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September 13, 2007

Comments on the speech
Posted by Ilan Goldenberg

President Bush:  The premise of our strategy is that securing the Iraqi population is the foundation for all other progress. For Iraqis to bridge sectarian divides, they need to feel safe in their homes and neighborhoods. For lasting reconciliation to take root, Iraqis must feel confident that they do not need sectarian gangs for security. The goal of the surge is to provide that security and to help prepare Iraqi forces to maintain it.

70% of Iraqis don't feel that the surge has made them safer.  That means that according to the President's own standards the surge is failing.  The whole point of a counterinsurgency strategy is to make the population feel safe.  If they feel as if the government can protect them, they side with the government instead of militias and insurgents.  All the fancy charts and dubious statistics about violence matter less than whether the Iraqis truly believe that they are more secure.  Unfortunately, 70% of them believe that the surge has not made them safer.  Which according to the President's own measure means that the surge is failing. [BBC, 9/10/07]

President Bush:  Over time, our troops will shift from leading operations, to partnering with Iraqi forces, and eventually to overwatching those forces.

In January the President said that Iraqi security forces would be taking over by November.  "To establish its authority, the Iraqi government plans to take responsibility for security in all of Iraq's provinces by November." [White House, 1/10/07]

Over Two Years ago the President stated, “As Iraqis Stand Up, We Will Stand Down” [DOD, 6/28/05]

We thank the 36 nations who have troops on the ground in Iraq and the many others who are helping that young democracy.

American troops make up almost 95% of all coalition forces.  There are 168,000 American troops in Iraq.  All the other countries in the "coalition" have 11,685.  [Brookings,  9/10/07]


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By this time Iraqis wouldn't bridge their sectarian divides even if they did feel secure in their homes and neighborhoods. Some of these people still nurse grievances from 700 years ago; why should we expect any of them will forget what has happened in the last eighteen months?

Incidentally, I noticed that the withdrawal Gen. Petraeus "recommended" to President Bush by Christmas -- one MEU and an army combat brigade -- adds up to in the neighborhood of 5,000 men, coincidentally the number Sen. Warner suggested a couple of weeks ago. Pretty clearly the Republican Senators who've been critical of the administration but haven't yet voted with Democrats on timelines are much on the minds of administration officials.

1. Sectarian divides

Sunnis and Shi'ites got along before the chaotic US invasion and occupation. They lived on the same streets, worked together and intermarried. The idea that they are nursing grievances from 700 years ago is claptrap. Sunnis and Shia have both been marching and demonstrating against the huge wall the US military has erected to separate Baghdad neighborhoods. There are attacks being made by government and Sadrist gangs,, but the do not reflect the feeling of the majority of Iraqis. The "sectarian divide" is US propaganda to justify keeping US forces in Iraq forever. There will be some sectarian violence because of the chaos, but so what. It's an Iraqi problem. Actually, most attacks in Iraq are on US military forces--see chart here. It's time, past time, to get them out of there.

2.Iraqi security forces

General Petraeus was a complete failure at training Iraqi battalion. Despite his grand rhetoric, he trained only one battalion in fifteen months (2004-2005). The Iraqi forces will never be able to maintain security as long as the US military is available to do the heavy lifting. That's why Rumsfeld was against a large US presence ("take the training wheels off") and that's why Rumsfeld, Abizaid and Casey were against the surge and so were let go. Ironically, the whole Petraeus strategy of Iraqi forces taking over security depends on something that Petraeuas completely failed at.

3. "Insurgency"

The situation in Iraq is not an insurgency. An insurgency is an armed revolt against civilian rule. There is effectively no civilian rule in Iraq. The majority of the attacks, as shown above, are against US forces. This is a resistance to foreign military occupation, not an insurgency, and the way to end it is to get the troops out and give the Iraqis an opportunity to run their own "sovereign" country.

4. Anbar

The arming of the former "dead-ender" Sunni tribes, the same ones which have been killing GI's, when US policy is to disarm Shi'ite militias, is a policy that will contribute to sectarian violence and further US military deaths in the future. It is not replicable elsewhere, nor should it be.

Over time, our troops will shift from leading operations, to partnering with Iraqi forces, and eventually to overwatching those forces.

news report from an Iraqi army unit in al-Anbar:
“In four years, the MOD [Ministry of Defense] has given my soldiers one uniform each. Last month, I got 300 [pairs] boots for 600 soldiers. I’m supposed to give each soldier one boot? I drive eight hours to Baghdad to get my soldiers’ pay. Last week, I drove to Basra for gas,” he said. “We need water and food. Who gives it us? Colonel Mundy [USMC]. My soldier gets killed here, it is ignored. Not like you Americans. The government doesn’t even know the 2d Brigade is out here in the desert.”

news report:
BAGHDAD - U.S. troops have taken into custody an Iraqi army battalion commander suspected of ordering militia attacks on American forces, the military said Thursday.
The commander - whose name and rank were not released - was picked up last week by elements of the 1st Infantry Division's 2nd Brigade combat team, the military said in a statement. Battalions are usually commanded by [lieutenant] colonels.

General Petreaus, trainer of Iraqi army battalions, Jun 2004–Sep 2005

Sep 2004–Petreaus [WaPo op-ed]: “Six battalions of the Iraqi regular army and the Iraqi Intervention Force are now conducting operations. . .Within the next 60 days, six more regular army and six additional Intervention Force battalions will become operational. . . Nine more regular army battalions will complete training in January”

Sep 2005–Gen. George W. Casey Jr., who oversees U.S. forces in Iraq, said there are fewer Iraqi battalions at “Level 1″ readiness than there were a few months ago. . . The number of Iraqi army battalions that can fight insurgents without U.S. and coalition help has dropped from three to one, top U.S. generals told Congress yesterday.
Why are Iraqi Army units under-supplied?
General Petraeus was in charge of the Security Transition Command at the time that the Iraqi procurement budget of $1.2bn was stolen. "It is possibly one of the largest thefts in history," Iraq's Finance Minister, Ali Allawi, said. "Huge amounts of money disappeared. In return we got nothing but scraps of metal."

We thank the 36 nations who have troops on the ground in Iraq and the many others who are helping that young democracy.

Spencer Ackerman: The Coalition is losing its Iceland contingent--one soldier

We had come so close to finding 34 of President Bush's 36 countries with troops in Iraq. But now it appears we won't be at 34 for long: next month, Iceland, part of the NATO mission to Iraq, is pulling out its one lone soldier. From the Iceland Review, last week:

Foreign Minister Ingibjörg Sólrún Gísladóttir has decided to remove an Icelandic Crisis Response Unit (ICRU) member from a NATO training program for the Iraqi army in Baghdad next month, causing disappointment among NATO leaders.

The ICRU member has been working in Baghdad for the last two years, primarily as a media representative, and will cease working there October 1, Morgunbladid reports.

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