Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Hat Trick Part Two

Three good pieces on post-surge Iraq:

1. Surging and Awakening--TNR by Dexter Filkens:

President Obama's pronouncements on the war must therefore be read carefully. He has never said that America will leave Iraq by 2010. He has said only that American combat troops will leave. What is a combat troop? Well, you can bet it is not a military adviser, or a trainer, or a police mentor, or a special forces soldier, or a CIA paramilitary. Even under the best of circumstances, the Iraqi state will need many years to cohere again. Until that day, it seems unlikely that American soldiers will not be there by the tens of thousands, whoever the American president is. For this reason, the president may be a little divided against himself. His rhetoric of winding-down may be politically welcome, but may not be the best way to ready the American people for what will likely be a very long commitment.

2. The Future of Iraq, Part I by Michael J. Totten:

"The insurgency now is more criminal than anything else," Colonel Hort said. “The Al Qaeda threat isn't down to that point yet, but Shia insurgents are becoming more and more criminal than anything else. We're working closely now with Iraqi judges, as well as Iraqi Security Forces, to ensure that when we identify a guy we're getting a warrant and arresting the guy that way. It's a significant change for us that we now need a warrant to make an arrest like we do in the States."

Some American officers I met are worried that more terrorists and insurgents will remain at large now that warrants are needed for their arrest, but others are convinced this is wonderful news. It is, at least for the time being, just barely possible to wage a counterinsurgency using law enforcement methods instead of war-fighting methods. There is such a thing as an acceptable level of violence, and Iraq is nearer to that point than it has been in years. Baghdad is no longer the war zone it was.

3. Toll Rises as Iraq Slows

The U.S. military has passed off the responsibility for Awakening forces, which have numbered more than 100,000 fighters across Iraq, but Baghdad hasn't paid them in full. Since the government took over Mr. Karim's group in January, it has provided just one month's pay.

Iraq's government says it has addressed bureaucratic snags in the program's transition and that the fighters will be paid. Even so, the budget for Awakening salaries runs out at year's end.

U.S. commanders worry that if Baghdad doesn't foot the bill, group members could become a threat again. The U.S. military believes that recent car bombings in Baghdad were hatched somewhere in this belt of rugged farming villages.

After all the sacrifice in blood and treasure that the US has made in Iraq, it would shameful if we were to let it all slip away because the Iraqi government can't afford to continue to support the successful tactics of the surge. If we're going to commit foreign aid to any effort, this is it.

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