Friday, July 27, 2007

Perspective: On This Day In Iraq -- July 27th edition

July 27, 2006: Soldiers from the 4th Infantry Division sip on tea during an outreach program to locals in Sayifiyah.

July 27, 2002:

Bush and Blair agree terms for Iraq attack

Tony Blair has privately told George Bush that Britain will support an American attack on Iraq if Saddam Hussein refuses to accept resumed UN weapons inspections.
President Bush's "understanding", based on conversations with the prime minister, is that he can count on Mr Blair, according to well-placed Bush administration officials.

The agreement between the leaders comes as diplomatic, military and intelligence sources revealed details of a new plan for the invasion of Iraq, which could take place sooner than had previously been presumed.

The plan involves a slimmed-down force of around 50,000 troops, which could be deployed within a matter of days.

It had been widely assumed that the US could not deploy sufficient numbers of troops needed for the task before the end of this year at the earliest.

Now senior officials are saying a sudden military strike could be launched as soon as October.

Boeing and other US companies are working round the clock, producing satellite-guided "smart" bombs that would be used in huge air strikes to accompany any ground invasion.

Although no plan of attack has yet been finalised, Mr Blair has already offered "in principle" to lend full British military and diplomatic backing for an assault.

Mr Blair insists in public that no decision has been made about British involvement in any US military attack on Iraq. "We are not at the point of decision yet," he told a Downing Street press conference on Thursday.

A Washington source familiar with administration thinking said that while it was accurate to say Mr Bush had not yet decided how or when to attack Iraq, the president was considering his options in the belief Mr Blair would go along with the US.

Two options have been widely discussed in Washington. One would involve inserting Iraqi defectors, backed by 5,000 US troops and "precision" air strikes. The plan was once dismissed by General Anthony Zinni, America's Middle East envoy, as a recipe for a "Bay of Goats" disaster, comparable to the 1961 Bay of Pigs fiasco in Cuba.

The second option, which would require at least a three-month build-up, is the US military's central command standard war plan, involving 250,000 troops and heavy armour. Britain, it is suggested, would contribute 30,000 troops, an armoured division backed up by air and sea support.

A new third option now being considered is for a sudden strike, involving no more than 50,000 troops who would bypass the Iraqi army and make straight for Baghdad.

With thousands of US troops already deployed in Kuwait and Qatar, such a plan could be executed quickly, officials say.

Though a sudden attack combining air power and ground forces would still involve huge risks, it would have the advantage of avoiding mounting opposition to military action against Iraq in such countries as Saudi Arabia and Jordan - whose bases the US might not need - as well as wrongfooting Saddam Hussein, officials say.

British military sources describe this third option as "high risk" but with a "high payoff" were it to succeed.

The US officials say Mr Bush has also obtained agreement in principle for support from France in conversations with President Jacques Chirac.

Mr Blair is understood to have told Mr Bush that British support is contingent on the completion of a genuine effort to persuade Iraq to readmit weapons inspectors.

Mr Blair has also insisted that Mr Bush offer a "full explanation" in public of his reasons for going to war and that a "major effort" be made to win over sceptical public opinion. "Blair wants him to make the case," a source said.

Part of the Blair-Bush understanding was that evidence that Iraq presented an urgent threat through its alleged attempts to obtain weapons of mass destruction would be published in London.

Read the rest at the Guardian

July 27, 2003:

Winning the Iraq peace

Ask any American soldier in Iraq what day of the week it is and he has no idea. Working seven-day weeks -- in grueling shifts under a scorching sun and 115-degree heat, with no electricity, running water or air conditioning -- is disorienting in the extreme.

It is even more disorienting, however, to find oneself in hostile territory, wondering if the next Iraqi who approaches might be the one to slip a gun between your helmet and Kevlar vest and pull the trigger. Wasn't this the country we came to liberate?

I recently returned from Iraq as part of a team conducting the first independent review of reconstruction efforts. We went at the request of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Ambassador L. Paul Bremer, the top U.S. administrator in Iraq.

Over 11 days, our team of reconstruction experts traveled throughout much of the country, visiting nine of Iraq's 18 provinces and 11 of its largest cities. We met with a broad range of people in Iraq, including U.S. soldiers, Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) officials, Iraqi political leaders, local government officials and ordinary Iraqis.

Truth be told, Iraq in July 2003 is disorienting for just about everybody -- even the Iraqis themselves. Most Iraqis are indeed grateful that Saddam Hussein is no longer in control, and many thank a visiting American for freeing them from his tyranny.

