2005 September 30 Friday
Iraq Down To One Independently Operating Battalion
Vietnamization is failing. Er, sorry, I meant Iraqization. Speaking before the US Senate Armed Services Committee Donald Rumsfeld and Generals Richard Myers, John Abizaid, and George Casey defended how things are going in Iraq. General Abizaid admitted that only one Iraqi battalion can operate on its own.
SEN. JOHN McCAIN: General Abizaid, there was a report sent over, I think last June, that three of the hundred Iraqi battalions were fully trained and equipped, capable of operating independently. What is that number now?
GEN. JOHN ABIZAID: The number now is, if you're talking about level-one trained --
SEN. JOHN McCAIN: Yeah.
GEN. JOHN ABIZAID: It's one.
SEN. JOHN McCAIN: At one battalion?
GEN. JOHN ABIZAID: Right.
SEN. JOHN McCAIN: The previous report was you had three battalions. Now we're down to one battalion.
One is the loneliest number.
An Iraqi battalion has 500 to 600 soldiers. We started into this Iraq debacle back in March 2003. Now one Iraqi battalion is ready go to out there and shake their booty. Is that batallion Kurdish by chance?
I wonder if the downgraded batallions became downgraded because of infiltration by insurgents. Or did the best fighters in the batallions leave to join the insurgency?
Donald Rumsfeld thinks people are chasing the wrong rabbit.
"There are an awful lot of people chasing the wrong rabbit here, it seems to me," Rumsfeld told reporters at the Pentagon, when asked about the number of Iraqi battalions that can operate independently.
"The important fact is ... that every day, every week, every month the Iraqi security forces are larger, they're better equipped, they're better trained and they're more experienced. And that is the central fact," Rumsfeld said.
Maybe we should be chasing caterpillars instead of rabbits? After all, caterpillars eventually turn into beautiful buttterflies. Do we need to build cocoons in Iraq? We should go ask Alice. I think she'll know.
Susan Collins worries that the public loses confidence when the news is bad.
"That contributes to a loss of public confidence in how the war is going," Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said of Casey's remarks. "It doesn't feel like progress when we hear today that there is only one Iraqi battalion fully capable."
Note to Susan: I lost confidence a long time ago. But I know what you mean.
General Abizaid says we have nothing to fear but fear itself.
GEN. JOHN ABIZAID: In the long run, there's nothing to be afraid of. We can win the fight. It's difficult. It's costly. But the implications of allowing the region to become dominated by the ideology of al-Qaida are the same as the implication in the years previous to World War II of allowing fascism to become the ideology of Germany. It will lead to a big war that none of us can stand. We have to fight. We have to win.
Gotta prevent Al Qaeda from replacing a fairly secular dictator. We need to make Iraqi safe for Shia theocracy against the dark forces of Sunni theocracy. This is the cross (er, crescent?) we have taken on.
Abizaid says the battle for Iraq is a battle with Al Qaeda.
"Their objectives are very clear," Gen. Abizaid said. "They believe in a jihad, a jihad, first and foremost, to overthrow the legitimate regimes in the region. But in order to do that, they have to first drive us from the region. This is what they believe. They believe, ultimately, that the greatest prize of all is Saudi Arabia and the holy shrines there."
If the US pulled out of Iraq would Al Qaeda take over? Or would the Shias rise up and put down the Sunnis? Or would they all make a big complicated inter-tribal power sharing deal? Or would another secular strongman come to power? Hey, an unemployed dictator is available for hire. I bet he'd make a deal to keep Al Qaeda out of Iraq.
General George W. Casey Jr, in charge of US forces in Iraq, says we'll be all ready to leave Iraq whenever conditions improve there.
"I can tell you, Congressman, it's all going to be conditions-based," Casey said in answering Rep. John M. Spratt Jr. (D-S.C.), who had sought a "reasonable time frame" for Iraqi troops to take over security duties. "It's not going to be like throwing a switch where all of a sudden, one day, the Iraqis are in charge."
Any predictions for what comes next?
