The New York Times leads with a report that American intelligence and military officials have been sizing up potential bases and recruiting scouts and translators in Kurdish Iraq in preparation for a possible war. The Washington Post lead announces that an American solider was killed by enemy fire in Afghanistan while on a patrol to hunt down terrorists, the first U.S. combat death there in seven months. The Los Angeles Times lead says that the terrorist-detainment project at Guantanamo Bay has kept dozens of non-al-Qaida/non-Taliban stuck in prison there. To sum up the problem: "There are a lot of guilty [people] in there, but there's a lot of farmers in there too," said a military source.
The WP lead says the number of attacks on American soldiers in Afghanistan has increased over the last year, and areas along the border with Pakistan are especially dangerous. This attack occurred in that area, and the enemy gunmen escaped over the border into Pakistan.
The LAT lead reports that, according to military sources, about 10 percent of the Guantanamo detainees were deemed to have no intelligence value, met none of the criteria that would earn them a trip to Cuba, and were on "recommended for repatriation" lists. Why, then, were they imprisoned? Bureaucratic confusion and the fear of being the guy who released the 21st hijacker. Only five out of 625 prisoners have been released.
There aren't any American forces based in Kurd-controlled northern Iraq yet, the NYTlead says. CIA teams have been working with major Kurdish political parties for the past two months, and American officers have been meeting with important Kurdish figures who would be helpful to the United States should the U.S. attack Iraq.
The LAT has an update on American plans for working with Turkey in the event of a war with Iraq: Turkey doesn't want to host large numbers of American soldiers, so the Pentagon may hopscotch troops through Turkey instead of basing them there. The plan calls for the soldiers to fly into Turkey from their German base and transfer immediately to helicopters to be taken into northern Iraq to defend oil fields and secure Kurdish provinces. The advance from the north would complement much larger American invasions headed toward Saddam from the south and the west. Turkey is expected to decide soon whether this plan is a good idea.
The WP front reports that American bombing in southern Iraq has left civilians dead. The U.S. airstrikes are in response to Iraqi violations of the no-fly zone over the area, and American officials say that every effort is made not to hit civilian populations. Iraqi reports, too, say that most targets are military facilities. The WP's information is based on interviews with survivors, witnesses, and doctors.
The papers continue pursuing the fallout from Sen. Trent Lott's ill-chosen praise of Sen. Strom Thurmond. The NYT announces that with President Bush ally Sen. Bill Frist about to become Republican leader in the Senate, Bush will have more power over Congress than any president since Johnson. The paper credits Bush with Frist's new appointment, saying that with it the president has "consolidated ... a stunning degree of authority in the White House." The story then goes on to list all the potential reasons why actually Bush might have a tough time getting what he wants done—from an aggrieved Lott and his conservative allies refusing to work with the president to Frist balking at going along with the program in order to prove that he is not the administration's puppet.
The WP says that it was Lott's fellow Southern senators who rose up against him. The senators were motivated by fear that Lott would harm the party as well as by ambition. In what the paper calls a deciding moment in the run-up to Lott's resignation, Sen. George Allen, R-Va., called to tell him not to try to remain majority leader.
The LAT guesses that one major focus in the Republican agenda under the influences of Bush and Frist will be formulating a conservative plan for health care. Republicans hope the plan, which could include tax credits to cover the uninsured and a proposal for restructuring Medicare, will narrow the gap voters perceive between Democrats and Republicans on health care.
A helicopter carrying German peacekeepers crashed in Kabul, Afghanistan, killing seven Germans and two children on the ground, the papers report.
The WP has the Federal Reserve defending its performance during the 1990s. As the paper puts it, the Fed thinks "it was better to have boomed and busted than to never have boomed at all."
Finally, the WP fronts a new trend in upscale pet care: dog get-aways with suites that feature televisions with 75 satellite channels, Bach piped in over the speaker system, original artwork, and paint colors chosen to be pleasing to the dog, even though dogs are essentially colorblind.