Thursday, May 04, 2006

Iraq - Status Report

For a realistic and unbiased assessment of the situation in Iraq, read about the McCaffrey trip report. Gen. Barry McCaffrey, now retired, was skeptical of the Iraq war in 2003 and has frequently criticized Defense Sec. Rumsfeld. Yet, his report of his mid-April trip to Iraq is mostly favorable, with some cautions. McCaffrey's report this year can be compared to his report made after his trip in June 2005. We are making progress, but we still have much to do.

McCaffrey's 2006 report praises the "awe-inspiring" morale and fighting effectiveness of U.S. combat forces. He calls the Iraqi Army "real, growing and willing to fight" and "a brilliant success story". His evaluation of the Iraqi police is less glowing. The police "show marked improvement in capability since MG Joe Peterson took over the program" but still have a long way to go. Making the police reliable and competent "will be a ten year project requiring patience, significant resources, and an international public face". McCaffrey believes "the Iraqis are likely to successfully create a governing entity", overcoming many problems in the political culture.

What about Al Qaeda in Iraq?

The foreign jihadist fighters have been defeated as a strategic and operational threat to the creation of an Iraqi government. Aggressive small unit combat action by Coalition Forces combined with good intelligence - backed up by new Iraqi Security Forces is making an impact. The foreign fighters remain a serious tactical menace. However, they are a minor threat to the heavily armed and wary U.S. forces. They cannot successfully stop the Iraqi police and army recruitment.

McCaffrey directs strong criticism at the State Department. He also finds that our detainee policy may have over-corrected.

The AIF [terrorists/insurgents] are exploiting our overly restrictive procedures and are routinely defying the U.S. interrogators. It is widely believed that the US has a “14 day catch and release policy” and the AIF “suspect” will soon be back in action.

This is an overstatement of reality, however, we do have a problem. Many of the AIF detainees routinely accuse U.S. soldiers of abuse under the silliest factual situations knowing it will trigger an automatic investigation.

McCaffrey warns that we are running out of money and political support. He does not trust the allies to fulfill their pledges.

What is his overall conclusion?

There is no reason why the U.S. cannot achieve our objectives in Iraq. Our aim must be to create a viable federal state under the rule of law which does not: enslave its own people, threaten its neighbors, or produce weapons of mass destruction. This is a ten year task. We should be able to draw down most of our combat forces in 3-5 years. We have few alternatives to the current US strategy which is painfully but gradually succeeding. This is now a race against time. Do we have the political will, do we have the military power, will we spend the resources required to achieve our aims?

It was very encouraging for me to see the progress achieved in the past year. Thanks to the leadership and personal sacrifice of the hundreds of thousands of men and women of the CENTCOM team and the CIA – the American people are far safer today than we were in the 18 months following the initial intervention.

Remember that McCaffrey was an early skeptic of the war in Iraq and is not a friend of Defense Rumsfeldsfeld. Nonetheless, McCaffrey gives us an accurate analysis of the situation in Iraq. Read the whole post at The Belmont Club (link at the top of this post).

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