I watched the testimony for awhile last night. It wasn't the 'light at the end of the
tunnel' that one might have wished for but I think you are unduly pessimistic. I also
fully agree with General Abazaid here:
But the implications of allowing the region to become dominated by the ideology of al-Qaida are the same as the implication in the years previous to World War II of allowing fascism to become the ideology of Germany. It will lead to a big war that none of us can stand. We have to fight. We have to win.
Clearly we cannot allow Iraq to become another failed state a la Afghanistan, or, rather
we could but then we will be back and in a bigger way. We maybe moving ineluctably in that
direction anyway in which case having 135,000 troop in Iraq spares us the necessity of
reinvading the region.
Yes, we could have done a 'deal' with Saddam but I really don't know who in America could
have done it. Without a deal we would have a man with the enormous oil resources and no
check on his use of them developing weapons of his choosing and giving them to people of
his choosing. Sanctions were ineffective at best and France, Germany, Russia and China
not willing to seriously enforce them on their own companies. Don't know that that was an
We also need to look at what has been achieved. Libyan president for life, seeing Saddam's
fate through in the towel and turned over his WMD apparatus to the US and UK. Major
achievement brought about by the attack on Iraq. In November two things will or won't
happen. The Group of Six will work out the details of North Korean disarmament. Or not.
I suspect it will happen because China has apparently decided that having a nuclear North
Korea is not in its interests. Then the IAEA will also meet to decide on whether or not
to refer Iran to the UN Security Council. Bigger problem here as one might expect since
the UN is subject to bribery and the mercenary instincts of member states, including SC
members can occlude any issue that is brought before it. However, India having switched
sides in the recent vote was a significant turn of events. The IAEA vote to have a vote in
November was 24 for, 12 abstentions and one against. The one being Hugo Chavez's Venezuala.
Thus of the "Axis of Evil" it is quite possible that we will begin the new year with but
one remaining and, with luck and no vetoes, it is possible the terrorist regime in Iran
will be confronting UN sanctions. Iraq all over again? Not quite. There are powerful US
military formations on either side of Iran and both India and China are fully aware of the
danger of Islamic extremists possessing nuclear weapons. Military action against Iran would
be a last resort of course but it maybe possible to 'finesse' the situation in that country. I suspect Henry Kissinger could but can Condi Rice and George Bush is a legitimate
Someone remind me: what all did Kissinger finesse?
Kissinger. Finesse. Heh.
How many millions were killed in Cambodia?
Never again! It is working well. We need more Holocaust education in the public schools.
I see Henry isn't well thought of here. I hope there are substantive reasons and not just
visceral ones. I always admired the guy, not least because I was able to spend my military
service down in Panama instead of Southeast Asia. Then there was the fact he got to, at
least socially, date Jill St. John! Now who amongst us wouldn't have liked to have had
dinner with her?
Old Henry was at pretty shrewd guy. Not many others I imagine could have managed to keep
Brezhnev at bay, 'Vietnamize the war ( which is what I gather RP would like) play the
China 'card' all the while as his boss was about to be impeached and the "New Left' was
rioting in the streets all around the Western world.
Did he achieve every goal? No of course not. But he did manage to kick down the road the
situations we couldn't deal with, keep a lid on those we could and, at the same time open,
the US to new possibilities in a very precarious time.
We forget the Yom Kippur war and the nuclear alert in 1973. The fact that Congress was
so fed up with Vietnam they were allowing our military to become dysfunctional and the fact
that the presidency was in crisis. The USSR was building missiles and we weren't. Willy
Brandt was in charge of West Germany and hiring Soviet spies as private secretaries as part
of his "Ostpolitik". Labour sat in Downing Street and it wasn't the Labour party of Tony
Blair. Kissinger didn't have a very good hand to play but he played the cards he was dealt
as brilliantly as anyone in my lifetime.
What I want to do? Haven't you been paying attention? Vietnamization of the Iraq was is the Bush Administration's publically professed strategy.
I've blogged all the relevant quotes from the horses' mouths. You can find the quotes in my Iraq category archive. What I'm telling you is that their own publically professed strategy is failing. The previous strategies failed. They adopted this new strategy. Lots of US officers on the ground stated very bluntly that the US military was not going to be able to defeat the insurgency. I blogged that too. Go read my category archive. I'm tired of arguing about it.
