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.

FILED UNDER: Media, Military Affairs
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. mike k says:

    Who to believe: those beholden to the folks w/ the most power to ensure another star or another promotion or those seeking reelection or just money in their war chest. I can understand why most americans don’t believe either group.

  2. James Joyner says:

    Mike: Four star generals have pretty much reached the peak of their career and it’s rather unlikely that Don Rumsfeld will be running for political office again.

  3. reliapundit says:

    veep cheney was right: the insurgency IS in its last death throes.

    the TEMPO of their attacks is simply NOT the measure of their achievement, anymore than our SEEMING inability to prevent them is a sign of our incompetence. it is simply nearly impossible to prevent suicide attacks against soft – and strategically unimportant – targets.

    cheney was right – as rumsfeld pointed out today – because the progress toward democratic self-rule is very good (and inevitable) and when it is completed – which is sooner everyday (no matter how many bombs the jihadis explode) the jihadists will have LOST.

    time is running out for them. and they know it.

    and as the political and economic situation continues to improve so too will the intel, an the ability of the iraqis to defend themselves.

    and so too will democracy spread in the region.

    AS GENERAL CASEY POINTED OUT TODAY: (paraphrasing) “insurgencies stop when people see that they can better advance their polticval ainms through the political system and that continued violence has a negative effect.”

    therfore we just have to continue down the path we’re on/ with resolve. and we have to IGNORRE the Leftist “cut & run” caucus.

    they’re not the loyal opposition because they’re not loyal.

  4. Instead of being executed for War Crimes, I think the Bush regime should be sent to rebuild Iraq on minimum wage. They should take a lot of American flags! I’m not a left or right. I’m an American and I’m as mad as hell about being lied to about 9/11, Iraq, and Iran.

    Reports of Eroding Support For War Effort Concern Troops, General Says
    http://www.defenselink.mil/news/Jun2005/20050624_1840.html
    “This is a worthy endeavor; it’s a revolutionary endeavor. And if we’re successful in stabilizing Iraq and Afghanistan, we will be successful in really tamping down extremism in a tough part of the world, which will directly make our security back home better,” Abizaid said.

    Bush acknowledges ‘grim’ images from Iraq
    http://www.timesofoman.com/newsdetails.asp?newsid=17054
    “The images we see on television are a grim reminder that the enemies of freedom in Iraq are ruthless killers with no regard for human life.”

    100,000 Iraqi civilians dead?
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/Iraq/Story/0,2763,1338749,00.html
    About 100,000 Iraqi civilians – half of them women and children – have died in Iraq since the invasion, mostly as a result of airstrikes by coalition forces.

    Bush: Iraqis ‘Growing In Optimism And Hope’
    http://www.thenewmexicochannel.com/news/4651385/detail.html
    Violence Continues In Iraq

    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.”
    http://www.nytimes.com/2005/06/24/politics/24military.html?pagewanted=print
    Bush will give a speech on the first anniversary of the end of the American occupation?

    Female U.S. Marines Ambushed in Iraq
    http://apnews.myway.com/article/20050624/D8AU8MQG0.html
    The relentless carnage has killed more than 1,240 people since April 28, when al-Jaafari announced his Shiite-dominated government. With the Sunni Arab-dominated insurgency targeting the Shiite majority, the wave of killings has slowly been pushing the country toward civil war.

    A masked Iraqi guard and Iraqi police keep watch while Iraqi Shiite Muslims pray in the street outside a blast- damaged shrine in the Karradah district of Baghdad, Iraq Friday, June 24, 2005. A day after a multiple car bomb attack in the area that killed at least 15 and wounded at least 28 more, worshippers gathered in the street to pray because of their concerns that the shrine structure was damaged in the blast.
    http://apnews.myway.com/image/20050624/IRAQ.sff_BAG107_20050624092824.html?date=20050624&docid=D8AU8MQG0

    Rumsfeld 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!”
    https://www.outsidethebeltway.com/archives/11061

    New Iranian President Promises a Modern Islamic State
    http://www.plenglish.com/Article.asp?ID=%7B29A15726-2CD8-4B6D-B133-E42FBF1E63EC%7D&language=EN
    In his first comments after his victory was announced, Ahmadinejad said his overwhelming poll win is a blow to the country´s enemies, in allusion to the US government, which had criticised the presidential election as flawed.