Frederick W. Kagan, National Review–Kagan is a long time supporter of the surge
|The Gettysburg of This War
This Bush visit could well mark a key turning point in the war in Iraq and the war on terror
President Bush’s Labor Day visit to Iraq should have surprised no
one who was paying attention. At such a critical point in the debate over Iraq policy, it was almost inconceivable that he would fly to and from Australia without stopping in Iraq. What was surprising was the precise location and nature of the visit. Instead of flying into Baghdad and surrounding himself with his generals and the Iraqi government, Bush flew to al Asad airfield, west of Ramadi, the capital of Anbar Province. He brought with him his secretaries of State and Defense, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the commander of U.S. Central Command. He was met at al Asad by General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker, as well as Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Kemal al Maliki, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, and Vice Presidents Adel Abdul Mehdi and Tariq al Hashemi. In other words, Bush called together all of the leading political and military figures in his administration and the Iraqi government in the heart of Anbar Province. If ever there was a sign that we have turned a corner in the fight against both al Qaeda in Iraq and the Sunni insurgency, this was it.
….the turn of Anbar is not simply an isolated local phenomenon with no significance in the larger political struggle in Iraq. On the contrary, it is an event that may well have profound long-term consequences even more important than the passage of any given piece of legislation. The Anbari rejection of AQI deprived Anbar’s leaders of the single most effective fighting force they had in attacking the Shia-led Iraqi government and attacking or defending against its militias. If the Anbaris had thereupon asked for the creation of a local, autonomous or semi-autonomous security force that would be a de facto tribal militia, there would have been cause for concern about their intentions. But they did not. Instead, Anbar’s tribal leaders have been offering their sons by the thousands as volunteers in the Iraqi police army. An entirely new training center was built in a couple of months in Habbaniyah, near Fallujah, which has just graduated its first couple of classes of Anbari recruits to join the ISF. The Anbari police will naturally stay in their areas, but they will not have the technical or tactical ability to project force outside of Anbar — they cannot become an effective Sunni “coup force.” Anbaris joining the Iraqi army, on the other hand, are joining a heavily Shia institution that they will not readily be able to seize control of and turn against the Shia government. In other words, the turn in Anbar is dramatically reducing the ability of the Anbaris to fight the Shia, and committing them ever more completely to the success of Iraq as a whole.