Maybe the Iraqi military will become effective enough to supplement the US forces enough to make headway against the insurgency. Maybe that'll start to happen next year some time. Maybe not too.
The Soviets were contemplating - actively contemplating - a nuclear strike agaisnt China back in 71. 'Contemplating' meant moving hundrds of short-range nuclear missiles into Outer Mongolia, tens of armored divisions up to the border, asking us to join the massacre with a few of our own nukes. In those circumstances, it didn't exactly take a Talleyrand to work up a loose alliance with China. I believe John Bolton could have done it. Possibly even me. Kissinger's other main claim to fame was the notion that the Sovs were the coming thing and that the most we could hope for was to gentle them, admit them into the club, pay them off and lose slowly. How insightful he must be. Frankly, I don't think he ever turned out to be right on anything. But then, pointing out people's anti-prescience is considered rude, I guess: if we only allowed people into positions of power who demonstrably knew what the hell they were talking about, we'd have an entirely different government, one full of strategic planners who could imagine that an occupied Iraq might be all too much like the occupied West Bank that they saw on TV every single night. No way we could have found someone like that: a mind that flexible could perform oral sex on itself, from behind.
I can see you're trying to keep this debate on track.
To that end I'd like to put in an oar from an Aussie perspective:
My read on this is that all is not lost for the US in Iraq. It may need to withdraw from Iraq back to Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. But look at the "big picture".
As the occupation appears to have honed Sunni insurgent skills well any generalised coalition (US, UK, Australian forces etc) withdrawal may result in the type of finely balanced Iraqi civil war that the coalition may be seeking as a fallback strategy.
Basically the Sunni's use their experience to fight the relatively inexperienced but more numerous Shia's.
This distracts both groups (and to some extent al-Quaida) from fighting coalition forces in the region (or from occasionally suicide bombing the West).
The main losers will again be the civilians of Iraq - but their not Westerners...
Whether the US is actually winning or losing in Iraq the US is still meeting its major objective of having a large force in the Middle East.
This force can cower any of the countries around it and ensure that the oil will keep on flowing.
Food for thought.
I would agree the US has got bases in Iraq, though for how long remains to be seen. If
Iraq cannot be held together I suspect we can stay in the Kurdish regions for as long as
we would like. Withdrawing to Saudi Arabia and Kuwait is not really a likely option either
at least for keeping a corps sized military facility. Some planes, some HQ's staff, some
prepositioned equipment is one thing but 100,000 plus troops quite another. The footprint
is too big.
As to Sunni fighting skills and an 'insurgency'. Look, suicide bombers and car bombs are
nasty weapons but these guys aren't an army or even close to it. They are terrorists.
Should the Shia Badr militia and Kurdish Peshmerga decide to go after the Sunni in the same
way the Sunni have been bombing Shia soft targets what's to stop them? Is there a Sunni
military force that could prevent it? Not so as I can tell. In fact it looks to me as if
the only credible military forces that exist outside the coalition and Iraqi army units
(which the Sunni complain are all Shia and Kurds) are the Shia and Kurdish militias.
That doesn't bode well for the Sunni should a real civil war erupt. My guess is that the
Sunni would soon be fleeing for their lives should the Shia and Kurds go on the warpath.
It would likely be like those Phalangist militias hammering the Palestinians in Beirut.
More massacre than urban combat. 20% of the population going against 80% isn't a winning
scenario to begin with but up North the Kurds have big stocks of ex Iraqi heavy weapons
and the Shia can get what they need to prevail from Iran if need be. Car bombs are going
to look mighty puny when the Kurds pull out 130 mm artillary pieces and start shelling
Sunni neighborhoods if that is what is coming down the road.
As to Randall's complaints. Well sometimes there are no 'good' solutions. Dealing with the
Muslim world is just such a situation. Bush has tried to keep the fight localized instead
of presenting it as a all out struggle to the death against an atavistic civilization that
is at war with us. That may have been a mistake. It might have been better, in the aftermath of 9/11, to have instituted a draft and put a couple of million men ashore in
North Africa and kept going till we reached India or the Indian Army heading west.
