What is the surge?

William Thomas Cain/Getty Images John McCain has been tying himself in knots lately trying to explain what he meant when he told CBS’s Katie Couric that the “Anbar Awakening” was made possible by the “surge.” Chronologically speaking, that’s dubious — but McCain later said that he conceives of the surge as the broader counterinsurgency strategy ...

593763_080724_mccain5.jpg
593763_080724_mccain5.jpg

William Thomas Cain/Getty Images

John McCain has been tying himself in knots lately trying to explain what he meant when he told CBS's Katie Couric that the "Anbar Awakening" was made possible by the "surge." Chronologically speaking, that's dubious -- but McCain later said that he conceives of the surge as the broader counterinsurgency strategy that the U.S. military began putting in place in the fall of 2006, not solely in terms of the five additional combat brigades that began arriving in the spring of 2007.

McCain's getting lots of criticism for his chronology, but his broader point is not obviously wrong. Gen. David Petraeus testifed earlier this year that the Awakening "started before the surge, but then was very much enabled by the surge." And let's remember that General Petraeus was put in charge in part because he advocated more troops, whereas Generals Casey and Abizaid objected while the change in strategy was under consideration.

William Thomas Cain/Getty Images

John McCain has been tying himself in knots lately trying to explain what he meant when he told CBS’s Katie Couric that the “Anbar Awakening” was made possible by the “surge.” Chronologically speaking, that’s dubious — but McCain later said that he conceives of the surge as the broader counterinsurgency strategy that the U.S. military began putting in place in the fall of 2006, not solely in terms of the five additional combat brigades that began arriving in the spring of 2007.

McCain’s getting lots of criticism for his chronology, but his broader point is not obviously wrong. Gen. David Petraeus testifed earlier this year that the Awakening “started before the surge, but then was very much enabled by the surge.” And let’s remember that General Petraeus was put in charge in part because he advocated more troops, whereas Generals Casey and Abizaid objected while the change in strategy was under consideration.

That said, it’s still highly debateable whether injecting more troops was the decisive factor, and moreover, the additional troops mostly went to Baghdad, not Anbar province (though 4,000 went there). The “surge” announced in January 2007 was really Petraeus’s Baghdad security plan, and the key was a shift toward protecting Iraqis and working with local forces rather than strictly going after the bad guys.

One thing nobody is talking about, however, is Basra. Nancy Youssef of McClatchy explains the Iraqi view of the surge:

When you ask the Iraqis here, they say that the added U.S. forces were a part of it, but what really turned things around was the Sahwa movement [of former insurgents switching sides], Moqtada’s ceasefires, and in their minds, Basra. Basra was the first Iraqi-led success story, and it really changed the momentum. So, the Iraqis that we talk to see it as a complex equation with the U.S. troop surge as just one factor. And frankly, the situation on the ground suggests that they’re right, because the surge troops have left, and the security situation remains better.

Tag: Iraq

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