Petraeus Advisor Colonel Derek Harvey

BY Herschel Smith
6 years, 4 months ago

St. Louis Today (STLtoday.com) has an interesting article on (outside military circles) a little known advisor to General David Petraeus, retired Army Colonel Derek Harvey.  Portions of it are reproduced below.

As Gen. David Petraeus prepares his critical testimony to Congress this week, one key figure advising him is a retired Army colonel from O’Fallon, Ill., whose Iraq advice the administration once ignored.

Derek Harvey has operated beneath the public radar for the entire Iraq war yet is regarded by many as the single most-informed American on military developments in Iraq. For the past 15 months, as Petraeus’ senior civilian adviser, Harvey has been a prime advocate — and architect — of the troop surge and altered policies credited with reducing violence in Iraq.

Harvey says he hopes Petraeus’ testimony will give Congress — and the public — a picture of Iraq’s improving conditions, including grass-roots citizen participation, despite recent violence in the south.

“What you have is local, town and county governing capacity being reborn, a sense of getting back to normal,” Harvey says.

Harvey sees significant advances, even if some are hard to put into numerical terms.

“There has been widespread, and real, progress, in Sunni Arab towns that have rejected al-Qaida, and in accommodation and reconciliation between Shia and Sunnis in Baghdad and in mixed areas of the country,” Harvey says.

“One can debate the wisdom of the war and its origins, but that is not the point for me and many who have been involved. It’s about the future, how do we make it an acceptable outcome?”

As an editorial note, I would like to echo this sentiment.  Discussions about the origin of the campaign should have been relegated to the first several months after the invasion.  The balance of our efforts should be focused on winning the campaign in order for our efforts to be fruitful.  Colonel Harvey’s position is mature and rises above political rancor.  Continuing, the article goes into unheeded warnings about a rising Sunni insurgency.

Early on, he privately told President George W. Bush and then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld that a strong Sunni insurgency was probable, that U.S. leaders didn’t understand their adversary and that American forces needed to provide better security for Iraqi civilians as part of a counterinsurgency strategy.

By several accounts, a startled Bush asked Harvey how he could know that the Sunnis were planning a “popular insurrection,” when dozens of more-senior officials had given assurances that no such thing would happen. Harvey, who speaks Arabic, responded that he had spent time with sheiks, tribal leaders and Sunni people listening to their anger and plans to retake power after what they saw as Saddam’s mismanagement of the war, while advisers painting a rosy picture hadn’t done that.

“Harvey is hands down the very best intelligence analyst that the United States government has on Iraq,” says former Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Jack Keane. “He has been right from late ’03 all the way … up to the present.

“Not everybody has listened to Harvey, but Gen. Petraeus has, and so he’s making a difference,” says Keane, who retired but is now a member of the Pentagon’s Defense Policy Board, an advisory panel …

Al-Qaida, which once loomed as a winner in Iraq, has been severely weakened, Harvey says, and what looked like an inevitable war between Sunnis and Shiites in Iraq has yielded to growing reconciliation.

The article concludes with Harvey being seen as someone who understands the complexity and nuance of the Iraq campaign, but also a sad note about the continuing lack of ability to promote the right people.

Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., of the Senate Armed Services Committee, says he has requested several briefings from Harvey because of his “unusually thoughtful insights into Iraq. He is somebody who works very, very hard to untangle all the nuances, and is always in my view prepared to step back and examine the assumptions, a critical feature for an analyst.”

Harvey has done doctoral-level Middle East studies, and while serving at U.S. Transportation Command at Scott Air Force Base before 9/11, he worked on the threat posed to the United States by Afghanistan, the Taliban and Osama bin Laden.

Harvey was denied promotion to the rank of a one- or two-star general, leading to his retirement, which former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, a member of the Pentagon’s Defense Policy Board, calls “a travesty” and “a sign of the continuing failure of the Army to adopt priorities that fit the modern world.”

Gingrich says both Gen. John Abizaid and Gen. George Casey, when they led U.S. forces in Iraq, told him that Harvey “was the most knowledgeable person on Iraq that we had.”

“He retired as a colonel … and yet he goes back again and again to Iraq to continue to determine plans for victory,” Gingrich said, calling Harvey’s efforts “simply stunning.”

Harvey credits Petraeus’ leadership, which he says is “why people like me have been willing to sacrifice.”

This ability to “untangle all the nuances” led Harvey to advocate a hard position on al Qaeda and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in 2006.

Some senior intelligence officers believe Zarqawi’s role may have been overemphasized by the propaganda campaign, which has included leaflets, radio and television broadcasts, Internet postings and at least one leak to an American journalist. Although Zarqawi and other foreign insurgents in Iraq have conducted deadly bombing attacks, they remain “a very small part of the actual numbers,” Col. Derek Harvey, who served as a military intelligence officer in Iraq and then was one of the top officers handling Iraq intelligence issues on the staff of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told an Army meeting at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., last summer.

In a transcript of the meeting, Harvey said, “Our own focus on Zarqawi has enlarged his caricature, if you will — made him more important than he really is, in some ways.”

“The long-term threat is not Zarqawi or religious extremists, but these former regime types and their friends,” said Harvey.

Al Qaeda and foreign insurgents have certainly been part of the Iraq campaign.  In Why are we succeeding in Iraq – or are we? we noted feedback from debriefing of Marines The Captain’s Journal performed after Operation Alljah.  “We killed Chechens, Africans, and men with slanted eyes – we don’t know where they were from.  But we didn’t kill a single Iraqi.”

But the final campaign for Fallujah – one might call it the third battle for Fallujah, conducted by the 2/6 Marines – was unique and involved unique preparation of the Marines who were sent in to secure Fallujah from al Qaeda in 2007.  The campaign for Anbar has involved a large part indigenous Sunni fighters, a position we advocated in Al Qaeda, Indigenous Sunnis and the Insurgency in Iraq.

The campaign for Iraq is much too complex and nuanced to be wrapped up by catch-phrases and sound bites.  Colonel Harvey understands this, and we are glad to have him advising General Petraeus.

  • insaf adelyah

    Being knowledgable on Iraqi issues does NOT render an expert on AfPak! Now we know what went wrong!


You are currently reading "Petraeus Advisor Colonel Derek Harvey", entry #1032 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) Leadership,Petraeus and was published April 7th, 2008 by Herschel Smith.

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