A former tactical air controller in the Air Force, Emanuel participated in major combat operations in Iraq in 2003 as a member of a special operations task force. He has returned to Iraq multiple times as an embedded journalist, and he is currently in that country reporting from “inside the surge.” He will be there until the middle of October.
Following General Petraeus’ testimony before Congress last week, Emanuel took a few moments to correspond via email with Townhall.com about what he has witnessed.
The edited transcript is below.
Carpenter: Did you watch the Petraeus/Crocker hearings? What did you think and what are people saying about it in Iraq?
EMANUEL: Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to watch it, and neither did most of the soldiers here at Patrol Base Olson (in northwestern Samarra, Iraq), as the unit was busy with other operations at the time. The few people who did watch it said that it was exactly what they expected him to say, and that Congress reacted in an expected way as well – so, no surprises. The mission tempo is far too high for people to care about these things, or to even have time to watch or think about them. The daily cycle is wake up, go out into sector and try to stay alive (and to kill bad guys) while trying to work with the people of Iraq to move forward, make it back to the base safely, eat, go back out into sector on another mission, come back, eat again, sleep, and repeat. It’s far more exhausting than any who enjoy the cushy American lifestyle will likely ever understand.
Carpenter: Petraeus listed three indicators the surge has been successful: violence was down, casualties have decreased across the board and Iraqis in the Anbar province were ready and willing to fight Al Qaeda. Is this consistent with what you've seen on the ground?
EMANUEL: That is only one small part of the story, though the massive swath of western Iraq that makes up Anbar Province – including its major cities of Ramadi and Fallujah, which many in the coalition were all-but ready to write off entirely as recently as last summer – is one worth knowing and talking about. In the last year, unimaginable progress has seemingly come from nowhere and blossomed into the ‘Anbar Awakening.’