- Speaks of best and worst moments in Iraq
- Six questions and answers
Two key parts of General Petraeus's interview with the Boston Globe:
Before you left for Baghdad on this tour, you told Congress there is no military victory in Iraq and that what is needed is a political solution. What is the strongest indication on the ground that the surge is creating the environment needed to achieve a political solution?Here is the full interview.
There is no question that all of us -- Iraqi leaders, as well as Coalition leaders -- are frustrated with the slow pace of political solutions. These solutions include fundamental issues that underpin the allocation of resources and power within the Iraqi political state after years of authoritarian rule. It takes time to resolve these issues, however, just as it took the U.S. time to resolve fundamental issues like civil rights (which is similar to de-Ba'athification) or states rights (which is similar to provincial powers).
Nevertheless, there have been some indications of progress. First, we have seen on-the-ground reconciliation among groups that were opposed to the government. The Anbar Awakening is the most prominent, where Sunni Arabs have turned against Al Qaeda and are now being integrated into Iraqi Security Forces. This effort has spread to other areas, as well, such as Baqubah and in locations such as Abu Gharib, Ghaziliyah, and Ameriyah in Baghdad, where local groups have reconciled with the government and the government is in the process of incorporating them into legitimate security organizations.
Second, this bottom-up approach has led to greater demand from the local groups, cities, and provinces on the central government and there have had to be national-level compromises to support these "constituent demands." For example, on Thursday, 6 September, Deputy Prime Minister Barham Salih and a number of cabinet ministers will travel to Ramadi for the Anbar Forum II where we believe the DPM will announce for Anbar Province increased police authorizations, supplemental funding, additional reconstruction funding, and other initiatives that reflect the government's concern over a Sunni Arab province.
There are, moreover, political solutions that are being worked in practice, even if they are not yet codified in law. For example, the Iraqis do not have a de-Ba'athification law, but they have a large program to recruit former Army officers and Ba'ath Party officials and offer them jobs. Over 5,000 have returned to the Army and the Prime Minister told me that some 15,000 to 20,000 more now have civilian jobs. Tens of thousands of other former officers and NCOs have been added to the official retirement rolls. Additionally, the Iraqis do not have a provincial powers law, but they have provided budgets and authorities to the provinces, which are operating under those reasonably significant powers. Finally, Iraqi leaders have not agreed on an oil revenue sharing law, but they are distributing revenue to the provinces on a generally equitable, per-capita basis.
As you noted in the question, few of these political solutions would have been possible without the improved security provided by Coalition and Iraqi Forces.
What time frame do you see for accomplishing the goal of the mission informally known as "the surge" in Baghdad? And when it is accomplished how soon after would you estimate it is possible for the US to begin a drawdown of forces?
Our soldiers are achieving success in many areas of our security operations, and we are dealing a significant blow to Al Qaeda and other extremist elements in Iraq. That is not to say that there have not been setbacks, for there have been. Beyond that, the success has been greater in certain areas than others. Nonetheless, what our troopers have achieved is measurable and important.
Although the surge of forces was designed to be temporary, the assumption underlying the surge endures. A secure environment will remain necessary to provide the space for Iraqi leaders to tackle the tough political issues that must be resolved in order to achieve reconciliation and sustainable security. As the surge proceeds, though, we have continued to transition responsibility for security to our Iraqi partners as conditions on the ground and their capabilities have warranted. We have already transitioned responsibility in 7 of Iraq's 18 provinces, in fact, and we will continue this process in other parts of Iraq as conditions make that possible. I will provide Congress my recommendations for the adjustment of our forces based on the success that we are having and in recognition that we do not want to keep our soldiers deployed any longer than necessary. Based on the progress that our forces are achieving, I expect to be able to recommend that some of our forces will be redeployed without replacement. That will, over time, reduce the total number of troops in Iraq. This process will take time, but we want to be sure to maintain the security gains that Coalition and Iraqi forces have worked so hard to achieve. It is that security that will provide an environment in which Iraqi leaders can resolve the important political issues that stand between their country and true reconciliation.
Here is the Boston Globe page one story about Petraeus's comments.