In two weeks of observing the U.S. military on the ground and interviewing commanders, strategists and intelligence officers, it's apparent that the war has entered a new phase in its fifth year.The Iraqis are no closer to political stability than they were before the much heralded national election and in fact when Petraeus reports in a month there may be virtually no government at all. The US cannot continue current troop levels more than a few months. What happens when the US draws down. We have seen a preview in the South.
It is a phase with fresh promise yet the same old worry: Iraq may be too fractured to make whole.
No matter how well or how long the U.S. military carries out its counterinsurgency mission, it cannot guarantee victory.
Only the Iraqis can. And to do so they probably need many more months of heavy U.S. military involvement. Even then, it is far from certain that they are capable of putting this shattered country together again.
It's been an uphill struggle from the start to build Iraqi security forces that are able to fight and—more importantly at this juncture—able to divorce themselves from deep-rooted sectarian loyalties. It is the latter requirement—evenhandedness and reliability—that is furthest from being fulfilled.
There is no magic formula for success.
As British Leave, Basra Deteriorates
As British forces pull back from Basra in southern Iraq, Shiite militias there have escalated a violent battle against each other for political supremacy and control over oil resources, deepening concerns among some U.S. officials in Baghdad that elements of Iraq's Shiite-dominated national government will turn on one another once U.S. troops begin to draw down.What we see from the administration is more of what the former war supporter Michael Ignatieff referred to as confusing wishes with reality. Burns continues:
Despite political setbacks, American commanders are clinging to a hope that stability might be built from the bottom up—with local groups joining or aiding U.S. efforts to root out extremists—rather than from the top down, where national leaders have failed to act.The incompetence and ignorance of the Bush administration may have broken Iraq but it's time to recognize that the US does not have the resources, military or political to fix it. The longer the US stays the more Americans die for nothing.
Commanders are encouraged by signs that more Iraqis are growing fed up with violence. They are also counting on improvements in the Iraqi army and police, which are burdened by religious rivalries and are not ready to take over national defense duties from U.S. troops this year.
U.S. military leaders want Congress and President Bush to give them more time to keep trying—to reach a point, perhaps in 2009, when the Iraqis will be closer to reconciliation and ready to provide much of their own security.