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Registered: 08/06/02
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WMD search failed!
    #2244012 - 01/15/04 02:23 PM (12 years, 9 months ago)

US disbands Iraq team looking for battle weapons

US disbands Iraq team looking for battle weapons

Julian Borger in Washington and Luke Harding in Baghdad
Friday January 9, 2004
The Guardian

The Pentagon has pulled out the 400-strong military team which was searching Iraq for weapons of mass destruction, but US officers insisted yesterday that the hunt would go on.

The disbanded multinational team was known as the Joint Captured Materiel Exploitation Group (JCMEG) and its job, according to a Pentagon official who confirmed its withdrawal, had been to "scavenge the battlefield for military equipment".

It was an important element of the CIA-led Iraq Survey Group (ISG), which has spent seven months hunting for the arsenal that was the justification for the invasion.

Over the past few months the ISG has been stripped of translators, special forces troops and other specialists.

The continuing questions about the justification of the Iraq war are President George Bush's principal weakness as he faces re-election in November against the backdrop of a steadily rising death toll of US troops there.

Yesterday nine soldiers were killed when a US Black Hawk crashed near the town of Falluja. It was not initially clear whether it had been shot down, but Falluja is a stronghold of Sunni resistance.

The ISG, according to some weapons experts in Washington, has been reduced to a remnant of a few hundred specialists from its peak strength of 1,400.

Its leader, David Kay, is said to be on the point of resignation. A colleague in Washington said: "His family is worried about his safety and he is disenchanted, both by the failure to find weapons he was sure were there and because his team has been cut in half."

The withdrawal of JCMEG became known only yesterday, but a defence official said its members had been sent back to their home countries in October, and called its disbanding "old news".

The official denied that the ISG had been reduced to a rump and said that although its numberfluctuated, new team members had joined to replace at least some of the departing troops.

Many of the remaining ISG investigators are slowly sifting their way through a mountain of captured documents.

The group includes a specialist unit trained to dispose of chemical and biological weapons, but the New York Times quoted an ISG member as saying that the team was "still waiting for something to dispose of".

Joseph Cirincione, chief proliferation expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (CEIP), said: "This is a body blow to the ISG. It has got to be demoralising to see your workforce cut in half. And it's an indication that at senior levels there is a realisation that it's over."

The CEIP produced a report on weapons of mass destruction in Iraq yesterday, co-authored by Mr Cirincione, comparing prewar claims by US officials and postwar findings that concluded that the administration had "systematically misrepresented" the Iraqi threat.

Yesterday, the US secretary of State, Colin Powell, acknowledged that he saw no "smoking gun, concrete evidence" of ties between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaida terror network, but insisted that Iraq had dangerous weapons and needed to be disarmed by force.

A US military spokewoman said that the crashed Black Hawk helicopter had made an emergency landing south of Falluja, a stronghold of the anti-American insurgency.

The Qatar satellite TV station al-Jazeera reported it had been hit by a rocket. Last week rebels shot down a US helicopter in the same area, killing one soldier and injuring another.

Speaking last night in Baghdad, Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt said troops had secured the site of the crash and an investigation was under way.

US forces have rounded up hundreds of suspects from Falluja, but the tactic appears to have incensed those left behind. Three US helicopters have been shot down in as many months. In November US troops were killed and 21 others on board injured after their Chinook was shot down in the same place.

Since the capture of Saddam Hussein the Iraqi resistance has carried out a series of spectacular attacks, including an assault on coalition forces in the town of Karbala, and a New Year's Eve suicide bombing in the heart of Baghdad, which killed eight people.

The latest incident came a day after rebels fired six mortar shells into a US camp, killing one soldier and wounding 33 soldiers and a civilian.

A US C-5 transport plane made an emergency landing at Baghdad airport after it was hit by hostile fire. No injuries were reported among the 63 passengers and crew.

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Registered: 02/26/01
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Re: WMD search failed! [Re: daussaulit]
    #2244051 - 01/15/04 02:40 PM (12 years, 9 months ago)

David Kay, is said to be on the point of resignation. A colleague in Washington said: "His family is worried about his safety and he is disenchanted, both by the failure to find weapons he was sure were there and because his team has been cut in half."

How terrible for him.

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