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A quick clip from MG Caldwell's Baghdad briefing yesterday:
"First, it will take time for all the additional troops being deployed to arrive and begin operations. Additional Iraqi and American troops comprising the, quote, "surge" will not be completely in place until late May."The point? People who know what's going on are now using quotation marks even when they say "surge".
Here are the General's remarks pertinent to the "surge". The vast majority of the questions that followed were regarding Iranian weapons and Quds troops in Iraq. I suspect the media - in spite of vigorous denials by the administration - is trying to portray the US as on the brink of war with Iran. This allows Democrats - and Hillary Clinton in particular - to vociferously oppose this non-existent war. (To be fair, this also gets some conservatives very excited over the prospect of "taking out" Iran - their hopes will be dashed.)
By the way, reporters were so fixated on this issue they missed a more significant bit of intel regarding security operations in Iraq: "...we're all operating under the same instructions from General Abboud". That would be Lieutenant General Abboud Gambar of the Iraqi Army.
GEN. CALDWELL: Good afternoon. "A-salaam aleikum." Although operations to secure Baghdad have continued over the past several months, last night the government of Iraq announced the beginning of the new buildup called Operation Fard al-Kanun (ph), which roughly translates into Operation Law and Order. This new iteration of the Baghdad security plan is Iraqi-conceived and Iraqi- led. It is an evolution of the previous phases with specific enhancements being made in the political, military and economic spheres based on lessons learned from the past operations.
Politically, Prime Minister Maliki's government has taken full ownership of this plan and is making a clear political commitment to its success. A resolution supporting this new strategy was unanimously endorsed by the Council of Representatives. Prime Minister Maliki has instructed his security forces that there will no longer be any political interference in military operations. Iraqi commanders have also been assured no neighborhood and no target is off limits.
Militarily, the first additional Iraqi forces and the first of five additional U.S. brigades have arrived in Baghdad and are conducting operations. General Petraeus is adamant that to win this conflict we have to protect the population. Consequently, Iraqi army, Iraqi police, and coalition forces will actually live together in joint security stations throughout Baghdad in order to be closer to the Iraqi people that they are protecting. The additional forces will also enable us to create more transition teams to assist, teach, mentor and coach the Iraqi security forces. There will be both an increase in the number and size of the teams, and they will reach down to the lower-level units within the Iraqi army and police units.
The non-military aspects of the plan have been strengthened as well. On February 8th, the Council of Representatives approved a new Iraqi budget that includes $10 billion for economic development programs such as refurbishing state-owned enterprises and assisting small businesses through microfinancing. This week the first state- owned enterprise won a competitive U.S. government procurement bid for $44 million to provide the new Iraqi army uniforms.
To assist in getting this money into Baghdad's districts, Provincial Reconstruction Teams consisting of State, USAID, U.S. military and Iraqi culture advisers will work directly for each of the U.S. military brigade commanders.
While there is cause for optimism, there are several reasons why -- need to be patient with this new strategy.
First, it will take time for all the additional troops being deployed to arrive and begin operations. Additional Iraqi and American troops comprising the, quote, "surge" will not be completely in place until late May.
Second, the non-kinetic efforts will take time to produce effects on the streets of Baghdad. The government of Iraq's economic development program, for example, places greater emphasis on long-term job creation, rather than make-work programs.
Finally, most of Iraq's problems are systemic and will not be turned around immediately because of the new security plan. The key to solving Iraq's problems, whether militarily, economic or political, is leadership -- Iraqi leadership, to be precise.
Much of the criticism of Prime Minister Maliki's government forgets that it is still less than 10 months old, trying to undo the damage caused by 35 years of brutal, corrupt dictatorship. This government, along with the Council of Representatives, is learning as it goes and will not discover solutions to the complex problems facing Iraq overnight.
Similarly, Iraqi security forces have improved since last year. Iraqi forces continue to gain in confidence and capability, and understand that they need to work to gain the trust of all Iraqis' ethnic and sectarian communities. Yet Iraqi forces still suffer from deficiencies in leadership, logistics, intelligence and, in some cases, loyalty. It will take more than two months to solve these problems.
