Saturday, October 02, 2004

Three Generals Discuss Iraq

With the media coverage of Iraq focused primarily on the daily onslaught of terrorist and insurgent violence, it is important to keep an eye on the broader trends. Recently, three of the top US generals responsible for operations in Iraq offered their assessments of the current situation in that country.

Last Sunday, General John Abizaid, commander of US Central Command (CentCom), which is responsible for all US military operations in the Middle East and Southwest Asia, appeared on Meet the Press and expressed his perspective:

So the constant drumbeat in Washington of a war that is being lost, that can't be won, of a resistance that is out of control, simply do not square with the facts on the ground. Yes, there is a resistance. Yes, it is hard. But the truth of the matter is that Iraqis and Americans and other members of the coalition will face that resistance together, will through a series of economic, political and military means, figure out how to defeat it and will move on to allow the elections to take place and a constitutional government to emerge. So I'm not saying it's easy, but I am saying it's possible.

And remember that the enemy wants to break our will. They are experts at manipulating the media. They have yet to win a single military engagement in that country. They have yet to win a single military engagement against the forces of the new Iraqi armed forces that are standing up. No doubt that there are difficulties in building up these new armed forces, but I think the way is clear. I think that Iraqis will take the lead in this entire endeavor and will emerge victorious and they'll do so with our help.

That same day, Lt. General David H. Petraeus, the officer responsible for training and equipping the new Iraqi security forces, published an opinion piece in the Washington Post describing his assessment of the situation: (go to if you need a Post username and password)

In recent months, I have observed thousands of Iraqis in training and then watched as they have conducted numerous operations. Although there have been reverses -- not to mention horrific terrorist attacks -- there has been progress in the effort to enable Iraqis to shoulder more of the load for their own security, something they are keen to do. The future undoubtedly will be full of difficulties, especially in places such as Fallujah. We must expect setbacks and recognize that not every soldier or policeman we help train will be equal to the challenges ahead.

Nonetheless, there are reasons for optimism. Today approximately 164,000 Iraqi police and soldiers (of which about 100,000 are trained and equipped) and an additional 74,000 facility protection forces are performing a wide variety of security missions. Equipment is being delivered. Training is on track and increasing in capacity. Infrastructure is being repaired. Command and control structures and institutions are being reestablished.


There will be more tough times, frustration and disappointment along the way. It is likely that insurgent attacks will escalate as Iraq's elections approach. Iraq's security forces are, however, developing steadily and they are in the fight. Momentum has gathered in recent months. With strong Iraqi leaders out front and with continued coalition -- and now NATO -- support, this trend will continue. It will not be easy, but few worthwhile things are.

Finally, via Vodkapundit, the Command Post has an interview with retired Lt. General Michael DeLong. Delong, author of the new book Inside CentCom, was CentCom deputy commander during the Afghanistan and Iraq campaigns until his retirement last September. Here are some key excerpts:

I am confident in how the people of Iraq and Iran feel. I meet with them all the time. I have hired some of them as security people. I have hired former military people who are working with us and they talk to the military people over there. And from what they say, the morale couldn’t be better. If you talk to the Army and the Marine Corps, their morale could not be better. They are energized about what they are doing. They are energized about trying to help the Iraqi people. They are energized that they are there, and if they have to fight they are fighting on someone else’s ground rather than their own ground.

The civilian people, or the Iraqi leaders I talk to, their issues are different. There are groups of people coming up and they don’t want the elections: Some of the former Ba’athists, some of the Fedayeen Saddam, members of al Qaeda led by Zarqawi. With that said, about 85 percent plus of the people in Iraq, according to the people I talk to, like Americans. What they don’t like is being occupied. What they would like is free and open elections. Whether democracy will work or
not is to be seen. If they are going to elect people, they would like to elect Iraqis and not expatriate Iraqis who were not there during the hard times, during Saddam’s reign.


We had the war planned that it was told to us by expatriate Iraqis that the army would stay in tact, the police would stay in tact, you would be able to control different areas inside the cities and prisoners would be in prison. Two days before the war went down, Saddam let between 30,000 and 50,000 of the worst people in the
world – rapists, killers and kidnappers – they were let go into the streets. On the day before we crossed the border, everyone of the police walked out of their uniforms. Now you’ve got 50,000 of the worst people in the Middle East loose on the streets and no policemen. Then the Iraqi soldiers walked out. You had no military police.

All three of these articles are thoughtful, interesting, and provide some valuable perspective, and I encourage you to read them all for yourself. We are trying to create a new, free Iraq in the face of a desperate terrorist insurgency by the Baathists and Islamists. It is a difficult and dangerous task, one that cannot be completed without cost. However, as shown by Israel's defeat of the Palestinian terror war directed at it, we can win, and we must. In his Meet the Press interview, General Abizaid accurately described the long-term nature of the War against Islamist Terror:

Tim, the American people need to brace themselves for a long war in the Middle East and Central Asia, and they need to brace themselves for a long war in the Middle East and Central Asia because the battle is being waged out here between extremists and moderates. It's not a war that ultimately needs to entail large number of American forces, but it's a war where intelligence, where economics, where political and diplomatic power need to come together with military power to defeat this ideology of al-Qaeda, Zarqawi, Ansar al-Islam, the Islamic movement of Uzbekistan, etc.

This ideological movement is just starting to gain strength. People in the region do not like it. They don't want it to be successful. They need our help to win the fight on their own, and that's what we need to do. It'll be a long process, it'll be a difficult process, but it'll be one that can be successfully fought if we come together not only at home but in the international community and with the peoples of the region to set the standards for good government and the standards for a moderate lifestyle.

Staying the course and winning in Iraq is an essential step in this struggle.


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