’s ignorance, arrogance, and failure. He was eager to check off the “get out of Iraq” box on his to-do list, for the pleasure of his far-Left supporters, so he didn’t work out a status-of-forces agreement.
    Which means there was no American presence to help when the al-Qaeda falsely described as “decimated” and “on the run” by Obama came calling, and the Iraqi government forces folded up in a rout, despite outnumbering the attackers by a good five to one. (One Mosul resident spotted Iraqi troops shucking their uniforms and slipping into track suits, to make running away more stylish and comfortable. ”I asked one soldier why he was leaving,” said the eyewitness, quoted by McClatchy News. ”He told me, ‘We came here for salaries, not to die.’”) Obama was warned the Iraqi forces weren’t ready, but he didn’t listen.
    The perpetrators are an al-Qaeda terrorist group – now upgraded to a full-blown terror state, with “police forces, Islamic court systems and the ability to provide services such as electricity and trash pickup” according to McClatchy – known as ISIS, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. (It looks like Western media is still trying to decide whether it wants to change the acronym to ISIL, because it has also been rendered as “The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant.”) As the name suggests, they’re the same terrorists Obama wanted to provide with air cover during their battle with the comparably evil Syrian dictator, Bashar Assad. Just imagine how well they’d be doing in Iraq right now, if Obama had gotten what he wanted in Syria.
    Which is not to take away from decimated-and-on-the-run al-Qaeda achievements to date, which have left them with captured American equipment (they’ve been spotted tooling around in Humvees already, and there were reportedly U.S. Blackhawk helicopters in Mosul when it fell) plus a sizable treasury, having looted $429 million from captured banks. That makes them the best-funded, best-equipped terror group in history.
    And now they’re in Samarra, just 70 miles from Baghdad. It looks like the Shiite-dominated Iraqi military is beginning to resist more effectively as the Sunni invaders move south, and threaten to take the Shiite holy cities of Karbala and Najaf. Unfortunately, when the Iraqi military does fight back, it has a fondness for indiscriminate shelling and bombing that leave local citizens as frightened of their putative defenders as they are of the invaders. From the Washington Post:
    Katheer Saeed, a 48-year-old truck driver, had left Mosul with his five children. He said he had been “excited” as he heard that the army had put down arms in the face of the ISIS advance.
    He said he was fleeing because he feared a government air offensive rather than ISIS.
    In western Iraq, the army has been accused of indiscriminate shelling and even using barrel bombs in its attempts to wrest back control of the city of Fallujah since it fell to insurgents in January.
    Abu Mohammed, 50, agreed, saying he had left Mosul only because his father was sick. “ISIS just want to free the country from the unfair, sectarian government,” he said.
    If the fighting reaches Baghdad, it is hard to see how a full-scale sectarian war can be avoided.
    Among the worrisome signs to emerge Wednesday was a call by Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, leader of the now largely inactive Mahdi Army militia, to create a new security force to protect Shiite holy sites. Sadr accused the government of standing on the sidelines “shocked and silent” as the country fell between the “jaws of terrorism and extremism.”
    Well, it could have been avoided by having a better U.S. President who didn’t let things get this far, but that ship has sailed. For those keeping score, this is one of the many, many things Mitt Romney was right about.

