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NSN Iraq Daily Update 1/17/08

01/17/2008 10:08 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

A RIFT IN THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION OVER TROOP CUTS

While General Petraeus is in no hurry for more than five brigades to leave, Secretary Gates weighs a bigger drawdown. At issue is how much of a drawdown is possible after the expected departure of five combat brigades from Iraq this summer. Mr. Bush, who is in his last year in office, and Army Gen. David Petraeus, the top commander in Iraq, appear to be in no rush to reduce the number of troops any further. But some in the Defense Department, quietly led by Defense Secretary Robert Gates, say that while the security gains in Iraq are to be carefully guarded, there is only so much the troops can do. Currently, about 160,000 U.S. forces are in Iraq, including the roughly 30,000 troops deployed under the "surge" last year. The tug of war is illustrated by General Petraeus' recent requests for forces. He has asked for small numbers of troops to fill gaps left by departing forces to help manage operations as the broader drawdown continues, sources say. Those requests are giving Pentagon officials pause because many forces that could go have not had adequate time at home. [CS Monitor, 1/17/08]

U.S. BOOSTS USE OF AIRSTRIKES IN IRAQ

The U.S. military conducted more than five times as many airstrikes in Iraq last year than in 2006. The military is targeting extremist safe houses, insurgent bomb making facilities and weapons stockpiles in an aggressive strategy aimed at supporting the U.S. troop increase by overwhelming the enemies with air power. The U.S.-led coalition dropped 1,447 bombs over Iraq last year, an average of nearly four a day, compared with 229 bombs, or about four each week, in 2006. However, the greater reliance on air power has raised concerns from human rights groups. The U.N. Assistance Mission for Iraq estimates that more than 200 civilian deaths resulted from U.S. airstrikes from the beginning of April to the end of last year, when U.S. forces began to significantly increase the strikes to coordinate with the expansion of ground troops. [Washington Post, 1/17/08]

DISAPPROVAL OF U.S.-LED INVASION AT A HIGH

Negative views of U.S. action against Iraq are at their highest point since the war began. According to the Pew Research Center, negative views of the U.S. decision to take military action against Iraq are at their highest point since the war began almost five years ago. Slightly more than a third of Americans (36%) say the decision to use military force was right while 56% see it as wrong. In September 2007, 42% said the war was the right decision, compared with 50% who said it was wrong. [Pew Research Center, 1/17/08]

DEBATE OVER PRIVATE SECURITY CONTRACTORS CONTINUES

Rights group slams U.S. over private security contractors in Iraq. An international human-rights organization said Wednesday that a lack of political will-- not a fuzzy legal framework-- was primarily to blame for the dearth of prosecutions of private security contractors accused of abuses in Iraq. Human Rights First said the Justice Department had failed to hold such contractors accountable, amounting to what the organization calls a "culture of impunity." An estimated 35,000 private security contractors work in Iraq for 181 companies, providing security for military bases, private businesses, foreign dignitaries, and the U.S. State Department. They're part of a larger force of some 180,000 private contractors, more people than the American military has in the country. Officials said it would be difficult, though not impossible, to hold the guards accountable for the deaths under current law. [McClatchy, 1/16/08]

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