Signs of Progress in Iraq

BY Herschel Smith
10 years, 8 months ago

General Ray Odierno, whom The Captain’s Journal likes very much, has gone on record saying that the U.S. might need to stay in some of the cities after the designated June departure date.

The activities of al-Qaeda in two of Iraq’s most troubled cities could keep US combat troops engaged beyond the June 30 deadline for their withdrawal, the top US commander in the country has warned.

US troop numbers in Mosul and Baqubah, in the north of the country, could rise rather than fall over the next year if necessary, General Ray Odierno told The Times in his first interview with a British newspaper since taking over from General David Petraeus in September.

He said that a joint assessment would be conducted with the Iraqi authorities in the coming weeks before a decision is made.

Combat troops are due to leave all Iraqi cities by the end of June. Any delay would be a potential setback for President Obama, who has pledged to withdraw all combat forces from Iraq by August 2010 as he switches his focus to Afghanistan.

General Odierno, 54, said that he was also concerned about the risk of renewed conflict between Arabs and Kurds in northern Iraq, where tensions are rising over the ownership of territory. He also cited the “very dangerous” threat posed by Iranian-funded militants, who appear to be styling themselves on Lebanon’s Hezbollah.

So how is this a sign of progress?  Iranian-funded militants have always been dangerous, and will continue to be after the complete departure of the U.S.  The Iraqis will have to deal with them and protect their own country.  There are some sectarian issues in the North, and while these will still need to be resolved, it is a sign of significant progress that Odierno is floating the idea now that U.S. troops might need to stay in some cities to ensure security.

As for the idea that this is a “setback,” that’s just poor and biased reporting.  The Status of Forces Agreement will still be followed exactly unless agreed to by the Iraqi authorities.  Either way, any modification to the SOFA would have no affect on the existence of troops in Iraq, only where they are based.  The SOFA envisions them based entirely on large bases by the end of June.  This might have to change in Northern Iraq, and if so, it will be because the Iraqis wanted it to be that way.  We have always said that the field grade logistics officers will make the final decision as to how fast troops can be withdrawn (and in Logistics will Dictate Troop Withdrawal from Iraq), and that Obama (and any President) has less power over the ability to move men and materiel than some people tend to think.

As for other signs of progress in Iraq, an al Qaeda training camp was found in or near Fallujah.

In Anbar, police spokesman Major Abdul Sattar Al Halbousi announced that Al Qaeda training camp was uncovered in the province. The camp is referred to as Afghanistan Iraq camp affirming that Al Zarqawi was responsible for this camp.

Al Halbousi noted that caves near the camp were used to manufacture bombs and keep Al Qaeda blueprints and plans. He added that five people were arrested while mass graves were found including security forces members in an area around the camp.

Joint forces in Falluja imposed curfew and closed off the city entrances to carry out crackdowns and inspections.

What’s good about this?  Well, the Marines aren’t in Fallujah.  They aren’t even at Camp Fallujah, which has been closed.  Most Marines left in Iraq are at al Asad Air Base – training.  Locking down Fallujah to search for hostiles?  That was done by the Iraqi Police.  They didn’t need Marine Corps assistance to do it.  They are stepping up to govern their own society.  As for the North, they may need a little additional time, but we’ll only give it to them if they ask.  These are unmistakable signs of progress.

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You are currently reading "Signs of Progress in Iraq", entry #2655 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) Iraq and was published April 10th, 2009 by Herschel Smith.

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