I am going to show you some excerpts, but if you care about what is happening in Iraq, you should definitely read the whole interview. He tells us where the successes are, what progress is being made, where the difficulties lies and how the Iraqi forces are doing. They also discuss Iran's interference and the strategy being used against al-Qaeda and Shiite extremists. He is also asked about media coverage.
HH: Welcome, General. You took over command of the multinational forces in February of this year, February 10. In the past five months, how have conditions in Iraq changed?
DP: Well, obviously, we have been surging our forces during that time. We have added five Army brigade combat teams, two Marine battalions, and a Marine expeditionary unit, and some enablers, as they’re called. And over the last month, that surge of forces has turned into a surge of offensive operations. And we have achieved what we believe is a reasonable degree of tactical momentum on the ground, gains against the principal near-term threat, al Qaeda-Iraq, and also gains against what is another near-term threat, and also potentially the long term threat, Shia militia extremists as well. As you may have heard, that today, we announced the capture of the senior Iraqi leader of al Qaeda-Iraq, and that follows in recent weeks the detention of some four different emirs, as they’re called, the different area leaders of al Qaeda, six different foreign fighter facilitators, and a couple dozen other leaders, in addition to killing or capturing hundreds of other al Qaeda-Iraq operatives.
They discuss the surge and the report that we will get in September:
HH: General, I want to go back to the surge. About how long have you had the full complement of troops that were necessary for the surge in place?
DP: Well, it’s about a month now, Hugh. We received the final Army brigade, the Marine expeditionary unit, and the combat aviation brigade in June, and they all went into operation about the mid part of last month. So it’s about a month that they’ve all been on the ground, and all of our forces have been engaged in what is a pretty comprehensive offensive operation in just about all of the belts around Baghdad, as they’re called, and then in also several neighborhoods in Baghdad that are of particular concern because of the activities in those neighborhoods of al Qaeda, or in some cases, of militia extremist elements.
HH: Now you’re due to make a report back in September, I don’t know if it’s early, mid or late September, General Petraeus, is that enough time to really get a fix on how the surge is progressing?
DP: Well, I have always said that we will have a sense by that time of basically, of how things are going, have we been able to achieve progress on the ground, where have their been shortfalls, and so forth. And I think that is a reasonable amount of time to have had all the forces on the ground, again, for about three months, to have that kind of sense. But that’s all it is going to be. But we do intend, Ambassador Ryan Crocker, the ambassador here, and I, do very much intend to provide as comprehensive and as forthright an assessment as we can at that time of the progress that has been achieved, and where we’ve fallen short.
Counterinsurgency tactics and Iraqi Security forces:
HH: You and Marine Lt. General Amos coauthored the new field manual on counterinsurgency, and it talked about counterinsurgency has to adapt to local conditions. How long does it really take, in your estimation? I see you saw the BBC yesterday, telling them that it could take nine, ten years to put a counterinsurgency down in Iraq. Is that an accurate assessment, a decade to get this thing contained?
DP: Well, it depends where you are in Iraq, what you’re talking about, and so forth. What I was doing there was merely saying that historically, it’s taken about a decade or so for the average counterinsurgency to be sorted out. Sometimes, it’s taken longer. I mean, in fact, the British Broadcaster interviewer and I were talking about how long it took the UK to reach the position that they’ve now achieved in Northern Ireland, and that was actually several decades, as you know, In some cases in Iraq, the situation is somewhat resolved. Surprisingly, Anbar Province, all of a sudden, has become just a remarkable development, and a place where you can actually see how it could possibly evolve into a situation sustainable by the Iraqis. Other places remain very problematic, and there’s certainly neighborhoods in Baghdad where we are still trying to refine the vision of what would be sustainable, and then determine how in fact to get to that point.
HH: How are the capabilities of the Iraqi security forces? You spent a lot of time training them in the first part of the occupation, General Petraeus. What are their, what’s their effectiveness now?
DP: Well, frankly, it is uneven. There are some exceedingly good units. The Iraqi special operations force brigade, a commando battalion, a counterterrorist unit, some other elements, national emergency response unit, the intelligence special tactics unit, SWAT teams in just about each of the provinces, and a variety of other sort of high end units that we have helped develop, each of these is really quite impressive, and almost at the level, certainly in regional terms, of the special operations forces of our own country, again, in relative terms, speaking in regional comparisons. On the other hand, at the other end of the spectrum, there are still some units that have a degree of sectarian influence exercised within them, and some that are still being cleaned up after having suffered from sectarian pressures, and given into sectarian pressures during the height of the sectarian violence in 2006, and into 2007. There’s also, there’s a vast number of units, frankly, out there just doing what I would call a solid job, manning checkpoints, going on patrols, in some cases in the lead, in some cases alongside our forces, in some cases, following. But I can assure you that the Iraqi forces are out there very much fighting and dying for their country, They, in fact, their losses typically are some three or more times the losses that we suffer.
Go read the whole things, even though I showed you excerpts here, what I have not shown you is their discussion on the media, in depth discussion about al-Qaeda and Iran's influence, weapons and training.... I assure you, what I have shown is only a small representation of the entire interview.
Go. Read. Its worth it.
[Update] Another very interesting article from USA Today.
Politics sometimes manages to muddle the obvious. The war in Iraq, authorized by three-quarters of the Senate, was launched in response to Saddam Hussein's refusal to abide by 17 United Nations resolutions — and by the fact that Saddam clearly supported terror movements around the world. We never argued that he played a role 9/11; political opponents manufactured the claim to question the president's integrity.
Politics has muddied another fact: Our enemies started fighting long before 2001. Terrorists bombed the World Trade Center in 1993. They hit the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia in 1996, U.S. Embassies in East Africa in 1998 and the USS Cole in 2000. All the while, Osama bin Laden was advocating war against the United States and building a terror network from camps in Afghanistan.
The most astonishing argument is the claim the United States (or the Bush administration) is responsible for this terror wave. Terrorists are responsible for terror, period.
Again, go read it all.
REMINDER FROM CASSY: Go vote, once a day, for the Wounded Warriors Project, they deserve it.