How we adapted strategy in Iraq to changed circumstances

This is from a speech by Brig. Gen. H.R. McMaster to AEI. He begins by talking about the pre surge strategy and why we needed to change:


So the strategy of rapid transition to Iraqi security forces did not take into account the fact that this had become a sectarian struggle and then our actions in transitioning rapidly were essentially enabling one side in the civil war, or you could say to a certain degree that was happening, and may have been exacerbating the conflict and handing over prematurely to an Iraqi government that in the middle of this cycle of sectarian conflict lacked the capacity but also the willingness to do what was necessary to reduce the violence.

And Al-Qaeda, you could say, had succeeded. I mean, this was not something that just happened naturally. This is another misperception, maybe a lesser included misperception that the Iraqis just – they never go along with each other, they’re just going to fight each other, it’s an intractable problem but we have to recognize that this was a situation deliberately incited by our enemies and this has been Al-Qaeda’s strategy since the end of 2003 – to pit Iraq’s communities against them. And then once they have started that cycle of sectarian violence to accelerate that cycle of sectarian violence such that the country would descend into chaos and they could use that chaotic environment again to establish a degree of control.

Obviously this was a humanitarian crisis in this period from ’06 to ’07 and this is when – this just happen to be when Ambassador Crocker and General Petraeus came in. There was a decision obviously to reinforce the security effort and the Ambassador and the Commander developed first a political strategy to serve as the foundation for all other activities and actions within Iraq.

Those actions which with we are most familiar are the security actions but there were other critical actions in terms of developing Iraqi institutional capacity and also economic development, rule of law, security sector reform and really influencing not only key actors within Iraq but broadly throughout the region, to reinforce a movement toward political accommodation and ending the violence. So we could talk more about that strategy if you want. That would be looking back and I know that we wanted to look forward a little bit more.


And what we are seeing now I think is some top down movement toward political accommodation as well and we could talk specifically about how some of the political dynamics over the last couple of months have created a condition from maybe movement toward political accommodation at the national level. But what has happened and I think we can see this now in retrospect is that political accommodation at the local level has placed some social pressure on the Iraqi government to move in the same direction or key actors within the Iraqi government who represent portions of the communities who were fighting each other.


I think the fourth big thing is Al-Qaeda is on its way to defeat. And this has had a big effect. Maybe we don’t realize some of the second and third order efforts. I mean, defeating Al-Qaeda in Iraq is a good thing in and of itself. The effect it has on the Iraqi people is also a good thing. But what effect that has on reducing the justification for militias is immensely important.

And I think it has been the effectiveness of operations against Al-Qaeda which has allowed the Iraqi government to have the kind of support it needs in going after the militia problem. Because militias can no longer say I’m a protector of your community. You put up with my thuggery or else there’ll be mass murder attacks in the marketplace tomorrow. That justification has been removed and now the militias are something that can be put on the agenda of the Iraqi government. We can work together to extend the government’s writ into these areas that have been controlled by militias.


There is much more. He hits on 10 points in all and many of them probably require more depth of thought than most Democrats can muster.

President Bush has gotten a bum wrap for the early military strategy in Iraq, which was really a product of the US military. It was not necessarily a bad strategy, but it had to change to adapt to the enemy strategy. This is not unusual in warfare, but if you read the caterwauling of the war opponents you might think otherwise.

The rapid transition strategy was basically that of Gen. Abizaid and Gen. Casey. It had to be changed because some of the original premises of the strategy were no longer valid because of actions of the enemy. That is what he means by saying al Qaeda had succeed. He is talking about their chaos strategy. It would have been a winning strategy if Democrats had been in charge of the war effort. Because Bush brought in new commanders who could respond to that strategy, al Qaeda is on the verge of defeat in Iraq.

The fourth quoted paragraph its on some of the non kinetic aspects of the strategy that many tend to overlook. Certainly the new Prime Minister of Pakistan does not understand this aspect of the strategy based on his comments in a post below.

McMaster's speech is worth reading in full. It is too bad that political opponents of the war will probably never be exposed to his wisdom.


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