Leaked Iraq war files portray weak, divided nation

Iraqi people surf the internet for the WikiLeaks web site in Baghdad, Iraq, Saturday, Oct. 23, 2010. Military documents laid bare in the biggest leak AP – Iraqi people surf the internet for the WikiLeaks web site in Baghdad, Iraq, Saturday, Oct. 23, 2010. …

WASHINGTON – The enormous cache of secret war logs disclosed by the WikiLeaks website paints a picture of an Iraq burdened by persistent sectarian tension and meddling neighbors, suggesting that the country could drift into chaos once U.S. forces leave.

The reports, covering early 2004 to Jan. 1, 2010, help explain why Iraq's struggle to create a unified, independent state continues, despite a dramatic reduction in violence. They appear to support arguments by some experts that the U.S. should keep thousands of troops there beyond their scheduled departure in 2011, to buy more time for Iraq to become stable.

The threats described in the leaked documents come from outside, including next-door Iran, as well as inside, in the form of sectarian, political and even family rivalries that predate the 2003 American-led invasion and endure today.

The reports demonstrate the weakness of Iraq's civic institutions, court system and military, even before sectarian violence exploded in 2006-2007.

In the fall of 2005, the U.S. military discovered evidence of plots to assassinate various officials, including an Iraqi Army colonel. In September, one of the war logs said, a group of judges was abducted in Balad, beaten and forced into the trunk of a car.

Another example: On June 6, 2006, U.S. forces reported discovering large amounts of blood on the floor, a rubber hose and electric wires rigged to a metal door in a holding cell in an Iraqi police station in Husaybah, in western Iraq.

The report called the discoveries "evidence of unchecked torture" and "clear indications" of human rights violations.

The U.S. report said that for a time, U.S. military advisers slept in the police station to make sure prisoners were not abused, checked arrest logs and counseled Iraqi police, warning them against these practices.

But even a program of training and counseling didn't put an end to the abuses. According to a report dated Feb. 16, 2009, U.S. forces reported the mistreatment of 33 detainees in custody at the same police station.

The Associated Press was given access to a redacted WikiLeaks database hours before its general release Friday, but was not provided the raw data. The documents appear to be authentic, but their origin could not be confirmed independently.

The leaked war logs reflect significant progress as well. There has been a dramatic improvement in security since the height of the violence in 2006-07, due to a weakened threat from al-Qaida and an Iraqi population weary of the sectarian bloodletting that once threatened to plunge the country into civil war.

Even so, some experts question whether the fledgling military and police forces are capable of defending Iraq after Washington completes its scheduled pullout Dec. 31, 2011.

Those who hold these pessimistic views also worry Iraq could repeat its history of turning to a military dictator in the mold of Saddam Hussein.

Ryan Crocker, ambassador to Iraq in 2007-08, said Washington has decided to turn the page on Iraq but must not close the book.

"We're still very much at the beginning of this story, or more to the point, the Iraqis are at the beginning of their new narrative in their history, and for all of the extraordinary achievements that we've seen, the list of challenges is even greater," he said Friday.

One major challenge is the country's political paralysis. Iraqi politicians are struggling to form a new government seven months after a national election failed to produce a clear winner. That's a symptom, to some, of the country's stubborn religious and ethnic schisms.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's opponents said the WikiLeaks documents showed he must be stopped from consolidating power. Al-Maliki's office responded by saying the document leak was timed to sabotage his re-election hopes.

Crocker called it "profoundly important" that the U.S. maintain a military presence in Iraq beyond 2011, despite America's weariness with the long and costly war and pressure to shift more resources to Afghanistan.

The leaked documents posted by WikiLeaks recount Iran's role in arming and training Shiite militia groups and seeking to influence Iraqi politics — a concern that may deepen as American influence in Baghdad wanes.

In Crocker's view, Iraq will struggle for years with profound internal political and social problems. Meanwhile, he said, Iran is in effect telling Iraq: "Looks like the Americans are leaving, and guess what — flash news — we're staying."

Before the U.S.-led invasion, predominantly Arab Iraq was stronger militarily than Persian Iran, an old foe.

Today, due to the U.S. defeat of Saddam's forces and its dismantling of his army, Iran enjoys a vast numerical advantage over Iraq in battle tanks and other weapons of war. Iran is likely to keep that edge for years to come.

Anthony Cordesman, a military analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and a frequent visitor to Iraq, said that it could be another decade before Iraq has an effective air force.

In 2003, Iraq had 2,200 main battle tanks, compared with 1,565 for Iran, Cordesman wrote in a new assessment of Iraq's military. Today, Iran's fleet of main battle tanks has swelled to 1,613 while Iraq's has fallen to 149.

By Cordesman's calculations, Iraq's security forces are going to be much less capable in December 2011 — when the last U.S. troops are scheduled to depart — than was planned when the Bush administration negotiated the withdrawal agreement just two years ago.

___

AP National Security writer Anne Gearan and Associated Press writer Pauline Jelinek contributed to this report.