The Muslims understand that kind of war and so does the American public. Where we lay flat
the military potential of the Islamic world and where opposition is met by massed artillary
and airstrikes and the hell with 'collateral damage'. Where 'you're either with us or
against us' meant what it said.
Well the current situation appears to be an unexpected stalemate. The Iraqi "Army" is demonstrably unmotivated to fight as the generals advised the Senate Hearings. The UK is talking more seriously about withdrawal (coinciding with bad public relations in Basra).
One can see that the Muslim world (particularly disaffected Saudi's) will continue to provide monetary and some manpower support to the terrorists/insurgents against the coalition.
This ongoing support is similar to the war of attrition waged by the Viet Cong with support from North Vietnam (and in turn backed by China and Russia). As in the Vietnam situation there are some open borders around Iraq.
So short of a major escalation in the coalition effort (you talked of 2 million and noting that half a million in Vietnam couldn't do it) what hope/solution is there?
Basically I'm thinking of divide and rule scenerios - Muslim versus Muslim (something Britain excelled at - at least during the nineteenth century). This is far preferable to a broad front coalition war against the Muslim world (noting Pakistan has nuclear weapons). Got any ideas?
Moslem civilization is not at war with us. We are at war with our own insanity; looked bad for a while, but reality is gaining.
If the Islamofascists aren't at war with us then they do an excellant job of pretending
to be. I guess those weren't really bombs in Bali today. To say Moslem 'civilization' is
not at war with us is pretty ambiguous. No, most governments in the Islamic world are not.
Many, if not most, are sympathetic to our fight against terrorism but... who in the hell
do they represent? FWIW it is probably the case that the Iranian government enjoys more
real popular support than Hosni Mubarak or King Abdullah. Hell, Abdullah is barely an Arab.
He speaks better English than I. So does the former Saudi interior minister and now Saudi
Ambassador to the US Turki al Faisal. These guys don't represent their people. Its a fair
bet Osama bin Laden would win an honest election, were they to actually have one, in more
than a couple of Muslim states.
I wouldn't say the situation is like Vietnam. What we are up against is not the North
Vietnamese Army or even an organized insurgency of the Viet Cong kind. There is no
insurgency. There is terrorism. The 'enemy' hold no territory, have no infrastructure or
supply lines to disrupt and precious few cadre to kill. As you say what money and outside
support as is needed to fuel this thing can come from a few wealthy ( or worried )
individuals in other countries. No Ho Chi Minh trail is needed. A $100 gets you an Iraqi
willing to plant a bomb by the road and detonate it. If he is caught we have captured
nothing. If he is killed we have not even killed an enemy soldier. A few videos and a
few evenings spent at a Finsbury Mosque can get some British Muslim to drive a suicide
bomb into a Shia mosque in Nasiriyah. No 'enemy' to really fight over there. The terrorists
like it that way because they know we won't conduct the war the way to get at that type
Therefore it will be up to the Iraqis themselves to get on top of it. It won't be pretty
though. The kid from the slum who plants the bomb will have to understand that getting
caught will entail some pretty horrific consequences on, not just him, but his family.
Sorry. But there it is. The Wolf, Vulcan and some other elite Iraqi police units know what
needs to be done and are doing it. That TV show in Iraq "Terrorism in The Hands of Justice"
where some bruised and scared prisoners are shown confessing to all manner of filthy
personal and terroristic crimes and, I suppose, are never heard from again is what this
fight is going to be about. Zarqawi has a police chief in some town assassinated, well
the police are going to have to make the people in that town regret it.
Democracy? Well its a nice thought and its possible the Kurds and Shia, having gotten a
taste of it may even adopt it but first they are going to have to settle scores with the
Sunni and make anyone coming into Iraq wish they were having sex with a box jellyfish
rather than get caught with explosives by the Iraqi police.
Yes I agree that is not useful to see Islam as a monolithic thing that needs to be tackled as a whole.
However bin Laden said he was at war with West and he's (sadly) proved it.
I suspect bin Laden's constituency is largely the boored sons of the Saudi aristocracy (like himself). However they alone have considerable money and power.
Whever the West is faced with an intangible (no state boundaries) terrorist threat the same soul searching goes on. As Italians did concerning the Red brigades. But these threats were defeated.
