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Are We There Yet?
by Richard S. Lowry [author] 6/31/07

Recently, on ABC News’ Sunday program “This Week,” George Stephanopoulos asked Senator Jeff Sessions, Has it [the surge] succeeded?. George reminds me of my seven-year-old twins asking ‘are we there yet’ barely after leaving our driveway.

Is it any wonder that the American people say they are against the war, when news commentator-celebrities don’t have a clue about what the United States is doing in Iraq?  George and all the other network news personalities have entire network news organizations behind them. It makes you wonder what their reporters are getting paid for.  How can the everyday American understand what is happening halfway around the world, when American journalists are not providing them with the story?

Richard S.

Richard S. Lowry is the award winning author of the best selling book, Marines in the Garden of Eden, Berkley, New York, 2006. He is an internationally recognized military historian and author. Richard served in the U.S. Navy Submarine Service from 1967-1975 and spent the time from 1975 to 2002 designing sophisticated integrated circuits for everything from aircraft avionics to home computers. Richard turned to serious writing after 9/11 and published The Gulf War Chronicles, iUniverse, New York, in 2002. He is currently working on his next book project. “The Surge” will tell of General Petraeus’ attempt to win the peace in Iraq.  [go to Lowry index]

The Gulf War Chronicles

Marines in the Garden of Eden

I want to know what is happening, so I search out the information on my own. During my daily search for information about the war in Iraq, I came across two outstanding articles, one written by a member of General Petraeus’ fighting brain trust, David Kilcullen and the other written by a nationally respected scholar, Frederick W. Kagan. Kilcullen, an anthropologist who studied Islamic extremism in Indonesia for his PhD dissertation and former Lieutenant Colonel in the Australian Army, is one of General David Petraeus’ closest advisors. He exemplifies the caliber of the leaders gathered on Petraeus’ staff. Dr. Kagan is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and a former professor of military history at the United States Military Academy. Kilcullen’s blog is a report directly from the front lines, while Kagan’s article is a summary of his recent testimony to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.

In his article, Kilcullen stated, “What we have been doing to date is putting forces into position. We haven’t actually started what I would call the “surge” yet.” The final surge brigade was in place on June 15th, only nine days before George asked, ‘are we there yet?’

General Petraeus’ plan to bring peace to Iraq is a four-phase plan. With the arrival of the last of five new infantry brigades, Phase I was complete. As Kilcullen sees it, “This is the end of the beginning.”  Almost immediately, the Multi-National Force transitioned into Phase II. In Phase II, we are moving on to the offensive in a ‘surge of operations.’ Operation Phantom Thunder began on June 16th. It is the largest military operation in Iraq since the 2003 invasion. American and Iraqi forces are involved throughout Iraq, from Nasiriyah in the south to Mosul in the north, and virtually all points in between.

In Kilcullen’s words, “These operations are qualitatively different from what we have done before.” The Coalition Forces are moving on several enemy strongholds simultaneously. They have completely surrounded Baquoba and an Army Stryker Brigade is clearing the city – house to house. Once these areas in the “Baghdad Belts” have been secured, American forces will establish a presence, accompanied by Iraqi forces. This is where the new plan is radically different from previous attempts to defeat the enemy. “The aim is not to kill every last AQ [al-Qaeda] leader, but rather to drive them off the population and keep them off.” Said Kilcullen.

We may not be there yet, but the traffic is improving. If only we could keep the little ones in the back seat quiet, we might just make it there safely.

Today, I received a press release from Baghdad with a very encouraging report out of the southern “Belts.” The Iraqi town of Yusufiyah is close to where the small American patrol was attacked and where three American soldiers were dragged off to an uncertain fate. Two of the soldiers are still missing. The Yusufiyah countryside was an uncontested stronghold of Sunni insurgents, mostly al-Qaeda, until the “Surge” provided enough manpower and resources for the 3rd Infantry Division to move in and establish a continuing presence. With the fear of retributions from al-Qaeda removed, civilians have been stepping up to help the Coalition Forces.

Word was spread that the Iraqi Security Forces were looking for two hundred qualified locals for police training. By 8 A.M. on June 22nd, there were two hundred applicants waiting in line at the Yusufiyah Joint Security Station and by the end of the three-day recruiting drive, 1,200 Iraqi locals had applied, including one woman.

Iraqis are stepping up to the plate all over Iraq. In the “Wild West” province of Al-Anbar, the locals are swarming to join the Iraqi Police and the Iraqi Army. They are actively fighting al-Qaeda, disgusted with the pain and death the foreigners have brought to their communities. In recently liberated Baquoba, civilians are pointing out buried IEDs and insurgent bomb factories, torture chambers, jails and safe houses. Nearly every senior al-Qaeda leader in Mosul has been captured or killed in the last two weeks (most have been killed). And, in Sadr City, Muqtada al Sadr’s thugs are being rounded up in nighttime raids.

Dr. Kagan observed. “To say that the current plan has failed is simply incorrect. It might fail, of course, as any military/political plan might fail. Indications on the military side strongly suggest that success – in the form of dramatically reduced violence by the end of this year – is quite likely.”

Victory is still not certain, but we have only just started Phase II of a four-phase operation. We must asphyxiate the enemy, revitalize Iraq’s economy, and leave the Iraqi people, Army and Police with the resources and will to maintain their own security. There is still much work to be done. We still have a very long way to go. So quit asking if we are there yet.  CRO



copyright 2007 Richard S. Lowry




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