I just received this article from a good friend, LTC Rich Morales, who is commanding a battalion in Iraq. Rich and his troops are the ones who are featured in this harrowing story. Rich precedes the story with his own commentary, provided below...
Just want to share three things: 1) pictures which I hope tell a story that I don’t always make time to do – we are making a difference, 2) a link to today’s Wall Street Journal (see front page online under World), and 3) thoughts on the media, your support, and some sense of what this place is like. We put together a Newsletter every Friday, without fail, see the link under my name should you ever want to see what we are up to. Edition 23 is one of my favorites as it is dedicated to YOU, our support back home. Our unit is on the front page of the Wall Street Journal. I am standing on a rubbled house with my Commanding General. Interesting story, but it’s a tough article to read on several levels--- better lucky than good is in the title somewhere. Feels like a time release black eye, though in fairness to the reporter he was good and captured that bad day well. See the attached slide show to his piece with pictures and the quote on the last slide from one of my infantry platoon leaders who felt terrible as they cleared the building for us to occupy. It wasn’t anything anyone could have found. Not our day to die. It was a rough summer. Glad to be “home” to our part of Iraq.
Just want to share three things:
1) pictures which I hope tell a story that I don’t always make time to do – we are making a difference,
2) a link to today’s Wall Street Journal (see front page online under World), and
3) thoughts on the media, your support, and some sense of what this place is like.
We put together a Newsletter every Friday, without fail, see the link under my name should you ever want to see what we are up to. Edition 23 is one of my favorites as it is dedicated to YOU, our support back home.
Our unit is on the front page of the Wall Street Journal. I am standing on a rubbled house with my Commanding General. Interesting story, but it’s a tough article to read on several levels--- better lucky than good is in the title somewhere. Feels like a time release black eye, though in fairness to the reporter he was good and captured that bad day well. See the attached slide show to his piece with pictures and the quote on the last slide from one of my infantry platoon leaders who felt terrible as they cleared the building for us to occupy. It wasn’t anything anyone could have found. Not our day to die.
It was a rough summer. Glad to be “home” to our part of Iraq.
TAHWILLA, Iraq -- It was just after 10 p.m. when a sergeant started yelling in the darkness. "There's a bomb in the building!"
The dozens of soldiers bivouacked in an abandoned house here grumbled as they threw on their dusty flak vests. They'd been awake for more than 30 hours. Several called the warning a prank. Ten minutes later, the soldiers learned the house had been wired with explosives from top to bottom. If the bombs had gone off, the explosions would likely have killed everyone inside.
"It's better to be lucky than good," Capt. Russell Wagner muttered under his breath.
Unlike much of Iraq, this area remains hostile territory. A Sunni-dominated region about 40 miles north of Baghdad, Diyala Province is one of the deadliest areas for U.S. forces and the last major stronghold of al Qaeda in Iraq, a largely homegrown terrorist organization that came into existence after U.S. forces invaded Iraq in 2003.
One reason is a tactic that has become the province's calling card: a house bomb, or, in the antiseptic jargon of the U.S. military, a "house-borne improvised explosive device." Created to kill U.S. troops when they are most vulnerable, house bombs undermine a central tenet of the American counterinsurgency strategy -- the reliance on hundreds of vacant houses as small combat outposts. In Diyala, insurgents turn those houses into bombs, which have killed more than a dozen American troops since the summer of 2007.
The incident in Tahwilla was a reminder that U.S. personnel in Iraq continue to face danger, often unseen, even as the country stabilizes. Late last week, Iraqi soldiers acting on a tip defused a house rigged with explosives in Abu Ghraib, just west of Baghdad. An American soldier was killed in a roadside bombing in the same province last month, and numerous U.S. and Iraqi personnel have been wounded since the offensive in Diyala began over the summer. Insurgents continue to find new ways of killing and maiming U.S. personnel. In addition to roadside bombs and booby-trapped houses, militants regularly hide explosives beneath dead animals and string them from trees.
For soldiers at the front, war is made up of a series of close calls. For Bravo Company of the 1st Armored Division's 1-6 Infantry Battalion, the close call happened in late July. Bravo was part of an operation called Iron Pursuit, which called for U.S. and Iraqi troops to push deep into Diyala Province. Capt. Wagner's soldiers were meant to move into Tahwilla and two nearby towns and search every house for insurgents, bombs and weapons. The troops would then build small combat outposts where they could live and work for several weeks. That was a switch from the three prior operations since 2007. In those cases, U.S. troops left after the initial sweep, allowing militants to return.
Shortly after midnight on Thursday, July 24, a swarm of Chinook helicopters landed in barren farmland outside Tahwilla. Capt. Wagner and about 30 soldiers rushed out and lay in firing position, guns pointed into darkness. Through night-vision goggles, the canals and irrigation ditches took on a pale green glow.
The soldiers sweated profusely; despite the dark, it was close to 100 degrees. The departing helicopters kicked up dust that engulfed the prone soldiers and blotted out the stars.
When the troops moved into Tahwilla, it was quickly apparent that the insurgents had deserted the town. Soldiers found only women and young children.
Shortly after 3 a.m., Specialist Charles Ruckdeshell, severely dehydrated, stumbled into a nearby empty house and passed out. Sgt. Brian Smith, one of the platoon's team leaders, rooted around in his backpack and pulled out a long needle and a bag of intravenous solution. "Come on, Ruck, stay with me," he said. "I know you're still in there." He recovered after a few hours on the IV.
The house was devoid of furniture, and many windows were cracked or missing. But it was large, laid out in a C-shape, with three wings surrounding a courtyard strewn with bricks and chunks of concrete. It had a broad roof -- a cool place for soldiers to sleep on steamy nights -- and a walled backyard perfect for housing vehicles and equipment. Situated off the main road, it had clear views over the surrounding farmland.
"This is an excellent spot," said 2nd Lt. Brian McDonald, his voice carrying across the empty roof. "We got pretty lucky on this one." He and his men carefully searched every room in the house and found nothing untoward.
By the next morning, soldiers had installed a satellite array on the roof, running wires down to a communications vehicle in front of the house. The soldiers also began mapping out locations for latrines and showers.
Lt. Col. Rich Morales, the overall commander of the operation, took a large side room as his headquarters. Col. Morales found another unexpected bonus. Every room had pre-cut holes in the walls, perfect spots to shoot from. "It's like the bad guys left us a fort," he marveled.
That afternoon, Maj. Gen. Mark Hertling, the top American commander in the region, flew in to see the nascent base. With him were several senior Iraqi officers. Standing in the courtyard, he opened a pocket and pulled out photos of soldiers who had died in a Jan. 9 house bomb.
"This has been a dangerous place, but we're not going to let up until we've chased [insurgents] from every hiding place they have," Gen. Hertling said.
Around 9 that night, Sgt. First Class Kris Dohl was on his way to pick up water from a helicopter landing area when he recalls seeing two shiny copper wires glimmering in the freshly-tilled farmland. He felt a flash of panic: Insurgents often use copper wiring in roadside bombs. Heading back to alert his commanders, Sgt. Dohl spotted more wiring, this time leading straight into the house.
At first, military explosives-disposal experts thought insurgents had planned to detonate a bomb from the building. After an hour, they realized the opposite was true. The house itself was wired with explosives that could be triggered from outside. A sergeant raced upstairs to wake the sleeping soldiers.
