Bottom Line: The US Forces in Iraq- Not Broken, Not Worn Out
“morale, fighting effectiveness, and confidence of U.S. combat forces continue to be simply awe-inspiring.”
Here is a summary from Retired General Barry R. McCaffrey’s
Academic Report- Trip to Iraq and Kuwait Thursday 13 April through Thursday 20 April 2006
4. THE BOTTOM LINE – OBSERVATIONS FROM IRAQI FREEDOM, APRIL 2006:
1st – The morale, fighting effectiveness, and confidence of U.S. combat forces continue to be simply awe-inspiring. In every sensing session and interaction – I probed for weakness and found courage, belief in the mission, enormous confidence in their sergeants and company grade officers, an understanding of the larger mission, a commitment to creating an effective Iraqi Army and Police, unabashed patriotism, and a sense of humor. All of these soldiers, NCOs and young officers were volunteers for combat. Many were on their second combat tour – several were on the third or fourth combat tour. Many had re-enlisted to stay with their unit on its return to a second Iraq deployment. Many planned to re-enlist regardless of how long the war went on.
Their comments to me were guileless, positive, and candidly expressed love for their fellow soldiers. They routinely encounter sniper fire, mortar and rocket attacks, and constantly face IED’s on movement. Their buddies have been killed and wounded. Several in these sessions had also been wounded. These are the toughest soldiers we have ever fielded. It was a real joy and an honor to see them first-hand.
2nd – The Iraqi Army is real, growing, and willing to fight. They now have lead action of a huge and rapidly expanding area and population. The battalion level formations are in many cases excellent – most are adequate. However, they are very badly equipped with only a few light vehicles, small arms, most with body armor and one or two uniforms. They have almost no mortars, heavy machine guns, decent communications equipment, artillery, armor, or IAF air transport, helicopter, and strike support. Their logistics capability is only now beginning to appear. Their Institutional Army (Military Schools, logistics base, manufacturing) is beginning to show encouraging signs of self-initiative.
The Ministry of Defense and Ministry of Interior have shown dramatic and rapid growth in capacity and competence since LTG Dempsey took them under his care. However, the corruption and lack of capability of the ministries will require several years of patient coaching and officer education in values as well as the required competencies. The Iraqi people clearly want a National Army. The recruiting now has gotten significant participation by all sectarian groups to include the Sunni. The Partnership Program with U.S. units will be the key to success with the Embedded Training Teams augmented and nurtured by a U.S. Maneuver Commander. This is simply a brilliant success story. We need at least two-to-five more years of U.S. partnership and combat backup to get the Iraqi Army ready to stand on its own. The interpersonal relationships between Iraqi Army units and their U.S. trainers are very positive and genuine.
3rd – The Iraqi police are beginning to show marked improvement in capability
since MG Joe Peterson took over the program. The National Police Commando Battalions are very capable – a few are simply superb and on par with the best U.S. SWAT units in terms of equipment, courage, and training. Their intelligence collection capability is better than ours in direct HUMINT.
The crux of the war hangs on our ability to create urban and rural local police with the ability to survive on the streets of this incredibly dangerous and lethal environment. The police must have fortified local stations (more than a thousand), local jails (more than a thousand), armored Humvees (more than 3000), a nationwide command and control system, embedded U.S. contractor trainers, and in the key battleground areas of Baghdad, Basra, Mosul, and Kirkuk – they need a remote area camera monitoring system such as we now have in most of our major cities.
The police are heavily infiltrated by both the AIF and the Shia militia. They are widely distrusted by the Sunni population. They are incapable of confronting local armed groups. They inherited a culture of inaction, passivity, human rights abuses, and deep corruption.
This will be a ten year project requiring patience, significant resources, and an international public face. This is a very, very tough challenge which is a prerequisite to the Iraqis winning the counter-insurgency struggle they will face in the coming decade. We absolutely can do this. But this police program is now inadequately resourced.
