Wednesday, December 19, 2007
Small Wars Journal has got the highlights of this After Action Report delivered by Gen. Barry McCaffrey (ret.) following his recent tour of Iraq. In a nutshell, he confirms that the security situation has improved dramatically, that the economy is beginning to revive (although with 50% un-employment, there's not a whole lot of downside left), that the Kurdish region is a stable autonomous state enjoying rapid economic growth and that Al Qaeda has been tactically defeated. That's about it for the good news.
The bad news is that the central government is non-existant, Iraq has hemorrhaged its professional class, its internal refugees are in misery, and its neighborhoods are dominated by armed thugs whose only legitimacy is their declared allegiance to higher-order militias. Most significantly, while McCaffrey suggests that a counterinsugency campaign comprised of twenty-five combat brigades stationed in Iraq over the next decade would probably succeed, he ackowledges that the US military is already unravelling with only twenty brigades deployed there now.
McCaffrey heaps praise on Bob Gates for having quickly and effectively cleaned up the huge mess Donald Rumsfeld left behind. He suggests that Gates can put President Bush's successor in good position to manage the endgame by reducing troop levels to twelve brigades by January 2009. Unfortunately, the best he offers in terms of hope for a longterm successful outcome is that a reduced American military presence just might manage to hold the central government together by the seams until bottom-up reconciliation reaches Baghdad.
So after all the cost in lives, resources, international standing and domestic cohesion, our hopes for a stable outcome in Iraq amount to crossing our fingers and making a wish.