I certainly believe that the greater Muslim threat came from al-Quaida based in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The war on Hussain WAS a seperate thing - a war on a country/regime - but NOW a terrorist threat has grown in it.
So mostly you are right. Seeing the Muslim world as the enemy wouldn't help and it frustrates any divide and rule strategy.
In Australia we always know that we have around 200 million Muslims in Indonesia just to the north. Other than terrorist bombings in Bali (some Australians died yesterday) they are not anti-Western.
Then again, this whole Iraq thing has been really useful as detector of poisonous idiots. Expensive, but it might save us money and blood in the long run, if we cash in that information in just the right way.
Moslem civilization is not at war with us.
Please. What intellectual dishonesty. This statement is in direct contradiction with the Koran and recorded history.
gcochran, I believe you are a phd writer, researcher? Why don't you move to an Islamic country and carry on your career from that location. Yunno, a place where Sharia law is in effect.
There is deafening silence from Islamic "moderates" and "mainstream" organizations in wake of jihadi terrorism because they, the average mosque-goer, sympathize. Why do they sympathize? Because every good Muslim is a disciple of the ultimate radical jihadi, Mohammed.
The Iraq War is a debacle. But let us spit out the koolaid on the nature of Islam. And stop projecting our own hyper-tolerant western values on non-westerners. It will only get you and your family killed.
Yes I agree that is not useful to see Islam as a monolithic thing that needs to be tackled as a whole.
If Islam as a whole is unassailable then it should be a value neutral event that the entire USA, North America, western hemisphere, the world etc. eventually become 100% Islamic. Meaning, if there is nothing innately wrong with the religion, and it's viewed as a positive addition to have a 5% muslim population, then of course it should be positive to increase the percentage to 95% and up. We should be able to swap out Christianity for Islam and proceed on our merry way.
Do you see where this silly multiculturalism leads?
Tackling Islam as a whole is entirely useful. Islam is the problem plain and simple. It is only media control and the fog of political correctness that obscures this fact. This is a 1400 year struggle, and the self-destructive political climate of modern day America is an aberration.
Remember, if you're currently a citizen of planet earth who is able to voice free speech, it is because someone, somewhere caved in the skull of a Muslim conqueror and forced them to back off (as it is with Marxism or any other totalitarian belief system). Without performing this act of self-defense you will not have a free society. DUH.
We will shortly return to the tradition paradigm. Keep them out of Europe and Russia. And we will be forced to remove them from the Western Hemisphere.
Sure, the Caliphate is on the verge of sweeping us away with their mighty fleets and armies. Except that there is no Caliphate. No Moslem state is actually doing anything actively against the Western world. They don't have any fleets. They don't have any industry, so they can't make any. By any real measure of military potential, Sweden is tougher than the entire Arab world.
They aren't _trying_ to do anything: there is no massive rearmament under way, no Moslem Manhattan project. They are zeros in science, in industry: the best of their militaries are occasionally competent, usually much worse than that.
What we have is a few _tens_, at most hundreds, of walk-on Moslem terrorists worldwide, most generated by our own actions in Iraq. Oh, and we have a few thousand guerrillas fighting us in a country that we invaded for no reason at all. How aggressive of them.
Just for perspective. Merck killed something like 50,000 Americans over the past few years - and they knew they were doing it.
But who wants perspective? I have a better idea: let's exile all the fruitcakes in this country: send them to Africa in a paper boat. The sort of fools who choose aggresive war and aren't even bright enough to win it - where is James Polk when we really need him?
gcochran: The Soviets were contemplating - actively contemplating - a nuclear strike agaisnt China back in 71. 'Contemplating' meant moving hundrds of short-range nuclear missiles into Outer Mongolia, tens of armored divisions up to the border, asking us to join the massacre with a few of our own nukes. In those circumstances, it didn't exactly take a Talleyrand to work up a loose alliance with China.
I believe it was in 1968 that the Soviets first asked the US if it would remain indifferent to a Soviet attack on China. The historian John Lukacs suggested that the US should have given the USSR the go-ahead in exchange for allowing a more liberal Czechoslovakia. Lukacs believes that given the Soviet obsession with China's rise this would have led to an earlier end to the Cold War.
