Iraq, Obama and The Surge

BY Herschel Smith
3 years, 10 months ago

Obama has now announced the end of combat operations in Iraq.  But following plans set in motion even before Obama took office, troop reductions are occurring as fast as the logisticians are allowing.  Logistics dictates such things regardless of promises made during election campaigns.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs pretended today that Obama supported the surge – the increase in troop presence – in 2007.


But forever cataloged for us is what Obama said about the surge when it really counted.

Matthew Burden at Blackfive notes that there has been robust debate over exactly what happened in Iraq.

Many deserve credit for today.  Among them are many who won’t hear the President’s speech.

Today should be Travis Patriquin Day.  If you don’t know about Travis, go here to read why there is a town square named after him in one of the most (formerly) dangerous cities in Iraq.  There are a lot of debates about whether it was the Sunni awakening, the Marines tactics, General Petraeus’ strategy, McMaster in Tal Afar, etc. for the turn around in Iraq.

But you can’t really debate what Patriquin did.  He was the ignition switch.

I would be in that camp that argues for the Marine tactics being the necessary and sufficient root cause of the success in Anbar (even though the campaign would have been longer and bloodier without the tribes).  But I would also give a moderately different take on what Matt calls the “ignition switch.”  While acknowledging Patriquin’s service and sacrifice, I am told by Army intelligence that the ignition switch for the tribal evolution away from support to AQ was in no small part our kinetic operations against the smuggling lines of Sheikh Abdul Sattar Abu Risha, even killing members of his extended family.  He sided with us in order to keep from losing everything.

I have been told by officers as high as Colonel (unnamed, in Iraq at the time) that the plan General Petraeus took to Iraq was dead on arrival because the logistics officers told him it was impossible.  His genius was in his ability to quickly amend his plan.  But as Colonel Gian Gentile and I have discussed, the success of the radical shift in strategy Petraeus brought to Iraq is the populist narrative.  Many or even most of the things done in 2007 were being done prior to that, especially in the Anbar Province.

But what’s significant about the surge is the increase in troop levels.  While al Qaeda fighters were being killed and chased from the Anbar Province, when they attempted to flee to Baghdad they found a heavy U.S. troop presence to greet them.  Instead, they had to flee North to Mosul (with some to the Diyala Province), leaving the seat of power in place in Baghdad.  What I have never heard since the surge is any respectable officer or NCO argue for fewer troops or claim that the additional troops didn’t help.  Whatever else one believes about what did or didn’t occur in Iraq, no one with any intellectual weight or notoriety claims that the additional troops were a detriment to the campaign.

Yet even as recently as two years ago (one year after the surge), Obama adviser Professor Colin Kahl was arguing against the virtues of the surge and for an early withdrawal from Iraq.  And while Secretary Gates warns against premature victory celebrations, and while Ryan Crocker argues against refusal to continue engagement of Iraq – even militarily – Obama has sent the unserious Joe Biden to meddle in the internal political affairs of Iraq.

It is reported that outgoing Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has made commitments to the U.S. to exclude the Supreme Islamic Council under Ammar al-Hakim and the Sadrists under Muqtada al-Sadr from a new government in Iraq, in return of U.S, support for his candidacy as prime minister.

These two groups are historically and strongly tied with Iran. Incidentally, both these groups refuse to support al-Maliki for a second term as prime minister.

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, who is in charge of the Iraq dossier, arrived in Iraq last night to celebrate the termination of the combat role of the U.S. forces but, more significantly, to push forward the political process.

Joe is being played for the stooge, and Maliki cannot be trusted, but what’s more interesting than this is his admission of Iran’s influence inside of Iraq contrasted with his denials for so many years.  Iran is protesting the continued presence of any U.S. troops at all.  Iran is of course still very much interested in its regional hegemony, and Iraq is still very much an open book.  But consistent with candidate Obama’s position, its future won’t be very much a function of U.S. military force.  That part remains unchanged since before the election.  Oh, and we all knew that the troops were responsible for the success in Iraq.  Obama has told us nothing that we didn’t already know, and his administration is acting consistently with his previous positions, Robert Gibbs’ clown act notwithstanding.

  • http://umc-unofficiallaymanopenforum.ning.com/ Warbucks

    An historic perspective:

    http://paracom.paramountcommunication.com/ct/4575170:6833594611:m:1:188656505:7C7AF36E2F8E72C4C6625C6CC0A3E894

    Obama Doctrine can now be defined, as James Carafano and Kim Holmes do in a new paper released today.

  • anan

    I think Maliki can be trusted to do what he thinks is in Iraq’s interests. That is what counts. I think Maliki believes good relations between Iraq and America are in Iraq’s national interests. What more do you want from Maliki?

  • http://www.captainsjournal.com/ Herschel Smith

    Maliki can be trusted to do what is in Maliki’s interests.

  • anan

    We disagree on Maliki. The victory in Iraq is partly because of what he did.


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This article is filed under the category(s) Iraq,The Surge and was published August 31st, 2010 by Herschel Smith.

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