General Abazaid Sees No Ebb in Insurgency
It seldom fails that the mainstream press coverage of an event that I have seen or heard live differs rather significantly from my own recollection. Today’s testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee by top Pentagon brass is not an exception.
U.S. General Sees No Ebb in Fight (NYT June 24 | RSS)
The top American commander for the Middle East said Thursday that the insurgency in Iraq had not diminished, seeming to contradict statements by Vice President Dick Cheney in recent days that the insurgents were in their “last throes.”
Though he declined during his Congressional testimony to comment directly on Mr. Cheney’s statements, the commander, Gen. John P. Abizaid, said that more foreign fighters were coming into Iraq and that the insurgency’s “overall strength is about the same” as it was six months ago. “There’s a lot of work to be done against the insurgency,” he added.
His more pessimistic assessment, made during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, reflected a difference of emphasis between military officers, who battle the intractable insurgency every day, and civilian officials intent on accentuating what they say is unacknowledged progress in Iraq.
Strangely, having listened to almost the entire set of opening remarks on CSPAN radio driving home from work today, I did not get that impression from Abazaid’s remarks at all. I haven’t seen a transcription yet but my recollection is that the remarks were pretty much all along the lines of those covered in the DefenseLINK excerpts:
Army Gen. George W. Casey Jr., who commands multinational forces in Iraq, noted the progress Iraq has made in the year since the Coalition Provisional Authority turned over sovereignty to the interim Iraqi government. Casey said Iraqis, supported by the coalition, have established an interim government, neutralized the insurgency, and helped eliminate terrorist havens across the country. “Iraqis are serious about their future,” he said. “And they are serious about building a government that respects the human rights of all Iraqis, and they are serious about defeating the terrorists and the insurgents that are doing the utmost to deny them their dreams.”
Casey noted that recent polls show Iraqi citizens are confident in their government and in their security forces, are optimistic about their future, and intend to vote in large numbers in the upcoming elections. “The Iraqi people are committed to something better,” he said. “They are fighting every day for the dream of a better future.”
Whether Casey’s account is too rosy is difficult to say from my vantagepoint. Clearly, insurgent-terrorist elements are managing to kill people several times a week. They’ve managed to weaken support in the United States for a war that was already polarizing from the outset.
Regardless, the generals testifying today and their boss, Secretary Rumsfeld, were very much on the same sheet of music. Indeed, the remarks attributed to Abazaid by the NYT were echoed by the SECDEF:
Rumsfeld emphasized that any troop withdrawal can’t rely on an arbitrary timetable set up without regard for the situation in the country. “The timing must be conditions-based,” he said.
In Iraq, he said, those conditions are based on the extent to which various ethnic factions reconcile; the level of support from the international community; and Iraq’s neighbors, whose behavior, he said, “continues to be unhelpful.”
He said insurgents continue to come into Iraq from Syria and Iran. “Nations that serve as conduits for mass murderers are not friends of the Iraqi people, they’re not friends of the United States, and they are certainly not friends of the civilized world,” Rumsfeld said. Iraq’s political and economic stability also must improve, and the country must be able to take responsibility for its own security, he added.
“Let there be no doubt that if the coalition were to leave before the Iraqi security forces are able to assume responsibility,” he warned, “we would one day again have to confront another Iraqi regime, perhaps even more dangerous than the last, in a region plunged into darkness rather than liberated and free.”
Whatever criticism Rumsfeld has earned for his decisions, failing to acknowledge the difficulty of the position we’re in is not one of his shortcomings.