    It’s not just the Iraqi government standing “shocked and silent.” The Obama Administration was caught utterly flat-footed by these developments. The President was busy farting around with Version 6.3 of his ever-changing Bowe Bergdahl story, and hoping nobody ever asks him another question about the Department of Veterans Affairs. Maybe this would be a good time for Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry to tell the Iraqi people that the greatest threat they face is global warming. That’s the kind of foreign policy speech they like to deliver. Has the State Department got a #BringBackOurMosul hashtag going yet? Have they chosen a YouTube video they can blame? Any selfies from State Department spokesdroids we can send to ISIS, to shame them out of attacking Baghdad?
    ISIS kidnapped 80 Turkish nationals, including a number of diplomats, after seizing Mosul, so the Turks are understandably upset. ”Right now we are engaged in calm crisis management, considering our citizens’ security. This should not be misunderstood. Any harm to our citizens and staff would be met with the harshest retaliation,” the Turkish Foreign Minister warned. The Iranians are nervous enough to send special-forces troops into Iraq.
    The Kurds, who have their own autonomous region in Iraq, are getting hit with a flood of refugess from Mosul, and have begun moving security forces, Kurdish units of the Iraqi Army, and their own peshmerga militia into defensive positions. ”It’s a disaster,” said one of their security officers. ”We’re going to have to fight alone, because the Arab army and police units have fled.”
    There aren’t many good options for the U.S. now. So far, the dazed Obama Administration hasn’t done much except “strongly condemn the attacks in Mosul,” as UN Ambassador Samantha Power put it. The White House also offered condemnation, with a side order of “condolences to the families of those killed,” followed by an underscoring of “our commitment to assist the Iraqi people as they confront the threat that ISIL poses to Iraq and the region.”
    “Condemn the attacks?” They overran the city, kids. (It should be clear by now that “kids” is the appropriate way to address anyone associated with the Obama White House.) Or did President Obama not know about the fall of Mosul, because he hasn’t read the morning paper yet? As for that “commitment to assist the Iraqi people,” it evidently stops short of the air support requested by the Iraqi government last month, which the New York Times says was because the White House was “reluctant to open a new chapter in a conflict that President Obama has insisted was over when the United States withdrew the last of its forces from Iraq in 2011.”
    Great – another political decision that had little to do with our national security interests. So now the new chapter will be opened by al-Qaeda, perhaps with a few pages contributed by Iran, and we’ll get drawn into it on their timetable, with maximum cost for minimum gain… long after so many of the gains made in Iraq before Barack Obama showed up have been squandered. Everything Obama said was wrong, everything he’s done has been a disaster, his assessment of every world crisis has been completely mistaken, American prestige is at an all-time low thanks to a series of embarrassments from Ukraine to the lopsided Taliban prisoner swap, American intelligence seems to be almost completely blind, and all the choices from here on out are terrible.
    Now, would someone like to give me a good laugh to brighten up this gloomy morning, and tell me the joke about how Iran is so terrified of Obama that they wouldn’t dream of going nuclear?

    Update: Here’s a picture of the ISIS boys posing with their new American wheels. What, no Obama/Biden 2012 bumper stickers? Ingrates.

    I doubt any heads will roll in the Obama Administration for getting caught unaware by this horror show, but heads are sure as hell rolling in Iraq. The UK Telegraph carries the account of a refugee from Mosul:
    Abu Mustafa fled the Iraqi city of Mosul with his family after the armed men of Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham executed his son-in-law with three shots to the head.
    On the highway out, the family found others who had met the same fate: dozens of bodies, burned or shot, were strewn on the tarmac and left to rot.
    “Then, as we left the city, we found corpses stuffed into the open boots of cars. Their hands were still tied behind their backs.” said the 57-year-old who, out of sheer terror of the jihadists now occupying his home, spoke using a pseudonym.
    Before he left, Abu Mustafa rescued Jenna, aged one, and two-year-old Amira, the two infant daughters of his son-in-law from their home.
    The Washington Examiner reports that “revenge beheadings have begun.” Hopefully the teenagers at the State Department can whip up the most extra-special super-awesome hashtag ever.

    Mark Steyn skips ahead to the last chapter in this horrifying farce. It’s a story we’ve seen before:

    Mark Steyn @MarkSteynOnline Follow US Embassy in Baghdad readies for its Saigon moment - for the helicopters on the roof, and the executions of the "friends" they left behind.
    12:23 AM - 12 Jun 2014

    More sage advice from Mitt Romney, circa October 2011, courtesy of The Hill:
    Mitt Romney condemned President Obama on Friday for his decision to withdraw all U.S. troops from Iraq by the end of 2011, saying Obama is putting U.S. victory in Iraq “at risk.”
    “The unavoidable question is whether this decision is the result of a naked political calculation or simply sheer ineptitude in negotiations with the Iraqi government,” Romney said in a news release. “The American people deserve to hear the recommendations that were made by our military commanders in Iraq.”
    The front-runner for the GOP presidential nomination has previously criticized Obama for not listening to his “generals on the ground” in announcing a troop drawdown in Afghanistan.
    “President Obama’s astonishing failure to secure an orderly transition in Iraq has unnecessarily put at risk the victories that were won through the blood and sacrifice of thousands of American men and women,” Romney said.
    You know who else was right about this? Jon Huntsman.
    Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman said Obama’s decision to totally withdraw troops from Iraq was a mistake. Huntsman said a better idea would have been to leave a small counterterrorism and training oriented force behind.
    “President Obama’s decision, however, to not leave a small, focused presence in Iraq is a mistake and the product of his administration’s failures,” Huntsman said in a statement. “The president’s inability to reach a security agreement leaves Iraq vulnerable to backsliding, thus putting our interests in the region at risk. An ideal arrangement would have left a small troop presence that could have assisted with the training of Iraqi security forces and vital counter-terror efforts.”
    You know how many “militants” were in the force that took Mosul? About 800. How many U.S. troops would it have taken to shut that down before it got out of hand?

