Friday, November 04, 2005

The Long-Term Fight

America will be in Iraq a long time to ensure success. But as new missions become primary, our presence will evolve in numbers and nature. These changes in missions will overlap and many will go on at the same time, though with evolving priorities.

In March 2003, the mission was to destroy Saddam's regime. This required two corps of forces led by heavy armor and with abundant air support, with the United States Army, the Marine Corps, and the British providing the bulk of forces, to blitz to Baghdad in a conventional offensive.

When the insurgency picked up speed, we needed to put boots on the ground to patrol and conduct a counter-insurgency as we started to train, equip, and organize Iraqis to do that job. We have advisers and trainers with these units to help with fire support, planning, and logistics. Despite a wrong start that assumed no insurgency, we are well on the way to having an effective and large Iraqi military able to carry on the counter-insurgency.

As the Iraqis pick up the burden of fighting the terrorists and insurgents, our conventional forces can pull back and act as a reserve for Iraqi troops and rely on our special forces and air power as our part of the offensive against the insurgents. Advisers and trainers will work with the Iraqi units.

Even as the Iraqis win this counter-insurgency fight and we pull out our special forces, there will still be a role for a corps of 75,000 Americans in Iraq. We will need to provide a heavy deterrent force to prevent an Iranian or Syrian invasion as the light infantry of Iraqi's counter-insurgency army transitions into a conventional army able to sustain a campaign against another conventional military, supported by a new Iraqi air force and navy. We will need to keep advisers/trainers with these troops in this phase as well.

Even as the Iraqi army transitions to a conventional force able to fight off invaders and we draw down our conventional forces, we will need to stay in Iraq to nurture rule of law and democracy.

Strategypage highlights what will be a long-term struggle in Iraq long after our troops are confined to mega-bases deterring foreign attack. Fighting corruption:

October 14, 2005: Another unheralded victory in the war on terror is unfolding in Iraq. Arrest warrants have been issued for a former Iraqi defense minister and 27 other officials who served in the transitional government that left office when the current elected government last April. Seems that the former officials stole about a billion dollars in funds earmarked for building the new army. All of the suspects are believed to have left the country, along with the money. While nailing bureaucrats for stealing money may be common in the United States, it is very, very rare in the Middle East. And that’s one of the main reasons al Qaeda came to be. This Islamic terrorist organization first tried to clean up it’s own back yard. Failing at that, they decided to blame it on the West and go after this new enemy. But now, al Qaeda fans (the few that are left after so many Arab civilians have been killed by suicide bombers) are faced with the fact that the Americans have also brought with them the concept of honest government, and accountability for those who run the government. A really radical development this is, at least for the Middle East. Now it’s a long way from arrest warrants to serving time in prison. But it’s a start, and it’s a victory.

By the time military security is achieved, our main presence may be FBI teams and accountants able to find and ferret out corruption while teaching Iraqis the tools of the trade to do so on their own.

Right now we are in between fighting the counter-insurgency and turning over the fight to Iraqis. So we have a way to go. We will indeed be in Iraq for decades. But the nature won't remain static.