This morning the Defense Department issued the following: "The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom. Spc. Shawn D. Sykes, 28, of Portsmouth, Va., died May 7 at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Landstuhl, Germany, of wounds suffered from an accident that occurred May 5 at Combat Outpost Crazy Horse, Iraq. He was assigned to 215th Brigade Support Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood, Texas." The announcement brings to 4285 the number of US service members killed in the Iraq War since it started over six years ago.
In the New York Times, Elisabeth Bumiller breaks down the coming realities: "The top American general in Iraq said Friday that one-fifth of American combat troops would stay behind in Iraqi cities even after the June 30 deadline that the United States and Iraq had set for the departure." Yes, he did say that. More than once. He was also asked about the mythical al-Baghdidi and refused to say the US believes he exists or was captured by the Iraqis. He noted that no one has seen the suspect allegedly detained except for the Iraqis.
In "Toll Rises as Iraq Slows Surge" (Wall St. Journal), Charles Levinson offers:
Violence is on the rise in Iraq as American troops withdraw. A ground-level look at the handover provides one explanation: The Iraqi government is neglecting many of the successful counterinsurgency initiatives it is inheriting from the U.S. military.
In the Adhamiya neighborhood of Baghdad, once an al Qaeda stronghold, contractor Hossam Hadi used to send 1,000 military-aged men out on U.S.-funded jobs to pick up trash and repair bullet-riddled store fronts. That work pacified potential troublemakers, but now he's down to 60 workers.
In Baghdad's Shaab district, residents say that when the constant patrols of U.S. troops gave way recently to Iraqis who manned static posts, kidnappings and robberies rose. And just south of the capital, a former Sunni insurgent hired by the U.S. to keep the peace says his 145 militiamen are angry because they've received only a month's pay since Baghdad took over their program in January.
And good for Levinson for reporting the truth: Sahwa is not being paid. There are over 90,000 members and they're all supposed to be paid by al-Maliki now. That's not happening. He cites one group that al-Maliki was supposed to be covering since January. They have gotten one months pay. Out of five months, they got paid one time. That is not paying them.
AFP reports that Pope Benedict XVI spoke in Jordan today and urged Iraq to work to protect the country's Christian minority. AFP notes, "Estimated to number some 800,000 at the time of the US-led invasion of 2003, Christians have been prominent among the 2.7 million Iraqis who fled their homes during the sectarian violence that followed and as few as 400,000 are now believed to remain in their homeland."
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