View Full Version : McCaffrey Paints Gloomy Picture of Iraq

03-28-2007, 08:42 AM
28 March Washington Post - McCaffrey Paints Gloomy Picture of Iraq (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/03/27/AR2007032701923.html) by Tom Ricks.

An influential retired Army general released a dire assessment of the situation in Iraq, based on a recent round of meetings there with Gen. David H. Petraeus and 16 other senior U.S. commanders.

"The population is in despair," retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey wrote in an eight-page document compiled in his capacity as a professor at West Point. "Life in many of the urban areas is now desperate."...

His report also lists several reasons for some new optimism, noting that since the arrival of Petraeus last month, "the situation on the ground has clearly and measurably improved."

Nevertheless, his bottom line is that the U.S. military is in "strategic peril" -- a sharp contrast to his previous views. In 2005, he concluded in a similar report that "momentum is now clearly with the Iraqi government and coalition security forces." In a 2006 assessment, he wrote: "It was very encouraging for me to see the progress achieved in the past year."...

... he concluded, it is still possible to develop a stable Iraq. But, he added, "We have very little time left." The dilemma facing the U.S. government, he said, is that U.S. forces probably will have to be reduced substantially within three years, but the insurgency will go on for many years more.

McCaffrey's assessment contrasts with other recent reports on Iraq by visiting experts.

Former Australian military officer David Kilcullen, who is advising Petraeus on counterinsurgency methods, recently commented on the Web site of Small Wars Journal: "It is still early days for Fardh al-Qanoon (a.k.a. the 'Baghdad Security Plan') and thus too soon to tell for sure how things will play out. But, though the challenges remain extremely severe, early trends are quite positive." He added that "the general trajectory of the campaign seems to be changing, in subtle ways that may yet prove decisive."

On edit: Welcome Washington Post visitors - you can find the SWJ Blog Dave Kilcullen Archives at this link (http://smallwarsjournal.com/blog/authors/dave-kilcullen/).

03-28-2007, 08:56 AM
The full 8-page memo here (http://www.militarytimes.com/static/projects/pages/AARMcCaffreyIraq032607.pdf).

Nice to see SWJ get a mention by Ricks.

03-28-2007, 09:57 AM
The full 8-page memo here (http://www.militarytimes.com/static/projects/pages/AARMcCaffreyIraq032607.pdf).

Nice to see SWJ get a mention by Ricks.

Much appreciated tequila!

03-28-2007, 02:14 PM
Well, this is indeed a dark assessment. The following quote is important.

... he concluded, it is still possible to develop a stable Iraq. But, he added, "We have very little time left." The dilemma facing the U.S. government, he said, is that U.S. forces probably will have to be reduced substantially within three years, but the insurgency will go on for many years more.

I am usually loath to push my own posts, and have no done so to date over this forum. But this point is so significant that I'll break my own rules and mention that as I have observed from a distance the wisdom, knowledge and experience displayed at the SWJ, the one thing that has concerned me is the notion that this could be like any other COIN operation in terms of duration. In my equally dark assessment entitled Concerning the Failure of Counterinsurgency in Iraq (http://www.captainsjournal.com/2007/01/08/concerning-the-failure-of-counterinsurgency-in-iraq/), I said:

It has been said that successful COIN warfare takes ten years on average. Even if this is true, we do not have ten years to perform COIN operations in Iraq. And the U.S. public is not to blame. Four years has been given to the administration, and at least the first couple (after the toppling of the regime) were squandered. This squandering of time and resources, while it affected public sentiment in the U.S., affected Iraq even more. The U.S. public, even now, is likely to give the administration longer than the situation on the ground in Iraq will allow. The critical path to solving Iraq doesn’t rest with public sentiment. If Iraq is a killing field sustaining an exodus of refugees to Syria and Jordan as it appears is the case, we simply do not have ten years. The basis for this boundary condition is Iraq, not the U.S. The same COIN strategy, six years from now, will see the annihilation of the Sunni population and rise of Iran as the only true power in Iraq.

We don't have ten years with OIF, and never did. So what would work / would have worked? The contributors to the SWJ have a better chance than I of arriving at the answer to this question. But it seems that we needed COIN on steroids to make OIF work. My post linked above is dated and the security plan seems to be improving the situation measurably. Further, while I do respect Rick's assessments, he tends to be rather dark, and combining his dark assessments with mine might be piling on.

But there seems to be a continued attempt to implement the ten-year-COIN paradigm, exemplified by the release of the high ranking Sadrist (http://www.mnf-iraq.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=10812&Itemid=21)to attempt to reconcile with the Sunnis. Once again, I loath the dark assessments, but in my most recent (http://www.captainsjournal.com/2007/03/27/iran-sadr-and-iranian-forces-deployed-throughout-the-middle-east/), I said:

At the standdown of the surge and security plan, Sadr will return to Baghdad, heavily guarded, to women crying and waving their scarves in the air, and men shooting their AK-47s and and swearing to kill on command. Sadr will be received back as not just a hero, but as someone almost divine, who stood down the U.S. Any capture of Sadr and turnover to the courts of Iraq would have the opposite outcome of that intended, because no Iraqi court will convict Sadr of crimes, thus exhonerating and codifying him in his rule of his followers.