    It turns out the guy in charge of ISIS, known as Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, was in U.S. custody until Barack Obama took office… at which point he was released under somewhat murky circumstances. But don’t worry, I’m sure Obama’s Taliban Five won’t get into any trouble.

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  2. #2
    Senior Member AirborneSapper7's Avatar
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    ‘Planeloads’ Of U.S. Contractors Flee Baghdad As ISIS Moves South

    June 12, 2014 by Ben Bullard

    As the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) continues its southern sweep across a severely destabilized Iraq, non-government American workers in Baghdad are evacuating to undisclosed areas of the country by the planeload, the State Department told media today.
    “We can confirm that U.S. citizens, under contract to the government of Iraq, in support of the U.S. Foreign Military Sales program in Iraq, are being temporarily relocated by their companies due to security concerns in the area,” State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki told media today.” The status of the staffing at the U.S. Embassy and Consulates has not changed.”
    The U.S. Embassy in Iraq, a massive city within-a-city opened in 2009 at a cost of more than $700 million, has operated with a reduced (but still sizable) staff since American forces officially withdrew from the country in December of 2011.
    The State Department, along with diplomatic offices of several other Western nations, issued a travel warning to civilian nationals in Iraq this week as ISIS organized militia under the command of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi took control of key Iraqi cities north of the capital city in a show of force that has elicited mass surrenders from Iraqi forces.
    According to The Hill, the State Department disclosed that U.S. citizens were evacuated from the region by the planeload today, with “several hundred more U.S. contractors” in queue to retreat ahead of the expected arrival of ISIS forces.
    The Obama Administration resolved Thursday to review possible U.S. military options to bolster the Iraqi government’s feeble resistance to the Al-Qaida-spinoff group, with possible air strikes appearing as the most viable option. Psaki said the Administration is not considering a “boots on the ground” operation.
    Obama himself said a U.S. response would likely exchange some kind of military assistance for a commitment from the Iraqi government that it will listen to all options in cultivating a stronger defense strategy.
    “In our consultations with the Iraqis, there will be some short-term immediate things that need to be done militarily,” Obama said today. “This should be also a wakeup call for the Iraqi government…There has to be a political component to this.”
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    The Cleansing of Iraq’s Christians Is Entering Its End Game

    By Nina Shea
    June 10, 2014 5:42 PM
    Comments 60

    The government of Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, fell overnight to the jihadist Islamic State of Iraq and Levant, also called the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Mosul’s panic-stricken Christians, along with many others, are now fleeing en masse to the rural Nineveh Plain, according to the Vatican publication Fides. The border crossings into Kurdistan, too, are jammed with the cars of the estimated 150,000 desperate escapees.
    The population, particularly its Christian community, has much to fear. The ruthlessness of ISIS, an offshoot of al-Qaeda, has been legendary. Its beheadings, crucifixions, and other atrocities against Christians and everyone else who fails to conform to its vision of a caliphate have been on full display earlier this year, in Syria.
    As Corner readers will remember, in February, it was the militants of this rebel group that, in the northern Syrian state of Raqqa, compelled Christian leaders to sign a 7th-century dhimmi contract. The document sets forth specific terms denying the Christians the basic civil rights of equality and religious freedom and committing them to pay protection money in exchange for their lives and the ability to keep their Christian identity.