I'm not sure about that but Lukacs was probably right when he said it wasn't America that played the China card but the Chinese who played the American card. US politicians and businessmen have had an obsession with China since the 19th century believing it could solve all their problems. Since the 19th century they've said China was going to be a great power (allied to the US of course) and the most important market for American goods. If you tune into CNBC on any hour of any trading day you'll hear American economists, CEOs, and still making this argument.
Jorge D.C.: There is deafening silence from Islamic "moderates" and "mainstream" organizations in wake of jihadi terrorism because they, the average mosque-goer, sympathize. Why do they sympathize? Because every good Muslim is a disciple of the ultimate radical jihadi, Mohammed.
This seems to be the case, however the Muslim states are no threat to us on their own. It is the presence of Muslims within the West that is the problem - a problem that obviously won't be solved by invading Iraq, pandering to Ariel Sharon, sending Karen Hughes on a PR tour, bombing Christian Serbs to help Muslims, or, as the US did the other day, warning Europeans of the dangers of not admitting Turkey to the EU.
gcochran's last post seems closer to the truth.
However, its not that we have just bread more terrorists by invading Iraq, through miscalculation.
This was part of bin Laden's strategy ie Dare the west (that had aleady rightly invaded Iraq during Desert Storm One) to do it again.
After 9/11 the West would be seen as teaching the Muslims a lesson (not to mention regime change and oil etc).
A generation of boored yet moderate Saudi's (bin Laden was one once) now have a cause - to eject these "lattter day Crusaders" from areas so close to "holy ground" - (Mecca etc).
Bin Ladin therefore becomes their hero and everbody's puppetmaster.
I think Hugh is right that out of this "bin Laden would win an honest election, were they to actually have one, in more than a couple of Muslim states".
As they will have no such election bin Laden's deadly brand of terrorism is just being boosted.
In its Iraquisation attempts I think the the West will probably settle for a new secular Iraqi strongman ("our bastard") after several more years of "muddling through".
Bin Laden would have won a muslim election even before the invasion of Iraq.
Yep Bob you're right.
No-one is seriously saying bin Laden seeks to be elected (are you Hugh?).
He does things through force and terror - something with a long tradition amongst theocracies (or personal dictatorships) in the Middle East.
The point is one reason he launched 9/11 was to get a reaction from the West against the Muslim world.
He's created the Christian West versus Muslim struggle that he and al Quiada benefit from.
Gets him back to his intellectual comfort zone of the Crusades where he is a Saladin saviour.
Young Muslims who believe this rubbish seem happy to blow themselves up (as in London in July) so he's no fool.
Probably sitting in some Pakistani cave now - ensuring his protection by bribing the local Pakistani security forces and threatening their families with death if he's captured.
Anyway, all this comes down to is more terrorists now, bombing more places - including Iraq.
Sure, the Caliphate is on the verge of sweeping us away with their mighty fleets and armies.
Can't believe this comment goes un-rebutted. Islam has achieved gains in Europe in the past 50 years that the Caliphate could only dream of.
Millions of Muslims in London and Paris. Creeping dhimmitude throughout Great Britain and the Continent and North America. They are agressively agitating throughout Southeast Asia and Africa.
Demographic expansion combined with radicalist terrorism is the face of the new Islamic Jihad, not mighty fleets and armies. They are smart enough to realize they can't fight the West with traditional weapons. Wake up. Iraq is a frigging sideshow.
If demographic expansion is the new threat then isn't border control and deportation of illegal aliens far far more effective than fighting a war in Iraq?
The war in Iraq is, at best, irrelevant to the fight against terrorists. At worst the US presence radicalizes Muslims and creates a place where radicals can get to know and learn how to work with each other.
Oh, and don't forget: Iraq is a place to familiarize themselves with American weapons and tactics, and a place to try out different counter-tactics and weapons of their own.
Why are you uncritically and hysterically regurgitating a number that you clearly do not understand?
