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Larry Korb on Iraq and the surge
OK, OK... One man's account is just that. One man's account. But an authoritative one... His resume includes:
Senior Fellow and Director of National Security Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations...Senior Fellow in the Foreign Policy Studies Program at the Brookings Institution, Dean of the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Pittsburgh, and Vice President of Corporate Operations at the Raytheon Company...Assistant Secretary of Defense (Manpower, Reserve Affairs, Installations and Logistics) from 1981 through 1985...
Larry Korb of the Center for American Progress and the Center for Defense Information recently returned from Iraq. He visited for 10-days. He stayed outside the Green Zone (now called the International Zone since it is not, as they say, green). He kept a diary it's published at the CAP website. ThinkProgress has a snippet... and another...
This is my 'summary', I highly recommend you read this in order to extract your own 'interesting points'. 'Cause I surely missed a tonn...
On the surge:
"The long wait did allow me to speak to some of the contractors about the situation on the ground. When I assured them I was not a member of the press, they were unanimous that the surge was not working. One of them said that members of Muqtada Al-Sadr’s militia have sold their guns and melted back into the population in Sadr City and will buy back their guns at the appropriate time (our own security guard said something similar)."
This was the 7th. It is unfortunate but I believe what I've been reading indicates that the Sadrists have been in line at the gun shop. I heard or read somewhere that 40 bodies indicative of Mahdi Army death squads appeared in Baghdad over the past couple days.
Here's the big quote picked up by the bloggers at TP.org describing Korb's conversation with an official close to al-Maliki:
That evening at dinner, I had an interesting discussion with an Iraqi official who is close to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. He made several intriguing observations. First, in their video conferences, Maliki and Bush do not really communicate. The official also noted that in his discussions with visiting members of Congress there is really not much dialogue, with both sides giving canned presentations. Second, the U.S. military and State Department do not really work well together and General George Casey would complain to Iraqis about the former U.S. Ambassador to iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad. Third, the insurgency got started when the Americans failed to take control after the overthrow and the Iraqis realized that the American military was not invincible—that is, its soldiers were human beings who displayed the full range of emotions, including fear. Fourth, do not believe anyone who tells you that the situation is getting better.
On #2... Interagency isn't working? Better question, has the interagency ever worked in this administration?
I can't wait to read the scholarly work that comes out of this administration. Anyone really buy the idea that another bubble (War Czar) in chain of command will help this? Especially when the Czar will be there to "deal directly with heavyweight administration figures such as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates." Yea, Cheney's fine... right.
The international community really doesn't like Maliki?
The meeting with the Deputy Prime Minister in his residence was fascinating. The meeting room resembled the Corcoran Gallery and Saleh, a Kurd who speaks English fluently, is quite articulate and charismatic, just the opposite of Maliki. In fact it dawned on me that he would go over much better with the media than Maliki. From what I was told every foreign government and international organization wants to deal with him.
But Korb was suspicious of Deputy Prime Minister Saleh, he seemed to speak to his audience:
My impression was confirmed by an American official who told me that you never know what to believe about him—one day he is an ardent Iraqi nationalist, the next day he is a Kurdish separatist.
The Fourth Anniversary of the Fall of Saddam - April 9th
[note: Not mentioned by the WH]
"It is hard to believe that four years after our “victory,” the only way to provide safety is to lock down the capital city."
"The city was in lockdown, 10 American soldiers had died the day before, and the citizens of Najaf and the Sunni Scholars were calling for an end to the occupation. Yet we had a seven-course meal and the American officials and the Iraqis were exchanging diplomatic pleasantries about the progress they were making."
I had the good fortune to sit next to the Deputy Minister of Interior (the ministry responsible for the national police). He told me that the problem with the police is not training but loyalty and motivation—he cannot get enough officers to come to Baghdad, even though controlling Baghdad is critical to the establishment of a unified Iraq. He also said that Muqtada Al-Sadr still controls six ministries, including his own.
As might be expected, [Ambassador Joseph] Saloom was upbeat about Iraq’s progress, citing such positive indicators as the number of satellite dishes and the amount of goods in the stores. But the dishes have been there since 2003 (in fact, in my meeting with Bremer in November 2003 he said the same thing), and while the shops may be full, it does not appear that many people are out shopping.
[I think this is Ambassador Joseph Saloom who is the director of the Iraq Reconstruction Management Office]
Saloom also dismissed the concerns expressed in the Special Inspector General’s report about the lack of coordination between the U.S. military and civilians and attributed the dust-up between Secretaries Condoleezza Rice and Robert Gates about the small number of State Department civilians being assigned to the Provincial Reconstruction Teams as a communication problem.
