Friday, March 17, 2006

Ignatius' ignorance

Quote from David Ignatius' column today.
I had a chance to see the new counterinsurgency doctrine in practice here this week. U.S. troops are handing off to the Iraqi army a growing share of the security burden. As the Iraqis step up, the Americans are stepping back into a training and advisory role. This is the way it should have happened from the beginning. . .

It's a few years late, but the new U.S. strategy is moving in the right direction.
Now one can argue that the military has not been as effective in training and advising Iraqis as quickly as expected, but to argue that this is a "new strategy" suggests that Ignatius is just ignorant. Since at least 2004, this is what I have always understood our strategy to be.

For example, Bush, June 2004:
Our military is performing with skill and courage, and our nation is proud of the United States military. (Applause.) Many brave Iraqis have stepped forward to fight for their own freedom, and we are working closely with them to disband and destroy the illegal militia, to defeat the terrorists, and to secure the safe arrival of Iraqi democracy. We're stepping up our efforts to train effective Iraqi security forces that will eventually defend the liberty of their own country.
And who could forget this refrain from Bush all last summer:
Our strategy can be summed up this way: As the Iraqis stand up, we will stand down.
As Ignatius reports, the level of battle ready Iraqi units is improving consistently.
In an interview, U.S. Army Col. James Greer, chief of staff for the U.S. military command responsible for training Iraqi troops, said 40 of Iraq's 102 battalions have taken over security in the areas where they operate. A typical Iraqi battalion has 700 to 800 soldiers. Greer said he sees the process speeding up, as in March 2005, there were only three battalions manning their own areas in Baghdad, he said. But now, Iraqi battalions are taking control in violent areas such as parts of Fallujah, Ramadi and Samarra.

It all comes down to this:
“Give a man a fish; you have fed him for today. Teach a man to fish; and you have fed him for a lifetime”—Author unknown
That was the repeatedly-stated security strategy in Iraq long before Ignatius started listening.

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