Gen. Petraeus reports to Congress

Gen. David Petraeus, the commander of Multinational Forces Iraq, has released the much anticipated report to Congress. The full text of the report is below, but the main points differ little from the July interim assessment or the most recent National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq. Petraeus stated the military aspect of the surge has succeeded in reducing violence and has “generated momentum,” the Iraqi Security Forces are growing while taking on a greater role in securing the country, and political progress at the local level will allow US forces to draw down the surge brigades. He predicted the force levels can be drawn down from 20 to 15 combat brigades starting in December and ending by July 2008, given that progress in the security situation continues. Ultimately, Petraeus advised against drawing down forces to conduct a strictly counterinsurgency and support role.

Petraeus also focused a significant amount of time to Iran’s involvement with the Special Groups and the rogue Mahdi Army. The threat of Iran’s involvement was not fully understood until just this year. “None of us earlier this year appreciated the extent of Iranian involvement in Iraq, something about which we and Iraq’s leaders all now have greater concern,” said Petraeus.

Click to view slide from General Petraeus’ testimony to Congress.

Report to Congress on the Situation in Iraq

General David H. Petraeus

Commander, Multi-National Force-Iraq

10-11 September 2007

Mr. Chairmen, Ranking Members, Members of the Committees, thank you for the opportunity to provide my assessment of the security situation in Iraq and to discuss the recommendations I recently provided to my chain of command for the way forward.

At the outset, I would like to note that this is my testimony. Although I have briefed my assessment and recommendations to my chain of command, I wrote this testimony myself. It has not been cleared by, nor shared with, anyone in the Pentagon, the White House, or Congress.

As a bottom line up front, the military objectives of the surge are, in large measure, being met. In recent months, in the face of tough enemies and the brutal summer heat of Iraq, Coalition and Iraqi Security Forces have achieved progress in the security arena. Though the improvements have been uneven across Iraq, the overall number of security incidents in Iraq has declined in 8 of the past 12 weeks, with the numbers of incidents in the last two weeks at the lowest levels seen since June 2006.

One reason for the decline in incidents is that Coalition and Iraqi forces have dealt significant blows to Al Qaeda-Iraq. Though Al Qaeda and its affiliates in Iraq remain dangerous, we have taken away a number of their sanctuaries and gained the initiative in many areas.

We have also disrupted Shia militia extremists, capturing the head and numerous other leaders of the Iranian-supported Special Groups, along with a senior Lebanese Hezbollah operative supporting Iran’s activities in Iraq.

Coalition and Iraqi operations have helped reduce ethno-sectarian violence, as well, bringing down the number of ethno-sectarian deaths substantially in Baghdad and across Iraq since the height of the sectarian violence last December. The number of overall civilian deaths has also declined during this period, although the numbers in each area are still at troubling levels.

Iraqi Security Forces have also continued to grow and to shoulder more of the load, albeit slowly and amid continuing concerns about the sectarian tendencies of some elements in their ranks. In general, however, Iraqi elements have been standing and fighting and sustaining tough losses, and they have taken the lead in operations in many areas.

Additionally, in what may be the most significant development of the past 8 months, the tribal rejection of Al Qaeda that started in Anbar Province and helped produce such significant change there has now spread to a number of other locations as well.

Based on all this and on the further progress we believe we can achieve over the next few months, I believe that we will be able to reduce our forces to the pre-surge level of brigade combat teams by next summer without jeopardizing the security gains that we have fought so hard to achieve.

Beyond that, while noting that the situation in Iraq remains complex, difficult, and sometimes downright frustrating, I also believe that it is possible to achieve our objectives in Iraq over time, though doing so will be neither quick nor easy.

Having provided that summary, I would like to review the nature of the conflict in Iraq, recall the situation before the surge, describe the current situation, and explain the recommendations I have provided to my chain of command for the way ahead in Iraq.

The Nature of the Conflict

The fundamental source of the conflict in Iraq is competition among ethnic and sectarian communities for power and resources. This competition will take place, and its resolution is key to producing long-term stability in the new Iraq. The question is whether the competition takes place more – or less – violently. This chart shows the security challenges in Iraq. Foreign and home-grown terrorists, insurgents, militia extremists, and criminals all push the ethno-sectarian competition toward violence. Malign actions by Syria and, especially, by Iran fuel that violence. Lack of adequate governmental capacity, lingering sectarian mistrust, and various forms of corruption add to Iraq’s challenges.