Korb wasn't buying it:
In light of the new White House plan to create a powerful czar to oversee Iraq and Afghanistan, Saloom’s comments seem unreal.
Interesting tidbit: Iraqis call the liquor store the Christian pharmacy.
And another: "I was surprised and saddened that the servicemen and women pay the same prices for goods in Iraq as they do in the states."
The other thing that struck me was the lack of American soldiers patrolling the neighborhoods. In fact, in my whole time here I did not see one American soldier outside the Green Zone.
From his account he was well traveled in Baghdad. not one US soldier? What does that mean?
To say that Iraq in general and Baghdad in particular are much worse than on my last visit would be an understatement. It is hard to believe that after about 3,300 deaths, about 25,000 wounded, an expenditure of $500 billion, and two national elections things could be this bad.
The real issue is if the latest surge will work. The most optimistic projection was “maybe temporarily.” But most people speaking off the record believe that the insurgents will shift to other areas and lay low for a while in Baghdad.
I knew that the Iraqi government was not very effective, but I had no idea it was so bad.
No one in or out of the American or Iraqi government seemed to have a good answer to my question: “how does it end?” On the back of this visit, I am more and more convinced that we must take control of our own destiny by setting a specific timetable for withdrawal. Currently, our fate is in the hands of an Iraqi government that does not have any real incentive to get its act together and does not even seem to understand the gravity of the situation or the declining level of support in the United States.
While I did not see as many soldiers as on my last visit, the ones I spoke to were clearly dispirited about the repeated deployments and the three-month extension.
[UPDATE] Judging by a few emails and comments on facebook I've received, It's necessary to point out that only one person so far has had a problem with my post below...
I'd first like to give my heartfelt apology to everyone I offended with my post yesterday where I made the shocking, inappropriate and so called "smarmy" comparison between the worst campus killing in American history and what is close to average, maybe even below average, in Iraq. This is apparently off limits, even if it is valid. So to you whom I've offended... convene a bloggers ethics conference. You can even use my name in the title.
Secondly I'd like to bring up some other (smarmy?) political or cultural points made in the wake of the tragedy bestowed upon any-college, USA that are worthy of a quick note. Hey, maybe an invitation to said conference is in order for the authors???:
- Conservative princess Debbie Schlussel commenting on the shooter before a positive ID was made...
The Virginia Tech campus has a very large Muslim community...
Were there two and was this a coordinated terrorist attack?
Why am I speculating that the "Asian" gunman is a Pakistani Muslim? Because law enforcement and the media strangely won't tell us more specifically who the gunman is. Why?
Even if it does not turn out that the shooter is Muslim, this is a demonstration to Muslim jihadists all over that it is extremely easy to shoot and kill multiple American college students.
Whoa! Talk about wanting to paint this as Islamic terrorism, before the facts are in. My goodness!
Her first update (link omitted):
Shootings appear professional, says expert; VTU Alum on school's "Asian" Population; 2nd Amenment-Free Campus/VTU lobbied against students having guns on campus for personal protection
The shooter has now been identified as a Chinese national here on a student visa. Lovely. Yet another reason to stop letting in so many foreign students.
The shooter has now been identified as a South Korean national, who is a permanent resident.
- the more guns would have saved the dead angle...
There are no perfect solutions. Yes, as I mentioned earlier today, Virginia Tech's ban on concealed license holders being armed on campus meant that there was no chance that any of the killer's victims could shoot back. What would happen if such a law had not been in place?...(link)
on a similar note...
And of course
- the "gun control" line:
What is needed, urgently, is stronger controls over the lethal weapons that cause such wasteful carnage and such unbearable loss.
And finally, though I'm sure there is much more out there...
- the "the students and faculty were wusses" line from John Derbyshire:
...why didn't anyone rush the guy? It's not like this was Rambo, hosing the place down with automatic weapons. He had two handguns for goodness' sake—one of them reportedly a .22.
and Nathanael Blake:
College classrooms have scads of young men who are at their physical peak, and none of them seems to have done anything beyond ducking, running, and holding doors shut. Meanwhile, an old man hurled his body at the shooter to save others.
Something is clearly wrong with the men in our culture. Among the first rules of manliness are fighting bad guys and protecting others: in a word, courage. And not a one of the healthy young fellows in the classrooms seems to have done that.
Listen. If you couldn't read the sarcasm above, I apologize for nothing. Nor will those mentioned. People have always debated the second amendment. Some people will always wake up and go to sleep with 9/11 on their minds. Some people will always be conscience of the senseless loss of human life irregardless of the situation, their color or which region. I've attacked no one specifically, only general logic... flawed logic. I've reflected on a tragedy and made a valid comparison. I know I'll be held in contempt because I made a valid point. I know I'll be vilified by some because it's politically expedient for them.