"The house isn't full of IEDs -- the whole house is an IED!" yelled First Sgt. Ramiro Hernandez.
Sergeants directed the soldiers to an empty dirt field. The field reeked of cow dung, but the tired troops collapsed onto it anyway and fell asleep in their armor.
The disposal experts later found artillery shells and barrels of homemade explosives carefully buried under the tiled floors of every room in the house. One makeshift bomb was in the room set aside as the medical center, and one was in a room planned for a brigade headquarters. The bombs were connected to copper wiring carefully concealed inside fake plaster moldings.
The experts found another bomb buried outside the house, in the courtyard a few feet from where Gen. Hertling had been standing.
Some believe insurgents designed the house, down to the holes in the walls, as bait. "They set a trap and we walked right into it," Col. Morales said later. Had the bombs gone off it "would have been an al-Qaeda grand slam."
The soldiers don't know why the bombs never went off. The field containing the detonator had been turned into a helicopter landing zone, so perhaps insurgents were unable to make their way there. Others believe that it was simply luck.
Lt. McDonald, whose platoon had searched the house, took the discovery especially hard. "It feels like a kick in the jaw," he said to one of his men the next day.
On Saturday, July 26, the soldiers found a new house for a base. It belonged to a farmer who told U.S. commanders that his mother, brother and sister had been killed by al Qaeda in Iraq.
The American troops were moving guns onto the roof and vehicles into the front yard when a soldier found more copper wiring in the dirt. This time, it was a false alarm: The wiring wasn't connected to anything.
Lieutenant Colonel Rich Morales
Commander, Task Force 1-35 AR
Combat Outpost Cashe, Iraq
APO AE 09308
Iron Knight Website and weekly newsletter:
And here are some photos that Rich also sent of him and his Soldiers in Iraq...
Here is an article by Judith Miller that just ran in the Los Angeles Times. Some excellent insights here, regardless of your stance on the war itself....
Iraqis here marked the fifth anniversary of the fall of Baghdad -- and of their liberation from Saddam Hussein's tyranny -- in eerie silence and fear. Though April 9 was officially a national holiday, Baghdad's shops were shuttered and its streets deserted because of the emergency curfew declared by Prime Minister Nouri Maliki, the head of Iraq's government, who in late March attacked the forces of his fellow Shiite, radical cleric Muqtada Sadr, in the southern port of Basra with no warning to either his Cabinet or his American protectors.
As I drove through the capital in an armed convoy of vehicles with blue and red flashing lights, Baghdad was silent except for the Muslim call to prayer that ricocheted from the city's minarets, the sound of mortars or rockets falling somewhere in the distance, and the thumping of American helicopters flying fast and low over the shuttered city.
For a journalist who had not visited Baghdad since the invasion, the scene was devastatingly surreal. Few buildings downtown remain untouched by the war or its far-bloodier aftermath. In the once fashionable Mansour district, the theft of steel rods from the gargantuan Mosque of the Merciful made one of its 75 domes collapse. But the rest of the mosque, which was under construction when the war began, was such a wreck -- with debris and chunks of gray concrete scattered throughout the site -- that the latest damage was barely noticeable.
Could things get worse? Yes. And they very well might if Washington, in the name of supporting the democratically elected Maliki government, gets our forces further embroiled in a battle among competing Shiite factions.
In addition to Basra, Iraq's second-largest city, the areas hardest hit earlier this month by the fighting between Maliki's government forces and Sadr's militias are the two mainly Shiite parts of Baghdad: Sadr City, a northeastern suburb of well over 2.2 million people known, when I first visited the capital more than two decades ago, as Saddam City in homage to the dictator -- and Shula, another stronghold of Sadr's Mahdi Army, where more than a million people live.
Over tea, Raheem Darraji, Sadr City's mayor, told me that the more than 3 million Shiites in the two districts had been suffering from food and medicine shortages since the government imposed a virtual siege on their neighborhoods in early April. People couldn't get to their jobs or buy food; no vehicles could enter or leave the enclaves, not even ambulances; the only way in or out was on foot. A statement by Iraq's parliamentary committee on human rights called the humanitarian crisis "acute."
By the time the government lifted the vehicular ban in Shula about a week ago and followed suit in Sadr City for a few hours shortly afterward, the prices of food, medicine and other necessities had soared. Bread had tripled in price. Many people remained reluctant to leave their homes, fearful of being caught in a crossfire between roving gangs of young Sadr militiamen and the American-backed Iraqi army. On April 11, Iraqi police said American airstrikes had killed 13 people in Sadr City and that street fighting had claimed nearly 90 lives. Sadr City doctors call this a gross underestimate and claim that the Iraqi army or American support fire killed at least 230 people.
Thus, the United States found itself in the unenviable position of supporting an Iraqi government that was firing on the same long-suffering Shiites whom the invasion five years ago was intended to free. American officials say they had little choice but to back Maliki in his potentially catastrophic campaign: Without American support -- including logistics, artillery fire and airstrikes from Apache helicopters armed with Hellfire missiles -- the Iraqi army most likely would have collapsed in Basra and stalled in Baghdad's Shiite neighborhoods as well.
But several American officers and veteran students of Iraq made clear that they resented having been dragged into, at best, an ill-conceived, poorly planned confrontation and, at worst, an intra-sectarian, strictly Shiite power struggle that threatens to undermine the ostensible progress achieved by President Bush's troop surge.
A senior Iraqi official said that in demanding that Sadr's forces and all other militias disband and turn over their weapons, Maliki was defending the rule of law and attempting to consolidate respect for the central government's authority. He described the struggle as one more round in a proxy war between the United States and Iran. "It is also an integral part of the strategy of the surge," he told me.
But the prime minister may have grievously erred in attacking Sadr's forces at this time. Maliki's young Shiite rival may be a ruthless thug, but he is also a canny survivor, as previous bloody clashes with coalition forces have unfortunately shown. Emulating another Iranian-backed militant group -- Hezbollah in Lebanon -- Sadr's Mahdi Army has done more than the government to alleviate Shiite suffering, providing housing, food and other services to Shiite war victims. And he retains a well of sympathy and support among many Shiites throughout Iraq for both his family's valiant struggle against Hussein and his opposition to the U.S. "occupation." Maliki's move risks opening a new round of intra-Shiite warfare in Iraq's already deeply fractured political landscape that he may not be able to win.
In Baghdad, U.S. soldiers and pro-American Iraqis agree that the increased number of American forces since the beginning of the surge has enabled what one might call "community soldiering," after its policing equivalent. American troops are finally numerous enough to have a block-by-block, neighborhood-by-neighborhood presence, which has emboldened the Sunnis to turn against Al Qaeda and the other violent extremists whom they had tolerated out of fear.
But another key factor in the surge's military success is surely the cease-fire that Sadr declared last September and that he honored until Maliki attacked in Basra.
Iraqis see the attack as an effort by Maliki -- and by his ally of convenience, Abdelaziz Hakim, another Shiite leader who heads the Iranian-backed Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq -- to neuter Sadr and his more numerous, better-organized network in advance of provincial elections next October. Sadr, like the Sunnis, sat out the last election contest, an error that neither is likely to repeat.
Along with the Kurds, Iraq's Shiites have always stood to benefit from Hussein's overthrow. But the Shiites,who fought Iran when Hussein invaded a generation ago, recently turned to Tehran to mediate a truce among the different Shiite factions -- almost all of which are financed and encouraged by Iran, according to military and intelligence officials -- which have been battling it out in Basra.