4th – The creation of an Iraqi government of national unity is a central requirement. We must help create a legitimate government for which the Iraqi security forces will fight and die. If we do not see the successful development of a pluralistic administration in the first 120 days of the emerging Jawad al-Maliki leadership – there will be significant chance of the country breaking apart in warring factions among the Sunnis and Shia – with a separatist Kurdish north embroiled in their own potential struggle with the Turks.
The incompetence and corruption of the interim Iraqi Administration has been significant. There is total lack of trust among the families, the tribes, and the sectarian factions created by the 35 years of despotism and isolation of the criminal Saddam regime. This is a traumatized society with a malignant political culture. There is a huge “brain drain” taking place with educated and wealthy Iraqis getting out with their money. This is a loss of the potential leadership to solve the mess that is Iraq today. The pot is also being stirred from the outside Iraq by six neighboring states – none of which have provided significant economic or political assistance.
However, in my view, the Iraqis are likely to successfully create a governing entity. The intelligence picture strongly portrays a population that wants a federal Iraq, wants a national Army, rejects the AIF as a political future for the nation, and is optimistic that their life can be better in the coming years. Unlike the Balkans—the Iraqis want this to work. The bombing of the Samarra Mosque brought the country to the edge of all-out war. However, the Iraqi Army did not crack, the moderates held, Sistani called for restraint, the Sunnis got a chill of fear seeing what could happen to them as a minority population, and the Coalition Forces suddenly were seen correctly as a vital force that could keep the population safe in the absence of Iraqi power. In addition, the Shia were reminded that Iran is a Persian power with goals that conflict with the Shia Arabs of southern and central Iraq.
It is likely that the Iraqis will pull together enough political muscle to get through the coming 30 day crisis to produce a cabinet to submit to the Parliament – as well as the four month deadline to consider constitutional amendments. The resulting government is likely to be weak and barely functional. It may stagger along and fail in 18 months. But it is very likely to prevent the self-destruction of Iraq. Our brilliant and effective U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad will be the essential ingredient to keeping Iraq together. If the U.S. loses his leadership in the coming year, this thing could implode.
5th – The foreign jihadist fighters have been defeat
ed as a strategic and operational threat to the creation of an Iraqi government. Aggressive small unit combat action by Coalition Forces combined with good intelligence – backed up by new Iraqi Security Forces is making an impact. The foreign fighters remain a serious tactical menace. However, they are a minor threat to the heavily armed and wary U.S. forces. They cannot successfully stop the Iraqi police and army recruitment. Their brutal attacks on the civil population are creating support for the emerging government. The foreign fighters have failed to spark open civil war from the Shia. The Samarra bombing may well have inoculated the country to the possible horror of total war. The Iraqis are rejecting the vision of a religious state. The al Qaeda in-Iraq organization is now largely Sunni Iraqi – not foreign fighters. U.S. Marine and Army combat effectiveness – combined with very effective information operations— has taken the fun out of Jihad.
6th – The U.S. Inter-Agency Support for our strategy in Iraq is grossly inadequate. A handful of brilliant, courageous, and dedicated Foreign Service Officers have held together a large, constantly changing, marginally qualified, inadequately experienced U.S. mission. The U.S. influence on the Iraqi national and regional government has been extremely weak. U.S. consultants of the IRMO do not live and work with their Iraqi counterparts, are frequently absent on leave or home consultations, are often in-country for short tours of 90 days to six months, and are frequently gapped with no transfer of institutional knowledge.
In Iraq, nothing is possible without carefully managed relationships between the U.S. officials and their Iraqi interlocutors. Trust between people is the prerequisite and basis of progress for this deeply Arab culture. The other U.S. agencies of government such as Justice, DHS, Commerce, Agriculture, and Transportation are in Iraq in small numbers for too short time periods. The U.S. Departments actually fight over who will pay the $11.00 per day per diem on food. This bureaucratic nonsense is taking place in the context of a war costing the American people $7 billion a month – and a battalion of soldiers and Marines killed or wounded a month.
Hat Tip Tom Kubiak