Wednesday, August 27, 2008

I'm Trying to Get This Straight

We invaded and took out an inarguably awful dictator. Without his absolute rule, there was a need for security but not enough U.S. soldiers to provide it. Colonel Paul Hughes worked with officers of the Iraqi military to recall its soldiers into its ranks. Then Paul Bremer arrived and disbanded the Iraqi military, sending 250,000 trained and armed soldiers into the streets, unemployed. This affair is described in detail in The Assassin’s Gate by George Packer.

Rajiv Chandrasekaran said in Imperial Life in the Emerald City that members of the defeated Iraqi military had been hanging around outside the Assassin’s Gate looking for continuing work in the military after the U.S. had set up camp in the Green Zone. When the announcement went out that Bremer had disbanded the Iraqi military, these guys stopped hanging around. Weeks later, Chandrasekaran saw them in a cafe in Baghdad. He asked them what they were doing now that the military had been disbanded. They told him they had become insurgents.

The insurgency gained momentum, and there were reports that former members of the Iraqi military were involved. Also, non-Iraqi al Qaeda members joined, but al Qaeda would not have had this opportunity if we had not invaded.

In 2006 some Sunni tribesmen started to become disillusioned with al Qaeda and its fundamentalism. Also, General Petraeus and other U.S. military leaders started working with Sunni tribesmen to get control of the insurgency. In a Talking Points Memo video made in September 2007, Juan Cole talked about these allegiances -- how Petraeus is to be commended for realizing that working with tribal leaders was the way to get things done in the Sunni regions, but that our support of the tribes amounts to basically bribing them to take our side. Given the fluidity of political relationships in that part of the world, there is no certainty of what these tribes will do in the long run.

By March of 2008 some U.S. military leaders had started to question the long-term ramifications of this empowerment of Sunni militias.

Fred Kagan, even, praised the efforts of the Anbar Awakening against al Qaeda, but expressed concern about reconciliation between the Sunni tribes and the Shiite government.

Now, reports are coming out, linked from two previous posts, that Maliki and the Shiite-lead government is taking an openly antagonistic stance against these Sunni militias. Today two analysts warn Maliki about this. They note that, like the Sunni militias, he has been emboldened by our unconditional support.

So now, the Maliki government and the Sunni militias allied with us, both of have been hailed as manifestations of "progress" in Iraq, both of whom we are aiding and arming, might start renewed fighting against each other.

What was it we were trying to do over there again?

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