Its almost as if they don’t care. It was only a few Short months ago that Congress overwhelmingly confirmed General David Petraeus to head up the military efforts in Iraq. In fact Petraeus was unanimously confirmed as a four-star general and commander of the multi national force in Iraq . In April Petraeus made his first report to Congress on the progress of the “surge” and the overall situation in Iraq. In late May, 2007, Congress passed legislation that mandated that Petraeus and U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, to deliver a report to Congress by September 15, 2007 detailing their assessment of the military, economic and political situation of Iraq. That date is more than two months away. This Democratic Congress, the liberal minded press have joined together (along with a few rogue republicans trying to make people forget about their support of a very unpopular immigration bill) to place a dark cloud on the American people. A cloud that says that we can’t win, a cloud that says that the General that they confirmed UNANIMOUSLY, cannot do what he said he would. Make no mistake about it, the Democrats have been railing against this war since the day after they voted for it. Their opposition has very little to do with the facts on the ground—it has to do with politics, Florida and hanging chads. They are trying to get back at a president who they feel stole the election in 2000. Don’t argue facts with them–they are two busy whining about Jeb Bush. They won’t even listen to General Petraeus…but we can. The NY Post interviewed him for today’s paper and below is the story.
‘LIFTING THE PALL’ By RALPH PETERS July 10, 2007 —
Ralph Peters: The current military operations in Iraq appear comprehensive and tenacious, part of a long-term, integrated plan. What can we realistically expect to achieve?
Petraeus: Our primary goal is to work with our Iraqi counterparts to improve security for the Iraqi people. This is intended to give Iraqi leaders the time to resolve the tough political issues they face and to pursue internal reconciliation. We’re working to eliminate the capability for al Qaeda and any other extremist groups to plan, assemble forces and mount attacks. We’re clearing extremist sanctuaries in Baghdad, as well as in the belts around the city and in Diyala Province – while pursuing terrorist and extremist leaders throughout Iraq. As to reasonable expectations, we can expect a reduction in sectarian deaths and the gradual spread of Iraqi government authority. The level of sectarian deaths in Baghdad in June was the lowest in about a year. Nonetheless, extremists still have been able to carry out car bomb and other attacks. Obviously, there’s considerable work to be done to reduce that ability.
Q: There’s a strong focus on going after al-Qaeda-in-Iraq in this offensive. How are you bringing our strengths against their weaknesses?
A: Al-Qaeda-in-Iraq’s key weaknesses are an ideology that does not resonate with Iraqis and an indiscriminate brutality that alienates the people. Popular sentiment has begun to shift against them. To break al Qaeda’s grip on troubled areas, we employ the full range of our combat and support capabilities, as well as interagency assets. At the end of the day, though, it’s a Marine or Soldier on foot who does the final clearing, and our troops have been magnificent – as have, in many cases, our Iraqi partners, though their performance remains uneven. Wherever we operate, we try to reconnect Iraqi ministries and local governments to meet the needs of the people. Finally, we provide opportunities for Iraqis to use their local knowledge to help root out al Qaeda. Successful operations of this nature have played out in recent months in Ramadi, Hit and Baquba. In each case, Iraqis turned against al Qaeda and sided with the Coalition.
Q: After more than four years of often frustrating operations in Iraq, troop morale remains remarkably resilient by historical standards. Even re-enlistment rates are impressive. How do our men and women in uniform remain so committed?
A: They know they’re engaged in a critical endeavor, one that’s “larger than self.” They recognize the mission’s importance not just to Iraq, but to the entire region and to our own country. Despite multiple tours and separations from loved ones, not to mention the impatience, frustration and other emotions we all feel at times, our men and women in uniform want to see Iraqis succeed – and, of course, they have a fierce desire not to let down their buddies. The bonds of those who have served together in combat are particularly strong. We celebrated the 4th of July with a wonderful ceremony in Baghdad. It included what may have been the largest re-enlistment ceremony in history: 588 of our men and women raised their right hands and signed up for another tour in the Armed Forces. Following that, 161 soldiers and Marines became United States citizens, reciting the oath to the nation they had been serving in combat, but that had not yet been their own. They were proud Americans, and we were all proud of them.
Q: The performance of Iraqi security forces still seems to be a mixed bag. What are their strengths and weaknesses? Do they really have a national identity?
A: There is a national identity in the Iraqi security forces, though it varies in intensity and some units still exhibit the sectarian behavior that was so destructive in late 2006. The Iraqi security forces often reflect the quality of their leaders. There are some very good units that are largely operating on their own, and there are some that need considerable Coalition assistance. Of course, their strengths include a level of cultural awareness that no amount of training can give us. They have knowledge of the local areas that’s particularly helpful, and their human intelligence networks can be of considerable value. Beyond that, they’ve been willing to fight – especially when their leaders set the example. Their losses in June were three times ours. Their key weaknesses are a lack of logistical self-sufficiency, heavy weaponry shortages (improving) and the lack of the infrastructure so important in modern warfare – all of which we’re helping them build up. In the case of the local police, recruits and their families can be vulnerable to intimidation and coercion, if the situation where they live gets tough.
Q: The defection of Sunni tribes in Anbar from their alliance with al-Qaeda-in-Iraq to cooperate with Coalition forces is one of the most encouraging developments we’ve seen. Can this be sustained and expanded? Are there risks?
A: The “flipping” of the tribes in Anbar has been a very heartening development, and we do believe it can be sustained and expanded. That’s precisely what the Iraqi government and our units are striving to do as Sunni tribes in Diyala, Salah ad Din and Ninevah Provinces turn against al Qaeda and its extremist affiliates. We’re beginning to see a revolt of the middle against both extremes. That’s potentially decisive. Of course, there are risks involved, should these groups turn on one another or on government forces after they’re done with al Qaeda, but the risk looks manageable. Key to all this is to incorporate those who want to fight extremists into Iraqi government institutions as quickly as possible, so that they’re responsive to a government chain of command (and get their salaries that way, too).
Q: While there’s a feel of military progress just now, there hasn’t been corresponding progress within the Iraqi government, whose members continue to squabble. Why should Americans believe the Iraqis can get their act together?
A: The political dimension is the most significant current challenge. Iraqi leaders are grappling with first-order questions – akin to our own debates at the birth of our nation over states’ rights and so on. And the progress has been less than what all of us – the Iraqis as well as Coalition leaders – had hoped to see. There have been some encouraging signs, such as progress on some critical legislation and the rise of opposition to extremists in many areas, but, ultimately, the political issues must be resolved by Iraqis in an Iraqi way. Our role is to create an environment in which political compromise becomes possible – by breaking the cycle of sectarian violence and lifting the pall of fear.
Q: Now that the surge is fully in place, what’s your sense of the positives and negatives thus far? If you could have more of any one item, what would it be? Troops? Time? Iraqi unity?
A: I can think of few commanders in history who wouldn’t have wanted more troops, more time or more unity among their partners; however, if I could only have one at this point in Iraq, it would be more time. This is an exceedingly tough endeavor that faces countless challenges. None of us, Iraqi or American, are anything but impatient and frustrated at where we are. But there are no shortcuts. Success in an endeavor like this is the result of steady, unremitting pressure over the long haul. It’s a test of wills, demanding patience, determination and stamina from all involved. Ralph Peters’ new book, “Wars of Blood and Faith,” hits the shelves on July 25.