U.S. leaders have reversed the Iraq situation from being a “bloody disaster” into one of increasing stability, and President-elect Barack Obama must take care not to squander those gains, says retired Army Gen. Barry R. McCaffrey.
McCaffrey also excoriates what he describes as the “misjudgments and denial” of Department of Defense leaders during the first years of the war, which he said burned through $750 billion and resulted in death or injury to 36,000 U.S. troops.
“The genius of the leadership team of Ambassador Ryan Crocker, General Dave Petraeus, and Secretary of Defense Bob Gates has turned around the situation [in Iraq] from a bloody disaster under the leadership of Secretary [Donald] Rumsfeld to a growing situation of security,” McCaffrey wrote in the far-ranging “after action” report he filed recently with the Department of Social Sciences at the United States Military Academy.
Newsmax obtained a copy of the report, in which the adjunct professor at the academy expressed hope that the Obama administration will be cautious in evaluating military options during the next six months.
“The available U.S. Army and Marine combat forces are insufficient to support continued robust presence in Iraq while also rapidly reinforcing our presence in the Hindu Kush [Afghanistan] with mountain infantry capable units,” wrote McCaffrey, who is an adjunct professor at the academy and a military analyst for NBC and MSNBC.
“The likely strategic outcome will be a more rapid forced drawdown than desirable in Iraq in order to enhance combat power for Afghanistan,” he wrote. “It will be a tricky balance — but in my judgment, we will pull this off successfully. Iraq will stabilize with the rapidly increasing power of the Iraqi Security Forces, while we reinforce the inadequate NATO combat power in Afghanistan.”
Developments during the weekend may have provided the Obama administration with breathing room, if they succeed in preventing the U.S. from being forced out of of Iraq after the U.N. resolution authorizing its presence expires at the end of this year.
On Sunday, Iraq’s Cabinet approved a security pact with the United States that would allow U.S. forces to stay in Iraq for three years after the U.N. mandate expires. The agreement is subject to the approval of Iraq’s 275-member Parliament, but no vote has been scheduled, according to an Associated Press report.
The agreement would provide for U.S. forces to leave Iraq by the end of 2011 and give Iraq the right to try U.S. soldiers and defense contractors accused of serious crimes committed off-duty and off-base. It also would prohibit the U.S. from using Iraqi territory to attack Iraq's neighbors, such as Syria and Iran.
If the agreement failed to move through the Parliament, McCaffrey said it would be “a shameful outcome, which would return our U.S. military units to their base areas and begin a unilateral withdrawal and the cessation of formal U.S. support for the Iraqi government.”
McCaffrey, who based his after report on fact-finding trips to the Middle East, wrote that he believes the U.S. “is now clearly in the end game in Iraq to successfully achieve what should be our principle objectives.” Among those objectives, he listed:
Withdrawing the majority of U.S. ground combat forces in Iraq in the next 36 months. Leaving behind a functioning government and security forces. Fostering the end of civil war among various factions. Helping create an Iraqi nation at peace with its neighbors.
It would be devastating if the new administration rushed a withdrawal, he wrote, noting his concerns about Iraq’s lack of preparedness.
“The Iraqis do not have a functional air force.” McCaffrey concludes. “They do not have navy and marine corps yet capable of protecting their Gulf transportation and petroleum infrastructure. Their border security forces are still anemic. The Iraqi armed forces in general lack adequate armor, artillery, maintenance, logistics, medical, and communications to function in counter-insurgency operations or border defense without U.S. support.”
McCaffrey’s report also laments that the expenditure of billions and the lives lost “did not have to turn out this way.” And they wouldn’t have, he wrote, if:
The U.S. had provided adequate ground combat power in Iraq during the initial intervention, including military police units, civil affairs, engineers, cavalry forces, and reconstruction assets. The Iraqi army had not been dismissed and thousands of Saddam Hussein’s penniless officers been tossed out. The U.S. had not dismissed the Baathist cadres in government, academia, the armed forces, and business, “leaving the state rudderless.” The U.S. had created an international coalition with a clear U.N. mandate before intervening in Iraq. U.S. leaders had not lost the support of American people with misjudgments about alleged weapons of mass destruction and Rumsfeld’s subsequent misstatements of facts about the reality of the growing insurgency war on the ground. The U.S. had not issued “illegal orders which resulted during the initial years in the systematic widespread mistreatment [and occasional torture] of thousands of Iraqi and Afghan detainees under our control. [This shameful situation has now been completely corrected.]”
The U.S. had gained allies’ cooperation a primary objective and allowed the secretary of state to take the lead instead of the Pentagon, as well as engaging Iraq’s neighbors, in particular the Saudis, Kuwaitis, Jordanians, and the Turks. The U.S. had seen the growing strain on its ground combat forces and expanded the Army by 200,000 troops beginning in 2002.
McCaffrey concludes, “It is essential for both U.S. and Mideast security that we pull out of Iraq in a deliberate and responsible manner — and leave a stable and functioning state. This is clearly within our capabilities.”
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