The Situation in December 2006 and the Surge

In our recent efforts to look to the future, we found it useful to revisit the past. In December 2006, during the height of the ethno-sectarian violence that escalated in the wake of the bombing of the Golden Dome Mosque in Samarra, the leaders in Iraq at that time – General George Casey and Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad – concluded that the coalition was failing to achieve its objectives. Their review underscored the need to protect the population and reduce sectarian violence, especially in Baghdad. As a result, General Casey requested additional forces to enable the Coalition to accomplish these tasks, and those forces began to flow in January.

In the ensuing months, our forces and our Iraqi counterparts have focused on improving security, especially in Baghdad and the areas around it, wresting sanctuaries from Al Qaeda control, and disrupting the efforts of the Iranian-supported militia extremists. We have employed counterinsurgency practices that underscore the importance of units living among the people they are securing, and accordingly, our forces have established dozens of joint security stations and patrol bases manned by Coalition and Iraqi forces in Baghdad and in other areas across Iraq.

In mid-June, with all the surge brigades in place, we launched a series of offensive operations focused on: expanding the gains achieved in the preceding months in Anbar Province; clearing Baqubah, several key Baghdad neighborhoods, the remaining sanctuaries in Anbar Province, and important areas in the so-called “belts” around Baghdad; and pursuing Al Qaeda in the Diyala River Valley and several other areas.

Throughout this period, as well, we engaged in dialogue with insurgent groups and tribes, and this led to additional elements standing up to oppose Al Qaeda and other extremists. We also continued to emphasize the development of the Iraqi Security Forces and we employed non-kinetic means to exploit the opportunities provided by the conduct of our kinetic operations – aided in this effort by the arrival of additional Provincial Reconstruction Teams.

Current Situation and Trends

The progress our forces have achieved with our Iraqi counterparts has, as I noted at the outset, been substantial. While there have been setbacks as well as successes and tough losses along the way, overall, our tactical commanders and I see improvements in the security environment. We do not, however, just rely on gut feel or personal observations; we also conduct considerable data collection and analysis to gauge progress and determine trends. We do this by gathering and refining data from coalition and Iraqi operations centers, using a methodology that has been in place for well over a year and that has benefited over the past seven months from the increased presence of our forces living among the Iraqi people. We endeavor to ensure our analysis of that data is conducted with rigor and consistency, as our ability to achieve a nuanced understanding of the security environment is dependent on collecting and analyzing data in a consistent way over time. Two US intelligence agencies recently reviewed our methodology, and they concluded that the data we produce is the most accurate and authoritative in Iraq.

As I mentioned up front, and as the chart before you reflects, the level of security incidents has decreased significantly since the start of the surge of offensive operations in mid-June, declining in 8 of the past 12 weeks, with the level of incidents in the past two weeks the lowest since June 2006 and with the number of attacks this past week the lowest since April 2006.

Civilian deaths of all categories, less natural causes, have also declined considerably, by over 45% Iraq-wide since the height of the sectarian violence in December. This is shown by the top line on this chart, and the decline by some 70% in Baghdad is shown by the bottom line. Periodic mass casualty attacks by Al Qaeda have tragically added to the numbers outside Baghdad, in particular. Even without the sensational attacks, however, the level of civilian deaths is clearly still too high and continues to be of serious concern.

As the next chart shows, the number of ethno-sectarian deaths, an important subset of the overall civilian casualty figures, has also declined significantly since the height of the sectarian violence in December. Iraq-wide, as shown by the top line on this chart, the number of ethno-sectarian deaths has come down by over 55%, and it would have come down much further were it not for the casualties inflicted by barbaric Al Qaeda bombings attempting to reignite sectarian violence. In Baghdad, as the bottom line shows, the number of ethno-sectarian deaths has come down by some 80% since December. This chart also displays the density of sectarian incidents in various Baghdad neighborhoods and it both reflects the progress made in reducing ethno-sectarian violence in the Iraqi capital and identifies the areas that remain the most challenging.

As we have gone on the offensive in former Al Qaeda and insurgent sanctuaries, and as locals have increasingly supported our efforts, we have found a substantially increased number of arms, ammunition, and explosives caches. As this chart shows, we have, so far this year, already found

and cleared over 4,400 caches, nearly 1,700 more than we discovered in all of last year. This may be a factor in the reduction in the number of overall improvised explosive device attacks in recent months, which as this chart shows, has declined sharply, by about one-third, since June.

