Military officials view December as the optimal month for a US and Iraqi government offensive to reclaim the rebel enclave of Fallujah ahead of January national elections. \nDecember is when Iraqi forces will come on line ready to participate in a full-fledged operation to take out Fallujah, considered the planning center for many of the spectacular car bombings that have plagued the country. \nA security plan, drafted by the new Iraqi government and the top US General in Iraq, George Casey, calls for combined US and Iraqi security forces to claim back cities like Fallujah, Ramadi and Samarra that have swung out of their control. \nThe deadline is the January elections -- Iraq's first free polls in five decades -- which are in jeopardy amid the wave of bombings and assassinations. UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has raised skepticism about the date. \n"Fallujah will be tough and we've got to make a decision when the cancer of Fallujah needs to be cut out ... We would like to end December at local control across the country," one senior officer told reporters. \nThe deputy for training Iraqi security forces, Brigadier Nigel Aylwin-Foster, told reporters that Iraqi forces still needed to gain more experience but that chances for victory would be high in December. \n"It really depends on what level of risk the [Iraqi] leadership is prepared to take," Aylwin-Foster said. \n"There will be a lot more security forces available by December. There will still be a level of risk, but there will be less risk than there is now because there will be more security forces." \nBut Aylwin-Foster stressed he did not know what the US and Iraqi leadership would decide was a proper number of Iraqi forces for an attack on Fallujah. Still, in December, roughly 7,200 men from nine elite intervention force battalions will be on line, with three of the units able to operate independently. \nThe intervention force has been designed specifically for fighting inside Iraq and is a by-product of April's failed US assault on Fallujah that saw Iraqi soldiers and national guard desert, unprepared to fight their countrymen. \nThe number of regular army battalions will have more than doubled to roughly 13,000 soldiers by December, with nine out of 16 battalions rated capable of independent action and trained for guerrilla warfare. \nThe interior ministry will also have a "civil intervention force," made up of police, ready in December to join any major fight, Aylwin-Foster added. \nMore than 40,000 national guardsmen would also be deployable for an offensive on rebel hotbeds. \nThe chairman of US joint chiefs of staff, General Richard Myers, stressed on Sept. 7 a campaign to reclaim Fallujah would need an Iraqi face and said Iraqi forces would not be ready until December. \n"By December, we're going to have a substantial number of Iraqi security forces equipped, trained and led to conduct the kind of operations I was talking about,"
UNCERTAINTY: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken did not specify measures NATO might take, but many believe that the Nord Stream 2 pipeline project could be canceled The US has said it has evidence that Russia has made plans for a “large scale” attack on Ukraine and said NATO allies are “prepared to impose severe costs” on Moscow if it attempts an invasion. Speaking at a NATO ministers meeting in Latvia, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that it was unclear whether Russian President Vladimir Putin had made a decision to invade, but added: “He’s putting in place the capacity to do so in short order, should he so decide.” “So despite uncertainty about intention and timing, we must prepare for all contingencies while working to see to
‘TRAVEL APARTHEID’: Biden’s top medical adviser said the US was considering lifting restrictions on travel from African nations imposed after the variant was discovered The Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2 is rapidly spreading throughout the US, but early indications suggest it might be less dangerous than the Delta variant, which continues to drive a surge of hospitalizations, US health officials said on Sunday. US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci told CNN’s State of the Union that scientists need more information before drawing conclusions about Omicron’s severity. Reports from South Africa, where it emerged and is becoming the dominant strain, suggest that hospitalization rates have not increased alarmingly. “Thus far, it does not look like there’s a great degree of severity to it,” Fauci
HOPEFUL: ‘We found a really good immune response across the board,’ even higher than with two doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, the study’s lead author said A major British study on mixing COVID-19 vaccines has found that people had a better immune response when they received a first dose of the AstraZeneca or Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines followed by the Moderna vaccine nine weeks later, the results showed on Monday. “We found a really good immune response across the board ... in fact, higher than the threshold set by two doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine,” said Matthew Snape, the University of Oxford professor behind the trial dubbed Com-COV2. The findings supporting flexible dosing offer some hope to poor and middle-income countries that might need to combine different brands between the
South African hospitals are bracing for a surge in admissions as the Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2 drives a sharp rise in COVID-19 infections and as more evidence emerges about the severity of the illness caused by the strain. The seven-day moving average of daily new cases in the country rose to 10,055 last week, from fewer than 300 three weeks earlier. Hospitalizations also picked up, but remain relatively low, with admissions standing at 3,268 on Sunday. Whether there would be a deluge of new patients is the biggest question. Severe symptoms in patients who contracted earlier variants typically developed between one and three