While it is understandable that much of the focus of the media attention remains on Baghdad, successful operations continue in other parts of Iraq as well. On February 11th, Iraqi security forces conducted a raid near Baqubah that resulted in seven anti-Iraqi forces being killed and 27 detained, with only one Iraqi army casualty. And in Samarra, a series of caches consisting -- over 550 live rounds, of more than 1,200 pounds of explosives, was discovered and destroyed. And last night and continuing through this morning coalition forces detained 27 suspected terrorists doing a series of coordinated raids targeting al Qaeda in Iraq network. Twenty of these suspected terrorists were captured in Ramadi where ground forces also seized several weapons, computers and electronic equipment doing these operations.
Finally, this is the first media roundtable since General David Petraeus took command of the Multinational Force Iraq. General Petraeus brings a tremendous amount of energy, wisdom and enthusiasm tempered by the reality on the ground as to this mission. In his first week back, he has already conducted extensive talks with the government of Iraq, spent two days on the streets of Baghdad and visited coalition and Iraqi leaders throughout the country. He said that although some things about Iraq are worse than when he left in 2005, he also sees some encouraging trends such as the growth of the Iraqi ministries, Iraqis growing intelligence capabilities, a willingness to take on the perpetrators of sectarian violence and the cooperation between Iraq's conventional and special forces. He was also impressed by what he saw in Anbar province, particularly the progress that he's seen starting to be made in Ramadi.
As General Petraeus noted on Saturday when he took command, although many significant challenges lay ahead, he said, quote, "hard is not hopeless," unquote. Rebuilding and securing Iraq will be a total team effort requiring the cooperation of the government of Iraq, the U.S. government, coalition forces and the Multinational Force Iraq. While the recent measures announced by the government of Iraq are a step in the right direction, it would be a mistake if expectations are raised so high that people give up on the new strategy prematurely. The enhanced iteration of the Baghdad security plan needs to be given time to work.
And with that, I'll be glad to take whatever questions you have.
Q Owen Walson(sp), BBC.
Are you still confident the security plan is going to work, given the fact that you've given your enemies, the insurgents or militias, so much notice that you're coming? I mean, this plan has been talked about since the president first spoke about it. We've heard numerous announcements that it's going to look like this in terms of division of Baghdad. The militias, in some cases, have just disappeared, I mean, across the border or out of Baghdad. Is it going to really work when your enemy has basically fled the city?
GEN. CALDWELL: The difference this time in the Iraqi security plan is, you know, as we've discussed before, is there's three aspects. It's not just a military plan; there's the political and economic piece associated with it. Unlike any time before when we have worked to deliver a plan in the city, this time, it truly is -- the Iraqis have put forth a political will. They are demonstrating the political will to follow through and make the tough commitment.
The fact that the prime minister on January 25th went and talked to the council representatives and laid out the principles of this plan to them, and then there is a overwhelming majority vote that voted in favor of those principles, of which a key aspect is no political interference with military commanders conducting their operations within the city, and the fact that there are no off-limit areas either within the city -- so there is an incredible political will this time that we have not seen before.
When you look at the prime minister talking to his military commanders on February 6th, which they broadcast live on Iraqi Arabic TV -- I mean, you saw a commander standing up there, a commander in chief, being very deliberate, very thorough, very committed to making this work. I mean, even he himself talked about the need that this has to work this time. You know, this is -- it's critical. I mean, they're at a key junction.
Q But the reality is that the leader of one of those militia groups is now safe and well in Iran, according to your own information. I mean, he wouldn't -- one can only guess that there's a good chance that he wouldn't have been there if he had not known that the operation was about to be launched and was in fact underway. I mean, it just seems to me that, you know, you -- far better when it comes to military history but you know, it's difficult not to defeat an enemy when they don't know you're coming. But when they know you're coming, how are you going to win that fight?
GEN. CALDWELL: The key aspects that you have to recognize, you know, and I say this very sincerely, is the economic piece. If we can go in and establish security in an area, secure the population, then we can get the economic programs up and going again. And if we can get, you know, one of these 114 state-owned enterprises, if we can get six or eight which have already been identified as key, viable entities and have found markets for the products that they produce, and we can get these up and running and produce long-term jobs for the people in the city of Baghdad, and if we can get the micro-loans going so the small businesses can get up and functioning again, I mean, that's the key aspect to this plan.