The change in the security situation in Anbar Province has, of course, been particularly dramatic. As this chart shows, monthly attack levels in Anbar have declined from some 1,350 in October 2006 to a bit over 200 in August of this year. This dramatic decrease reflects the significance of the local rejection of Al Qaeda and the newfound willingness of local Anbaris to volunteer to serve in the Iraqi Army and Iraqi Police Service. As I noted earlier, we are seeing similar actions in other locations, as well.

To be sure, trends have not been uniformly positive across Iraq, as is shown by this chart depicting violence levels in several key Iraqi provinces. The trend in Ninevah Province, for example, has been much more up and down, until a recent decline, and the same is true in Sala ad Din Province, though recent trends there and in Baghdad have been in the right direction. In any event, the overall trajectory in Iraq – a steady decline of incidents in the past three months – is still quite significant.

The number of car bombings and suicide attacks has also declined in each of the past 5 months, from a high of some 175 in March, as this chart shows, to about 90 this past month. While this trend in recent months has been heartening, the number of high profile attacks is still too high, and we continue to work hard to destroy the networks that carry out these barbaric attacks.

Our operations have, in fact, produced substantial progress against Al Qaeda and its affiliates in Iraq. As this chart shows, in the past 8 months, we have considerably reduced the areas in which Al Qaeda enjoyed sanctuary. We have also neutralized 5 media cells, detained the senior Iraqi leader of Al Qaeda-Iraq, and killed or captured nearly 100 other key leaders and some 2,500 rank-and-file fighters. Al Qaeda is certainly not defeated; however, it is off balance and we are pursuing its leaders and operators aggressively. Of note, as the recent National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq explained, these gains against Al Qaeda are a result of the synergy of actions by: conventional forces to deny the terrorists sanctuary; intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance assets to find the enemy; and special operations elements to conduct targeted raids. A combination of these assets is necessary to prevent the creation of a terrorist safe haven in Iraq.

In the past six months we have also targeted Shia militia extremists, capturing a number of senior leaders and fighters, as well as the deputy commander of Lebanese Hezbollah Department 2800, the organization created to support the training, arming, funding, and, in some cases, direction of the militia extremists by the Iranian Republican Guard Corps’ Qods Force. These elements have assassinated and kidnapped Iraqi governmental leaders, killed and wounded our soldiers with advanced explosive devices provided by Iran, and indiscriminately rocketed civilians in the International Zone and elsewhere. It is increasingly apparent to both Coalition and Iraqi leaders that Iran, through the use of the Qods Force, seeks to turn the Iraqi Special Groups into a Hezbollah-like force to serve its interests and fight a proxy war against the Iraqi state and coalition forces in Iraq.

The most significant development in the past six months likely has been the increasing emergence of tribes and local citizens rejecting Al Qaeda and other extremists. This has, of course, been most visible in Anbar Province. A year ago the province was assessed as “lost” politically. Today, it is a model of what happens when local leaders and citizens decide to oppose Al Qaeda and reject its Taliban-like ideology. While Anbar is unique and the model it provides cannot be replicated everywhere in Iraq, it does demonstrate the dramatic change in security that is possible with the support and participation of local citizens. As this chart shows, other tribes have been inspired by the actions of those in Anbar and have volunteered to fight extremists as well. We have, in coordination with the Iraqi government’s National Reconciliation Committee, been engaging these tribes and groups of local citizens who want to oppose extremists and to contribute to local security. Some 20,000 such individuals are already being hired for the Iraqi Police, thousands of others are being assimilated into the Iraqi Army, and thousands more are vying for a spot in Iraq’s Security Forces.

Iraqi Security Forces

As I noted earlier, Iraqi Security Forces have continued to grow, to develop their capabilities, and to shoulder more of the burden of providing security for their country. Despite concerns about sectarian influence, inadequate logistics and supporting institutions, and an insufficient number of qualified commissioned and non-commissioned officers, Iraqi units are engaged around the country.

As this chart shows, there are now nearly 140 Iraqi Army, National Police, and Special Operations Forces Battalions in the fight, with about 95 of those capable of taking the lead in operations, albeit with some coalition support. Beyond that, all of Iraq’s battalions have been heavily involved in combat operations that often result in the loss of leaders, soldiers, and equipment. These losses are among the shortcomings identified by operational readiness assessments, but we should not take from these assessments the impression that Iraqi forces are not in the fight and contributing. Indeed, despite their shortages, many Iraqi units across Iraq now operate with minimal coalition assistance.