As we Americans ponder our own election choices this fall, we should ask questions about what I saw in Iraq. Why isn't the Maliki government spending more of its ample resources on the poor neighborhoods whose misery Muqtada Sadr is politically exploiting? Why isn't Maliki doing more to rebuild Iraq and provide essential services? Why hasn't Washington leaned harder on him to crack down on the corruption that is crippling Iraq's recovery and infuriating Sunni and Shiite Iraqis alike, who fail to see much improvement in their daily lives?
And finally, having successfully wooed the tribal-led sahwah -- or the Sunni "awakening" councils -- into the fight against Al Qaeda and other militants, does it serve America's interests to jeopardize that progress by fueling an internal power struggle among Iraq's Shiites, who constitute 60% of the people?
Judith Miller, a former reporter for the New York Times, is a contributing editor at Manhattan Institute's City Journal.
This excellent article from one of our most incisive foreign policy minds is well worth reading. Boot is one of those rare authors who routinely transcend soundbites and provides in-depth analysis through his own extended thoughtful observations on the ground.
We Are Winning. We Haven't Won.
America has a chance at a historic victory in Iraq, but only if we don't pull out too many forces too soon.
by Max Boot
02/04/2008, Volume 013, Issue 20
Nine months ago, when I was last in Iraq, the conventional wisdom about the war effort was unduly pessimistic. Many politicians, and not only Democrats, had declared the surge a failure when it had barely begun. Today we know that the surge has succeeded: Iraqi and American deaths fell by approximately 80 percent between December 2006 and December 2007, and life is returning to a semblance of normality in much of Baghdad. Now the danger is that public opinion may be turning too optimistic. While Iraq has made near-miraculous progress in the past year, daunting challenges remain, and victory is by no means assured.
CLICK HERE to read the rest of the article.
MEMORANDUM FOR: Colonel Michael Meese
Professor and Head Dept of Social Sciences United States Military Academy
CC: Colonel Cindy Jebb
Professor and Deputy Head Dept of Social Sciences United States Military Academy
SUBJECT: After Action Report—General Barry R McCaffrey USA (Ret)
VISIT IRAQ AND KUWAIT 5-11 DECEMBER 2007
This memo provides feedback on my strategic and operational assessment of current security operations in Iraq. Look forward to providing lectures to faculty and cadet national security seminars.
Will provide follow-on comprehensive report with attachments of current unclassified data and graphs documenting the current counter-insurgency situation in Iraq.
1.) ADM William (Fox) Fallon USN, Commander US Central Command (CENTCOM) One-one-one meeting in Iraq. Theater strategic assessment.
2.) GEN David Petraeus, Commanding General Multi-National Forces Iraq (CG, MNF-I) One-on-one office call: strategic assessment.
3.) LTG Raymond Odierno, Commanding General Multi-National Corps-Iraq (CG, MNC-I) Campaign briefing.
4.) LTG Jim Dubik, Commander, Multi-National Security Transition Command -Iraq (MNSTC-I) MNSTC-I Overview brief and ministerial capacity discussion “Building the Iraqi Police and Army”.
5.) Chargé Ambassador Pat Butenis, Deputy Chief of Mission (Ambassador Ryan Crocker on personal leave) One-on-one diplomatic assessment.
6.) MG John Paxton USMC, Chief of Staff Multi National Forces- Iraq (COS, MNF-I) MNF-I Battle Update Assessment.
7.) MG Joe Fil, Commanding General, Multi-National Division -Baghdad (CG, MND-B) Update- “The struggle for Bagdad.”
8.) MG Mark Hertling, Commanding General Multi-National Division- North (CG, MND-N) MND-N “Battle Update Brief the northern zones…AQI final refuge.”
9.) MG Rick Lynch, Commanding General Multi-National Division Center-(CG, MND-C) MND-C Operations & Intelligence Round Table. “The struggle for the southern approaches to Baghdad.”
10.) MG Mike Jones, Commander Civilian Police Assistance Training Team (CPATT) Round table discussion at Taqaddam Airbase. “Building the Iraqi Police.”
11.) MG Kevin Bergner, Deputy Chief of Staff for Strategic Effects, MNF-I Update briefing with senior MNF-I Staff.
12.) MG Maston Robeson (Deputy Chief of Staff for Strategy, Plans and Assessments MNF-I), RADML Greg Smith (PAOMNF-I): Update briefing with senior MNF-I Staff.
13.) MG Dennis Hardy, Deputy Commanding General, Third Army, U.S. Army Central (USARCENT), Coalition Forces Land Component Command (CFLCC): Briefing on strategic situation in Kuwait.
14.) BG Geoff Freeman, CG, 335th Theater Sig Cmd (Prov), C6, Coalition Forces Land Component Command: Update briefing on communications support, Iraq and Afghanistan.
15.) US Embassy Baghdad Country Team Briefing – AMB Marci Ries (Pol-Mil Counselor), AMB Charlie Ries (Coordinator for Economic Transition in Iraq), Todd Schwartz (Economic Counselor), Matt Tueller (Political Counselor), Dr. Chris Schnaubelt (Chief of Joint Strategic Plans and Assessments).
16.) BG Jim Yarbrough, CG, Iraqi Assistance Group (IAG): Update briefing MNC-I assistance group. “The status and training of US MiTT teams imbedded in Iraqi Forces.”
17.) Operational Intelligence Briefings. BG (P) Vince Brooks (DCG S, MND-B), COL Jack Ballantyne (Chief of Staff and MND-B), COL Bill West (Chief ISF Cell, MND-B), LTC Steve North (G2, MND-B), LTC Chris Bonheim (Deputy G3, MND-B): “Iraqi Forces engaged in the struggle for Baghdad.”
18.) Campaign briefing with MNC-I CG Team. COL Jerry Tait (C2, MNC-I), COL John Murray (C3, MNC-I), COL J.T. Thomson (XO, MNC-I CG) “The campaign Plan.”
19.) Sensing session and open discussion with thirty-eight US battalion commanders: MND-B Battalion Commander’s Conference. Working Lunch — BG John Campbell, DCG (S).
20.) BG Barry McManus (Joint Headquarters Transition Team CMATT), BG Robert Allardice (Air Force Transition Team CMATT), and RADM Edward Winters (Navy Transition Team CMATT), and COL Al Dochnal (Chief of Staff CMATT): MNSTC-I Overview Brief Iraqi: Security Forces and Ministerial Capacity Discussion
21.) BG Jim Kessler, CG 2nd Marine Logistic Group MNF-W, COL Rivers Johnson (PAO, CPATT), Mr. Don Lane (Chief of Training CPATT): Round Table Discussion. (Forced down by dust storm weather with the Marines!)
22.) BG Edward Cardon, DCG-S, MND-C: MND-C Battle Update Brief.
23.) BG Charles Gurganus USMC (CG Ground Component Element, II MEF), COL John Charlton USA (Commander 1st Bde, MNF-W), and COL Dave Fuquea USMC (G3-ISF MNF-W): Overview, Ramadi city visits, and working lunch Marine/US Army leadership Camp Ramadi.
24.) COL Jim Hickey, (Director, MNC-I COIC), MAJ Brian Bricker (XO, MNC-I COIC): Office call with MNC-I Counter-IED Operational Integration Center. “Strategic intelligence assessment.”
