Archive for the ‘iraq war’ tag
After the War in Iraq began in 2003 under the false pretenses of WMDs and then subsequently continued on claims that Al-Queda had strongholds in the nation under Suddam Hussein’s rule, the war is finally coming to an end. The U.S.’s presence in the nation has gone from 505 bases to two, and the plan is to eventually have no permanent military bases in Iraq. This is obviously good news for the troops, or at least the ones that can return home healthy and able to find steady work. Others, as we know, have suffered from PTSD and troubles getting reconditioned to civilian life. And then there are the 35,000 wounded or killed.
Here are tables outlines the casualties for the three main operations that the U.S. has been engaged in since March 2003 in the Middle East. See here for more details.
Operation Iraqi Freedom (March 2003-August 2011)
|Total Deaths||Killed In Action||Non-hostile||Wounded In Action|
|OIF U. S. Military Casualties||4,408||3,408||928||31,921|
|OIF U.S. DoD Civilian Casualties||13||9||4|
Operation New Dawn (After Sept. 1, 2010)
|Total Deaths||Killed In Action||Non-hostile||Wounded In Action|
|OND U. S. Military Casualties||66||38||28||305|
|OND U.S. DoD Civilian Casualties||0||0||0|
Operation Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan)
|OEF U.S. Military Casualties||Total Deaths||Killed In Action||Non-hostile||Wounded In Action|
|OEF U.S. DoD Civilian Casualties||3||1||2|
The question is: how will the Iraqi people, the military and the government respond now that their country is back in their hands? That’s a giant question mark, but I think pulling out will go along way in repairing the rather strained relationship the U.S. has had with some in the Middle East who have viewed us as an occupying force rather than a force for good. The success of the Iraqi government to defend its country, of course, will rely on how well the Iraqi security forces have been trained and how effective they can be in defending the nation’s borders against insurgents. This article doesn’t paint a positive picture, suggesting that even after years of training, the Iraqi forces are still ill-prepared, with about 10,000 having been killed since the force was formed, compared to the above 4,408 U.S. deaths.
U.S. Lt. Gen. Robert Caslen, commander of the NATO training mission, was more upbeat about their chances for success:
They can kick a door in and knock out a network’s leadership as good as anybody I’ve seen. I would say that they have the discipline and the tenacity to fight as well as anybody I’ve ever seen.
Of course, it would be in Caslen’s best interest to say such a thing, since it makes Caslen, as the commander of the training mission, look like he performed his job effectively. Nonetheless, these will be some critical next few months for a people that have for years and years either choked by dictatorial rein, government corruption, looming terroristic threats and crumbling infrastructure.
In light of President Obama’s announcement tonight that, at last, combat operations in Iraq are over, it will be interesting going forward to see what, if any, insurgent uprisings or attacks will occur against Iraqi security forces now that the U.S. presence inside the nation have been severely pared back. Some have already occurred after the much ballyhooed drawback from a couple weeks ago.
Here’s a snippet from Obama’s speech tonight:
Ending this war is not only in Iraq’s interest – it is in our own. The United States has paid a huge price to put the future of Iraq in the hands of its people. We have sent our young men and women to make enormous sacrifices in Iraq, and spent vast resources abroad at a time of tight budgets at home. We have persevered because of a belief we share with the Iraqi people – a belief that out of the ashes of war, a new beginning could be born in this cradle of civilization. Through this remarkable chapter in the history of the United States and Iraq, we have met our responsibility. Now, it is time to turn the page.
A New York Times editorial tonight framed the moment thusly:
Mr. Obama graciously said it was time to put disagreements over Iraq behind us, but it is important not to forget how much damage Mr. Bush caused by misleading Americans about exotic weapons, about American troops being greeted with open arms, about creating a model democracy in Baghdad.
That is why it was so important that Mr. Obama candidly said the United States is not free of this conflict; American troops will see more bloodshed. We hope he follows through on his vow to work with Iraq’s government after the withdrawal of combat troops.
There was no victory to declare last night, and Mr. Obama was right not to try. If victory was ever possible in this war, it has not been won, and America still faces the daunting challenges of the other war, in Afghanistan.
Any declaration of victory was fleeting because terms for what that might look like were never established. In some respects, I am with Christopher Hitchens in believing that we had the right to invade because of Saddam Hussein’s gross negligence for human life and solidarity. He was a monster; we can’t escape that point. But I think the false pretext (the presence of WMDs) under which we were led to believe that the war was a valuable endeavor is the gravest point on this issue. And however bat-crazy insane a national leader may be, I don’t believe it’s America’s job to police and/or jettison every one of them. For, there are many. Thankfully, less than in prior generations, but still many.
We can still count this as a historic day. Any time we can break free of one less entanglement as a nation is a good day in my view. Now, I would hope focus continues to hone sharply onto where it should have lied all along. That is, on Afghanistan or Pakistan or wherever bin Laden may be hidin’.
[Caption: Credit: Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press; Steve Baskis, 24, who lost his sight as a United States Army specialist serving in Iraq, listened to Mr. Obama's address at his home in Glen Ellyn, Ill.]