    Many Nineveh residents fled to Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq on Tuesday.
    Since 2003, Iraq’s Christian community has suffered intense religious persecution on top of the effects of the conflict and, as a result, it’s shrunk by well over 50 percent. Mosul, the site of ancient Nineveh of the Assyrians, who converted to Christianity in the first century, has become the home of many Christians who remained. Considered by Christians the place of last resort inside Iraq, Mosul and the surrounding Nineveh Plain has been home to many Christian refugees driven out of Baghdad and Basra. Mosul has the only university, the best hospitals, and the largest markets serving the Christian towns and villages of the Nineveh Plain. The plain, itself, is now at grave risk of direct jihadi attacks and the possibility of being cut off from an essential city.
    Once upon a time, some of the Mosul Christians might have fled to Syria, but they now have few options. More will give up on the region altogether and join their relatives and former neighbors in Michigan, California, Sweden, and elsewhere in the West. The fall of Mosul is a serious blow for the Iraqi state, and the implications for Iraq’s Christian community are devastating.
    ISIS now controls the area surrounding Mosul’s Catholic Chaldean cathedral. Fides reports that Chaldean bishop Amel Shamon Nona and the other bishops of Mosul launched an appeal yesterday to keep churches and mosques there open to pray for peace. Their perseverance in the face of such peril is heartbreaking. ISIS will not listen, of course. They are not men of peace and they kill those who are, as they did Father Paolo Dall’Oglio in Raqqa last year. These bishops and their flocks should load up their cars and head for the Kurdish border without delay.
    President Maliki is vowing that Iraq’s army will regain control, but this may take time. ISIS has controlled parts of Ramadi, the capital of Sunni Muslim Anbar province, and much of Fallujah for the past six months. When the army does eventually succeed in reversing jihadi control in Mosul, it may be too late for the Christians. Once Middle Eastern Christians flee to the West, they don’t return.
    In other words, the religious cleansing of Christians from Iraq is entering the end game.
    This is a profound development for the Christian church, of course, which has had a two-thousand-year-old presence there. But it will have long-term national-security implications for the West. American political leaders have so far failed to distinguish the religious cleansing from its surrounding context of terror and conflict. They overlook the fact that religious pluralism and diversity are among today’s casualties. As one Chaldean bishop lamented, “This is very sad and very dangerous for the church, for Iraq and even for Muslim people, because it means the end of an old experience of living together.”
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  4. #4
    Senior Member AirborneSapper7's Avatar
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    Iraq crisis: Baghdad prepares for the worst as Islamist militants vow to capture the capital

    Collapse of Shia-dominated regime could provoke Iranian intervention

    Patrick Cockburn
    Thursday 12 June 2014

    Iraq is breaking up. The Kurds have taken the northern oil city of Kirkuk that they have long claimed as their capital. Sunni fundamentalist fighters vow to capture Baghdad and the Shia holy cities further south.

    Government rule over the Sunni Arab heartlands of north and central Iraq is evaporating as its 900,000-strong army disintegrates. Government aircraft have fired missiles at insurgent targets in Mosul, captured by Isis on Monday, but the Iraqi army has otherwise shown no sign of launching a counter-attack.
    The nine-year Shia dominance over Iraq, established after the US, Britain and other allies overthrew Saddam Hussein, may be coming to an end. The Shia may continue to hold the capital and the Shia-majority provinces further south, but they will have great difficulty in re-establishing their authority over Sunni provinces from which their army has fled.

    Read more: Robert Fisk: Sunni caliphate bankrolled by Saudi Arabia
    Patrick Cockburn: ‘Do not fall prey to your vanities’ - the philosophy of Iraq’s new conquerors
    Iraq crisis: Islamist militants attack Tikrit and near Baghdad after 500,000 are forced to flee Mosul
    Iraq crisis: Capture of Mosul ushers in the birth of a Sunni caliphate

    It is unlikely that the Kurds will give up Kirkuk. “The whole of Kirkuk has fallen into the hands of peshmerga [Kurdish soldiers],” said the peshmerga spokesman Jabbar Yawar. “No Iraqi army remains in Kirkuk.”
    Foreign intervention is more likely to come from Iran than the US. The Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said that Iran would act to combat “the violence and terrorism” of Isis”. Iran emerged as the most influential foreign power in Baghdad after 2003. As a fellow Shia-majority state, Iraq matters even more to Iran than Syria.
    Iran will be deeply alarmed by the appearance of a fanatically Sunni proto-state hostile to all Shia in western Iraq and eastern Syria. Abu Mohamed al-Adnani, the Isis spokesman, said today that the Shia, 60 per cent of the Iraqi population, “are a disgraced people”, accusing them of being “polytheists”.
    Iraq’s Shia may well conclude that their army has failed them and they must once again rely on militias like the Mehdi Army which was responsible for the slaughter of Sunni in 2005 and 2006. At that time, much of Baghdad was cleansed of Sunni. The loss of Baghdad has never been forgotten or forgiven by Sunni states such as Saudi Arabia, which has long hoped to reverse the Shia dominance in Iraq.