25.) COL Ricky Gibbs, (Commander 4/1 ID), LTC Pat Frank (Commander 1-28 IN): 4/1 ID BCT & 1-28 IN “O&I Brief with focus on the battle for Baghdad.” (US 80 KIA and 600+ WIA in this brigade during the campaign.)
26.) COL Rodger Cloutier (G3 MND-C), MAJ David Waldron (G3 Ops MND-C), MAJ David Stender (720th MP Bn S3), MAJ Michael Kelly (G3 ISF Cell MND-C): Lunch & Brief on Iraqi Security Forces Status & Readiness on the southern approaches to Baghdad.”
27.) COL Dominic Caracillo (Commander, 3/101 ABN), LTC Andrew Rohling (Commander, 3-187 IN), COL Ahmad (Iraqi Battalion Commander PB Kemple): Visit with 3rd BCT, 101 ABN at Patrol Base Kemple. “The battle for the southern approaches to Baghdad.”
28.) COL Wayne Grigsby (Commander 3rd Bde, 3ID), MAJ Luis Rivera (XO, 1-10 FA Bn), and CPT Pat Moffett (Commander, A/1-10 FA Bn): Battle updates “the southern belt” …“market walk Iraqi City” with 3rd Bde, 3ID
29.) COL Bryan Watson (Chief of Staff, MND-N), COL Steve Schenk (G3 MND-N): MND-N Battle Update briefs the northern zones.
30.) COL John Broadmedow USMC, Chief 7th IA Division MiTT: 7th IA Division Mitt Overview& Discussion at Camp Black Diamond. “The reconciliation campaign for Anbar province.”
31.) COL Steve Schenk (G3 MND-N), MAJ Sam Lex (G3-ISF MND-N): Meeting with MND-N Iraqi Security Forces Cell.
32.) COL Jessie Farrington (Commander 1st CAB), LTC Jim Cutting (Commander, TF Odin), MAJ Bill Huff (Brigade S3, 1st CAB): 1st Combat Aviation Brigade and TF Odin Briefing– Tikrit.
33.) LTC Thomas Hauerwas (Bde XO 1/101st ABN), MAJ George Bratcher (Bde S2, 1/101st ABN): 1/101st ABN Operations and Intelligence Update “the southern approaches.”
34.) Round table discussion with International Police Advisors: Donald Lane (Chief of Training CPATT), Steve Ryan, International Police Advisor, Habbaniyah, Dave Smith, International Police Advisor, Ed Weibl, International Police Advisor. “Effectiveness of the Iraqi Police.”
35.) MG Tariq Yusuf, Anbar Provincial Chief of Police: Operational assessment at Ramadi Government Center.
36.) Meeting/ briefing with 7th Iraqi Army Division Commander and senior staff. “The struggle for Anbar Province.”
37.) Sensing Session with twenty US Company Commanders. Multi National Division North. “Morale, career plans, performance of Iraqi Security Forces, trust in Commanders.”
38.) Field visit 1st Battalion, 30th Infantry, MAJ Eric Weis, S3. (Serve as honorary Colonel of the regiment. Was honored to present awards for valor and purple heart medals, as well as receive update brief on their counter-insurgency operations south of Baghdad.)
39.) Visit Public Market Place. MND Center. Narhwan, Iraq (Population 100,000)
40.) Visit “Concerned Local Citizens” security group. MND Center.
41.) Visit Iraq Police Station. Ramadi, Iraq.
42.) Visit Iraq Police. MND Bagdad, Iraq.
43.) Visit Iraq Army. MND Bagdad, Iraq.
44.) Visit Iraq Regional Training Center. Police & Army. Habbaniyah, Iraq.
1. THE BOTTOM LINE—AN OPERATIONAL ASSESSMENT:
a. VIOLENCE DOWN DRAMATICALLY:
The struggle for stability in the Iraqi Civil War has entered a new phase with dramatically reduced levels of civilian sectarian violence, political assassinations, abductions, and small arms/ indirect fire and IED attacks on US and Iraqi Police and Army Forces.
This is the unmistakable new reality —and must be taken into account as the US debates its options going forward. The national security debate must move on to an analysis of why this new political and security situation exists—not whether it exists.
General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker have provided brilliant collective leadership to US Forces and have ably engaged the Iraqi political and military leadership.
b. AL QAEDA TACTICALLY DEFEATED AND TRYING TO REGENERATE:
Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) has been defeated at a tactical and operational level in Baghdad and Anbar Province and is trying to re-constitute in the north and along the Syrian frontier.
The Iraqi people have turned on AQI because it overreached trying to impose an alien and harsh practice of Islam inconsistent with the more moderate practices of the Sunni minority. (16% of the population.) The foreign jihadist elements in AQI (with their enormous hatred of what they view as the apostate Shia) have alienated the nationalism of the broader Iraqi population. Foreign intervention across the Syrian frontier has dropped substantially. Most border-crossers are suicide bombers who are dead within four days while carrying out largely ineffective attacks on the civilian population and the Iraqi Police.
The senior leaders of AQI have become walking dead men because of the enormous number of civilian intelligence tips coming directly to US Forces. US and Brit Special Operations Forces are deadly against AQI leadership. Essentially AQI has been driven out of Baghdad and is now trying to reconstitute their capabilities.
c. IRAQI SECURITY FORCES KEY FACTOR IN SUCCESSFUL INTERNAL SECURITY:
The Iraqi Security Forces are now beginning to take a major and independent successful role in the war. Under the determined leadership of LTG Jim Dubik —both the equipment and force levels of the Iraqi Security Forces are now for the first time in the war at a realistic level of resource planning.
The previously grossly ineffective and corrupt Iraqi Police have been forcefully re-trained and re-equipped. The majority of their formerly sectarian police leadership has been replaced. The police are now a mixed bag— but many local units are now effectively providing security and intelligence penetration of their neighborhoods.
The Iraqi Army has made huge progress in leadership, training, and equipment capability. The embedded US training teams have simply incredible levels of trust and mutual cooperation with their Iraqi counterparts. Corruption remains endemic. However, much remains to be done. This is the center-of-gravity of the war.
The ISF still lacks credibility as a coherent counter-insurgency and deterrent force. It has no national logistics and maintenance system. It lacks any semblance of an Air Force with a robust lift and attack helicopter force and fixed wing C-130 lift to support counter-insurgency. It lacks any semblance of a functioning military medical system to provide country-wide trauma care, evacuation, and rehabilitation. It lacks any artillery with precision munitions to provide stand-off attack of hard targets—or to assist in counter-battery fire to protect the population and military installations. It lacks any serious armor capability to act as a deterrent force to protect national sovereignty. (In my judgment the Army needs 9000+ wheel and track armored vehicles for their 13 combat divisions.)
d. CENTRAL GOVERNMENT DOES NOT WORK:
There is no functional central Iraqi Government. Incompetence, corruption, factional paranoia, and political gridlock have paralyzed the state. The constitution promotes bureaucratic stagnation and factional strife. The budgetary process cannot provide responsive financial support to the military and the police—nor local government for health, education, governance, reconstruction, and transportation.
Mr. Maliki has no political power base and commands no violent militias who have direct allegiance to him personally—making him a non-player in the Iraqi political struggle for dominance in the post-US withdrawal period which looms in front of the Iraqi people.
