Tuesday, May 02, 2006


Mudville's Press Watch

Greyhawk at Mudville Gazette compares some incredible in-depth reporting in the Army Times with a take on the same subject by the NY Times.

A selection from the Army Times article, describing Task Force 145:

The job of hunting Zarqawi and rolling up his al-Qaida in Iraq network falls to Task Force 145, which is made up of the most elite U.S. and British special operations forces, and whose headquarters is in Balad.

The U.S. forces are drawn from units under Joint Special Operations Command at Pope Air Force Base, N.C. These include the military’s two “direct action” special mission units — the Army’s 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, known as Delta Force, and the Navy’s SEAL Team 6, sometimes known by its cover name, Naval Special Warfare Development Group; the Army’s 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment and 75th Ranger Regiment; and the Air Force’s 24th Special Tactics Squadron.

After Saddam Hussein’s fall, the first order of business for the JSOC forces was capturing or killing the 55 individuals on the “deck of cards” that depicted the regime’s senior officials. Delta’s C Squadron was at the heart of the task force that captured Saddam in December 2003.

The emergence of Zarqawi and his al-Qaida in Iraq group as a major threat to Iraq’s stability then gave JSOC a new priority. As the war in Iraq has ground on, and with Zarqawi still on the loose, the JSOC force in Iraq has grown steadily and undergone several name changes. TF 121 and TF 626 were two previous incarnations.

TF 145 is divided into four subordinate task forces in Iraq:

• Task Force West, organized around a SEAL Team 6 squadron with Rangers in support.

• Task Force Central, organized around a Delta squadron with Rangers in support.

• Task Force North, organized around a Ranger battalion combined with a small Delta element.

• Task Force Black, organized around a British Special Air Service “saber squadron,” with British paratroopers from the Special Forces Support Group in support.

Although Army Lt. Gen. Stan McChrystal, JSOC commander, spends much of his time in Iraq, his job there is to coordinate with Army Gen. John Abizaid, chief of Central Command, and other senior leaders. The man in charge of TF 145 is the Delta Force commander, a colonel Military Times agreed not to name.

That’s more detail, newsworthy, remarkable on-background information than has appeared in a year’s worth of New York Times reporting. Do you doubt me? Here’s what the NY Times saw fit to print, following a headline “U.S. Says Guerrillas Were Killed In Raids:”

BAGHDAD, Iraq, April 30 — The United States military said Sunday that more than 20 guerrillas it identified as foreign fighters had been killed in recent raids south of Baghdad that were aimed at cutting down on insurgent attacks in the capital.

Insurgents have used the region in and around Yusifiya, a town 10 miles south of Baghdad that has long served as a base for Sunni Arab extremists, as a starting point for recent suicide attacks in Baghdad, the military said in a statement. Some of those killed in the raids over the past few weeks were wearing explosive vests, the military said.

The nationalities of the insurgents have often been difficult to determine, officials said, although they added that most of the dead appeared to be from outside Iraq. Iraqi soldiers have also participated in the raids.

Lush farmland and palm trees allow insurgents to disappear easily in the region, known as the Triangle of Death. Taming the area is central to security in Baghdad, whose southern edge, particularly the suburb of Dawra, has become so violent that many residents are afraid to leave their houses.

Ugh, that’s enough. Note as Greyhawk does the need to caveat the report by making it clear this information is alleged by the US Military. Note too the desire to add some jungle-evoking environmentals. (As to points of fact, I seriously doubt anyone but the NY Times in full-Vietnam Quagmire mode would refer to any rural area in Iraq as “lush farmland.”)

If you sullied your attention to actually read the rest of the NY Times piece, by all means, cleanse the mental pallet with a visit to Newsweek, also linked by Greyhawk. (Yes, that same Newsweek. Go figure.) The Newsweek piece is headlined, “Osama Needs More Mud Huts.”

Imagine if a few months after September 11 someone had said to you, "Five years from now, in the space of a single week, Osama bin Laden will issue a new call for worldwide jihad, the head of Al Qaeda in Iraq will threaten a brutal, endless war, and there will be two terror attacks in Egypt." Chances are you would have been quite unnerved. Yet the most striking aspect of last week's news was the reaction to it—very little.

Radical Islamic terror made big, violent and scary moves and—whether you judge it by media coverage, stock-market movements or international responses—the world yawned.

Al Qaeda Central, by which I mean the dwindling band of brothers on the Afghan-Pakistani border, appears to have turned into a communications company. It's capable of producing the occasional jihadist cassette, but not actual jihad. I know it's risky to say this, as Qaeda leaders may be quietly planning some brilliant, large-scale attack. But the fact that they have not been able to do one of their trademark blasts for five years is significant in itself.

Looks like Terror Central’s facing tough times. Forget goods news versus bad news, how about what it all means? Plenty of material available for that.

UPDATE: Note much of the same information about the great success of TF 145 is this piece at Strategy Page. Did it's author draw heavily on the Army Times piece? I didn't see any attribution, but it looks like the same reporting. (Via Instapundit)

Other commentary and details over at Gateway Pundit.

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