So far, counterinsurgency has succeeded only in creating a never-ending demand for the primary product supplied by the military: perpetual war. There is a reason that President Obama studiously avoids using the word “victory” when he talks about Afghanistan. Winning, it would seem, is not really possible. Not even with Stanley McChrystal in charge. — “The Runaway General,” Michael Hastings, Rolling Stone, June 25 edition
And now, before the above prophetic story even hits newsstands, McChrystal is no longer the man in charge. But it’s not clear that under the once-again leadership of Gen. David Patraeus, the war in Afghanistan is any more winnable.
Much has been made of McChrystal’s remarks in the above story about top senior leadership in Washington, none greater than that of the Obama administration, which today relieved the former general of his duties. Thus, the above article, while an informative and, for most part, well-reported vignette of the man once leading the United States’ counterinsurgency efforts in Afghanistan is irrelevant, at least as it relates to McChrystal. And again, before it even hits newsstands.
Despite all the hullabaloo about the story this week, the most interesting and meaningful portions of it aren’t about McChrystal at all but about the increasingly stalled, some would say, failed, efforts in that war-torn nation. No one knows where Osama Bin Laden, the mastermind behind 9/11, is hiding. Probably in a hole somewhere safe and sound in the hills of Pakistan. He is almost certainly not in Afghanistan. So, why are we?
Quite simply, as everyone surely remembers, he and his hysteric followers were there once. Just not anymore. Now, and here’s one similarity to Iraq, we are there in a nasty stew with nary an exit in sight.
“Into the breach,” as The New York Times phrased a headline today, comes Patraeus, to help reverse deteriorating circumstances once again. The key difference?
In Iraq, General Petraeus was called in to reverse a failed strategy put in place by previous commanders. In Afghanistan, General Petraeus was instrumental in developing and executing the strategy in partnership with Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, who carried it out on the ground. Now General Petraeus will be directly responsible for its success or failure, risking the reputation he built in Iraq.
Not very heartening. The referenced strategy is a carry-a-stick-lightly counterinsurgency that mostly prohibits using firepower in order to ensure increased protection of civilians, this, much to the chagrin of soldiers, making them almost analogous to powerless cops.
According to Hastings’ article:
One soldier shows me the list of new regulations the platoon was given. “Patrol only in areas that you are reasonably certain that you will not have to defend yourselves with lethal force,” the laminated card reads. For a soldier who has traveled halfway around the world to fight, that’s like telling a cop he should only patrol in areas where he knows he won’t have to make arrests. “Does that make any fucking sense?” asks Pfc. Jared Pautsch. “We should just drop a fucking bomb on this place. You sit and ask yourself: What are we doing here?”
That crude Hiroshima/nuke reference notwithstanding, we can only hope that Patraeus’ other characteristics will win the day. Here, The Times attempts to lay the path:
By helping to pull Iraq back from the edge, General Petraeus won a reputation as a resourceful, unorthodox commander and has since been mentioned as a candidate for president.
But Afghanistan is a very different war in a very different country. Where Iraq is an urban, oil-rich country with an educated middle class, Afghanistan is a shattered state whose social fabric and physical infrastructure has been ruined by three decades of war. In Iraq, the insurgency was in the cities; here, it is spread across the mountains and deserts of the country’s forbidding countryside.
Indeed, to prevail in Afghanistan, General Petraeus will need all of his skills — and a dose of good fortune at least as big as the one he received in Iraq. At the moment, every aspect of the war in Afghanistan is going badly: the military’s campaign in the strategic city of Kandahar has met with widespread resistance from the Afghan public; President Hamid Karzai is proving erratic and unpredictable; and the Taliban are resisting more tenaciously than ever.
To turn the tide, General Petraeus will almost certainly continue the counterinsurgency strategy he devised with General McChrystal: protecting Afghan civilians, separating them from insurgents and winning public support. But he will also have to convince his own troops, who are increasingly angry about the restrictions on using firepower imposed to protect civilians.
And General Petraeus will probably also try to employ some of the same novel tactics that worked so well in Iraq. Most notably, he will continue to coax Taliban fighters away from the insurgency with promises of jobs and security. And he may even try to strike deals with senior leaders of the Taliban as well as with the military and intelligence services in Pakistan.
A former aide to General Petraeus in Iraq who is now in Afghanistan put it this way: “The policy is to make everyone feel safer, reconcile with those who are willing and kill the people you need to.”
That former interim Iraqi Prime Minister and secular Shia Muslim, Ayad Allawi, has beaten out Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, leader of the Islamic Dawa Party, can only be considered a positive for a country on the cusp of being on its own, as America prepares to pull out. Allawi, who does not throw his support beyond the theocracy of Iran (Side note: This is where we would be inexorably headed if folks like Pat Robertson and James Dobson ultimately had their way), while al-Maliki did, just edged his opponent by a 91-89 count.
Here’s a look at how voting broke down.
Maliki, who seems to be more of a polarizing figure in a country that needs the unity that only a secularist — one that has gained support from Sunni and Shiites, nonetheless — can provide. Consequently, Maliki has said he will challenge the results, as he and
his supporters in the State of Law coalition, who hurled accusations of fraud and made vague references to the prime minister’s power as commander in chief.
according to this New York Times article.
Here’s the video and story from NBC News: