The Secret Weapon in the War in Iraq: Petraeus

Mary Katharine Ham
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Posted: May 02, 2007 1:06 PM

If Bush can't talk to the American people about this war, maybe he can?

HUME: Is the war so unpopular now that it does not matter what the arguments are for continuing? . . .

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER: I think it matters. . . . If you can make the case, maybe the president can't ever speak to the American people again on this, but I think Petraeus can.And when he comes back in September, if he makes the case that, A, we are succeeding against al Qaeda and we have had remarkable developments in Anbar, a province which had been declared lost to al Qaeda, just half a year ago, completely lost. We now see the Sunnis in Anbar rebelling against al Qaeda and taking up arms against them. And that’sremarkable. If he returns and says we’re making progress and if we leave al Qaeda wins Iraq, that will make the case.

For a great read on the man in charge, check out this week's Weekly Standard article by Max Boot, "Can Petraeus Pull it Off?"

Coach Petraeus is clock-managing on both sides of the Atlantic:

Petraeus feels that he is making slow, steady progress against the myriad enemies that Coalition forces confront, but he is keenly awarethat results may not come fast enough to please antiwar politicians back home who are eager to pull all U.S. troops out of Iraq, and damn the consequences. "The Washington clock is ticking faster than the Baghdad clock," Petraeus often says. His goal is to speed up the Baghdad clock by pressing for more reconciliation between Sunnis and Shiites, and to slow down the Washington clock by showing gains on the ground that can reverse public pressure to pull U.S. troops out prematurely. The former is hard to do because of the mutual suspicions that grip this country. The latter is equally hard, because a few high-profile insurgent atrocities can obscure the progress being made by Coalition forces in stopping ethnic cleansing in Baghdad, whichPetraeus views as his most important immediate goal.

The story also hits on the improvements in Anbar, cited by the NYT, which have come of increased troop levels, clear-and-hold tactics, and cooperation with locals:

Charlton knows it will take more than words to consolidate his success so far. The locals have to see concrete gains from cooperating with the Coalition. Literally. They need to see their town, devastated by war,rebuilt. The roads need to be resurfaced, the water mains repaired.This may be the most challenging part of the American task because it requires money that is not readily forthcoming. Charlton is tapping CERP (Commander's Emergency Response Program) funding at his disposal to pay for $4.4 million worth of projects, but he estimates the entirecost of cleanup will be at least $10 million. He is hoping that someone--perhaps the U.S. Agency for International Development--will foot the bill. Ideally the cost should be borne by the government ofIraq, but whether through incapacity or unwillingness, the Shiite-dominated government is not at the moment sending much money to Sunni-dominated Anbar province.

Yet, for all the shortcomings of their government, Iraqi forces have begun to play a key role in Coalition operations, and nowhere more than in Ramadi. Key to the success of this undertaking has been the recent decision by most of the major Anbar tribes to turn against al Qaeda.From 2003 to 2006, the sheikhs who traditionally dominate life in this rural province were happy to fight alongside al Qaeda against the American "crusaders" and the "Persians" (Shiites) who now run Baghdad.But al Qaeda went too far for their taste. Its indiscriminate violence against civilians, its attempts to impose fundamentalist sharia law (banning even smoking), and, perhaps as important, its attempts tomuscle in on the smuggling networks controlled by the tribes--all this alienated the people of Anbar. A coalition of sheikhs based in Ramadi,led by Sheikh Abdul Sattar, has decided to throw in their lot with the Coalition in the fight against al Qaeda. Twenty-two of the Ramadi-area tribes are now cooperating with the Coalition; only two are still standoffish. In some parts of Anbar, fighting has erupted between alQaeda and more nationalist, less fanatical "resistance" movements suchas the 1920 Revolution Brigades.

More on working together

And, straight from the horse's mouth:




Update: Hugh Hewitt talked to Boot, here.