At the same time, the humiliation of seeing foreign soldiers on their streets causes many to say the U.S. soldiers should go home. That is, until one asks, "When?" The fear of Saddam and chaos lead most to recant almost immediately, "Maybe a year, or two, or five. ... "

American policy-makers are disoriented as well. Pounded by constant attacks on American personnel and almost daily losses of life, military and civilian leaders are searching for answers. In the same day one hears descriptions of "small bands of dead-enders who do not threaten the outcome" and of "increasingly sophisticated guerilla attacks" that will get worse before they get better.

Some call for more troops to secure the country and allow the people to focus on rebuilding. Others call for withdrawal. What does the United States need to do now to win the peace in Iraq?

Our findings, released in a public report earlier this month, underscore the enormous challenges the coalition faces in the coming months and years in Iraq. U.S. efforts there are at a critical juncture. With high Iraqi expectations, low coalition performance on delivering basic services and increasingly organized resistance to U.S.-led occupation, the window of opportunity to get this right is closing fast.

If the United States is to succeed, it must kick the entire reconstruction effort into high gear, dramatically increasing the money and manpower it is devoting to the reconstruction. Over the next 12 months, the United States must give priority attention to seven key issues if it is to win the "hearts and minds" of Iraqis and successfully return Iraq to its own people.

The primary lesson of past post-conflict interventions is that security is the sine qua non for successful reconstruction. Despite the welcome news of the demise of Saddam's brutal sons Odai and Qusai, the principal problem in Iraq remains the lack of security throughout the country. American soldiers continue to be killed on a near daily basis, and Iraqis in large parts of the country live in fear.

Spend time on the streets of Baghdad and you notice something odd. There are no women. Only a handful dare to venture outside owing to the continuing state of virtual lawlessness. The United States must simultaneously rebuild a new army, reintegrate hundreds of thousands of former soldiers into society and create a new police force in short order.

A second priority must be to establish Iraqi buy-in to the entire reconstruction process. Iraqis must be given significant decision-making power and governing responsibility if they are to have a real stake in the coalition's strategy. The newly formed Iraqi Governing Council is a good start. Perhaps even more important will be the CPA's efforts to provide direction and resources to the local and provincial councils that interface with the citizenry with greater frequency.

I attended a successful local council meeting in eastern Baghdad. After a lot of raised voices, the diverse group of people from different ethnic and religious backgrounds had agreed on top priorities for their district. When they presented their decisions, there was no U.S. or coalition representative who could provide the funding or staff to make it happen. This is a recipe for disaster if not addressed immediately.

Establishing some semblance of a normal economy will be no easy task for the CPA. The statist legacy of Saddam's regime has taken its toll on the economy. The good news is that street-level commercial activity is returning to normal, as evidenced by the bustling marketplaces and entrepreneurial vendors throughout the country. One sees satellite dishes for sale on every corner of major cities.

Quite simply, Iraqis need jobs. The coalition authority has to stop making the perfect the enemy of the good and get people back to work by getting a number of state-owned enterprises up and running. In addition, a crash program to get electricity, water and sanitation back online must be initiated as soon as possible. Until people can eat a dinner cooked with regularly available gas, go to bed under a fan or air conditioning and wake up and splash their faces with water, they will continue to be susceptible to the many anti-American forces at work in the country.

Iraq is an amazingly diverse country. We were welcomed by flag-waving Kurds in the north, who held a big Fourth of July party for us on July 2 because it was the only time available. In the predominantly Shiite areas, people thank you for liberating them and in the same breath ask you to leave. In Sunni areas, people say, "Get Saddam, then you can ask us to come work with you." Gains in the Kurdish and Shiite areas need to be consolidated, even as the war is pursued in the "Sunni triangle." This strategy will not work until the CPA decentralizes its operations and has significant numbers of civilian experts in all of Iraq's 18 provinces.

Another key challenge will be to facilitate a change in the Iraqi mind-set from one of mistrust and skepticism to one of trust and optimism. For this to take place, the CPA must articulate its vision for the future of Iraq -- specifically, the role of the United States. A national marketing campaign is necessary to communicate the CPA's plans and priorities. It verges on criminal that the airwaves in Iraq are still dominated by TV from Iran.

But getting the message to the Iraqis is only part of the problem: Information flow from the Iraqis to the CPA is also severely lacking. To remedy this, the CPA should establish walk-in centers staffed by Iraqis and mobilize a cadre of Iraqi youth to establish a two-way dialogue between the CPA and the general population.

