Iraq, the unraveling (X): a post-Petraeus pattern?
Over the weekend I was reading from a forthcoming book that has a section detailing the decline of security in Mosul in 2004, after then-Maj. Gen. David Petraeus packed up and left with the 101st Airborne, turning northern Iraq over to a much smaller replacement force. Over the course of several months, deals Petraeus had ...
Over the weekend I was reading from a forthcoming book that has a section detailing the decline of security in Mosul in 2004, after then-Maj. Gen. David Petraeus packed up and left with the 101st Airborne, turning northern Iraq over to a much smaller replacement force. Over the course of several months, deals Petraeus had cut began to fall apart, and Iraqis he had brought on board were assassinated. These days the city is one of the most troubled in Iraq.
So I began to wonder: Is what we are seeing in Iraq now is a larger and slower version of those events? That is, the deals that Petraeus patched together as the top commander in Iraq in 2007-08 have begun unwinding slowly, and the momentum promises to accelerate with the sharp decline in U.S. troop levels scheduled for early next year.
I asked a senior officer about this, and he responded:
I don’t think that’s what we’re seeing, though there certainly are plenty of challenges facing Iraq — among them continuation of agreements Iraqi leaders have made about taking care of Sons of Iraq members, observing international conventions regarding the Mujahideen el Khalq, not inflaming tensions with the Kurdish Regional Government, a budget crunch (due to the fall in the price of oil), Sunni-Shia tensions, and intra-Shia competition, among others. By no means were all the agreements reached on Petraeus’ watch (he left in early Sep 08, albeit to go to CENTCOM which still oversees Iraq), of course, and many are in the realm of political or diplomatic issues, vice military. Beyond that, and despite the periodic sensational attacks causing concern in recent months, the level of violence has remained at the low levels that have characterized the past 6 months — between 10 and 15 attacks per day, on average, vice the 160 attacks per day at the height of the violence in June 2007.
Looking back, Mosul actually hung together better than any other area of Iraq during the April 2004 “uprising,” when the Iraqi forces elsewhere in the country collapsed in the face of Sunni insurgent and Shia militia violence. (Petraeus and the 101st Abn Div left Mosul in Feb 04, and the ICDC they trained did reasonably well in Apr 04.) Beyond that, most observers assess that the spiral downward in Mosul began with the assassination of the governor of the province at the end of June 2004, following which many of the Sunni members of the provincial council walked out over the process followed to select the next governor, obviously not something over which Petraeus had any influence. Over time, this led to an increase in Sunni rejection of the situation and support for the insurgency that undermined security to the point that the police collapsed in Mosul in the face of an attack by AQI intended to draw attention away from the ongoing operation to clear Fallujah in November 2004.
Despite his first sentence, I don’t think his observations really say that the pattern I am seeing is incorrect.
More from Foreign Policy
Russians Are Unraveling Before Our Eyes
A wave of fresh humiliations has the Kremlin struggling to control the narrative.
A BRICS Currency Could Shake the Dollar’s Dominance
De-dollarization’s moment might finally be here.
Is Netflix’s ‘The Diplomat’ Factual or Farcical?
A former U.S. ambassador, an Iran expert, a Libya expert, and a former U.K. Conservative Party advisor weigh in.
The Battle for Eurasia
China, Russia, and their autocratic friends are leading another epic clash over the world’s largest landmass.