Tag Archives: Surge

Will The Surge “Victory” Be A “Victory?”

There is increasing fear among many leaders in the US military regarding the long term success of the surge in guaranteeing the end of violence in Iraq. Defense Secretary Robert Gates recently raised the question as to whether “our gain are necessarily enduring.” Iraq leaders face many serious challenges, particularly in being able to create a unified government with the Sunnis who once ruled Iraq. Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, a leader in the Iraq Parliament, recently admitted; “we have to admit shortcomings in the practice of democracy. And we are seriously lacking in the spirit of consensus.”

Failure on the part of the Maliki government to bring Sunni Awakening Council fighters into the regular Iraq army or to ensure they have a strong voice in government, are symptoms of issues that will arise in more powerful ways once American troops have left the nation. The US says this group numbers about 10,000 but the Iraq government estimates it is about 50,000. The surge has accomplished certain tasks, but has it created conditions for a strong independent Iraq?

Bush-Get The Feeling, Want To Go, Want To Stay?

President Bush appears to want things both ways, he, and John McCain, would like to boast the famous surge has reduced violence, and he wants to boast troops will be coming home, but at the same time he wants to maintain more troops in Iraq than were present before the surge. He has absolutely no plan to deal with the war in Afghanistan except to say we need more troops. The rhetoric of the Bush-McCain coalition is that there is such a thing called “victory,” although that is never defined and, most probably, will never be achieved. Leaders in Iraq have consistently supported the idea proposed by Senator Obama that all American troops should be out as soon as possible, but Bush wants to keep them in place. At the core of the Republican position is everything must be done to support the candidacy of John McCain he wants the United States to “stay the course.”

Bush and McCain insist we have attained “victory.” The Iraq government is not cooperating with Sunnis who fought as part of Awakening Councils and, one can hypothesize that eventually will result in violence. The Taliban grow stronger every day and one can assume Senator McCain, if victorious, will be informing the American people we need another “surge” in Afghanistan to attain “victory.”

Afghanistan Surge In The Making?

The recent death of nine US soldiers who were killed at an isolated outpost in the mountains of Afghanistan has again raised the issue if there is a need for an Afghan surge. Taliban and al-Qaeda militants have become more aggressive and their ability to slip back and forth the Afghan border with Pakistan creates difficult logistical problems for dealing with the insurgency. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates indicated: “I think that we are clearly working very hard to see if there are opportunities to send additional forces sooner rather than late.” His comment indicates the Pentagon is working on contingency plans to shift troops from Iraq to Afghanistan. Admiral Mike Mullen, who recently returned from a trip to that area of the world noted: “It’s a tougher fight, it’s a more complex fight, and they need more troops to have the long-term impact that we wall want to have there.”

The reality is seven years have passed since American led forces defeated the Taliban and installed a new government in Kabul. Little has been done for seven years to develop an effective fighting force in Afghanistan or to place pressure on its government to undertake the needed reforms that would stimulate economic activity and lessen power of tribal lords. Afghanistan is NOT Iraq. Its geography is more suited to guerrilla warfare as Soviet troops learned during their battles in the country. A successful surge in one place does not guarantee it in another.

Is It Ever “Quitting Time” In Iraq?

Republican politicians were out in full force in Iraq, obviously not to fight, but to pontificate. As they chatted with Iraq politicians about the tremendous success of the “surge” a female suicide bomber was blowing herself up and killing 39 people while wounding 54. The violence came as Vice President Dick Cheney arrived in Baghdad and just missed Senator John McCain who left after securing enough photo ops to fill several TV commercials. Prime Minister Maliki had separate talks with the two Republican leaders since McCain most probably didn’t want to be photographed alongside the intensely disliked Dick Cheney. President Al-Maliki said he discussed long term security arrangements with Cheney. McCain stressed the importance of maintaining Amereica’s comitment in iraq. “We recognize that al-Qaida is on the run, but they are not defeated.

