Saturday, March 01, 2008

US military compound in Iraq has troubles

None of the 26 buildings in the new $740 million U.S. Embassy complex in Baghdad is ready to be occupied. Fire alarms intended to safeguard more than 1,000 U.S. government employees aren't working. Kitchens in some of the buildings are fire hazards.
A senior State Department official in December certified that embassy construction was "substantially complete," but department inspectors found "major deficiencies" at the unoccupied embassy, according to their inspection report, which Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., released Friday.
McClatchy reported earlier this week that the new chief of the State Department's embassy-building arm, Richard Shinnick, has voided the Dec. 16 certification -- made under his predecessor, retired Army Gen. Charles Williams -- that the embassy is nearly ready to be occupied.
In a blistering letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Waxman, who chairs the House of Representatives Oversight and Government Reform Committee, accused the State Department of withholding documents about the troubled project.

The above is from Warren P. Strobel's "At new U.S. Embassy in Iraq, even kitchens are fire hazards" (McClatchy Newspapers). A note on the permalinks to the left. McClatchy News' Iraq section has long been linked. That's their folder containing their reporting and their blogs. The Los Angeles Times has added a blog on Iraq as has the New York Times and both are linked to in the permalinks. Since they are linked to Leila Fadel's Baghdad Observer for McClatchy has its own link as does Inside Iraq which is the blog McClatchy's Iraqi correspondents blog at.

The earlier report Strobel's article refers to his "State Dept. orders another review of troubled Baghdad embassy:"

The State Department's new embassy construction chief has rejected his predecessor's certification that the $740 million new U.S. embassy in Baghdad is "substantially completed" and has instead begun a top-to-bottom review of the troubled project.
The official, Richard Shinnick, said in an interview the State Department hopes that the sprawling embassy complex -- originally scheduled to be completed last September -- will be ready by March 31.
But he said repeatedly that he's not setting a target date because past deadlines have forced a rush to complete the embassy's defective work. "That's not the message I want to send," he said.
The central issue appears to be the firefighting systems.
The embassy will house more than 1,000 U.S. diplomats and military personnel, many of whom live and work at a palace of former president Saddam Hussein that is subject to frequent rocket and mortar attacks -- adding urgency to completing the new complex.

In the Los Angeles Times, Alexandra Zavis and Yesim Comert update on the Turkish invasion of northern Iraq that ended yesterday:

A statement by the Turkish military command said the weeklong operation had achieved its goals by denying militants from the Kurdish Workers Party, or PKK, a permanent and secure base in the mountainous border region from which to launch attacks on Turkish territory."It is out of the question that the terrorist organization is entirely eliminated with one regional operation," the Turkish command said in the statement posted on its website. "However, it has been shown to the organization that the north of Iraq is not a safe place for terrorists."
Iraq's foreign minister, Hoshyar Zebari, confirmed the pullout."
As of this morning, 4 a.m., the Turkish troops who entered Kurdish territory have withdrawn and gone back to their side of the border," Zebari told The Times by telephone. "This is good news; we welcome that."
However, PKK spokesman Ahmed Denis disputed that the withdrawal was complete. Though he agreed Turkish troops had left the Zab area, the focus of some of the most intense clashes in recent days, he said some remained in other places.
"Until this moment there are two military units, about 200 Turkish soldiers, which are trapped and in the range of fire of the PKK," Denis said. "Thirteen of them were killed since last night."

The New York Times' Sabrina Tavernise and Richard A. Oppel Jr. contribute:

But a senior American military officer in Iraq said it was "too early to call this a withdrawal," and a representative of the Kurdish fighters in Iraq, Ahmed Denis, said some Turkish troops were still inside Iraq.
Turkish officials said the withdrawal was already under way when Mr. Gates arrived in Turkey on Thursday.
The Turkish military said the operation had dealt a serious blow to the P.K.K.'s network. But because it does not allow reporters to accompany it on operations and because the fighting took place in a remote area, it was impossible to verify the claims of either side.

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