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Saturday, March 29, 2008


Iraq: Looking backwards

One of the things which distinguishes Jon Stewart's Daily Show from "real" news is that the former (so-called "fake" news) does a much better job (indeed, it would be hard to do a worse one) at "looking backwards" - comparing past statements of politicians with current ones. And one of the most widely used statements in the past, one that very much deserves to be revisited, is the alleged U.S. "strategy" for Iraq - "As Iraqis stand up, we'll stand down." Last year, I wrote that, as far as I can determine, the last time that phrase was used by President Bush was on Sept. 15, 2006 - a year and a half ago now. Well, without delving into the specific use of the phrase, AP does that thing which they and other corporate media so rarely do - look back on precisely that subject. Here's the opening paragraph:
Iraq's new army is "developing steadily," with "strong Iraqi leaders out front," the chief U.S. trainer assured the American people. That was three-plus years ago, the U.S. Army general was David H. Petraeus, and some of those Iraqi officials at the time were busy embezzling more than $1 billion allotted for the new army's weapons, according to investigators.
More from the article:
Year by year, the goal of deploying a capable, freestanding Iraqi army has seemed always to slip further into the future. In the latest shift, with Petraeus now U.S. commander in Iraq, the Pentagon's new quarterly status report quietly drops any prediction of when homegrown units will take over security responsibility nationwide, after last year's reports had forecast a transition in 2008.

Earlier, in January last year, President Bush said Iraqi forces would take charge in all 18 Iraqi provinces by November 2007. Four months past that deadline, they control only half the 18.
By late 2005, the U.S. command had to acknowledge that only one of 86 Iraqi army battalions was ready to fight on its own.

The Iraqis still were not given artillery, big mortars or other heavy weapons. Iraq's political unpredictability and dangerous sectarian-political divides clearly made the Americans wary that heavy weapons might be turned against them, concludes Arab military analyst Nizar Adul Kader.
The U.S. command's goals for a homegrown takeover of most Iraqi security slipped — from spring 2006, to late summer, and then beyond. In November 2006, the Pentagon forecast that all 18 provinces would come under Iraqi security control "in 2007."
It's not all just a review of unmet projections from the past, though. On the subject I write about frequently, airpower, the article has this to say, something I've never seen written about before:
The Iraqis and Americans are working to make Iraqi logistics self-sufficient by mid-2009. But as for "fire support," training command spokesman Lt. Col. Dan Williams said, "heavier artillery is still a ways down the road."

Regarding Iraq's tiny air force, a handful of helicopters, old transports and light planes, "in my opinion, we were late to start on this," Air Force Maj. Gen. Robert R. Allardice told the AP last June, as he took over aviation training in Baghdad.

Today, as he leaves the command, Allardice confirms there are still no plans for modern jet fighters for the Iraqis, only small, propeller-driven attack planes.
The bottom line?
Iraqi defense officials don't expect to take over internal security until as late as 2012, and won't be able to defend Iraq's borders until 2018.

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