JUAN COLE ON PETRAEUS
The Adults take Charge: The Reality Based Community Strikes Back in Iraq — The professionals take charge. Bush is bringing in Ryan Crocker, a distinguished career foreign service officer, as the new US ambassador to Iraq. And Gen. David Petraeus will replace Gen. Casey as top ground commander in Iraq…
Petraeus is among the real experts on counter-insurgency, and did a fine job of making friends and mending fences when he was in charge of Mosul. Crocker has been ambassador to Kuwait, Syria, Lebanon and Pakistan, and knows the region intimately (as does Khalilzad).
I wish these seasoned professionals well. They know what they are getting into, and it is an index of their courage and dedication that they are willing to risk their lives in an effort that the American public has largely written off as a costly failure. If the US in Iraq can possibly have a soft landing, these are the individuals who can pull it off.
JUAN COLE ON TAL AFAR
The NYT reports Gen. Barry McCaffrey, who teaches at West Point, as estimating that the US military should have a big presence in Iraq for 5 to 7 years, while partnering with and building up the Iraqi military… My problem with that is that they seem to think that the Tal Afar operation was a success, whereas it is a political disaster, and if they are planning another 5 to 7 years of that sort of thing, then we are doomed. At Tal Afar they used Kurdish and Shiite troops to assault Sunni Turkmen, emptied the city on the grounds that it was full of foreign fighters, killed people and made them refugees, and then only took 50 foreign fighters captive. The Sunni Turkmen, not to mention the Turks in Ankara, will never forgive us… But you can’t just empty out one Sunni city after another, bring in troops of other ethnicities to level neighborhoods, force people into tent cities in the desert or into relatives’ homes, and call that a counter-insurgency strategy.
PETRAEUS ON TAL AFAR
During the summer of 2005, the 3d Armored Calvary Regiment (3d ACR), assumed the lead for military efforts in and around Tal Afar. In the months that followed, the 3d ACR applied a clear-hold-build approach to reclaim Tal Afar from the insurgents… Iraqi security forces and U.S. Soldiers isolated the insurgents from external support by controlling nearby border areas and creating an eight-foot-high berm around the city. The berm’s purpose was to deny the enemy freedom of movement or safe haven in outlying communities. The berm prevented free movement of fighters and weapons and forced all traffic to go through security checkpoints that were manned by U.S. and Iraqi forces… The forces conducted house-to-house searches. When significant violent resistance led to battle, combat included the use of precision fires from artillery and aviation. Hundreds of insurgents were killed or captured during the encirclement and clearing of the city.
ARAB PRESS ON TAL AFAR
In the wake of a savage US offensive on the city of Tal Afar, residents have begun returning home, only to find that their houses destroyed, no water available and that they must generate their own electricity if they want the luxury of power… returning residents have been shocked at the scale of destruction wreaked on the homes and shops in city by the US onslaught Most buildings in the city have been reduced to rubble… following the ferocious US bombing and shelling that lasted for days on end. Many families have been forced to live in tents pitched atop the mounds of rubble that once were their homes.
Flocking back home after the end of the US-Iraqi onslaught, residents of the northern town of Tal Afar found their homes flattened to the ground and their hometown turned into a ghost city. US air strikes and bombardment have sent residents into panicky flight from the city, which is populated by a majority of Sunni Arabs and also Shiite Turkomans. Some left for the nearby city of Mosul or ended up in a refugee camp on the city’s peripheries where they face serious shortages of clean water, food and medicine."