As counterinsurgency operations require substantial numbers of boots on the ground, we are helping the Iraqis expand the size of their security forces. Currently, there are some 445,000 individuals on the payrolls of Iraq’s Interior and Defense Ministries. Based on recent decisions by Prime Minister Maliki, the number of Iraq’s security forces will grow further by the end of this year, possibly by as much as 40,000. Given the security challenges Iraq faces, we support this decision, and we will work with the two security ministries as they continue their efforts to expand their basic training capacity, leader development programs, logistical structures and elements, and various other institutional capabilities to support the substantial growth in Iraqi forces.

Significantly, in 2007, Iraq will, as in 2006, spend more on its security forces than it will receive in security assistance from the United States. In fact, Iraq is becoming one of the United States’ larger foreign military sales customers, committing some $1.6 billion to FMS already, with the possibility of up to $1.8 billion more being committed before the end of this year. And I appreciate the attention that some members of Congress have recently given to speeding up the FMS process for Iraq.

To summarize, the security situation in Iraq is improving, and Iraqis elements are slowly taking on more of the responsibility for protecting their citizens. Innumerable challenges lie ahead; however, Coalition and Iraqi Security Forces have made progress toward achieving sustainable security. As a result, the United States will be in a position to reduce its forces in Iraq in the months ahead.

Recommendations

Two weeks ago I provided recommendations for the way ahead in Iraq to the members of my chain of command and the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The essence of the approach I recommended is captured in its title: “Security While Transitioning: From Leading to Partnering to Overwatch.” This approach seeks to build on the security improvements our troopers and our Iraqi counterparts have fought so hard to achieve in recent months. It reflects recognition of the importance of securing the population and the imperative of transitioning responsibilities to Iraqi institutions and Iraqi forces as quickly as possible, but without rushing to failure. It includes substantial support for the continuing development of Iraqi Security Forces. It also stresses the need to continue the counterinsurgency strategy that we have been employing, but with Iraqis gradually shouldering more of the load. And it highlights the importance of regional and global diplomatic approaches. Finally, in recognition of the fact that this war is not only being fought on the ground in Iraq but also in cyberspace, it also notes the need to contest the enemy’s growing use of that important medium to spread extremism.

The recommendations I provided were informed by operational and strategic considerations. The operational considerations include recognition that:

• military aspects of the surge have achieved progress and generated momentum;

• Iraqi Security Forces have continued to grow and have slowly been shouldering more of the security burden in Iraq;

• a mission focus on either population security or transition alone will not be adequate to achieve our objectives;

• success against Al Qaeda-Iraq and Iranian-supported militia extremists requires conventional forces as well as special operations forces; and

• the security and local political situations will enable us to draw down the surge forces.

My recommendations also took into account a number of strategic considerations:

• political progress will take place only if sufficient security exists;

• long-term US ground force viability will benefit from force reductions as the surge runs its course;

• regional, global, and cyberspace initiatives are critical to success; and

• Iraqi leaders understandably want to assume greater sovereignty in their country, although, as they recently announced, they do desire continued presence of coalition forces in Iraq in 2008 under a new UN Security Council Resolution and, following that, they want to negotiate a long term security agreement with the United States and other nations.

Based on these considerations, and having worked the battlefield geometry with Lieutenant General Ray Odierno to ensure that we retain and build on the gains for which our troopers have fought, I have recommended a drawdown of the surge forces from Iraq. In fact, later this month, the Marine Expeditionary Unit deployed as part of the surge will depart Iraq. Beyond that, if my recommendations are approved, that unit’s departure will be followed by the withdrawal of a brigade combat team without replacement in mid-December and the further redeployment without replacement of four other brigade combat teams and the two surge Marine battalions in the first 7 months of 2008, until we reach the pre-surge level of 15 brigade combat teams by mid-July 2008.

I would also like to discuss the period beyond next summer. Force reductions will continue beyond the pre-surge levels of brigade combat teams that we will reach by mid-July 2008; however, in my professional judgment, it would be premature to make recommendations on the pace of such reductions at this time. In fact, our experience in Iraq has repeatedly shown that projecting too far into the future is not just difficult, it can be misleading and even hazardous. The events of the past six months underscore that point. When I testified in January, for example, no one would have dared to forecast that Anbar Province would have been transformed the way it has in the past 6 months. Nor would anyone have predicted that volunteers in one-time Al Qaeda strongholds like Ghazaliyah in western Baghdad or in Adamiya in eastern Baghdad would seek to join the fight against Al Qaeda. Nor would we have anticipated that a Shia-led government would accept significant numbers of Sunni volunteers into the ranks of the local police force in Abu Ghraib. Beyond that, on a less encouraging note, none of us earlier this year appreciated the extent of Iranian involvement in Iraq, something about which we and Iraq’s leaders all now have greater concern.

