He covers a speech by a commanding Lt. General who has just returned from Iraq.
Here are some highlights:
The festivities surrounding the 75th anniversary of Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School For Public and International Affairs continued yesterday with a speech by Lt. General David Petraeus (M.P.A. '85, Ph.D. '87). General Petraeus has recently returned from Iraq, having served as the Commander, Multi-National Security Transition Command and NATO Training Mission. Before that, he was Commanding General of the 101st Airborne Division during its year in Iraq.
There are 115 Iraqi battalions in combat right now, and every single one of them has a ten man American training team. The American training team teaches the Iraqi officers how to lead and helps coordinate Coalition assistance in logistical matters and combat support. “A huge effort paying enormous dividends.”
So, what's the "bottom line up front?" Iraqi soldiers and special police are “very much in the fight,” as evidenced, “sadly,” by the casualties they have taken in combat, which are at least twice the American.
The most impressive thing about the Iraqi units is how tenacious they have become, notwithstanding early reports that they would cut and run. According to General Patraeus, since the January elections, from which the Iraqi security forces “took an enormous lift that still persists,” the Iraqi forces "have not run from a fight, they have not backed down." This strikes me, by the way, as enormously hopeful for the future of Iraq, the persistence of the counterinsurgency, and the power of democracy to motivate the fight against the war on terror.
There are 105,000 “trained and equipped” Iraqi forces through basic training and in the field under the Ministry of Interior Forces, which covers police, police commandos, highway patrol, dignitary protection, etc. These units are not “fully independent,” but they are getting there.
Ministry of Defense Forces Trained and Equipped 89,000, including the Iraqi Army, Special Operations, Air Force, Navy, and Combat Support.
“These are not people who have just walked across the stage. They are out there and in combat. For example, this number is about 12,000 fewer than the number of police trained, because some of them don’t make it.”
Soldiers are graduating every day. By the October 15 referendum on the constitution (which Patraeus predicted will pass), trained and equipped military and special police will total 200,000, and 300,000 by next summer.
The progress since the summer of 2004, when General Patraeus assumed command, has been considerable. Fifteen months ago, only six battalions of Iraqi army (less than 2,000 men) were in training, and none were "in the fight." Now, 14 battalions are in training, and 74 are operational and in the fight.
A year ago, there were no special police units. Now there are 27 battalions in the fight, and five more serving as border patrol and emergency response. These are all top-down units, none that have failed “like the homegrown Fallujah brigade.”
These units are all classified according to "readiness reports" that are very similar to those used for the American army.
Level 1 is fully independent, “capable of planning and executing operations, and sustaining itself, without coalition support.” This is a very high standard, and because it requires no coalition support in combat, whether logistical or in the form of indirect fire support. As reported this week, only one battalion operates at this level now, but the press accounts did not make clear what a difficult standard this is.
The other interesting question involved the "public relations" war. "Are we losing the PR war to the enemy? What are you doing on the marketing PR front?"
General Patraeus said that they have given the media an enormous amount of information, including countless important metrics for measuring progress, but that it is largely ignored. He observed that the enemy “On many days it is impossible to break through the steady drumbeat of sensational attacks occurring in Baghdad throughout the country. The opening of the new military academy got no coverage at all, even though it was a big event with the whole Iraqi government in attendance."
Patraeus is obviously extremely unhappy with the monomaniacal press coverage.
Sounds like quite a quagmire doesn't it?
If it doesn't make Bush look bad, it's not news.