THE BLOG
11/13/2007 11:10 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Iraq Daily Update 11/13/07

REPORT ESTIMATES 'HIDDEN COSTS' OF WAR

Hidden costs may double price wars to $1.5 trillion- at $20,000 per family. A new report, titled "The Hidden costs of the Iraq War," from the Democratic staff of Congress's Joint Economic Committee, estimates the total economic costs to the U.S. of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan at approximately $1.5 trillion. That amount is nearly double the $804 billion the White House has spent or requested to wage these wars through 2008. The reports estimate the conflicts' "hidden costs," including higher oil prices, the expense of treating wounded veterans and interest payments on the money borrowed to pay for the wars. The report estimates that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have thus far cost the average U.S. family of four more than $20,000. [Washington Post, 11/13/07]

TENSIONS CONTINUE ALONG THE IRAQ-TURKEY BORDER

Turkish gunships attack villages inside of Iraq. According to Iraqi officials, Turkish helicopter gunships attacked villages inside Iraq on Tuesday. The attack marks the first air strike since tensions have escalated in recent months. Col. Hussein Tamir, an Iraqi Army officer who supervises border guards, said the air strikes occurred before dawn on abandoned villages near Zakhu, an Iraqi Kurdish town near the border with Turkey. There were no casualties, he said. [AP, 11/13/07]

NUMBER OF COMBAT BRIGADES REDUCED FROM 20 TO 19

One combat brigade is leaving Iraq, with further reductions planned. The U.S. command in Baghdad announced Saturday that the 3rd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, operating in Diyala province, has began to leave. Between January and July--on a schedule not yet made public--the force is to shrink further to 15 brigades. U.S. troop reductions will be a test of whether the "surge" strategy has resulted in any lasting gains against sectarianism. Meanwhile, the divided government in Baghdad has made few strides toward political reconciliation, which the Americans have said is crucial to stabilizing the country. [AP, 11/13/07]

IRAQ HOPES TO END BAGHDAD SECURITY PLAN

Declaring an end to the operation would acknowledge security has improved but would be largely symbolic, as tens of thousands of U.S. and Iraqi troops would likely remain in the city. Iraq's government hopes it will soon be able to declare an end to a 9 month-old U.S.-Iraqi security operation in Baghdad, following a sharp drop in insurgent attacks in the capital, said Brigadier-General Qassim Moussawi. The U.S. military declined to comment on Moussawi's remarks. One factor behind the improved security has been the August decision by anti-American Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr to freeze the activities of his feared Mehdi Army militia. But while attacks have declined, movement toward political reconciliation at the national level between majority Shi'ite and minority Sunni Arabs has been slow. [Reuters, 11/12/07]

MALIKI DECLARES SECTARIAN VIOLENCE TO BE OVER

Rocket and mortar attacks have decreased to their lowest levels in more than 21 months. The U.S. command issued the tallies a day after Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said suicide attacks and other bombings in Baghdad have dropped dramatically, calling it an end of sectarian violence. "This is an indication that sectarianism intended as a gate of evil and fire in Iraq is now closed," he said. Total rocket and mortar attacks rose steadily from 808 in January 2007 to a peak of 1,032 in June, before falling over the next four months, a U.S. military statement said. [AP, 11/12/07]

VIOLENCE CONTINUES TO RAGE IN IRAQ

Shortly after Maliki declared an end to sectarian violence, rival Sunni insurgent groups clash outside of Samarra. A deadly gun battle broke out between rival Sunni insurgent groups, the Islamic Army and Al-Qaeda in Iraq, on Friday night outside of Samarra, about 65 mile north of Baghdad. The violence highlights the complicated nature of the fighting in Iraq. Abu Ibrahim, a leader of the Islamic Army, said the fighting was in response to attacks by al-Qaeda in Iraq that killed four Islamic Army leaders. According to Iraqi police and insurgents, many members of the Islamic Army have rejected al-Qaeda in Iraq and aligned themselves more closely with U.S. soldiers. [Washington Post, 11/11/07]

EFFORTS TO ORGANIZE LOCAL FIGHTERS FACE HURDLES

U.S. efforts to organize local fighters face logistical challenges and intense sectarian opposition from Shia-dominated Iraqi government. The U.S. effort to organize nearly 70,000 local fighters in Iraq faces severe political and logistical challenges. Local fighters form a massive but cumbersome force in Iraq, lacking common guidelines, status, pay, or uniforms. Leaders of Iraq's Shi'a-dominated government fear that the local fighters - of whom more than 80% are Sunni - could eventually mount an armed opposition. More than 67,000 people across 12 of Iraq's 18 provinces are registered under the military designation Concerned Local Citizens. About 37,000 are being paid about $300 a month through contracts funded by the U.S.-led military coalition. Although U.S. commanders stress that the coalition is not forming a Sunni militia, Iraqi leaders complain that paying the fighters is tantamount to arming them. Iraqi officials are concerned about the past behavior of many of the men now working with the Americans, citing problems arising from the infiltration of the police by Shi'a militias. "We ended up with a police force that is not loyal to the government and to the country," said Sami al-Askiri, a Shi'a legislator. "If we copy this and do it with Sunnis, we will just create another problem." [Washington Post, 11/12/07]

PRIVATE SECURITY FIRMS CONTINUE TO UNDERMINE U.S. EFFORTS

Iraqi taxi driver killed by private security guard. According to the Iraqi Interior Ministry, a guard with DynCorp International, a private security company in Iraq, fired from a convoy driving past an exit ramp in Baghdad, killing an Iraqi taxi driver. Three witnesses said the taxi had posed no threat to the convoy. An Iraqi Army sergeant who inspected the car afterward said it contained no weapons or explosive devices. While DynCorp has not drawn the same scrutiny as Blackwater USA, it is unclear whether it has been involved in other episodes in which Iraqis have been killed. [NY Times, 11/12/07]

RECONSTRUCTION DATA 'PAINTS A MIXED PICTURE'

Reconstruction slow, even in more stable south. Despite having spent billions of dollars, peak electricity output in June 2007 remained 6 percent below pre-war levels. Oil production this summer was 23 percent lower than before the war. Crocker and other foreign officials argue that the biggest challenge is to improve local officials' ability to manage reconstruction in the future. But investors are not yet flocking to Dhi Qar or to Iraq's other provinces. While rampant violence has been the chief hindrance, another bottleneck is a delay in implementing a law passed last year to safeguard investor rights. [Washington Post, 11/13/07]