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The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

On Monday, DT posted a detailed after action report from the influential and thoughtful former Army general and SouthCom commander Barry McCaffrey on his mid-February visit to Afghanistan.

We now have the report he complied on his mid-March visit to Iraq. Media reports have focused on the comments portending disaster in Iraq and justifiably so. But theres also some hopeful signs, particularly as counterinsurgency guru Gen. David Petraeus moves forward with his strategy to give the Iraqi government breathing room to forge compromises.

McCaffrey also makes some interesting points on certain U.S. capabilities that are worth a second look

(Download entire report)

From the report

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Iraq is ripped by a low grade civil war which has worsened to catastrophic levels with as many as 3000 citizens murdered per month. The population is in despair. Life in many of the urban areas is now desperate.

There is no function of government that operates effectively across the nation--- not health care, not justice, not education, not transportation, not labor and commerce, not electricity, not oil production. There is no province in the country in which the government has dominance.

US domestic support for the war in Iraq has evaporated and will not return. The great majority of the country thinks the war was a mistake. The US Congress now has a central focus on constraining the Administration use of military power in Iraq ---and potentially Iran.

In summary, the US Armed Forces are in a position of strategic peril. A disaster in Iraq will in all likelihood result in a widened regional struggle which will endanger Americas strategic interests (oil) in the Mid-east for a generation. We will also produce another generation of soldiers who lack confidence in their American politicians, the media, and their own senior military leadership.

But

Since the arrival of General David Petraeus in command of Multi-National Force Iraq--- the situation on the ground has clearly and measurably improved.

There is a real and growing ground swell of Sunni tribal opposition to the Al Qaeda-in-Iraq terror formations. (90% Iraqi.) This counter-Al Qaeda movement in Anbar Province was fostered by brilliant US Marine leadership. There is now unmistakable evidence that the western Sunni tribes are increasingly convinced that they blundered badly by sitting out the political process.

Reconciliation of the internal warring elements in Iraq will be how we eventually win the war in Iraq---if it happens. There is a very sophisticated and carefully integrated approach by the Iraqi government and Coalition actors to defuse the armed violence from internal enemies and bring people into the political process. There are encouraging signs that the peace and participation message does resonate with many of the more moderate Sunni and Shia warring factions.

The command and control technology, training, contractor support, and flexibility of Marine and Army combat formations are magnificent.

The US Tier One special operations capability is simply magic. They are deadly in getting their targetwith normally zero collateral damageand with minimal friendly losses or injuries. Some of these assault elements have done 200-300 takedown operations at platoon level. The comprehensive intelligence system is phenomenal. We need to re-think how we view these forces. They are a national strategic system akin to a B1 bomber.

In Sum

In my judgment, we can still achieve our objective of: a stable Iraq, at peace with its neighbors, not producing weapons of mass destruction, and fully committed to a law-based government. The courage and strength of the US Armed Forces still gives us latitude and time to build the economic and political conditions that might defuse the ongoing civil war. Our central purpose is to allow the nation to re-establish governance based on some loose federal consensus among the three major ethnic-factional actors.

-- Christian

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