Sunday, March 1, 2009
As many of you know President Obama has recently announced his plan for the future of the US Military Mission in Iraq. In many ways there isn't a significant change between what he has directed and what is currently implemented. We are trainers already with the Iraqi Security Forces. It takes a long time to build a nation's military and President Obama's plan definitely takes that into account by planning on leaving a "residual" training force behind when the official combat mission ends. I believe he has that end set for sometime in the late summer of 2010 (I only have Media reports to go off of here). This in many ways lines up with SOFA which envisions US forces leaving Iraqi cities, towns, and villages by some point this summer. The fight in Iraq is largely non-lethal thanks to former President Bush's surge and its implementation by General David Petraeus and General Ray Odierno. US forces need to be prepared to go kinetic (lethal) if necessary and maintain alertness at all times (complacency in combat is probably the greatest threat to life), but the paradigm has shifted. The Iraqi people no longer support the insurgents, the rejectionists, and the terrorists. There will always be a place for kinetic operations, but the non-lethal fight is paramount for securing the peace.
There is a news story that is moving around here that sums up the situation in Iraq today and how RADICALLY different it is from 2005-2007. While most Americans only view Iraq through the lens of the extreme violence and sectarianism of 2005/6/7, that Iraq is no longer the reality. The Washington Post of all sources had a story which brilliantly highlighted the change in Iraq in its once most violent city. I do not support the violation of General Order No. 1, but I think this story highlights just how much has changed (though the soldiers' conduct leaves a lot to be desired in the realm of common-sense). It is from the Washington Post which has a strict use policy so I will quote the first paragraph and I ask that you go to the link to read the rest:
"BAGHDAD, FEB. 27 -- The American soldier stepped out of the Baghdad nightclub. In one hand, he clutched his weapon. In the other, a green can of Tuborg beer. He took a sip and walked over to two comrades, dressed as he was in camouflage and combat gear." Please click the link to read the rest (you may have to register - It's Free).
Is this Iraq? Is this Baghdad? The Baghdad I remembered had at a minimum twenty attacks a day, but that was 2006. Now it is 2009 and in large part Iraq is advancing. It is not 2006 anymore; Iraq has changed, as has our mission. The US Military may have exceeded some people's expectations for success; the US Military did not exceed its own expectations for success.