"The population is in despair," retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey wrote in an eight-page document compiled in his capacity as a professor at West Point. "Life in many of the urban areas is now desperate."Which puts John McCain's ridiculous claim that he could walk freely down Baghdad streets into its rightful place, as well as exploding any notion that the US is winning the battle against the various Iraqi insurgencies.
...his bottom line is that the U.S. military is in "strategic peril" -- a sharp contrast to his previous views. In 2005, he concluded in a similar report that "momentum is now clearly with the Iraqi government and coalition security forces." In a 2006 assessment, he wrote: "It was very encouraging for me to see the progress achieved in the past year."
The retired general, who on his latest visit also interviewed a U.S. intelligence official and some Iraqi officers, is especially critical of the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. It is "despised" by the Sunnis, he writes, is seen as "untrustworthy and incompetent" by the Kurds, and now enjoys "little credibility among the Shia populations from which it emerged."
The government lacks dominance in every province, he added. One result is that "no Iraqi government official, coalition soldier, diplomat, reporter, foreign NGO [nongovernmental organization], nor contractor can walk the streets of Baghdad, nor Mosul, nor Kirkuk, nor Basra, nor Tikrit, nor Najaf, nor Ramadi, without heavily armed protection."
Militias and armed bands are "in some ways more capable of independent operations" than the Iraqi army, he added.
McCaffrey is gloomy about the continuing strength of the insurgency. At this point, he said, about 27,000 fighters are being held, and at least 20,000 others have been killed, yet enemy combatants continue to produce new leaders and foot soldiers. The result, five years into the war, he said, is that "their sophistication, numbers and lethality go up -- not down -- as they incur these staggering battle losses."
Even McCaffrey's good news conceals some bad news for the Bush administration and its cheerleaders, although they won't want to see it.
Among McCaffrey's reasons for new optimism were that the Maliki government is permitting the United States to attack rogue leaders in the Mahdi Army of radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. Also, he noted that U.S. and Iraqi forces have changed their basic approach to operations, with soldiers now living on small outposts across Baghdad. Iraqi forces also are better equipped than before. In Anbar province, he noted, "There is a real and growing groundswell of Sunni tribal opposition to the al-Qaeda-in-Iraq terror formations."Sadr is safe politically - only rogue leaders are being attacked - and is still the staunchest opponent of the US occupation. Soldiers are being spread out into small bases at exactly the same time as helicopter tactic have had to be changed, which will adversly affect airborne supply and reinforcement operations and leave a high chance that one or more of the new fortresses could be cut off and over-run before aid could reach them down Baghdad's alleyways. Most importantly, McCaffry is pessimistic about Iraq as a whole at the very same time as Al Qaeda seems to be in serious trouble at the hands of local Sunni leaders.
In other words, if Al Qaeda magically disappeared from Iraq tomorrow, every single one of them, Iraq would still be a quagmire for the US and still embroiled in a civil war that has every likelihood of spreading to destabilize the entire Middle East. Iraq as a whole has become a bigger problem than Al Qaeda alone ever was. That's the measure of Bush's success to date in the war on terror.