However, there is growing evidence of the successful re-constitution of local and provincial government. Elections for provincial government are vitally important to creating any possible form of functioning Iraqi state.
e. POPULATION AND REFUGEES IN MISERY:
There are 4 million plus dislocated Iraqis—possibly one in six citizens. Many of the intelligentsia and professional class have fled to Syria, Jordan, or abroad. 60,000 + have been murdered or died in the post-invasion violence. Medical care is primitive. Security and justice for the individual is weak. Many lack clean water or adequate food and a roof over their family. Anger and hatred for the cruelties of the ongoing Civil War overwhelm the desire for reconciliation.
There is widespread disbelief that the Iraqi government can bring the country together. The people (and in particular the women) are sick of the chaotic violence and want an end to the unpredictable violence and the dislocation of the population.
f. ECONOMY SHOWING SIGNS OF COMING BACK:
The economy is slowly reviving— although there is massive 50% or more unemployment or under-employment.
The electrical system is slowly coming back— but it is being overwhelmed by huge increases in demand as air conditioners, TV’s, and light industry load the system.
The production and distribution of gasoline is increasing but is incapable of keeping up with a gigantic increase in private vehicle and truck ownership.
The Iraqi currency to everyone’s astonishment is very stable and more valued than the weak US dollar.
The agricultural system is under-resourced and poorly managed—it potentially could feed the population and again become a source of export currency earnings.
g. US COMBAT FORCES NOW DOMINATING THE CIVIL WAR:
The morale and tactical effectiveness of engaged US military forces are striking. The “surge” of five additional US Brigade Combat Teams helped. (Although we are now forced to begin an immediate drawdown because of the inadequate resources of the worldwide US Army.)
These combat forces have become the most effective counter-insurgency (and forensic police investigative service) in history. LTG Ray Odierno the MNC-I Commander and his senior commanders have gotten out of their fixed bases and operate at platoon level in concert with small elements of the Iraqi Army and Police. Their aggressive tactics combined with simply brilliant use of the newly energized Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRT’s — Superb State Department leadership and participation) for economic development have dramatically changed the tone of the war.
US Forces have now unilaterally constituted some 60,000+ armed “Iraqi Concerned Local Citizen Groups” to the consternation of the Maliki Government. These CLC Groups have added immeasurably to the security of the local populations — as well as giving a paycheck to unemployed males to support their families. Although the majority of these CLC Groups are Sunnis – increasingly the concept is being extended to Shia Groups south of Baghdad.
The US battalion and brigade commanders have grown up in combat with near continuous operations in the past 20 years in the Balkans, Desert Storm, Afghanistan, and Operation Iraqi Freedom. Many of the Army combat forces are now beginning their 4th round of year+ combat tours in Iraq or Afghanistan. Many of the Marine units are now on their 5th tour of seven month combat deployments. The troops and their leaders are simply fearless—despite 34,000 US killed and wounded.
The US company and battalion commanders now operate as the de facto low-level government of the Iraqi state…schools, health, roads, police, education, governance. The Iraqis tend to defer to US company and battalion commanders based on their respect for their counterparts’ energy, integrity, and the assurance of some level of security. These US combat units have enormous discretion to use CRP Funds to jump start local urban and rural economic and social reconstruction. They are rapidly mentoring and empowering local Iraqi civilian and police leadership.
Direct intelligence cooperation has sky-rocketed. The civilian population provides by-name identification of criminal leadership. They point out IED’s. They directly interact with US forces at low level in much of the country. (There are still 3000+ attacks on US Forces each month…this is still a Civil War.)
h. SUNNI ARABS WANT BACK IN— BEFORE US FORCES DEPART:
The Sunnis Arabs have stopped seeing the US as the enemy and are now cooperating to eliminate AQI — and to position themselves for the next phase of the Civil War when the US Forces withdraw.
There is no leadership that can speak for all the Sunnis. The former regime elements have now stepped forward —along with tribal leadership —to assert some emerging control.
i. SHIA ARABS HOLDING IN CEASEFIRE—STRUGGLE FOR INTERNAL POWER:
The Shia JAM militia under the control of Mr. Sadr have maintained their cease-fire, are giving up rogue elements to be harvested by US Special Operations teams, and are consolidating control over their ethnic cleansing success in Baghdad—as well as maneuvering to dominate the Iranian affiliated Badr brigade forces in the south.
However, Mr. Sadr lost great credibility when his forces violently intervened in the Holy City of Najaf —and were videoed on national TV and throughout the Arab world carrying out criminal acts against the pilgrims and protectors of the Shia population.
Sadr himself is an enigma. He may well want back into the political process. He is not a puppet of the Iranians and may lack their real support. His command and control of his own forces appears weak. He personally lacks the theological gravitas of a true Shia Islamic scholar like the venerable Sistani. He may be personally fearful of being killed or captured by ISF special operations forces if he is visibly leading inside Iraq…hence his frequent absences to Iran at the sufferance of that government.
j. DOMINANCE OF CRIMINAL ELEMENTS:
There is no clear emerging nation-wide Shia leadership for their 60% of the Iraqi population. It is difficult to separate either Shia or Sunni political factions from Mafia criminal elements– with a primary focus on looting the government financial system and oil wealth of the nation.
In many cases neighborhoods are dominated by gangs of armed thugs who loosely legitimize their arbitrary violence by implying allegiance to a higher level militia.
The Iraqi justice system…courts, prosecutors, defense attorneys, police investigators, jails for pre-trial confinement, prisons for sentences, integrity of public institutions—does not yet exist. Vengeance is the only operative law of the land. The situation is starting to change. The Iraqi Police will be in charge of most neighborhoods by the end of next year.
k. THE KURDS—AN AUTOMOMOUS SUCCESSFUL REGION:
The Kurds are a successful separate autonomous state—with a functioning and rapidly growing economy, a strong military (Both existing Pesh Merga Forces and nominally Iraqi-Kurdish Army divisions), a free press, relative security, significant foreign investment, and a growing tourist industry which serves as a neutral and safe meeting place for separated and terrified Sunni and Shia Arab families from the south.
There are Five Star hotels, airline connections to Europe, a functioning telephone system, strong trade relations with Syria, enormous mutually beneficial trade relations with Turkey, religious tolerance, a functional justice system, and an apparently enduring cease-fire between the traditional Kurdish warring factions.
Kurdish adventurism and appetite to confront both their external neighbors and the Iraqi central state may have been tempered in a healthy way by the prospect of invasion from the powerful Turkish Armed Forces to avenge the continued cross-border KKP terrorism.
The war-after-next will be the war of the Iraqi Arabs against the Kurds —when Mosul as well as Kirkuk and its giant oil basin (and an even greater Kurdish claimed buffer zone to the south) is finally and inevitably absorbed (IAW the existing Constitution) by the nascent Kurdish state. The only real solution to this dread inevitability is patient US diplomacy to continually defer the fateful Kurdish decision ad infinitum.
2. THE WAY AHEAD:
a. THE CENTRAL US MILITARY PURPOSE MUST BE TO CREATE ADEQUATE IRAQI SECURITY FORCES:
The Iraqis are the key variable. The center of our military effort must be the creation of well-equipped, trained, and adequately supported Iraqi Police and Army Forces with an operational Air Force and Navy.
We have rapidly decreasing political leverage on the Iraqi factional leadership. It is evident that the American people have no continued political commitment to solving the Iraqi Civil War. The US Armed Forces cannot for much longer impose an internal skeleton of governance and security on 27 million warring people.
The US must achieve our real political objectives to withdraw most US combat forces in the coming 36 months leaving in place:
1st: A stable Iraqi government.
