May 14, 2006

Informed Comment:
My problem with that is that they seem to think that the Tal Afar operation was a success, whereas it is a political disaster, and if they are planning another 5 to 7 years of that sort of thing, then we are doomed. At Tal Afar they used Kurdish and Shiite troops to assault Sunni Turkmen, emptied the city on the grounds that it was full of foreign fighters, killed people and made them refugees, and then only took 50 foreign fighters captive. The Sunni Turkmen, not to mention the Turks in Ankara, will never forgive us. And the press reports show substantial disappointment in the city even among Shiites with the results. The Tal Afar operation is considered a "take and hold" or "oil spot" strategy, as opposed to search and destroy. But you can't just empty out one Sunni city after another, bring in troops of other ethnicities to level neighborhoods, force people into tent cities in the desert or into relatives' homes, and call that a counter-insurgency strategy. Every year the US military has been in the Sunni Arab heartland they have alienated more and more Iraqis.

So I think we should get the US ground troops out of there. As a matter of politics ("hearts and minds"), they aren't making things better and have no early prospect of doing so. If it is a matter of keeping air capability, and some special ops and armor in the neighborhood, that might be necessary to keep things from collapsing. By the way, why does the Iraqi army have only 70 tanks after all this time? (In 1990 I think they had 8,000 tanks!) How can you take and hold territory with no armor? And what about helicopter gunships? My own guess is that the US doesn't build up those capabilities because they can't be sure the Iraqi military won't at one point mutiny against them. But if that is the case, then the US troop presence really is stunting Iraqi capabilities.


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