Cheney credited President Bush’s decision to dispatch more troops to Iraq for the reduction in the level of violence. However, he emphasized “it would be a mistake now to be so eager to draw down the forces that we risk putting the outcome in jeopardy.”

Of course, Vice President did not discuss why President Bush in 2003 refused to listen to the advice of General Shinseki who wanted more troops in Iraq. The Bush/Cheney arrogance is a factor in the needless deaths of thousands of American troops. Both Cheney and McCain insist it would be a mistake to quit before the job is done, but they never quite explain the exact meaning of what would constitute “victory.” Yes, violence is down in Baghdad, but the Iraq government has not established positive relations with Sunni Iraqis. The violence is down, but there is no indication an Iraq army can contain insurgent forces without help from American troops. Does this mean there will not be a “quitting time” in the forseeable future?

Sunni Attacks Rise In Abu Ghraib Area

There has been a modest but ever increasing rise in the number of attacks on U.S. troops in the Abu Ghraib area of Iraq. Although al-Qaeda has been driven away, a large Sunni resistance remains and is active. Many Sunnis have joined Sons of Iraq, an American sponsored group which is paid to maintain law and order. According to a Stars & Stripes reporter, “moreover, a pair of recent bomb attacks–one of which killed four U.S. soldiers– occurred within a few hundred yards of checkpoints manned by Sons of Iraq forces. Lt. Coplonel Mario Diaz, commander of the infantry battalion in the area, noted:”there’s a latent insurency that is capable of rearing its head.” He has been told by Sons of Iraq leaders about a growing frustration among Sunnis who distrust the Iraq government.

Preesident Bush and General Petraeus insist the surge has been successful in reducing attacks. Colonel Diaz says roadside bombs and small-arms fire are down from the previous year, but they have risen from November and December. Sunnis do not feel a sense of belonging to the Iraq government, and it is a matter of time before they turn toward insurgency. Of course, now they have arms supplied by the Americans to conduct a new series of militant attacks.

Did The Surge Succeed- An Evaluation!

A year ago many neighborhoods in Baghdad were controlled by militant forces, but twelve months later due to more troops, new allies, and a few lucky breaks the situation is not as dismal looking. Today’s problem is how to build on whatever success ensued over the past year, but, when one examines that issue, things do not appear as bright. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, is still struggling to create a viable government and bridge differences between Sunni and Shiites. The most fortunate aspect of the surge was inept policies by al-Qaeda which angered civilians by indiscriminate suicide bombing and creating ongoing terror that disrupted normal life. Many Sunni groups turned on al-Qaeda just as the surge began which proved to be among the most important factors in achieving success.

In all, 831 American troops died during the surge although a majority of the casualties occurred during the initial six months of the operation. Iraqi civilian casualties are now closer to what they were in 2005. An unexpected factor is the role of Iran which supposedly supports the current Iraq government. Iranian agents no longer give unqualified support to the Mahdi army of al-Sadr. There is still an Iranian presence and its agents continue supporting various groups within Iraq. It has most probably thrown its support behind the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council of Abdu-Aziz al-Hakim, the nation’s most powerful Shiite leader.

US Foces Depart From Iraq Town-AlQaeda Enters

General Petraeus has boasted of reduction in deaths of American soldiers as a result of the surge. There is even some speculation this success might result in withdrawal of some American forces from Iraq. But, according to the Iraq newspaper, Azzaman, the departure of US troops from the strategic town of Tuz Khormato led to the immediate entrry of al-Qaeda units which stepped into the vacuum created by not having Americans to fight. Iraq members of parliament are concerned that as US troops leave it may simply be too great an attraction to militants who would step in to run towns that had been cleared of their presence. One parliamentary group issued a statement about their concerns: “The tragic and horrific events in Tuz Khormato only a few days following the withdrawal of the multi-national forces(US military) is a clear indicator of how ill prepared and weak the army and security forces are.”

President Bush is attempting to claim credit for success in Iraq due to reduction of death figures for American troops. But, the surge was, in theory, a means to achieve the ends of Iraqis running their own country. The example of Tuz Khormato suggests the surge is a long way from accomplishing its goal of not merely reducing death figures but of building an Iraq armed force that can handle terrorism in their own nation.

