If Senator Warner was looking for a way to test his theory that drawing a few thousand US surge troops out of Baghdad would send a helpful message to the central Iraqi government, it appears the British have come up with an opportunity.
Via Pat Lang and the U.K. Telegraph, we learn the Brits are getting close to pulling their remaining troops out of Basra, so it looks like Generals Petraeus and Odierno will have to divert a US combat brigade to Basra to take their place, if for no other reason than someone has to guard the convoys supplying our forces to the north and guard the path back to Kuwait and the Southern Iraqi port, just in case . . .
I guess the “message” we’re sending to those uncooperative Iraqis is this: despite what General Lynch said to Warner about the danger of giving up our “gains,” we’re willing to abandon our “gains” in the North to cover our possible escape route.
Fred Kaplan thinks it’s not fair to our guys to watch the Brits leave while they have to stay and pick up the slack, and of course he’s right, but there is a solution to that problem . . .
In the meantime, remember the report by the General Accounting Office about those missing weapons that became unaccounted for while General Petraeus was in charge of arming and training Iraqi security forces? Well, it seems that there is huge criminal investigation looking into that and they neglected to tell Warner about it the first time around. From today’s NYT:
Several federal agencies are investigating a widening network of criminal cases involving the purchase and delivery of billions of dollars of weapons, supplies and other matériel to Iraqi and American forces, according to American officials. The officials said it amounted to the largest ring of fraud and kickbacks uncovered in the conflict here, the officials said.
The inquiry has already led to several indictments of Americans, with more expected, the officials said. One of the investigations involves a senior American officer who worked closely with Gen. David H. Petraeus in setting up the logistics operation to supply the Iraqi forces when General Petraeus was in charge of training and equipping those forces in 2004 and 2005, American officials said Monday.
It’s unclear how and whether Petraeus’ aide, a Lt. Colonel, is implicated in any wrong doing. Of the over $40 billion in funds allocated for Iraq armaments and rebuilding, “inquiries involve contracts valued at more than $5 billion, and Colonel Baggio said the charges so far involve more than $15 million in bribes.”
But federal officials say the inquiry has moved far beyond the initial investigation of hundreds of thousands of improperly tracked assault rifles and semiautomatic pistols that grew out of Senator Warner’s query. In fact, Senator Warner said in a statement to The New York Times that he was outraged when he was briefed recently on the initial findings of the investigations. . . .
In a sign of the seriousness of the scandal, the Defense Department Inspector General, Claude M. Kicklighter, will lead an 18-person team to Iraq early next month to investigate contracting practices, said Geoff Morrell, a Pentagon spokesman.
I’m reminded of the Administration official, Stewart Bowen, who on Sunday misled CNN’s Tom Foreman on This Week at War with the following statement:
First let me make the point that corruption that we talk about in our latest reports has to do with the corruption within the Iraqi government, not within the U.S. program.
As Gonzales would say, the $5 billion at issue in the Times report must have been from some other program that the President has not acknowledged.