Finally, better inter-CPA communication is necessary if there is to be any cohesion and unity of effort within the organization. At a town meeting, I witnessed a U.S. Army colonel announce a $2,500 reward for information leading to the capture of those who murdered his executive officer only days before. When I asked the colonel why he didn't mention the $25 million reward for Saddam's capture as well, he replied, "$25 million for Hussein, really?"

The final area for immediate attention is creating a broader international coalition for reconstruction. The war coalition did its job but it isn't designed for, or up to, the new tasks at hand. As one senior international official in the CPA mentioned to me, "the United Nations may not matter much to you Americans, but it does to the countries whose people and money I'm trying to recruit."

The enormity of the challenge is staggering. The United States cannot and should not try to do it all. Many countries and institutions are willing to pitch in but only if they are included as real partners and given some decision-making authority.

To finance the reconstruction, the United States will have to spend more of its own money, but it must also secure additional international support to make this work. Despite past pronouncements to the contrary, oil is not going to solve all of Iraq's problems. According to best estimates, it won't be fully online for years and the money confiscated from the Hussein regime will run out long before.

Bremer, the American administrator of Iraq, has a sign on his desk in Saddam's old palace: "Success has a thousand fathers." If the United States brings all the Iraqis and international actors of good will into the tent now, success is still possible.

Read the rest at the Post Intelligencer

July 27, 2004:

Water projects halved by security, other costs

Rising security and other overhead costs of Western contractors are cutting into the billions of dollars set aside for about 90 planned water projects, allowing them to supply only half the potable water originally expected, Iraqi officials say.

Scaling back the projects by that much would vastly reduce their benefits in a country that already meets no more than 60 percent to 80 percent of the demand for water on a given day, depending on the region.

The estimates by the Iraqi government may have wider repercussions, because they provide the first measure of how the continuing violence in Iraq could affect the $18.4 billion reconstruction program approved by Congress last fall.

That program covers numerous infrastructure areas, including transportation, oil, electricity, sewage – and of course water, the sector covered by the Iraqi estimates.

Overall, about $4.3 billion was set aside for water and public works, of which about $2.8 billion has been released so far.

"A big chunk of that money is going to administration and security," said Nesreen M. Siddeek Berwari, the minister of municipalities and public works, the sector of the Iraqi government that has responsibility for water projects outside Baghdad.

"Everything we planned for, because of the budget limitations, what's available for construction is half," Berwari said.

Steve Susens, a spokesman for the Project and Contracting Office, which is affiliated with both the Defense Department and the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, said estimates for security costs and other overhead had risen somewhat since the first estimates on the size of the projects were made early this year, before the insurgency erupted.

But he said that the office and its contractors were seeking innovative ways of softening the impact of the rising costs, like seeking new donors or reworking the engineering designs.

"There's no reason to dispute the figures," Susens said of the Iraqi calculations. He said that "security costs are the one thing we can't control. It's controlled by the enemy."

The Iraqi officials said that delays, often unexplained by the Americans and lasting as long as six months, had kept any of the approximately 90 new projects from moving much beyond the planning stage.

Read the rest at the San Diego Tribune

July 27, 2005:

Panel: Not Enough Iraq Postwar Planning

An independent panel headed by two former U.S. national security advisers said Wednesday that chaos in Iraq was due in part to inadequate postwar planning.

Planning for reconstruction should match the serious planning that goes into making war, said the panel headed by Samuel Berger and Brent Scowcroft. Berger was national security adviser to Democratic President Clinton. Scowcroft held the same post under Republican Presidents Ford and George H.W. Bush but has been critical of the current president's Iraq and Mideast policies.

"A dramatic military victory has been overshadowed by chaos and bloodshed in the streets of Baghdad, difficulty in establishing security or providing essential services, and a deadly insurgency," the report said.

"The costs, human, military and economic, are high and continue to mount," said the report, which was sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations, an independent foreign policy group.

Two years after a stunning three-week march on Baghdad, U.S. and Iraqi military forces have been unable to secure and rebuild the country, and reconstruction has fallen victim to a lack of security, the report said.

The White House has reacted to similar criticism in the past by saying there was significant postwar planning.

In a speech last month to soldiers at Fort Bragg, N.C., President Bush pointed to the Iraqi elections and efforts to improve roads, schools and basic services. "Rebuilding a country after three decades of tyranny is hard, and rebuilding while at war is even harder. Our progress has been uneven, but progress is being made."