In view of this, I do not believe it is reasonable to have an adequate appreciation for the pace of further reductions and mission adjustments beyond the summer of 2008 until about mid-March of next year. We will, no later than that time, consider factors similar to those on which I based the current recommendations, having by then, of course, a better feel for the security situation, the improvements in the capabilities of our Iraqi counterparts, and the enemy situation. I will then, as I did in developing the recommendations I have explained here today, also take into consideration the demands on our Nation’s ground forces, although I believe that that consideration should once again inform, not drive, the recommendations I make.

This chart captures the recommendations I have described, showing the recommended reduction of brigade combat teams as the surge runs its course and illustrating the concept of our units adjusting their missions and transitioning responsibilities to Iraqis, as the situation and Iraqi capabilities permit. It also reflects the no-later-than date for recommendations on force adjustments beyond next summer and provides a possible approach we have considered for the future force structure and mission set in Iraq.

One may argue that the best way to speed the process in Iraq is to change the MNF-I mission from one that emphasizes population security, counter-terrorism, and transition, to one that is

strictly focused on transition and counter-terrorism. Making that change now would, in our view, be premature. We have learned before that there is a real danger in handing over tasks to the Iraqi Security Forces before their capacity and local conditions warrant. In fact, the drafters of the recently released National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq recognized this danger when they wrote, and I quote, “We assess that changing the mission of Coalition forces from a primarily counterinsurgency and stabilization role to a primary combat support role for Iraqi forces and counterterrorist operations to prevent AQI from establishing a safe haven would erode security gains achieved thus far.”

In describing the recommendations I have made, I should note again that, like Ambassador Crocker, I believe Iraq’s problems will require a long-term effort. There are no easy answers or quick solutions. And though we both believe this effort can succeed, it will take time. Our assessments underscore, in fact, the importance of recognizing that a premature drawdown of our forces would likely have devastating consequences.

That assessment is supported by the findings of a 16 August Defense Intelligence Agency report on the implications of a rapid withdrawal of US forces from Iraq. Summarizing it in an unclassified fashion, it concludes that a rapid withdrawal would result in the further release of the strong centrifugal forces in Iraq and produce a number of dangerous results, including a high risk of disintegration of the Iraqi Security Forces; rapid deterioration of local security initiatives; Al Qaeda-Iraq regaining lost ground and freedom of maneuver; a marked increase in violence and further ethno-sectarian displacement and refugee flows; alliances of convenience by Iraqi groups with internal and external forces to gain advantages over their rivals; and exacerbation of already challenging regional dynamics, especially with respect to Iran.

Lieutenant General Odierno and I share this assessment and believe that the best way to secure our national interests and avoid an unfavorable outcome in Iraq is to continue to focus our operations on securing the Iraqi people while targeting terrorist groups and militia extremists and, as quickly as conditions are met, transitioning security tasks to Iraqi elements.

Closing Comments

Before closing, I want to thank you and your colleagues for your support of our men and women in uniform in Iraq. The Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen with whom I’m honored to serve are the best equipped and, very likely, the most professional force in our nation’s history. Impressively, despite all that has been asked of them in recent years, they continue to raise their right hands and volunteer to stay in uniform. With three weeks to go in this fiscal year, in fact, the Army elements in Iraq, for example, have achieved well over 130% of the reenlistment goals in the initial term and careerist categories and nearly 115% in the mid-career category. All of us appreciate what you have done to ensure that these great troopers have had what they’ve needed to accomplish their mission, just as we appreciate what you have done to take care of their families, as they, too, have made significant sacrifices in recent years.

The advances you have underwritten in weapons systems and individual equipment; in munitions; in command, control, and communications systems; in intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities; in vehicles and counter-IED systems and programs; and in manned

and unmanned aircraft have proven invaluable in Iraq. The capabilities that you have funded most recently – especially the vehicles that will provide greater protection against improvised explosive devices – are also of enormous importance. Additionally, your funding of the Commander’s Emergency Response Program has given our leaders a critical tool with which to prosecute the counterinsurgency campaign. Finally, we appreciate as well your funding of our new detention programs and rule of law initiatives in Iraq.