2nd: A strong and responsive Iraqi security force.
3rd: A functioning economy.
4th: Some form of accountable, law-based government.
5th: A government with active diplomatic and security ties to its six neighboring states.
b. THE US ARMY IS TOO SMALL AND POORLY RESOURCED TO CONTINUE SUCCESSFUL COUNTER-INSURGENCY OPERATIONS IN IRAQ AND AFGHANISTAN AT THE CURRENT LEVEL:
An active counter-insurgency campaign in Iraq could probably succeed in the coming decade with twenty-five US Brigade Combat Teams. (Afghanistan probably needs two more US combat brigades for a total of four in the coming 15 year campaign to create an operational state— given more robust NATO Forces and ROE). We can probably sustain a force in Iraq indefinitely (given adequate funding) of some 10+ brigades. However, the US Army is starting to unravel.
Our recruiting campaign is bringing into the Army thousands of new soldiers (perhaps 10% of the annual input) who should not be in uniform. (Criminal records, drug use, moral waivers, non-high school graduates, pregnant from Basic Training and therefore non-deployable, lowest mental category, etc.)
We are losing our combat experienced mid-career NCOs’ and Captains at an excessive rate. (ROTC DMG’s, West Pointers, Officers with engineering and business degrees, etc.) Their morale is high, they are proud of their service, they have enormous personal courage—however, they see a nation of 300 million people with only an under resourced Armed Forces at war. The US Army at 400,000 troops is too small to carry out the current military strategy. The active duty US Army needs to be 800,000 strong to guarantee US national security.
The National Guard and Reserves are too small, are inadequately resourced, their equipment is broken or deployed, they are beginning their second involuntary combat deployments, and they did not sign up to be a regular war-fighting force. They have done a superb job in combat but are now in peril of not being ready for serious homeland security missions or deployment to a major shooting war such as Korea.
The modernization of our high technology US Air Force and Navy is imperiled by inadequate Congressional support. Support has focused primarily on the ground war and homeland security with $400 Billion+. We are digging a strategic hole for the US as we mono-focus on counter-insurgency capabilities —while China inevitably emerges in the coming 15 years as a global military power.
c. HEALING THE MORAL FISSURES IN THE ARMED FORCES:
The leadership of Secretary Bob Gates in DOD has produced a dramatic transformation of our national security effort which under the Rumsfeld leadership was characterized by: a failing under-resourced counter-insurgency strategy; illegal DOD orders on the abuse of human rights; disrespect for the media and the Congress and the other departments of government; massive self-denial on wartime intelligence; and an internal civilian-imposed integrity problem in the Armed Forces—that punished candor, de-centralized operations, and commanders initiative.
Admiral Mullen as CJCS and Admiral Fallon as CENTCOM Commander bring hard-nosed realism and integrity of decision-making to an open and collaborative process which re-emerged as Mr. Rumsfeld left office. (Mr. Rumsfeld was an American patriot, of great personal talent, energy, experience, bureaucratic cleverness, and charisma—who operated with personal arrogance, intimidation and disrespect for the military, lack of forthright candor, avoidance of personal responsibility, and fundamental bad judgment.)
Secretary Gates has turned the situation around with little drama in a remarkable display of wisdom, integrity, and effective senior leadership of a very complex and powerful organization. General Petraeus now has the complete latitude and trust in his own Departmental senior civilian leadership to have successfully changed the command climate in the combat force in Iraq. His commanders now are empowered to act in concert with strategic guidance. They can frankly level with the media and external visitors. I heard this from many senior leaders — from three star General to Captain Company commanders.
3. THE END GAME:
It is too late to decide on the Iraqi exit strategy with the current Administration. However, the Secretary of Defense and CENTCOM can set the next Administration up for success by getting down to 12 + Brigade Combat teams before January of 2009 —and by massively resourcing the creation of an adequate Iraqi Security Force.
We also need to make the case to Congress that significant US financial resources are needed to get the Iraqi economy going. ($3 billion per year for five years.) The nation-building process is the key to a successful US Military withdrawal—and will save enormous money and grief in the long run to avoid a failed Iraqi state.
Clearly we must continue the current sensible approach by Secretary of State Rice to open dialog with Syria, Turkey, and the Iranians—and to focus Arab attention with Saudi leadership on a US diplomatic offensive to mitigate the confrontation between Israel and the Arab states. We must also build a coalition to mitigate the dangers of a nuclear armed Iran.
The dysfunctional central government of Iraq, the warring Shia/Sunni/Kurdish factions, and the unworkable Iraqi constitution will only be put right by the Iraqis in their own time—and in their own way. It is entirely credible that a functioning Iraqi state will slowly emerge from the bottom up…with a small US military and diplomatic presence holding together in loose fashion the central government. The US must also hold at bay Iraq’s neighbors from the desperate mischief they might cause that could lead to all out Civil War with regional involvement.
A successful withdrawal from Iraq with the emergence of a responsible unified Iraqi nation is vitally important to the security of the American people and the Mid-East. We are clearly no longer on a downward spiral. However, the ultimate outcome is still quite seriously in doubt.
Barry R McCaffrey
General USA (Ret)
Adjunct Professor of International Affairs
Department of Social Sciences, USMA
West Point, NY.
A tremendous analysis on the future of Iraq, by George Friedman of STRATFOR...
U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker met Aug. 6 with Iranian Ambassador to Iraq Hassan Kazemi Qomi and Iraqi National Security Adviser Muwaffaq al-Rubaie. Separately, a committee of Iranian, Iraqi and U.S. officials held its first meeting on Iraqi security, following up on an agreement reached at a July ambassadorial-level meeting.
The U.S. team was headed by Marcie Ries, counselor for political and military affairs at the embassy in Baghdad. Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, who handles Iraq for the Iranian Foreign Ministry, led the Iranian team. A U.S. Embassy spokesman described the talks as "frank and serious," saying they "focused, as agreed, on security problems in Iraq." Generally, "frank and serious" means nasty, though they probably did get down to the heart of the matter. The participants agreed to hold a second meeting, which means this one didn't blow up.
Longtime Stratfor readers will recall that we have been tracing these Iranian-American talks from the back-channel negotiations to the high-level publicly announced talks, and now to this working group on security. A multilateral regional meeting on Iraq's future was held March 10 in Baghdad, followed by a regional meeting May 4 in Egypt. Then there were ambassadorial-level meetings in Baghdad on May 28 and July 24. Now, not quite two weeks later, the three sides have met again.
That the discussions were frank and serious shouldn't surprise anyone. That they continue in spite of obvious deep tensions between the parties is, in our view, extremely significant. The prior ambassadorial talk lasted about seven hours. The Aug. 6 working group session lasted about four hours. These are not simply courtesy calls. The parties are spending a great deal of time talking about something.
This is not some sort of public relations stunt either. First, neither Washington nor Tehran would bother to help the other's public image. Second, neither side's public image is much helped by these talks anyway. This is the "Great Satan" talking to one-half of what is left of the "Axis of Evil." If ever there were two countries that have reason not to let the world know they are meeting, it is these two. Yet, they are meeting, and they have made the fact public.