    In pictures: Attacks by Islamist militants cause thousands to flee Mosul
    1 of 10


    In Mosul, Isis has so far been careful not to alienate the local population which on the west bank of the Tigris River is Sunni. There are large Kurdish neighbourhoods in the east of the city. Refugees are finding it difficult to enter the Kurdistan Regional Government zone because of stringent checks and single men, suspected of being insurgents, are not allowed entry.
    Inside Mosul people reached by The Independent say they are afraid. One woman described how a local petrol station was burnt down by looters though Isis tried to protect it. She said her younger brother had gone to repair it. She says that when her two brothers came back from doing the repair job, “I was horrified that they might have been photographed, their names known and they might be punished when the defeated forces come back.” A reason why many people are fleeing Mosul or are terrified by the prospect of a successful counter-attack by the government is that all the Sunni population is liable to be mistreated as Isis supporters, regardless of their sympathies.
    Isis has tried to show that it can run Mosul and the electricity supply has improved to six hours a day since the Iraqi army left. The Isis spokesman Abu Mohamed al-Adnani has told victorious fighters “not to bother those who do not bother you”. But other proclamations announce the full application of Isis’s fundamentalist creed.
    The Kurds are taking advantage of the disarray of the government in Baghdad to seize territories along the “trigger line”. This stretches from north-east of Baghdad to the Syrian frontier west of Mosul. The Iraqi Kurds have advanced further towards establishing an independent state, but it is unclear how far they will commit troops to rescue the Baghdad government.
    Iranian intervention would probably come through massively strengthening Shia militias. But the Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki will find it very difficult to reverse the defeats of the last week.

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  5. #5
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    Mark Levin on Iraq Today: "One of The Greatest Failures in U.S. Foreign Policy History"

    Video at the page link:

    MARK LEVIN: When you look at the Declaration of Independence and truly it's magnificence -- that statement of humanity, justice, righteousness to liberty. When you look at the constitution they hammered out in less than five months. A little over 4000 words. It's the first time anything like that ever occurred in human history. And it's likely the last time anything like that will occur in human history.

    And when you consider our history. The people who have fought to preserve -- our founding and those principles -- so that successive generations could enjoy the blessings of liberty. When you consider all the men and women who have died in one war after another, who sacrificed and one war after another. So young, so many of them who could never enjoy the freedom that we take for granted. It is just mind-boggling, it really is.

    Many of you listening have had families touched by war; most of you listening have not. When I see what's going on in Iraq right now, and I think to myself it didn't have to be this way. That Obama and Biden refused to enter into the appropriate arrangements with the government there. I think this is one of the greatest failures in American national security and foreign policy history. (The Mark Levin Show, June 12, 2014)
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  6. #6
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    How Squandered U.S. Money Fuels Iraq’s Insurgents