In closing, it remains an enormous privilege to soldier again in Iraq with America’s new “Greatest Generation.” Our country’s men and women in uniform have done a magnificent job in the most complex and challenging environment imaginable. All Americans should be very proud of their sons and daughters serving in Iraq today.

Thank you very much.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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19 Comments

  • What a magnificent presentation by both General Patraeus and Amb. Crocker! and what an assinine set of questions that followed. The General and the Amb showed that they are truly professionals; I’m not sure who let that bunch of rabble in that were seated behind the bench.

  • Makes me sick

    For the past several days, Democratic representatives, senators, and their allied groups have been trying to shape the American public’s conclusions about the efficacy of the surge strategy before General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker could even give…

  • Gerry says:

    Unfortunately most of congress has shown itself to be no more than fancy trailer trash. It will be difficult to see if an intellegent presentation of the actual situation will have any effect.

  • I thought this was really funny, and I’ll be adding GWOT updates to same over the weekend and on through Monday

    My Wintry friend sent me this Friday, not actually from the former Canal Zone, but … Anyhow, here it is:
    HEADLINES FROM THE YEAR: 2029
    Ozone created by electric cars now killing millions in the seventh largest country in the world,┬áMexifornia, f…

  • TS Alfabet says:

    Excellent presentation by the General.
    In an ideal world, I wish that he could have emphasized even more strongly the war we are waging with Iran, now, in Iraq. Given the level of infiltration and influence by Qods Force in southern Iraq, and given the drawdown of pull-back of British forces there, U.S. forces will have to get involved in Basra in a big way. With Anbar stabilizing, we could have re-directed the Marines to the south to combat Iranian forces. Now that the General has announced the intended withdrawal of those forces, it will be very difficult to use them in the south.

  • DJ Elliott says:

    TS
    I suspect elements will go to fill in for the UK.
    I know IA elements are:
    “The plan is to link up with another IA wheeled division outside of Basra and use the armor assets of 3/9th IA as a show of force.” http://www.blackanthem.com/News/Military_News_1/Wagonmasters_plan_move_3_9_IA_armor_to_Basra9994.shtml
    First Brigade sized out-of-area deployment for 9th Division. 3-9 Tank Brigade enr Basrah

  • Andrew R. says:

    The military progress that Petraeus has made is fantastic. Dawa and SIIC really, really need to do something, anything that gives Iraq’s Sunnis a sense of being invested in their current government.

  • Alex says:

    As Michael Yon eloquently put it, Congress looks like a circus right now. But, that happens every four years with elections.
    My commentary, for what it’s worth, is that the testimony bought some time, and it just may be enough to disrupt AQI to the point of irrelevancy, put a big enough dent in JAM, and let IA/IP get their logistical and command structures in order. We’ll have to see.

  • Neo says:

    What I immediately noticed about the Petraeus report is how careful it is. He sticks to very concrete findings and metrics to make his case. What was needed for this presentation was an unassailable case that there has been solid progress made toward securing Baghdad and central Iraq. He doesn’t need to hit a home run to secure the needed votes from congress to continue the current strategy.
    I think it could be argued that there is a additional body of evidence supporting the momentum of current operations that Petraeus isn’t using to make his public case. The problem is much of this evidence is softer and would probably only create contention.
    For instance, Anbar is sighted as a model for counterinsurgency operations in Sunni areas. The secure area in Anbar has been solidly expanding for the last six months. The province could have been sited as an obvious example opf progress any time in the last few months. The criticism presented against it is that it may not be replicable elsewhere in Iraq especially in mixed Sunni – Shiite areas. Against that argument there is plentiful evidence that arrangements with local Sunni populations are being made throughout the Western, Northern, and Southern outskirts of Baghdad. This is already contributing to improving security in Western Baghdad. Unfortunately, this is a much harder case to make. You would have to pretty much go into operational detail and a history on each part of the area to show how it is progressing. The situation is a very fluid one and presenting unassailable evidence for security improvement for Western Baghdad can only be done in the most general way without getting into arguments over continuing levels of infiltration and sectarian violence.
    The report mentions the Diyala campaign as part of overall progress but only touches on the significance of the fight there. The fight in Diyala went much more smoothly than anyone dared imagine. It is clear that Al Qaeda and the Sunni insurgency don’t have the fight they had only a year ago. Compare to the tough battles from earlier in the war, Fallujah I & II, the following battle for Mosul, a two year campaign to take the Ramadi area, continuous fight in the triangle of death south of Baghdad. The Sunni insurgency can’t take continuous pressure everywhere and was in no condition to offer any real defense of Baqubah. They were forced to withdraw much of their force before the fight even began and have not been able to really dig in elsewhere.
    The cities of Northern Iraq are another area in which soft intelligence supports progress. Al Qaeda has clearly been attempting to increase their infiltration of Northern Iraq’s cities. This is supported not only by an up-tick in the amount of fighting but by the kind of people being captured and killed. We have been picking up lots of trainers, facilitators, recruitment and media people. It’s also obvious that we have penetrated these networks and the life expectancy for leaders in the area is very short.
    Critics like to take the position that any gains are only temporary if they exist at all, that US forces are stretched past capacity, and that the Iraqi army is useless and will remain so. Contrast with that the fact that US forces have just begun a new large-scale operation to push into rural Sunni problem areas in Northern Iraq, continuing operations to clean up problem areas in Baghdad and south of Baghdad. The Iraqi Army is increasing its presence around Basra and Karbala in the South. Who know,s we might also get a break or two in our favor such as the Mahdi army standing down. I even had a hard time believing that one.
    There is plenty of evidence supporting continued progress and the pace of operations. This is contrasted with the much slower recovery expected for a traumatized Iraqi populous. Recovery will lag far behind with lingering secular tensions, factional infighting, deteriorated and sabotaged infrastructure, ineffective and inept government, and a populous that can trust no one.