The U.S. media have not ignored these meetings, but they have not treated them as what they actually are -- an extraordinary diplomatic and strategic evolution in Iraq. Part of the reason is that the media take their cues from the administration about diplomatic processes. If the administration makes a big deal out of the visit of the Icelandic fisheries minister to Washington, the media will treat it as such. If the administration treats multilevel meetings between Iran and the United States on the future of Iraq in a low-key way, then low-key it is. The same is true for the Iranians, whose media are more directly managed. Iran does not want to make a big deal out of these meetings, and therefore they are not portrayed as significant.
It is understandable that neither Washington nor Tehran would want to draw undue attention to the talks. The people of each country view the other with intense hostility. We are reminded of the political problems faced by Chinese Premier Chou En-lai and U.S. President Richard Nixon when their diplomatic opening became public. The announcement of Nixon's visit to China was psychologically stunning in the United States; it was less so in China only because the Chinese controlled the emphasis placed on the announcement. Both sides had to explain to their publics why they were talking to the mad dogs.
In the end, contrary to conventional wisdom, perception is not reality. The fact that the Americans and the Iranians are downplaying the talks, and that newspapers are not printing banner headlines about them, does not mean the meetings are not vitally important. It simply means that the conventional wisdom, guided by the lack of official exuberance, doesn't know what to make of these talks.
There are three major powers with intense interest in the future of Iraq: the United States, Iran and Saudi Arabia. The United States, having toppled Saddam Hussein, has completely mismanaged the war. Nevertheless, a unilateral withdrawal would create an unacceptable situation in which Iran, possibly competing with Turkey in the North, would become the dominant military power in the region and would be in a position to impose itself at least on southern Iraq -- and potentially all of it. Certainly there would be resistance, but Iran has a large military (even if it is poorly equipped), giving it a decided advantage in controlling a country such as Iraq.
In addition, Iran is not nearly as casualty-averse as the United States. Iran fought a war with Iraq in the 1980s that cost it about a million casualties. The longtime Iranian fear has been that the United States will somehow create a pro-American regime in Baghdad, rearm the Iraqis and thus pose for Iran round two of what was its national nightmare. It is no accident that the day before these meetings, U.S. sources speculated about the possible return of the Iraqi air force to the Iraqis. Washington was playing on Tehran's worst nightmare.
Saudi Arabia's worst nightmare would be watching Iran become the dominant power in Iraq or southern Iraq. It cannot defend itself against Iran, nor does it want to be defended by U.S. troops on Saudi soil. The Saudis want Iraq as a buffer zone between Iran and their oil fields. They opposed the original invasion, fearing just this outcome, but now that the invasion has taken place, they don't want Iran as the ultimate victor. The Saudis, therefore, are playing a complex game, both supporting Sunni co-religionists and criticizing the American presence as an occupation -- yet urgently wanting U.S. troops to remain.
The United States wants to withdraw, though it doesn't see a way out because an outright unilateral withdrawal would set the stage for Iranian domination. At the same time, the United States must have an endgame -- something the next U.S. president will have to deal with.
The Iranians no longer believe the United States is capable of creating a stable, anti-Iranian, pro-American government in Baghdad. Instead, they are terrified the United States will spoil their plans to consolidate influence within Iraq. So, while they are doing everything they can to destabilize the regime, they are negotiating with Washington. The report that three-quarters of U.S. casualties in recent weeks were caused by "rogue" Shiite militia sounds plausible. The United States has reached a level of understanding with some nonjihadist Sunni insurgent groups, many of them Baathist. The Iranians do not want to see this spread -- at least not unless the United States first deals with Tehran. The jihadists, calling themselves al Qaeda in Iraq, do not want this either, and so they have carried out a wave of assassinations of those Sunnis who have aligned with the United States, and they have killed four key aides to Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, a key Shiite figure.
If this sounds complicated, it is. The United States is fighting Sunnis and Shia, making peace with some Sunnis and encouraging some Shia to split off -- all the time waging an offensive against most everyone. The Iranians support many, but not all, of the Shiite groups in Iraq. In fact, many of the Iraqi Shia have grown quite wary of the Iranians. And for their part, the Saudis are condemning the Americans while hoping they stay -- and supporting Sunnis who might or might not be fighting the Americans.
The situation not only is totally out of hand, but the chance that anyone will come out of it with what they really want is slim. The United States probably will not get a pro-American government and the Iranians probably will not get to impose their will on all or part of Iraq. The Saudis, meanwhile, are feeling themselves being sucked into the Sunni quagmire.
This situation is one of the factors driving the talks.
By no means out of any friendliness, a mutual need is emerging. No one is in control of the situation. No one is likely to get control of the situation in any long-term serious way. It is in the interests of the United States, Iran and Saudi Arabia that the Iraq situation stabilize, simply because they cannot predict the outcome -- and the worst-case scenario for each is too frightening to contemplate.
None of the three powers can bring the situation under control. Even by working together, the three will be unable to completely stabilize Iraq and end the violence. But by working together they can increase security to the point that none of their nightmare scenarios comes true. In return, the United States will have to do without a pro-American government in Baghdad and the Iranians will have to forgo having an Iraqi satellite.
Hence, we see a four-hour meeting of Iranian and U.S. security experts on stabilizing the situation in Iraq. Given the little good will between the two countries, defining roles and missions in a stabilization program will require frank and serious talks indeed. Ultimately, however, there is sufficient convergence of interests that holding these talks makes sense.
The missions are clear. The Iranian task will be to suppress the Shiite militias that are unwilling to abide by an agreement -- or any that oppose Iranian domination. Their intelligence in this area is superb and their intelligence and special operations teams have little compunction as to how they act. The Saudi mission will be to underwrite the cost of Sunni acceptance of a political compromise, as well as a Sunni war against the jihadists. Saudi intelligence in this area is pretty good and, while the Saudis do have compunctions, they will gladly give the intelligence to the Americans to work out the problem. The U.S. role will be to impose a government in Baghdad that meets Iran's basic requirements, and to use its forces to grind down the major insurgent and militia groups. This will be a cooperative effort -- meaning whacking Saudi and Iranian friends will be off the table.
No one power can resolve the security crisis in Iraq -- as four years of U.S. efforts there clearly demonstrate. But if the United States and Iran, plus Saudi Arabia, work together -- with no one providing cover for or supplies to targeted groups -- the situation can be brought under what passes for reasonable control in Iraq. More important for the three powers, the United States could draw down its troops to minimal levels much more quickly than is currently being discussed, the Iranians would have a neutral, nonaggressive Iraq on their western border and the Saudis would have a buffer zone from the Iranians. The buffer zone is the key, because what happens in the buffer zone stays in the buffer zone.
The talks in Baghdad are about determining whether there is a way for the United States and Iran to achieve their new mutual goal. The question is whether their fear of the worst-case scenario outweighs their distrust of each other. Then there is the matter of agreeing on the details -- determining the nature of the government in Baghdad, which groups to protect and which to target, how to deal with intelligence sharing and so on.
These talks can fail in any number of ways. More and more, however, the United States and Iran are unable to tolerate their failure. The tremendous complexity of the situation has precluded either side from achieving a successful outcome. They now have to craft the minimal level of failure they can mutually accept.
These talks not only are enormously important but they also are, in some ways, more important than the daily reports on combat and terrorism. If this war ends, it will end because of negotiations like these.
Marine Lieutenant General Greg Newbold, the Pentagon's top operations officer, voiced his objections internally and then retired, in part out of opposition to the war. Here are excepts from his public critique of the war in Iraq, published on Sunday, Apr. 09, 2006 in Time Magazine.
We have been fooled again.