Shrug... What's new?
Posted by Geoff
VA Tech and Iraq
The horrendous acts of violence that culminated in 32 dead by my cousins latest update (he's a med student at VA Tech) is a tragedy of proportions rarely if ever experienced in America or by Americans. The media is ripe with crisis coverage, as expected and as it should be...
This is probably inappropriate now but those of us who contend or have contended that Iraq or Baghdad isn't that bad and may even be safe relative to some of our cities should consider this feeling we all have today and that I felt emanating from my cousin as we talked on IM. This tragedy, this crisis would be a good day in Baghdad. An anomaly in years of unrelenting violence.
Your right to defend the actions of this government, the conduct of this war and occupation is just that, your right. But let's put the "Baghdad is safer than Detroit" or whatever, talking point away for good. It's a false, silly and disconnected comparison meant only to protect partisans and attack journalist. Surely there are better ways of defending this war. For example, one would have been to celebrate the 4th anniversary of the fall of Saddam Hussein, by like, you know, mentioning it and thanking the troops...
I digress... My thoughts join everyone else's as we mourn for the Hokies and their families.
Posted by Geoff
Reminder: the plan for the ending the occupation of Iraq
This one is pretty good, party neutral and conscience of politics at both levels (domestic and international). From Steven Simon at CFR in Sunday's Globe. I'll begin where he ends:
Every day that US troops remain in Iraq drives up the cost of gains already made: the elimination of Saddam Hussein and the opening of a door, however narrow, to democracy. The fact is that America must plan its departure from Iraq without achieving many of its goals. The tragedy of the US intervention is compounded by the need to trade the lives of more American soldiers for the time needed for an orderly withdrawal that doesn't leave Iraq completely in the lurch. The sooner the administration and its opponents grasp this nettle, the better.
Now a snippet of the substance... We'd all be well served if the Democrats and Republicans consider Simon's proposal (.pdf) (for a brief summary see pages 39-42):
What's needed is a timetable that meshes with politics at home and military and diplomatic realities in the Middle East. Washington will need to negotiate its withdrawal with the Iraqi government, assemble a coalition of neighbors to keep foreign fighters out of Iraq, cope with refugees from Iraq, help moderate Sunnis battle Al Qaeda, foster reconstruction, impede meddling outsiders, and plan for a humanitarian rescue if sectarian violence explodes after US forces leave.
This will require Democrats to take a more sober look at the practicalities of withdrawal, as well as their potential political vulnerabilities, and Republicans to press for the post-surge drawdown that Defense Secretary Robert Gates described to Congress in February. As a practical matter, this means a more or less complete withdrawal of combat forces by late 2008 or early 2009. Apart from being the most realistic time frame, this schedule would relieve the next president of the political and strategic burdens of disengagement.
At this point, though, even Republicans who see the war as futile have little incentive to back a withdrawal timetable. Many Republican voters still support the war, and the Democratic alternative -- rapid withdrawal coupled to an unenforceable budget cut -- looks more like a thrown gauntlet than a practical proposal. A plan predicated on a serious strategic calculus, however, would give Republicans something to embrace without appearing to turn coat. Nor could the White House easily dismiss such a plan as a partisan political maneuver. For Republicans running for reelection, a plan that took Iraq off the table before November 2008 might well be seductive.
And if the president were to spurn a reasonable, bipartisan off ramp, as he did with the Baker-Hamilton Report? Back to politics as usual. The Democrats will resurrect their budget hammer, congressional Republicans will be hamstrung as constituents who still supported the war in 2007 no longer show the same faith, and the incoming administration will have to manage rear guard actions against insurgents in Iraq and the opposition party at home. Just when America needs to demonstrate it can still act effectively, it will be paralyzed.
In the above .pdf, Simon's plan allows time for the surge to work and recommends that once the results are in then his plan will commence (though much of it can be done while the surge is surging). That was February... He doesn't come out and say directly that this surge has failed but any honest analyst can now conclude that -- at the very least -- the surge is an underachiever, that the U.S. public resolve will not permit this president and his administration to hide from failure by impugning congressional resolutions or by fear mongering and nor will the ever shifting sands of the Middle East facilitate this occupation (for the ME is much larger than one city and more complex than most in DC or in the military realize). Simon writes, "The Democrats, who recognize that victory in Iraq is unachievable, have reason on their side." Whether this "reason" stems from strategic realities, public opinion, or -- and most likely -- both, is just his way of being polite.
Posted by Geoff