  • MattR says:

    Has anyone noticed what hasn’t happened recently? I was expecting the last week to a month before this report to be full of high profile attacks by AQ. Yet there’s been nothing. Even Petraeus expected it. If all AQ has is the ability to influence our newspapers, and they can’t do anything right before such an important report, then aren’t they collapsing?

    How’s the Mahdi army in this process of overstaying their welcome and encouraging groups to reach out to the MNF? Crocker said the same type of thing was happening with the Shiites as with the Sunnis. It’s just later and not quite the same. Can someone fill in the details? It seems to me that Sadr is in the same dead end position AQ is in because they can’t offer what the people really want. If they try and fight they’ll loose support just like AQ and if they try being peaceful then they’ll just get pushed aside as they have no resources to build society. Am I over simplifying this?

  • David m says:

    Trackbacked by The Thunder Run – Web Reconnaissance for 09/11/2007
    A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention, updated throughout the day…so check back often.
    Today highlighting 9/11 posts, along with other must read info from around the net.

  • Neo says:

    “If all AQ has is the ability to influence our newspapers, and they can’t do anything right before such an important report, then aren’t they collapsing?”

  • mxpwr03 says:

    General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker did a fine job when compared to past testimonies, and I’ve been watching these hearings since the days when Rumsfeld, Myers, & Casey filled those seats. I think Neo has the analysis dead on with the observation that the General did not need to hit a home-run only buy six more months for another round of developments. If the next six months are as productive as the past six months, even though the Baghdad Security Operation hit full strength about 2 months ago, I think force levels could be reduced even more, or at a quicker pace, than the General predicts.
    One thing that the opponents in the Congress really seemed to miss was the rise of local politics and reconciliation, as a primer for national political progress. Granted that national political progress is easier to measure, any astute reader of what occurs on the micro-level of Iraq can see progress (Thanks for the longwarjournal.org for contributing towards that endeavor). The role of the neighborhood watches, organizations that seem to be called “militias” by some Congressmen, is a large step forward even though the INP continues to suffer from lack-luster results.
    MattR: I think Amb. Crocker is referring to the increased Shi’a participation in local “neighborhood watch” programs in Babil, which I think i read about here. Below is some running ideas on the role of JAM over the next 6 months.
    One part of the COIN strategy that seemed to not be in the spot light as much is the stance taken on JAM. Crocker had an interesting comment regarding that the elements of JAM who do not cede to Muqtada’s call for restraint now have a giant target on their chest. If Muqtada (1) maintains the ceasefire, (2) understands and accepts the radical elements of the JAM will be dealt with, (3) and starts to integrate his forces in a positive fashion into Iraqi society this development could have lasting effects. The first assumption depends on his sincerity and I wouldn’t assign a high expectation probability to that outcome, however one has to believe that members of the Da’wa Party, SIIC, & INL are exerting tremendous pressure on him and his organization. (2) I think Muqtada has come to the realization that he and his movement are power players in Iraq and this reality is now acknowledged by his Shi’a opponents; therefore, assuming that Muqtada feels he can gain more favor and legitimacy by dropping his fringe elements (which served his political purposes of the past) he may go along with assumption (2). (3) Finally, the question of how to utilize this newfound political legitimacy and power comes to light, and if the MNF-I can setup, lead, prod, encourage the JAM to join the local political/security process, this development could be a large step forward, and certainly seems obtainable over the next six months. Here’s hoping.
    A question for every: Since General Petreaus does not have the political freedom to tell us his estimates on Slide 14, what are your guys’ thoughts on the months/years for Leading to Partnering to Overwatch?
    I’m thinkin 2/08 he’ll announce plans for 5/08 to get to the 2nd highest bar, than 9/08 announcement to get to the 3rd highest bar in 12/08, 3/09 announcement to get to the 4th highest bar in 6/09, than after that maybe 6 to 12 more months for the 5th highest, than finally for the last bar 10-20 years. Regardless of the dates, it seems to me that the DNC’s dream of legislating a complete withdraw anytime soon is unattainable.