And if we can get the micro loans going so the small businesses can get up and functioning again, I mean that's the key aspect to this plan. Once the security is there, then the economic piece can take off, and they demonstrated they are committed politically to make this thing happen, then what you'll find is if groups try to come back in, if the security has been truly established and if we have the Iraqi police back in control of the neighborhoods, with the Iraqi army supporting them, the possibilities of these groups coming back in is greatly diminished; that people now have an alternative. They now have a way to make money and put food on the table and have jobs, and they see hope and have -- you know, they're making progress and moving forward. And some of the basic services are coming back that they feel have not been working properly over the last two or three years. I mean, then they're not as inclined to support or be behind any kind of extremist element that comes in.
So this plan takes time. You know, it's not till the end of May that General Petraeus will have all the forces that he wants, that the president has said available for him to fully commit. I mean, we'll really see the results of all that in the June-July time frame. But I think what we should be able to see, and sometime here in the next two or three months, is do we have the opportunity for this to succeed? Are we going to be successful in this endeavor? But it's not going to happen overnight. I mean patience is very, very important as we move forward in this thing, because people have an expectation that something's going to happen overnight. And we just continue putting more parts and pieces into place that will help this overall plan move forward. So it really is very different from what we've done before.
Q (Off mike.)
GEN. CALDWELL: What I would tell you, we don't -- we have intentionally not tried and do not target any one particular organization other than al Qaeda or some other true terrorist organization. After that, anybody who is operating outside the law is subject for interdiction. I mean, so you may claim to be a particular part of some particular group or organization. Irrespective of what you say, if you are operating outside of the law, if you're conducting illegal activities, then the coalition forces and the Iraqi security forces are going to target you, and we use whatever means we have available to go after you. And, you know, we saw that last night with the simultaneous 21 raid targets we took down, you know, out there.
So we will continue conducting very deliberate, thorough targets against those who are operating outside of the law.
Q (Name and affiliation off mike.) Do you see if the Iraqi security forces are pursuing the al-Mahdi Army; not the American one, but the Iraqi forces? GEN. CALDWELL: The Iraqi forces are working very closely with the coalition forces and we're all operating under the same instructions from General Abboud, and it's anybody who's operating outside the law is what we're targeting. I mean, he was very clear about that again yesterday, and he has been. So there is no particular organization that I have heard anybody is going after. It's those who are operating outside of the law.
I'll start with a couple of simple assumptions.
1) The Worldwide capacity to train security forces is way more limited than many would believe.
2) The number of deployable US ground troops, without a "For the duration" order is also quite limited.
The ISF now stands at a ration of 12/1000 population.
The peak in Northern Ireland was 12/1000 residents.
Northern Ireland didn't suffer from various regional actors fanning the flames of civil war.
Posted by Soldier's Dad at February 16, 2007 03:05 AM
Somwhere around August or September, the combined force of the ISF and Coalition will be 20/1000 residents. A generally accepted number of security forces required to suppress a full scale civil war.
How about major Republican presidential contenders with decent prospects for winning independent voters (I'm thinking largely of Giuliani and McCain) stepping up and making a point of supporting a realistic time frame for the "surge"? The moderate Dems need to remain politically paralyzed to stave off defeatist momentum. And, yes, General Petraeus had better produce before Bill O'Reilly declares the Iraqi People a lost cause.Posted by Seth Halpern at February 16, 2007 03:41 PM
The Dems seem to be certain that the majority of Americans want us to lose this war. I think they are including illegals in that majority, they would do anything to get a vote, we have seen that. I watched as they made spanish a law here in New Mexico, and did nothing. I stood by while they gave gays extra rights that non gays can not, by law, enjoy. I could go on and on, but I will not stand by and allow this congress to defeat our troops. They think a majority is so stupid they want to lose? If that is true, perhaps we deserve to lose, I just want to die fighting them. And I will, by God, fight them.
RobertPosted by Robert at February 16, 2007 07:23 PM Hide Comments | Show/Add Comments in Popup Window(3) | (Note: You must refresh main page to view newly posted comments here)