Iraq: November 10, 2003


In the face of the mounting casualties in Iraq, the Hungarians have made a bold commitment to keep troops in country through the end of 2004. While their transport battalion of 300 soldiers in a relatively safe corner of Iraq (at Al Hillah, about 100 kilometers south of Baghdad), they have been subjected to hit-and-run attacks (including four serious grenade and missile incidents) without any injury, while things have been thrown at the Hungarian convoys.

The Hungarians will soon receive 58 US trucks and the battalion will be able to carry out more assignments. At Polish request, they will deliver goods not only to the division, but would also provide logistics support to units serving north of Baghdad. However, the first 27 Hungarian soldiers will rotate home next week and be followed by more groups every 10 days, until their replacement in February. 

While most of the Multinational forces are non-combat units, they (like everyone else) have to come to grips with the concept that "there is no front line". The Multinationals suffered their first combat death on November 6, when a Polish soldier was killed. One Albanian and seven Ukrainian soldiers have been wounded since Saddam's fall. 

Chances are that the insurgents might start deliberately targeting them. South Korea already has 675 non-combat troops in Iraq and is considering sending more personnel, while Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania may extend their missions well into next year. As an aside, all of the coalition troops have been clamoring for the new American 'Interceptor' body armor, which when fitted with the insert plates is proof against the ubiquitous AK-47 rounds.

The Japanese will send an advance unit of up to 150 troops to Iraq's southern city of Samawa by the middle of December, with a further 550 Self-Defense Force (SDF) soldiers being sent in January 2004. The SDF units will be purifying and supplying water, medical treatment and electric power (along with transportation duties) in Baghdad and southern Iraq (including Samawah and Kuwa). Japanese equipment will include light armored vehicles (to protect the vehicles transporting SDF personnel and civilians) and C-130 transports (moving material for U.S. and British troops). 

In addition to the Ground Self-Defense Force troops, the Japanese government is looking into dispatching about 150 Air SDF members and about 300 Maritime SDF members will be sent (to handle the transport of materials both inside and outside the country). Dozens of civilians also will be sent to Iraq. By comparison, there are currently about 400 GSDF peacekeepers working in East Timor and around 660 MSDF sailors in the Indian Ocean participating in the war on terrorism. 

While they will be posted around Samawa, considered a relatively peaceful sector of Iraq, these troops will also be issued shoulder-fired 84mm "Carl Gustav" type anti-armor weapons in light of the recent suicide car-bomb attacks. 

This naturally has the Japanese press buzzing, since for previous peacekeeping operations the SDF were only armed with rifles and pistols. Carrying heavier weapons is considered a very controversial issue, since it flirts with violating Japan's war-renouncing constitution and the government must attach a weapons list to the plan they're expected to submit to the Parliament in mid-December. Under a newly enacted law, Japan would send the SDF to Iraq for humanitarian and reconstruction operations. But their activities are confined to non-combat areas and use of weapons is under stern restriction, solely for self-defense purpose. 

The dire implication is that with this sort of mindset, in the event of an attack Japanese troops will be prone to overcautious hesitation and not defend themselves fast enough. The predictable result will be more casualties, than had they just embraced the concept of "every soldier is a rifleman" from the very beginning of their deployment. - Adam Geibel

Based on information developed by the Iraqi police and U.S. intelligence, 35 suspects in the remote control rocket attack on the al Rashid attack were arrested and are now being interrogated. Iraqi police have been rapidly building up their intelligence capabilities. This also includes hiring back some detectives and intelligence personnel who had worked for Saddam's police. While there is a prohibition on hiring anyone who worked for Saddams security organizations, there is no other source of good criminal investigators in the country.




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