  • greg says:

    very insightful comments, as usual for this site. I suspect that we will see the influence of AQI rapidly decline. If for no other reason than they don’t have anything to offer the people that appeals to them -other than to a very small percentage of nut jobs, which can be found in any culture. I think this is why Petraeus is going to be able to reduce troop levels and still be able to push into the Basra and Iranian border areas. The rogue shia may be a bigger problem than the sunnis in the near future. Putting a big fat US base on Irans border to help stop the flow of weapons to anti-govt forces sounds like an excellent idea. This will reassure the sunnis that Iran will not be able to annex southern Iraq and it will put a big cramp in Sadr’s style. And it could prove too tempting a target to the Quods force and provke them to launch a major attack. This would then give us the political cover for massive retaliation on Irans nuclear and military infrastructure. This carries risks to us and the region but I don’t think they are any greater than the risks of letting them continue as they have been. They have no allies now. Even Al Qaida hates the Persians. What’s not to love ?

  • cjr says:

    “Since General Petreaus does not have the political freedom to tell us his estimates on Slide 14, what are your guys’ thoughts on the months/years for Leading to Partnering to Overwatch?”
    I think the hard reality is the nobody has the slightest idea, not even Petraeus. It will be event based, and nobody has a reliable crystal ball.
    By not giving estiimates, Petraeus is not being secrative, he is being honest.

  • DJ Elliott says:

    cjr
    Concur.
    First two stages down to 10-12 could happen by end-2008 barring any further hickups. Beyond that is crystal ball, darts, dice and uijei board work…

  • Andrew R. says:

    Mxpwr,

    The big problem with “bottom up” reconciliation, though, is that at the top, it’s still Dawa and SIIC who control the oil spigots and who (more or less) control the Iraqi Army. The oil sharing thing has become something of a fetish in DC, but the worriers about it at least are pointing to the fact that if the Iraqi Sunnis don’t feel like they’re sharing on government services and the like, then they’re less likely to cooperate with Iraqi security forces.

    It’s also somewhat problematic that there’s some evidence that when certain Sunnis try and get their guys into the IA or IP’s, they tend to get stonewalled by the Defense and Interior Ministries.

  • mxpwr03 says:

    Andrew R:
    I understand the animosity between the central Iraqi government and the provincial government in al-Anbar or even the local government, however I think the question of where of where the causality lies is a big issue. (1) Does the Iraqi Government (national) distrust the Anbari Government (provincial or local) because of the fact that they live in Anbar, and the historical legacy (e.g. Saddam), cause the government to take an unproductive stance? Or (2) Does the Iraqi Government (national) distrust the Anbari Government (provincial or local) because of the actions taken in the recent past, e.g. supporting AQI and the mass casualty attacks. Certainly there is a mixture of both, however, if the cause is closer to (2) than (1) I think there is good reason to be optimistic over the next six months. Enough prodding by the U.S. to show that fears over situation (2) is misplaced could start a productive process along. Yet, if situation (1) continues to be the main cause behind the political thinking of the Shi’a majority, that Sunni power or the enablement of is a threat, progress could be a long time coming.

  • Richard says:

    Petraeus stated today he looks forward to going home…….. to Iraq. The ambassador and General are treated with more respect by the Iraqi’s then there fellow Americans. The defeatocrats are playing politics with American soldiers lives. They realize the success in Iraq will continue which will severely hinder there quest for more seats in the House, Senate as well as the Presidency.

Iraq

Islamic state

Syria

Aqap

Al shabaab

Boko Haram

Isis