Pentagon planners and military commanders have identified roughly 20 to 30 Iraqi towns and cities that they say must be "brought under control" before elections can be held there in January, and have devised detailed ways of deciding which ones should be early priorities, according to US officials. \nRecent military operations to quell Iraqi opposition to the US-supported regime in Tal Afar, Samarra and south of Baghdad are the first and most visible signs of a new six-pronged strategy for Iraq approved by the Bush administration. While elements of the plan have been discussed previously, officials described it in much more detail. \nAs US military deaths have increased in Iraq and commanders struggle to combat a tenacious resistance and a deadly spate of bombings, even administration officials involved in creating the plan acknowledge that US forces face a difficult task and that success is far from guaranteed. \nFrom the standpoint of President George W. Bush, the disclosure of the new plan is an attempt to address one of Senator John Kerry's criticisms -- that the administration has no plan for Iraq. \nThe new strategy was written this summer and laid down in a series of classified directives to the US Embassy in Baghdad and to the US military headquarters there. The instructions are an acknowledgment that the opposition had seized the initiative in Sunni strongholds north and west of Baghdad and in the southern city of Najaf, considered holy by Shiites. \nFor each of the cities identified as problematic, a set of measurements was created to track whether the rebels' grip was being loosened by initiatives of the new Iraqi government, using such criteria as the numbers of Iraqi security personnel on patrol, voter registration, economic development and health care. \nFor each city, a timeline was established for military action to establish Iraqi local control, if purely political steps by the government proves insufficient. \n"We're working on them by population size, by importance to the election," said one senior official. "That's where the bad security situations are, and that's where we really need to make some major political and economic changes in the next several months if we're going to have a successful nationwide election," he said. \nBoth the overall strategy and the specific military component were described by senior administration, Pentagon and military officials in interviews over the last two weeks. \nThe overall political, military and economic strategy is contained in a classified document titled US National Strategy for Supporting Iraq. The plan, which is being coordinated by the National Security Council, sets six priorities: to neutralize insurgents, ensure legitimate elections, create jobs and provide essential services, establish foundations for a strong economy, develop good governance and the rule of law and increase international support for the US-led effort. \nWhile the broad themes are not new, officials admit that those missions have not been carried out successfully during the first year following the end of formal warfare. Many in the administration and the military now view the past working relationship of L. Paul Bremer, the former chief of the US-led provisional authority in Baghdad, and a recently departed military commander as ineffective. \nThese officials say they hope that the new US-backed regime, the arrival of a new US ambassador and the creation of a new military position to command Iraq operations offer a better chance for success.
A coronavirus-free tropical island nestled in the northern Pacific might seem the perfect place to ride out a pandemic, but residents on Palau said that life right now is far from idyllic. The microstate of 18,000 people is among a dwindling number of places on Earth that still report zero cases of COVID-19 as figures mount daily elsewhere. The disparate group also includes Samoa, Turkmenistan, North Korea and bases on the frozen continent of Antarctica. A dot in the ocean hundreds of kilometers from its nearest neighbors, Palau is surrounded by the vast Pacific Ocean, which has acted as a buffer against the
Dutch scientists have found the coronavirus in a city’s wastewater before COVID-19 cases were reported, demonstrating a novel early warning system for the disease. SARS-CoV-2 — the virus that causes COVID-19 — is often excreted in an infected person’s stool. Although it is unlikely that sewage will become an important route of transmission, the pathogen’s increasing circulation in communities would increase the amount of it flowing into sewer systems, Gertjan Medema and colleagues at the KWR Water Research Institute in Nieuwegein said on Monday. They detected genetic material from the coronavirus at a wastewater treatment plant in Amersfoort on March 5, before
TRUE TOLL? Some Chinese are skeptical about official data, particularly given the overwhelmed medical system and initial attempts to cover up the outbreak The long lines and stacks of urns greeting family members of the dead at funeral homes in Wuhan, China, are spurring questions about the true scale of casualties at the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak, renewing pressure on a Chinese government struggling to control its containment narrative. The families of those who succumbed to the coronavirus in the city, where the disease first emerged, were allowed to pick up their cremated ashes at eight funeral homes last week. As they did, photographs circulated on Chinese social media of thousands of urns being ferried in. Outside one funeral home, trucks shipped in about 2,500
KEEN INTEREST: India is trying to procure medical gear from domestic producers and abroad, and China has emerged as a possible supplier as its factories reopen India is to buy ventilators and masks from China to help it deal with COVID-19, a government official said yesterday, even though some countries in Europe had complained about the quality of the equipment. India has recorded 1,251 cases of the coronavirus, with 32 deaths, but health experts said the country of 1.3 billion people could see a major surge in cases that could overwhelm its weak public health system. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government said that it was trying to procure medical gear, including masks and body coveralls, both from domestic firms and from countries such as South Korea and