Friday, September 08, 2006


A Look at Templates

Soldier’s Dad at Milblogs alerts us to a Press Conference, conducted by MG Thomas Turner, Commander of Multinational Division North in Iraq.

Here’s an admittedly Army PAO version of the Press Conference:

Iraqis taking responsibility for security in north

Story by Sgt. Sara Wood
U.S. Army
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, D.C. (September 8, 2006) - Continual training with coalition forces has increased the capabilities of the Iraqi army and police in northern Iraq and allowed the local forces to take responsibility for more territory and work toward the future of the country, the U.S. commander in the area said today.

"In an area of responsibility that exceeds 47,000 square miles, we have leveraged the full spectrum of assets in order to engage the population and neutralize the enemy," Army Maj. Gen. Thomas R. Turner, commander of Multinational Division North, said in a news conference via satellite from Iraq. "Iraqi security forces have taken the fight to the terrorists and insurgents throughout Multinational Division North. Numerous combined and increasingly Iraqi-only operations continue to disrupt the enemy's decision-making process and disrupt their freedom of movement."

A year ago, only one Iraqi army battalion was in the lead in the north, but today, 35 battalions, eight brigades and two divisions have assumed the lead and have been assigned an area of operations, Turner said. The majority of all operations in the region are led by the Iraqi army, he said, and the logistics and sustainment capabilities of the army are developing.

Now that the majority of the Iraqi army combat units are in the lead, the coalition is focused on building combat support and combat service support units, Turner said. When these units are fully established, they will provide critical support, such as logistics, transportation, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, he said.

Iraqi police in northern Iraq also have made great improvements, although they are still behind the army in capabilities, Turner said. More than 31,000 police have been trained in the region, and by December, more than 43,000 should be trained and fully equipped, he said. Almost 100 police stations were constructed this year, and 30 more are under construction, he added.

"It was not so long ago that we saw Iraqi police either abandoning their post or throwing down their arms when attacked or confronted by the enemy," he said. "Today they are much stronger, and we continue to see progress."

Progress also is being made along Iraq's borders with Syria, Turkey and Iran, Turner said. As of today, 132 border forts have been built across the north, and seven points of entry along the eastern and western Iraqi borders have been upgraded, he said.

While developing the Iraqi security forces, coalition forces in the north also have reduced their presence, Turner said. In the past year, the coalition has gone from using 35 forward operating bases to 11, with the vacated bases being either closed or turned over to the Iraqi army or Iraqi government, he said.

Important challenges still lay ahead in Iraq, such as building trust across ethnic lines, defeating terrorists who promote sectarian conflict, establishing security and rule of law for all Iraqis, increasing economic growth to provide jobs, delivering essential services, and fighting corruption, Turner said. The key to the future is the development of the political process, which will allow the government to bring hope to the Iraqi people, who are ready to move beyond the country's violent past, he said.

"The majority of Iraqis are tired of the bloodshed, and this enemy presents no challenge that cannot be overcome," he said. "This was most evident after the horrific bombing of the Golden Mosque in Samarra, where we saw the restraint of the Iraqi people in the face of massive provocation by those who respect nothing except their own destructive agenda for Iraq."

Soldier’s Dad notes that the AP Report on press conference focuses very narrowly on another matter mentioned in the briefing, as reprinted in the Mercury News:

U.S. finds 'torture chambers' in Iraq

Associated Press

WASHINGTON - The senior commander of U.S. and Iraqi forces in northern Iraq said Friday that a small number of "torture chambers" apparently used for sectarian violence were discovered along the Diyala River.

Maj. Gen. Thomas R. Turner II, whose area of responsibility stretches from the Iranian border north to Turkey and west to the Syrian border, told reporters at the Pentagon that two or three small rooms were found in May or June. He mentioned them as examples of sectarian strife that has spread from Baghdad to other parts of Iraq.

"We do see that migration," he said when asked about a Pentagon report to Congress last week that expressed concern that sectarian violence was spreading beyond the Iraqi capital, where it is most intense and widespread.

Turner estimated that the torture chambers were about 6 feet wide and 6 feet long. He did not give their exact location. He said they were along the Diyala River, which runs northeast of Baghdad toward the Iranian border.

"What it included were places where shackles were attached to walls, batteries, and other evidence of torture," he said.

Diyala province is predominantly Sunni, with a sizable population of Shiites as well as Kurds.

Turner spoke by video teleconference from his headquarters at Tikrit.

Contrast the official Army Press Release and the AP Report, with this account from Soldier’s Dad at Milblogs, who also watched the same Briefing:

I watched the Pentagon Briefing today on the Pentagon Channel. Gen Turner was giving his "End of Tour" summation. As usually befits a portion of the numb skulls that show up for these briefings, they want to talk about the 'subject de jour' which has nothing to do with an 'End of Tour Summation'.

So lost on all but maybe one or two reporters, was the real news, the number of FOB's in MNF-N is now down to 11 from 31. The number of coalition forces in the MNF-N AOR is almost half of what it was a year ago. Number of ISF battalions in the lead went from 1 to 35.

Nope, none of that real significant progress was newsworthy, the fact that a couple of torture chambers were found months ago, that's the story of the day.

I certainly don’t expect that the AP should print each and every press release from the Army, nor neglect to use their own judgment about what their readers would consider news.

But I have to think that Soldier’s Dad, in his middle paragraph above, narrowed in on three rather important facts, regardless of and absent any possible spin that one would care to apply:

  1. The US has gone from 31 down to 11 Forward Operating Bases (FOBs), soon to be 10;
  2. Coalition forces in MNF-N Area of Responsibility (AOR) are nearly half of what they were one year ago; and
  3. Iraqi Security Force (ISF) Battalions taking the lead role in security operations went from 1 to 35.

Meanwhile, AP focused on a single fact from 3 months ago, already known and reported, and spent 7 paragraphs exploring all the nuances of the fact.

Why? That should be obvious. It’s negative, and it fits the TemplateTM.

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Subscribe to Posts [Atom]