The Washington Post leads with Israel’s killing of four Hamas militants yesterday. As the WP also emphasizes, hours before the attack Palestinian security forces took their first public steps against militants, sealing some tunnels between Egypt and Gaza that have been used to smuggle weapons. The Los Angeles Times leads with senators saying on the Sunday talkies that there aren’t enough troops in Iraq and that the White House should either send more GIs in or internationalize the effort. “We are in a very serious situation, a race against time,” said Republican Sen. John McCain, who called for “at least another division.” The New York Times leads with word that the U.S., eager to Iraqize the conflict, is planning to ship as many as 28,000 Iraqis to Hungary for police training. Officials explained that police academies in Iraq aren’t big enough to handle the number of cadets the U.S. wants to push through. Officials said they’re hoping to begin the trainings in about four months. USA Today leads with word from unnamed Pentagon officials that for the first time since Vietnam, GIs serving in hot-spots may have to do back-to-back yearlong tours. Officials estimated that somewhere between 20,000 and 50,000 troops could be forced to pull the double duty, for which they’d likely have a few months rest in between.
There’s a bit of confusion about exactly who Israeli forces killed. The NYT says one of those killed was a Hamas leader, USAT says two of them were, while the LAT says all were “local field operatives.” Also, as the papers note, Palestinian militants fired a new longer-range rocket about 15 miles into Israel, although it didn’t hit anything. Palestinian security forces said they had received orders from Yasser Arafat to try to stop rocket attacks.
Everybody mentions, and the LAT focuses on, the latest power struggles between Arafat and Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas: They’re fighting over whether to consolidate the currently disparate security services. The present set-up favors Arafat, who has de facto control of about two-thirds of the 60,000-man force. Everybody notes that Arafat generously offered to put one of his loyalists in charge of all the services. The LAT says the deal fell through not because of objections from Abbas but because Arafat reportedly decided he didn’t want to give up control even to one of his cronies.
Everybody goes inside with the attempted assassination of a top Shiite cleric in Iraq. A bomb exploded outside the his home, slightly injuring him and killing three of his guards. The cleric is the leader of an Iranian-influenced group that has worked with U.S. authorities. His aides blamed Baathists for the blast. But the NYT notes suggestively that there’s been serious tension recently between those clerics who work with the coalition and those who reject it.
The NYT goes inside, oddly, with word from unnamed administration officials that the White House plans to start a relatively large nation-building push in Afghanistan, including doubling the amount of U.S. aid to the country. As the Times notes, a new think-tank study found that foreign aid to Afghanistan in the last two years has amounted to $52 per capita. That compares to $814 for Kosovo over a similar period.
While most stories on White House foreign policy initiatives are, understandably, filed from Washington, this one, interestingly and helpfully, is filed from the place the policy affects: Afghanistan. The result is a more valuable article, complete with on-the-scene context and reaction: One American “adviser” in Kabul warned that the “belated” influx of cash isn’t going to have much short-term effect since Afghanistan is such a mess right now—”Alice in Wonderland meets Franz Kafka,” he says—that it can’t properly absorb the cash.
One issue with the NYT’s piece: It says up high that aid groups “contend that the presidential election in the United States next year” are the reason Bush is pumping up the aid. [Emphasis added.] What’s so wrong about creating a policy in response to citizens’ concerns and in order to win votes?
The papers note inside that suspected guerrillas yesterday in Afghanistan continued their stepped-up campaign and killed at least five government soldiers.
Everybody goes inside with word that while sporadic fighting continued in Liberia’s countryside, the 150-man Marine force in Liberia ended its mission after 11 days and was choppered back to ships off the coast. “We’re here to support” the West African peacekeepers, a Marine spokesman told AP, “but we can do it better from the ship.” Nobody runs more than a wire-piece on the withdrawal. The Marines’ arrival, of course, was front-page news.
USAT, alone among the papers, fronts a new report from the Justice Department showing that crime has hit the lowest level since the government began collecting such stats 30 years ago.
Writing an op-ed in the NYT, rabble-rouser and former weapons inspector Scott Ritter stops himself from simply writing, in 48-point-type, “I told you so.” Instead, he describes the way in which, soon after the war, GIs stopped guarding the Iraqi agency in charge of WMD record-keeping. The building was subsequently looted along with the documents that, Ritter says, “comprise the most detailed record” of Iraq’s banned weapons programs. “Why was this allowed to happen?” he asks. “I am as puzzled as the Iraqis.”