Iran will then have their forces deployed in Lebanon, headed by Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, and in Iraq, headed by Moqtada al Sadr. Only confident actions by the administration - rather than acquiescence by the State Department - will avert such an outcome.

It might seem rather pedestrian to some to have recommended the "strategic disappearance" of Sadr as I have, but McCaffrey's point is salient and unanswered. The U.S. will have to stand down at some point, since the current infrastructure will not support the continued heavy deployments. Mentally, we went to war with the forces that Reagan built, while actually we went to war with the forces deconstructed by the subsequent administrations and congressional laziness. Pedestrian though it may seem, the strategic removal of those who would lead the insurgency - rather than WHAM - might in fact be the COIN on steroids that has been needed. We have taken this approach with AQI and AAS, removing them as actors when we could by taking robust kinetic operations against them. To take any other approach with the Mahdi army and the hard line Sadrists is sure to be a losing proposition.

03-28-2007, 04:10 PM
My thanks for the posting of MacCaffrey's assesment. Definitely a more gloomy situation than I realised. To counterbalance this gloom, Rumsfeld is gone, Maliki has awakened, and Al Queda types and their tactics are still their own worst enemies.
It's bothering that the current tactics now being instituted with the posting of small US units in outposts is a technique instituted by the Marine Corps in Vietnam way back when. The concept did run into headwinds from Westmoreland with his too long reliance on large unit operations and the consequent need for bodies but it seems to have been a success. If the We-Know-How-To-Run-A War-Better-Than-You crowd in Washington would leave things alone, I would be optimistic for the future.

Roger Smith

03-28-2007, 04:38 PM
"Mentally, we went to war with the forces that Reagan built, while actually we went to war with the forces deconstructed by the subsequent administrations and congressional laziness."

Great line!!! It's one factor that many are not speaking about. These new 18 month deployments are insane in this era where people are getting married and are allowed to at younger ages. The strain on the military families at this operational tempo is enormous. If its allowed to happen you can't blame the young guys for doing it. Wasn't it General Gray who suggested changing that but got himself into an immediate hellstorm? If this nation is going to continue with a more overt posture in Foreign Policy than former recent administrations these types of issues are going to have to be addressed.

Dr Jack
03-29-2007, 02:08 AM
General McCaffrey provides an interesting insight in his memo; in paragraph 5 of his memo he states that “in my judgment, we can still achieve our objective of: a stable Iraq, at peace with its neighbors, not producing weapons of mass destruction, and fully committed to a law-based government.”

This differs from the National Security Council’s Iraq Strategy Review that states that the U.S. strategic goal remains “a unified democratic federal Iraq that can govern itself, defend itself, and sustain itself, and is an ally in the War on Terror.”

There is a difference in being “committed to a law-based government” and “a unified democratic federal Iraq.” In February 2003 President Bush had stated that:

“The United States has no intention of determining the precise form of Iraq’s new government. That choice belongs to the Iraqi people. Yet, we will ensure that one brutal dictator is not replaced by another. All Iraqis must have a voice in the new government, and all citizens must have their rights protected.”

The National Strategy for Victory in Iraq (2005), however, had the following definition for the long term end state in Iraq:

• An Iraq that has defeated the terrorists and neutralized the insurgency.

• An Iraq that is peaceful, united, stable, democratic, and secure, where Iraqis have the institutions and resources they need to govern themselves justly and provide security for their country.

• An Iraq that is a partner in the global war on terror and the fight against the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, integrated into the international community, an engine for regional economic growth, and proving the fruits of democratic governance to the region.
General McCaffrey’s assessment seems to indicate that the goal of exporting democracy has been replaced with a more acceptable outcome for the Iraqis -- a commitment to a stable, law-based government. The neo-con dream of creating a democracy in the Middle East that can take root and spread throughout the region may well have fallen to the more pragmatic end state of a country that has some measure of stability and a commitment to the rule of law.

Tom Odom
03-30-2007, 01:17 PM
General Scales had this to say today:

Is The Army Headed For Collapse? (http://www.washtimes.com/op-ed/20070329-084334-9363r.htm)

Thank the Pentagon bean counters

...Bean counters in the Pentagon tell us that Army recruitment and retention are in good shape. Problem is, our cumbersome readiness reporting system only informs leaders in Washington of conditions on the ground many months after the force begins to break. Today, anecdotal evidence of collapse is all around. Past history makes some of us sensitive to anecdotes and distrustful of Pentagon statistics. The Army's collapse after Vietnam was presaged by a desertion of mid-grade officers (captains) and non-commissioned officers. Many were killed or wounded. Most left because they and their families were tired and didn't want to serve in units unprepared for war.

If we lose our sergeants and captains, the Army breaks again. It's just that simple. That's why these soldiers are still the canaries in the readiness coal-mine. And, again, if you look closely, you will see that these canaries are fleeing their cages in frightening numbers.

The lesson from this sad story is simple: When you fight a long war with a long-service professional Army, the force you begin with will not get any larger or better over the duration of the conflict. For that reason, today's conditions are pretty much irreversible. There's not much that money, goodwill or professed support for the troops can do. Another strange consequence is that the current political catfight over withdrawal dates is made moot by the above facts. We're running out of soldiers faster than we're running out of warfighting missions. The troops will be coming home soon. There simply are too few to sustain the surge for very much longer.