Sunday, January 27, 2008

Don't Short The Surge

Kimberly Kagan looks at the success of the surge and notes it may have a surprising result:

We won more than we had hoped, and now we may need to defend it more than we had planned.
Kagan's sobering analysis concludes we can't reduce American combat forces in Iraq below 15 brigades this year:
By the best estimates now available, 15 brigades is the absolute minimum force required to accomplish the mission that has brought us success in 2007. Any further reductions -- even by a single brigade -- may make that mission impossible.
Secretary of Defense Robert Gates' recent hope that the U.S. could cut its combat forces in Iraq from 20 to 10 brigades this year now appears overly optimistic.

Nevertheless, the progress in Iraq is real and the progress is political as well as military. American brigades in Iraq not only oversee combat, the brigades are also responsible for training, and governance missions in their area of operations:
Since the end of 2006, brigades have overseen the Military Transition Teams that train and advise the Iraqi security forces operating in their area, dramatically improving the coordination of Iraqi and American forces.

[. . .]

Since spring 2007, the brigades have housed the Embedded Provincial Reconstruction Teams that have jumpstarted local and provincial Iraqi government. The brigade helps these teams move through the area. The brigades have been instrumental in the Iraqi population's rejection of al Qaeda.
We need patience to attain victory in Iraq. Counterinsurgency is inherently a long-term proposition.

Last week, Micheal R. Gordan wrote about the "parallel universes" he experienced in his military reporting assignments in Iraq and tracking the campaign debate in the United States:
The American officers I met were hardly of one mind on how to proceed in Iraq, but they were grappling with decisions on how to try to stabilize a traumatized country with a hard-headed sense that although there have been significant gains, a long and difficult job still lies ahead — a core assumption that has frequently been missing on the campaign trail.

The politicians, on the other hand, seemed more intent on addressing public impatience with an open-ended commitment in Iraq, either by promising prompt withdrawal (the Democrats) or by suggesting that victory may be near (the Republicans).

Anthony Cordesman, a military specialist at the Center for Strategic and International Studies who regularly visits Iraq, put it this way: “You have to grade all the candidates between a D-minus and an F-plus. The Republicans are talking about this as if we have won and as if Iraq is the center of the war on terrorism, rather than Afghanistan and Pakistan and a host of movements in 50 other countries.

The Democrats talk about this as if the only problem is to withdraw and the difference is over how quickly to do it.”
Iraq is one theater in the War against Islamic Extremism. Al Qaeda's two principal leaders, Osama bin Laden and Ayman al Zawahiri, have repeatedly called Iraq the "front line" in their war against Western civilization. We have no choice but to find the patience to give the military the time it needs to complete the job we asked them to do. The alternative, advocated by the liberal/progressive left wing and the Democratic Presidential candidates, is to admit defeat, surrender to al Qaeda in Iraq after so much sacrifice and battle an emboldened enemy in other theaters until we tire there as well.

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