There is a lot of information here that I have not teased out further in order to read between the lines (e.g., the Australian forces leaving Iraq, or the fact that Petraeus is being replaced as commander in Iraq by Raymond Odierno). I think the rationale of those events will become clearer. Besides, they are not central to the main equation: AQI is defeated.
Everyone will be discussing what this portends for the coming election. Only G-d knows, and he never leaks information. Take your best guess on that one.
Meanwhile, From Yon’s email this morning —
The trend lines are clear. Iraq war seems to be winding down. At this rate it is entirely conceivable that at the end of 2008 we will be able to say, in good conscience, that the Iraq war has ended.
Of course this is speculation.
Grabbing headlines today is the news that Australia is drawing down it’s forces from Iraq. The Australian military is comprised of some of the finest soldiers in the world. Yet the Australian government’s commitment to the war in Iraq has been militarily insignificant. The loss of the Australian military contingent is strategically irrelevant.
I’m in constant communications with forces on the ground in Iraq. al-Qaeda continues to be hammered into the dirt. The Iraq Army has demonstrated great competence in Sadr City. They are at the fore front of destroying al-Qaeda in Nineveh province.
One of the biggest problems with the Iraq War is that politics has frequently triumphed over truth. For instance, we went into Iraq with shoddy intelligence (at best), no reconstruction plan, and perhaps half as many troops as were required. We refused to admit that an insurgency was growing, until the country collapsed into anarchy and civil war. Now the truth is that Iraq is showing real progress on many fronts: Al Qaeda is being defeated and violence is down and continuing to decrease. As a result, the militias have lost their reason for existence and are getting beaten back or co-opted. Shia, Sunni and Kurds are coming together — although with various stresses — under the national government. If progress continues at this rate, it is very possible that before 2008 is out, we can finally say “the war has ended.”
Yes, likely there still will be some American casualties, but if the violence continues to drop and the Iraqi government consolidates its gains, we will be able, in good conscience, to begin bringing more of our people home. I will be paying very close attention to the words of Lieutenant General Raymond Odierno, who is replacing General Petraeus as the overall commander in Iraq.
Whatever we do in Iraq from here forward, we must strive to make better decisions than those made between 2003 and 2006. And one way to achieve that is by making certain that our civilian leaders are fully informed.
To me, “fully informed” means taking whatever the State Department has to say with a very large dose of salt. When the histories are written in the next generation, they will discover how the State Department flunkies present in Baghdad in 2003 did their best to passively disrupt things. They were hoping to get their boy, Kerry, into office, and for that they were willing to sacrifice Iraq for the greater glory of their careers under a Kerry presidency.
All three candidates for President are extremely intelligent, but that doesn’t mean that all three are tracking the truth on the ground in Iraq. Anyone who wants to be President of the United States needs to see Iraq without the distorting lenses of the media or partisan politics. I would be honored to visit Iraq with Senator Obama, Senator Clinton, Senator McCain or any of their Senate colleagues. [my emphasis – D.]
I hereby offer to accompany any Senator to Iraq, whether they are pro-or anti-war, Democrat or Republican. I will make this offer personally to a few select Senators as well. Our conversations during the visit would be on- or off-record, as they wish. Touring Iraq with me, as well as briefings by U.S. officers and meetings with Iraqis, would provide an accurate and nuanced account of the progress and challenges ahead, so that the Senators might have a highly informed perspective on this most critical issue. Our civilian leaders need to make decisions based on the best information available.
The only way to learn what is really going on in Iraq is to go there and listen to our ground commanders, who know what they are doing. Generals Petraeus and Odierno have years of experience in Iraq, and vast knowledge of our efforts there.
But the young soldiers who have done multiple tours in Iraq also have unique and invaluable perspectives as well. These young soldiers have personally witnessed the trajectory of the war shift dramatically, and can articulate those changes in concrete and specific terms. It doesn’t matter if a soldier is only twenty-something. If he or she spent two or three years in the war, that person is likely to have valuable insights.
The best way to understand what is really going on is to listen closely to a wide range of service members who have done multiple tours in Iraq. Some will be negative, some will be positive, but overall I am certain that the vast majority of multi-tour Iraq veterans will testify that there has been great progress, and now there is hope. Combat veterans don’t tolerate happy talk or wishful thinking. They’ll tell you the raw truth as they see it.
Meanwhile, the Code Pink people will be gnashing their teeth over this one. No doubt they will redouble their efforts at home to spin this is a way that harms the US and our troops. Spin away, ladies.