From 2000 until October 2002, I was a Marine Corps lieutenant general and director of operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff. After 9/11, I was a witness and therefore a party to the actions that led us to the invasion of Iraq--an unnecessary war. Inside the military family, I made no secret of my view that the zealots' rationale for war made no sense. And I think I was outspoken enough to make those senior to me uncomfortable. But I now regret that I did not more openly challenge those who were determined to invade a country whose actions were peripheral to the real threat--al-Qaeda. I retired from the military four months before the invasion, in part because of my opposition to those who had used 9/11's tragedy to hijack our security policy. Until now, I have resisted speaking out in public. I've been silent long enough.
I offer a challenge to those still in uniform: a leader's responsibility is to give voice to those who can't--or don't have the opportunity to--speak. Enlisted members of the armed forces swear their oath to those appointed over them; an officer swears an oath not to a person but to the Constitution. The distinction is important.
...let me make clear--I am not opposed to war. I would gladly have traded my general's stars for a captain's bars to lead our troops into Afghanistan to destroy the Taliban and al-Qaeda. And while I don't accept the stated rationale for invading Iraq, my view--at the moment--is that a precipitous withdrawal would be a mistake. It would send a signal, heard around the world, that would reinforce the jihadists' message that America can be defeated, and thus increase the chances of future conflicts. If, however, the Iraqis prove unable to govern, and there is open civil war, then I am prepared to change my position.
...our country has never been served by a more competent and professional military. For that reason, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's recent statement that "we" made the "right strategic decisions" but made thousands of "tactical errors" is an outrage. It reflects an effort to obscure gross errors in strategy by shifting the blame for failure to those who have been resolute in fighting. The truth is, our forces are successful in spite of the strategic guidance they receive, not because of it.
What we are living with now is the consequences of successive policy failures. Some of the missteps include: the distortion of intelligence in the buildup to the war, McNamara-like micromanagement that kept our forces from having enough resources to do the job, the failure to retain and reconstitute the Iraqi military in time to help quell civil disorder, the initial denial that an insurgency was the heart of the opposition to occupation, alienation of allies who could have helped in a more robust way to rebuild Iraq, and the continuing failure of the other agencies of our government to commit assets to the same degree as the Defense Department. My sincere view is that the commitment of our forces to this fight was done with a casualness and swagger that are the special province of those who have never had to execute these missions--or bury the results.
Flaws in our civilians are one thing; the failure of the Pentagon's military leaders is quite another. Those are men who know the hard consequences of war but, with few exceptions, acted timidly when their voices urgently needed to be heard. When they knew the plan was flawed, saw intelligence distorted to justify a rationale for war, or witnessed arrogant micromanagement that at times crippled the military's effectiveness, many leaders who wore the uniform chose inaction. A few of the most senior officers actually supported the logic for war. Others were simply intimidated, while still others must have believed that the principle of obedience does not allow for respectful dissent. The consequence of the military's quiescence was that a fundamentally flawed plan was executed for an invented war, while pursuing the real enemy, al-Qaeda, became a secondary effort.
There have been exceptions, albeit uncommon, to the rule of silence among military leaders. Former Army Chief of Staff General Shinseki, when challenged to offer his professional opinion during prewar congressional testimony, suggested that more troops might be needed for the invasion's aftermath. The Secretary and Deputy Secretary of Defense castigated him in public and marginalized him in his remaining months in his post. Army General John Abizaid, head of Central Command, has been forceful in his views with appointed officials on strategy and micromanagement of the fight in Iraq--often with success. Marine Commandant General Mike Hagee steadfastly challenged plans to underfund, understaff and underequip his service as the Corps has struggled to sustain its fighting capability.
Members of Congress--from both parties--defaulted in fulfilling their constitutional responsibility for oversight. Many in the media saw the warning signs and heard cautionary tales before the invasion from wise observers like former Central Command chiefs Joe Hoar and Tony Zinni but gave insufficient weight to their views.
...as a first step, replacing Rumsfeld and many others unwilling to fundamentally change their approach. The troops in the Middle East have performed their duty. Now we need people in Washington who can construct a unified strategy worthy of them. It is time to send a signal to our nation, our forces and the world that we are uncompromising on our security but are prepared to rethink how we achieve it. It is time for senior military leaders to discard caution in expressing their views and ensure that the President hears them clearly.
Here is a summary of a Washington Post article by David Broder and Dan Balz from a year ago. I think you'll find its points still relevant, and now perhaps, the situation is even more entrenched.
Thesis: The bipartisanship that appeared spontaneously in the aftermath of the 9-11 attacks evaporated in a resurgence of partisan differences among voters and politicians. National security was not a source of unity, but a new fault line between the two parties.
The aftermath of 9/11 was played out in the 2002 and 2004 national elections. President Bush and his team exploited the terrorism issue to expand Republican victory margins and retain control of the White House. It was still used in the congressional mid-term elections.
Now Iraq has gained pre-eminence, and has defined the Bush second term.
Is rancor and partisan conflict avoidable or inevitable? Evidence tilts to inevitability.
Deep divisions of 2000 never resolved themselves. Heightened the lust for political advantage. Sabotaged consensus and cooperation.
Once the decision was made to go into Iraq, the political clashes were inevitable.
Public attitudes on Iraq are now fixed. But those toward the economy can change. Terrorism concerns have subsided.
Bush has a 9/11 halo…people immediately respond positively. But the opposite is the case with the war in Iraq.
Partisan wars have severely limited Washington’s ability to accomplish big things.
The New Normal
What is most striking is how quickly the country returned to normal after the attacks…the new normal. Polls show the nation’s ability to shrug off something as devastating as 9/11. Massive shock followed by stunningly quick recovery—one year.
John Edwards: “I think 9/11 made national security/foreign policy a dominant issue in presidential races…I think Iraq changed the criteria by which people evaluate what matters.”
No one knows what Iraq will look like in 2008, or the state of the world…but there’s little doubt that the threat of terrorism will continue to shape candidacies and campaign strategies.
Images and Impacts
First television commercials aired by the Bush reelection campaign in the spring of 2004 featured brief footage of flag-draped remains being carried out of the ruins of Ground Zero. Sparked instant controversy. But people wanted to talk about it…saw it as a defining moment for America.
Polling and experiments showed that even five years after the attacks, the image of the Twin Towers under attack has lingering effects on the public’s political attitudes on a range of security-related questions. In contrast, images of the Iraq war failed to change attitudes. Public opinion is now difficult to sway…they say, “I already know this.”
Reversion to Partisanship
Could the reversion to partisanship that prevailed before 9-11 have been avoided by different presidential leadership?
Not necessarily the massive unity we saw after 9-11, but you wouldn’t have expected it to dissipate so quickly. POTUS could have consulted with Congress and with allies…been more inclusive…not expand executive power as much as he did. But even under the best of circumstances, it wouldn’t have made a huge difference. Iraq shattered the coalition of support for the GWOT. Iraq further divided the parties. Democrats were on board through the invasion, but after the occupation they jumped ship.
Republican attacks on Democrats as soft on terrorism diminished Republican credibility.
Iraq war was now a major burden for the GOP. Most important issue by 24% of voters. Only 40% now think Iraq is connected to the GWOT.
Iraq will certainly define President Bush’s legacy. In many ways, the war in Iraq has become an object lesson of what not to do…has given the Democrats an opportunity to go toe-to-toe with Republicans on national security.
Here is the full article