5 years ago
From L.A. Times:
President Obama’s decision to shift the U.S. military chief for the Middle East, Gen. David H. Petraeus, to focus exclusively on Afghanistan highlights what politicians, analysts and some U.S. military officers here say is a serious drift in policy toward Iraq.
Iraqi officials said they had detected a lack of direction even before Obama tapped Petraeus to replace his commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, who stepped down this week after he and his team made disparaging comments about U.S. civilian leaders.
The Iraqis describe U.S. Embassy officials in Baghdad as obsessed with bringing an end to the large-scale U.S. troop presence in Iraq. They believe the embassy’s single-mindedness has often left the United States veering from crisis to crisis here. Some U.S. military officers and Western analysts have also criticized what they see as a failure to think beyond the planned drawdown to 50,000 noncombat troops by the end of August. The lack of focus may leave an opening for Iraq’s neighbor and the United States’ rival — Iran.
[ … ]
Iraqi officials are eager to take back control of their country. But some worry that the U.S. administration is blinding itself to the need for continued engagement.
“They deal with and treat Iraq as an ordinary country,” said a senior Iraqi official said, who also spoke on condition of anonymity. “This is all wishful.”
The insurgency in Iraq is down, but certainly not out. It is especially troublesome in the Diyala Province and on to the North. Something resembling regular combat operations still ensues in parts of Iraq.
It was a tip-off about a weapons cache that drew the U.S. soldiers of Charlie Troop away from their Stryker armored vehicles in the densely populated Iraqi town of Jalawla one Friday morning last month.
That was when the suicide bomber struck, detonating a car bomb so “catastrophic” that details of the attack that killed Sergeant Israel O’Bryan and Specialist William Yauch are still hazy, their commanding officer said.
One thing was clear: the insurgency in Jalawla won’t lie down.
Like other towns across Iraq’s restive northern provinces of Diyala, Kirkuk and Nineveh, Jalawla defies the U.S. narrative of an end to combat operations next month under a plan to pull out of Iraq completely by the end of 2011.
“I would say we’re pretty far from rolling up the insurgency in Jalawla,” said Charlie Troop commander Captain Mark Adams of the 1st Squadron, 14th U.S. Cavalry. “I don’t feel we’ve made a whole lot of progress there.”
For the ethnically and religiously-mixed arc running from Jalawla near Iraq’s eastern border with Iran to the western frontier with Syria, the transition on August 31 is less a milestone than a matter of semantics.
Operations that to outsiders will look pretty much like combat will continue in areas where a stubborn Sunni Islamist insurgency remains entrenched, despite a sharp fall in overall violence since the height of the sectarian slaughter in 2006/07.
They will, however, be called “stability operations,” loosely defined as advising, assisting, training and equipping Iraqi forces — a role U.S. forces have had for some time.
I have long lamented the extent to which the Status of Forces Agreement has left U.S. troops nearly powerless to do anything other than force protection. But rather than revisit this agreement, engage the Iraqi government, put serious pressure on Iran, and get set for serious long term engagement with Iraq, the Obama administration is demonstrating an even more careless cut and run attitude than in Afghanistan. Obama even sent the un-serious Biden to encourage Iraq to seat a government (a fact not lost on Azzaman which observed that Biden’s recent visit did nothing to weaken Iran’s grip on Iraq).
This attitude will undoubtedly redound to our loss in the Middle East, and the further empowerment of Iran. It also bespeaks the low esteem that the administration has for the men and women who sacrificed so much to bring the Iraqi insurgency to heel. How sad and tragic would it be for the memory of our fallen warriors to allow the devolution of Iraq into chaos again?