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6,856 Comments

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    ScottH 1 minute ago Report Abuse
    HR4646=1% Tax on ALL banks transactions, check it out it's real. Obama wants to pass this after the Mid Term elections. Direct deposits, withdrawls, payment by check, everything you do at the bank would be taxed 1%, and that's for EVERYBODY, social security, unemployment EVERYTHING. Doesn't sound like much but when you haven't got much IT'S OUTRAGES!!!! Vote to get our country back, STOP the insanity.....Check it out and let your politicians know your opinion. DO THE MATH!
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    sunny 2 minutes ago Report Abuse
    All I can say is thanks Bush/Cheney you did a hell of a job on the United States getting rid of Hussein in Iraq the only one that kept these manics in line over there and Iran didn't have a chance with him in power, now Iran will be running the country of Iraq again I say thanks Bush your daddy didn't do what he should have done in '91 and you figured you would finish the job what a mistake thanks again.
  • 0 users liked this comment Please sign in to rate this comment up. Please sign in to rate this comment down. 0 users disliked this comment
    Donald 2 minutes ago Report Abuse
    This is news?????
  • 0 users liked this comment Please sign in to rate this comment up. Please sign in to rate this comment down. 0 users disliked this comment
    Twis T. Bloons 3 minutes ago Report Abuse
    "george" it doesn't have the first thing to do with the military being incompetent. It has to do with...the middle east is a cesspool..always has been and always will be! I say send all you liberals over there..you ought to feel right at home.
  • 0 users liked this comment Please sign in to rate this comment up. Please sign in to rate this comment down. 0 users disliked this comment
    Young Black JFK 4 minutes ago Report Abuse
    Huge leak of Iraq war documents shows thousands of Iraqi civilian deaths went unreported.

    Military documents laid bare in the biggest leak of secret information in U.S. history suggest that far more Iraqis died than previously acknowledged during the years of sectarian bloodletting and criminal violence unleashed by the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.

    The accounts of civilian deaths among nearly 400,000 purported Iraq war logs released Friday by the WikiLeaks website include deaths unknown or unreported before now — as many as 15,000 by the count of one independent research group.
    *********

    AND THE US CONGRESS NEVER EVEN DELACRED WAR ON IRAQ.
  • 2 users liked this comment Please sign in to rate this comment up. Please sign in to rate this comment down. 1 users disliked this comment
    mike 5 minutes ago Report Abuse
    We were attacked on 9/11/2001 by middle eastern terrorists--from various countries.
    On 9/12/2001 Bush should have nuked every middle eastern country.
    It would have been faster, cheaper and more efficient.
    WWII should have taught the US government that a long drawn out war is not the answer.
    LOL---after fat man and little boy said hello to Hiroshima and nagisaki every country in the world surrendered to us--even the ones we werent at war with................
    We should have also rounded up all middle easterners in the US and deported them back to what ever was left of their own countrys.
    Think of it--no home grown terrorism, no NYC mosque debate, no silliness.
    Maybe---with a little luck---this fiasco that started in 2001 will teach the US government that when people attack the United States the correct answer is NOT to give them a bunch of money and rebuild their countries while they burn our flag.
    Level the middle east immmediatly.
    We can turn that desert into the worlds biggest off road and ATV park...............
  • 0 users liked this comment Please sign in to rate this comment up. Please sign in to rate this comment down. 0 users disliked this comment
    Brett 6 minutes ago Report Abuse
    why is this news. Is it a slow newsday?
  • 3 users liked this comment Please sign in to rate this comment up. Please sign in to rate this comment down. 3 users disliked this comment
    George 8 minutes ago Report Abuse
    WOW.... the main point here is that these files show the incompetence of our military, the reason the Army doesn't like them being made available to the public is not because they reveal strategic information, its because they show how ineffective our efforts have been....and this is all the more reason the people should know the truth, because if we are doing something wrong the answer isn't to cover it up, its to change our strategy and do it right....hopefully these leaks force about some change so we can win this one....
  • 1 users liked this comment Please sign in to rate this comment up. Please sign in to rate this comment down. 3 users disliked this comment
    James 8 minutes ago Report Abuse
    The U.S should have stayed out of Iraq to begain with , this is going to turn into a Civil War with 0ne year after the U. S leaves. It,s time we bring all the American troop home and protect our boarders .
    The United States is not a world "police" .
    The U.S is going to soon find that all the weapons that have give and sold around the world will be turned back at us . Is having power overother countries worth this?
    Isn't time our policy change to help other countries with teaching them how to have clean water , education and produce food and business so they can take care of themselfs.
    How would you like it if your life was control by outside forces?
  • 3 users liked this comment Please sign in to rate this comment up. Please sign in to rate this comment down. 0 users disliked this comment
    Bobo 8 minutes ago Report Abuse
    If Iraq requests US forces to stay to help them manage their country, they should pay for the service. The US is not the world's police force.

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