Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

Iraq, the unraveling (XI): Vet says it’s gonna get worse

Here is a guest column by Adam Silverman*, who was in Iraq last year, explaining why he thinks the war there isn’t over or won. This reinforces my view that the transition to Iraqi forces that is supposed to happen this year generally will be just one more instance of prematurely transferring security responsibilities to ...

584513_090623_exit2.jpg
584513_090623_exit2.jpg

Here is a guest column by Adam Silverman*, who was in Iraq last year, explaining why he thinks the war there isn't over or won. This reinforces my view that the transition to Iraqi forces that is supposed to happen this year generally will be just one more instance of prematurely transferring security responsibilities to Iraqis. Back in the Bush days, doing that was called "rushing to failure." I am not sure what the Obama-era term will be.  Btw, there was a truck bomb near Kirkuk on Saturday that caused more than 250 casualties, and a string of smaller bombs in in Baghdad yesterday.

Anyway, here's Adam:

Here is a guest column by Adam Silverman*, who was in Iraq last year, explaining why he thinks the war there isn’t over or won. This reinforces my view that the transition to Iraqi forces that is supposed to happen this year generally will be just one more instance of prematurely transferring security responsibilities to Iraqis. Back in the Bush days, doing that was called “rushing to failure.” I am not sure what the Obama-era term will be.  Btw, there was a truck bomb near Kirkuk on Saturday that caused more than 250 casualties, and a string of smaller bombs in in Baghdad yesterday.

Anyway, here’s Adam:

Just a word regarding your post from CNAS about GEN (ret) Keane and LTC (ret) Nagl: I’m not so sure that things are won.  In fact I’m not sure you can really win a COIN fight, you can definitely lose one, but winning — how would you define it? Here’s why I disagree with their conclusions:

1) As U.S. Forces pullback at the end of this month into a new form of overwatch, one we’ve got little to no experience with anywhere in Iraq, the local, provincial, and national authorities are supposed to step up, including ISF, but they’re in no way broadly capable of doing that yet. While some units are, not all of them are.

2) The opening or space that the combination of the 2006 Awakenings, the Sunni/Shia cleansing of Baghdad and other once mixed urban areas, and the hard work of the military and civilian allies in the Surge created or allowed for was squandered by the Bush Administration both politically and diplomatically. The opening was supposed to be used for the reconciliation of societal elements, so that there would be tethering, both horizontally to each other and vertically to the state, in order to achieve actual progress in Iraq. The Bush Administration squandered that opening by trying for a pie-in-the sky SOFA agreement that media reports indicated would have kept large numbers of troops in Iraq in perpetuity on huge bases located to stage for Iran and Syria.  The Iraqis rolled us on this, then rolled us and IHEC/UN on the Provincial Elections. So our official occupation status ran out and we’re now there on sufferance. And if you missed it, MSNBC reported last Wednesday, and I saw NO other coverage of this, that the Iraqi Parliament has appropriated the funds for the referendum on if we stay in Iraq. If they call that referendum we will most likely lose!

3) The Iraqis recognize this and that’s why the violence has been creeping up. I think very highly of LTC (ret) Nagl and his work, don’t know anything about GEN (ret) Keane, but everything I’ve seen while deployed in Iraq, seen in secondary sources, and know about the dynamics there, as well as how COIN works, tells me that things are going to get a lot  worse before they get better — if they ever do. And this doesn’t even take into account the effects of what’s happening in Iran on Iraq,  which is basically an Iranian subsidiary.”

*Here is the required disclaimer: “Adam L. Silverman, PhD is the Social Science Advisor for Strategic Communications for the US Army Human Terrain System and was deployed in Iraq in 2008 as a Field Social Scientist and Team Lead for Human Terrain Team Iraq 6 and served as the Socio-Cultural Advisor for the 2BCT/1AD. His views are his alone and do not necessarily reflect those of the US Army Human Terrain System, the US Army Training and Doctrine Command, the 2BCT/1AD, or the the US Army.” Or Joe Torre.

Vermin Inc/Flickr

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. Twitter: @tomricks1

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