I suggest you read this to learn a bit more about what the troop readiness ratings mean:
FWIW, Wretchard also has some perspective:
More importantly, and usefully, he has a link to the transcript:
One particularly interesting quote from the press briefing is here, and it seems to underscore that troops at level 2 or 3 are plenty lethal:
Gen Casey: You mentioned the Tall Afar model. I think that's a good example. Three Iraqi brigades and a third Iraqi infantry division went in Tall Afar with one of our brigades. Urban fighting. I mean, the toughest type of combat. And these Iraqi units were right there with our guys. And what happens is more and more we're seeing them -- and General Vines told me this morning -- in about half the cases now our guys are providing the outer cordon, and it's the Iraqis that are going inside; frankly, because they're much more effective in understanding what it is they're seeing there. But that's kind of the Tall Afar model. And none of those brigades that went in there were level one. They were level two and three. And so I'm trying to give you some sense of the capabilities of these guys.
I enjoy your blog because it's iconoclastic and usually fact-based. But this post is astonishingly lame, and you should be embarassed for having authored it.
When I wrote my post defenselink.mil didn't have the full transcript up yet. However, I read many news accounts that had various pieces of the transcript.
As for General Casey's high level view of the operation of Iraqi units in Tal Afar and similar places: The US military (under instruction from their political masters) has been presenting an Iraqi military Potemkin Village for so long I do not trust what they say. Maybe the Iraqi military really finally is improving. But, again, the US military can not be trusted to be honest about whether this is the case.
The reality of what is going on in Iraq is a lot less rosy than the Bush Administration makes it out to be:
The expectation that political progress would bring stability has been fundamental to the Bush administration's approach to rebuilding Iraq as well as a central theme of White House rhetoric to convince the American public that its policy in Iraq remains on course.
But within the last two months, U.S. analysts with access to classified intelligence data have started to challenge this precept, noting a "significant and disturbing disconnect" between apparent advances on the political front and any progress in reducing insurgent attacks.
Now, with next Saturday's constitutional referendum appearing more likely to divide than unify the country, some within the Bush administration have concluded that the quest for democracy in Iraq, at least in its current form, could actually strengthen the guerrillas.
The commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, Army Gen. George W. Casey, has acknowledged that such a scenario is possible, while officials elsewhere in the administration, all of whom declined to be identified because of the sensitivity of the subject, said they shared similar concerns about the referendum.
Even if Iraqi forces are becoming more potent against the insurgency I question whether those forces should really properly be labelled "Iraqi" forces.
Because the ranks of the Iraqi police force and army are filled mostly with Shiite Arabs and ethnic Kurds, they are perceived in many of the country's Sunni sections not as national forces but as factional hit squads bent on persecution. The ethnic tensions were evident in Tal Afar, a city predominated by Sunni Turkmens.
Most of the forces "are from the Badr Organization and the pesh merga," said Ibrahim Khalil, 20, one of about 4,000 Tal Afar residents, almost all of them Sunnis, living in a makeshift camp established by the Iraqi Red Crescent outside the city. He was referring to the country's predominant Shiite and Kurdish militias, respectively.
"They wear the military uniform for disguise," he said. "Their treatment is very bad. They were taking people to detention prisons just because they are Sunnis since the start of the military campaign."
The Iraqi soldiers from the pesh merga, which has long supported Kurdish forces fighting the Turkish government, spoke openly of their zeal to fight Tal Afar's Sunni Turkmen-led insurgency, according to U.S. soldiers who worked closely with them.
For the first couple of years after the US invasion the Kurdish units were the only reliable units in the Iraqi Army. The Kurdish Pesh Merga are biding their time and making Kurdistan ever more separate from the rest of Iraq. So now the Iraqis have additional effective units because Badr Brigade fighters are getting paid by the Iraqi government to make like they are Iraqi soldiers. The Badr folks in the Iraqi military have loyalties to their own faction just as the Pesh Merga do toward Kurdistan.
If the Iraqi military's progress was as wonderful as the optimists claim then why do so many US generals, Iraqi journalists, and other observers fear civil war as Iraq's greatest threat?
My take on Iraq is that the training of the new Iraqi military amounts to training of factions that may end up duking it out with each other. The "loose federation" that some see as the best case amounts to a managed peace where the US attempts to prevent the factions making up the Iraqi military from coming to blows. There's no recognized common interest. Loyalty to faction is greater than loyalty to country.