    By David Francis,
    The Fiscal Times
    June 12, 2014

    The already unbalanced Middle East became more volatile Wednesday, with insurgents from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) taking Tikrit, another Iraqi city, as they continue their advance to Baghdad.
    Whether or not the Iraqi capital could defend itself depends on Iraqi troops who have been deserting en masse even as Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki reassures Iraqis that the city is safe.
    Related: U.S. Watches As Iraq Speeds Toward Disaster
    “This is just the latest round of fighting against ISIS, and it won’t be the last,” he said in a televised address. “We will continue to fight against them until we retake Mosul. ISIS doesn’t have the numbers to remain in control of the city.”
    This is seemingly wishful thinking by al-Maliki, however, a man who has seen a large swath of his country disappear from his control in a matter of days. The quick advance of the Sunni militants now raises the prospect of yet another chapter in the long history of Sunnis and Shiites, divergent tribes of Muslims who have been fighting one another for centuries.
    In effect, the advance has also allowed ISIS to create a new Middle Eastern nation. The group, inspired by al Qaeda but more loyal to its Sunni roots, now controls large portions of southern Syria and northern Iraq, land that’s bigger than many other countries.
    ISIS can now effectively rule this area like the Taliban ruled Afghanistan before the 2001 American invasion. The group can create a caliphate and impose sharia law across hundreds of square miles, and the international community - including the United States - would be powerless to stop them, short of sending troops.
    Related: U.S. Drones Could Decide the Battle of Fallujah
    The ISIS advance will be hard to turn back, experts say. Zaineb Al-Assam, senior Middle East analyst at IHS Country Risk, said it would be difficult to stop ISIS in the coming months.
    The group’s “ability to overrun two Iraqi cities within a week represents a substantial shift in capability, and indicates growing intent and capacity to hold territory in the predominantly Sunni northern Iraqi provinces.”​
    The ISIS advance also highlights one of the greatest failures and worst investments the United States made during the Iraq War. Some $20 billion was spent to train and equip the Iraqi military since the Iraq war.
    From reports that have circulated about the group, it’s clear that money spent in the past was wasted. Reuters reported that soldiers charged with protecting Mosul, a city that ISIS took yesterday, simply left when told that insurgents were on their way.
    “We can't beat them. We can't. They are well trained in street fighting and we're not. We need a whole army to drive them out of Mosul," one police officer in Mosul said. "They're like ghosts: They appear to hit and disappear within seconds.”
    Iraqi security forces also have not been able to retake Fallujah, a city captured by ISIS earlier this year. ISIS is so entrenched in Fallujah that in March, it conducted a military parade through the city’s streets.
    Related: Obama's Use of Drones Gives Al Qaeda the Edge in Iraq
    Any American money spent on equipping Iraqi soldiers in the future is also likely to go to waste. The Pentagon continues to send aid and equipment to Iraq. According to reports, the weapons and equipment abandoned by Iraqi troops include American Humvees and guns – which ISIS now controls.
    The ineptitude and waste of the Iraqi military is certainly not new. Last year, the Special Inspector General for Iraqi Reconstruction (SIGIR) determined that it was unable to pinpoint where $8 billion in military aid to Iraq had gone. The Iraqi military was only in part to blame; DOD’s broken accounting system was also responsible.
    “We found that incomplete and unstandardized databases left us unable to identify the specific use of billions of dollars spent on projects, because the U.S. government agencies involved were not required to manage project data in a uniform and comprehensive manner,” SIGIR determined. “While these agencies present broad information on their programs, they did not develop or retain accessible data regarding detailed projects.
    The SIGIR report added, “A full accounting, if ever possible, would require combing through mountains of disordered electronic and paper records accumulated since 2003 that are currently stored in multiple locations across many agencies.”
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    US companies evacuating Iraqi air base, say officials

    22 hours ago

    An image made available on the jihadist website Welayat Salahuddin on June 11, 2014 shows an ISIL militant posing with the Islamist flag after they allegedly seized an army checkpoint in the northern Iraqi province of Salahuddin (AFP Photo/)

    Washington (AFP) - US companies were Thursday evacuating hundreds of Americans working with the Iraqi government from a major air base, US officials said, as Islamic militants swept towards Baghdad.
    Related Stories

    A US defense official confirmed that "a few hundred" American contractors from Balad air base, 80 kilometers (50 miles) north of the capital, were being moved to Baghdad for security reasons.
    "We can confirm that US citizens under contract to the government of Iraq in support of the US Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program in Iraq are being temporarily relocated by their companies due to security concerns in the area," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.
    Militants are closing fast on the capital Baghdad after sweeping up a huge swath of predominantly Sunni Arab territory in northern and north-central Iraq since launching their offensive in the second city of Mosul late on Monday.
    Psaki stressed however that the US embassy in Baghdad was still operating, saying "the status of the staffing at the US embassy and consulates has not changed."
    The evacuation of Balad was being handled by the companies and did not involve the US government, the defense official said.
    "It’s their people. It’s their planes," the official said, asking to remain anonymous.
    The contractors are hired out by the Iraqi government and working on programs related to F-16 fighter jets. They are not on the US government’s payroll.
    Balad air base was once one of the world's busiest airports and housed some 36,000 American personnel before it was handed over to Iraqi control in November 2011.
    The 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing was the last unit to leave JBB, which occupied 25 square kilometers (nine square miles) and had a 20-kilometer security perimeter.

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