The report said the critical miscalculation of Iraq war-planning was the conclusion that reconstruction would not require more troops than the invasion itself.

Not only are more troops needed but they should be trained for postwar duty, the task force said.

In Iraq, the task force said, postwar requirements did not get enough attention, and there were misjudgments, as well. This, the report said, "left the United States ill-equipped to address public security, governance and economic demands" after the war.

And this, in turn, undermined U.S. foreign policy and gave an early push to the insurgency in Iraq, the task force said.

In Afghanistan, as well as Iraq, the report said, the postwar period has been marked by inefficient operations and billions of dollars of wasted resources.

Read the rest at Fox News

July 27, 2006:

The march of folly

Hubris, the ancient Greeks taught, is followed by Nemesis; overbearing presumption always finds the goddess of divine retribution and vengeance baying at its heels. Washington is learning that painful lesson again today -- and Iraqi civilians and American troops are paying the price for the pride that drove the United States to try to implant democracy on the cheap in the heart of the Arab world.

So who's to blame? It is fast becoming established wisdom that it was the Pentagon's political leaders -- especially Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, his neoconservative first-term deputy Paul Wolfowitz, and the cocksure chief of their policy shop, Douglas J. Feith -- who, above all, led us down the road to disaster in Iraq. But it's too neat to pin the culpability on the Defense Department's pinstripe-wearing civilian leaders and ignore the blunders of the uniformed top brass or, for that matter, the rest of the U.S. government; as they did in Vietnam, the nation's military and civilian leaderships share the responsibility for what's gone wrong. In his compelling and well-researched book, Thomas E. Ricks, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter for The Washington Post, painfully but clearly reveals an important truth about the Iraq debacle: It has a thousand fathers.

As the title implies, Fiasco pulls no punches. Sure enough, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and Feith come off badly in Ricks's account. But so do most Democratic members of Congress (whom Ricks labels not doves but "lambs" for their failure to oversee the executive branch) and the media, particularly the New York Times, which failed miserably to probe the Bush administration's war justifications and postwar planning. Ricks is also particularly scathing toward L. Paul Bremer, who led the civilian occupation authority in Iraq in 2003-04. Ricks quotes one colonel who described the efforts of Bremer's Coalition Provisional Authority as "pasting feathers together, hoping for a duck."

Troubling as these failures are, they are by now reasonably familiar; what's far less well-known is the bungling of the senior military leadership. With devastating detail, Ricks documents how U.S. generals misunderstood the problems they faced in Iraq and shows how poorly prepared the Army was for the unanticipated danger of a postwar Sunni rebellion. For ignoring the risks of an insurgency after Saddam Hussein's fall, Gen. Tommy Franks, the head of U.S. Central Command, "flunks strategy," Ricks writes; the war's commanding general designed "perhaps the worst war plan in American history." Gen. Richard Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the invasion, and his deputy, Gen. Peter Pace (who's since been promoted to take Myers's old job), come off as smiling yes-men who went along with amateurish impulses from the Bush administration's political leadership and who forsook their duty to offer detached, professional judgments, acting instead as administration flacks in both private and public.

As a result of the lapses of the top brass and the haughtiness of Rumsfeld's men, the U.S. military came into Iraq inadequately prepared -- and hard-pressed to adapt. From the start, it failed to recognize that ensuring public order was the key to postwar success. As one general puts it, "I was on a street corner in Baghdad, smoking a cigar, watching some guys carry a sofa by -- and it never occurred to me that I was going to be the guy to go get that sofa back."

As the insurgency deepened, the Pentagon's military and civilian leaders first ignored it, then worsened it by using wrongheaded tactics. By emphasizing killing the enemy rather than winning over the people, the U.S. military made new enemies more quickly than it eliminated existing foes. Mass arrests and other attempts to intimidate Iraqis backfired, swelling the insurgents' ranks. U.S. units and troops deployed to Iraq turned over quickly, shuttling in and out of the country with little attempt to build a coherent intelligence picture of the situation on the ground or to sustain hard-won relationships with the local Iraqi officials trying to make their country work. Cities such as Mosul and Fallujah were liberated from insurgents and then abandoned; inevitably, the insurgents took over again. Such mistakes are depressing but not entirely surprising: The U.S. military has forgotten many of the lessons of counterinsurgency warfare that it learned bitterly in Vietnam and elsewhere. Having neglected counterinsurgency in the military's training and education programs, we should not be shocked that we are ill-equipped to wage it.

Read the rest at the Washington Post