Surge Still Not Working In Fallujah

Fallujah was a militant stronghold and it has been quiet for months, but the success of the Surge still depends on creating conditions within the city that make its inhabitants feel confident peace will remain on a long term basis. Although Marines have not fired ashot in combat in nearly three months, basic facilities within the city are still not operating. Hamaed Ahmed, an influential tribal sheik, points out, “the government in Baghdad always said they couldn’t help because Fallujah was too dangerous and too filled with terroriists. Now Fallujah is more secure than Baghdad– and still there is no help.” According to Ahmed Rija al-Essavy, a Fallujah city councilman, “If Fallujah is ignored, if there is no forward proress now, the city will go back to how things were.”

The list of problems in the city is long and complex. Unemployment is about 70%, schools are overcrowded, fuel is too expensive and there is lack of power to fuel basic necessities. Iraq’s government claims it is just starting the task of restoring basic necessities, but even that may not be sufficient if people lack jobs and their children are unable to obtain a good education. President Bush, as always, emphasizes the wrong things about Iraq. Killing militants in itself will not lead to creation of a vibrant Iraq. He has never been able to understand the importance of political and economic action.

Iraq Sources Claim Surge Is Not Surging

According to an editorial in the Iraq newspaper, the situation in Iraq has grown worse despite American claims things are improving. “The security situation in Baghdad is deteriorating very quickly…The synchronized bombing of churches in three major cities in the country–Baghdad, Mosul and Kirkuk- and the ostensible surge in bomb attacks targeting U.S. supported Arab Sunni militias, government targets, and U.S. Marines are indications of worsening security conditions despite Iraqi government efforts to present a different picture.” Azzaman notes that two million people have fled Iraq and at least one in four people in Baghdad have moved to another neighborhood to escape harassment and death.

The US government insists things are improving in Iraq. They probably are witnessing fewer deaths of American soldiers, but the basic life situation may not have witnessed significant improvement. Baghdad and other m ajor cities continually experience lack of electricity and shipments of oil and electricity have been sharply curtailed by Kuwait and Turkey. The surge’s final outcome is still to be evaluated.

From Fighting To Building, Says Petraeus

In an end-of-the-year letter to his troops, General Petraeus told them military factors had significantly improved which allows a new focus on nation building. He urged the troops to work on helping Iraqis obtain jobs, revitalize markets, build schools and provide needed services. At present the inhabitants of Baghdad are only obtaining enough electricity 11 hours out of the day which is not sufficient for develop a vibrant economy. Petraeus also believes the United States must urge political reform on the Iraqi government. However, the commander also recognized there are many military problems such as growing militancy in north Iraq as insurgents have left the city of Baghdad to fight elsewhere.

For some unusual reason, Petraeus did not focus on the deteriorating situation in south Iraq where Basra has now virtually become a city controlled by competing militia groups. There is something ironic in this letter. Years ago President Bush and his administration was urged by Middle Eastern experts to focus on political reform and exploring alternative solutions to the wide differences between Sunni and Shiites in Iraq, but these ideas were brushed aside in the euphoria of overthrowing Saddam Hussein. General Petraeus means well, but it doesn’t make sense to ask American troops to deal with political issues, such action depends upon an Iraqi Shiite government which intends to pursue policies that block Sunnis and to maintain control. Frankly, after four years, the reality is that Iraq is still a divided nation which would probably benefit more from a federal structure in which Sunnis govern Sunnis, Shiites govern themselves, and Kurds continue their independent process of governing.

At no place in his letter does General Petraeus deal with the growing loss of power faced by Iraqi women living in a fundamentalist Muslim nation that is the outgrowth of the destruction of the Saddam Hussein dictatorship. Hundreds of thousands of Christians have fled and will probably never return. Secular Iraqis have been crushed by a government which allows fundamentalists to govern and impose their will upon the population. How can American troops deal with such conditions?