One of our most faithful readers writes from Baghdad, where he is serving as an officer in the Army Reserve:
I’m back over here for my fourth Army Reserve stint since 2004. What a difference a year makes. In late 2006 and early 2007, just after surge had been announced, many commentators and thinkers — in uniform and out — thought that Anbar was hopeless, a lost cause. Just google “Anbar Lost” to see what I mean. Nowadays, it has been weeks since we lost a soldier in Anbar. More incredibly Iraqi Army units, composed of Anbari Sunnis, have deployed to Basra to engage in the fighting, under PM Maliki’s lead.
A year ago, the mere thought that the much-maligned PM would announce a major Iraqi-led offensive against fellow Shia would have been met with guffaws. Yet he announced it in late March this year, did not seek Coalition permission, and ordered 30,000 Iraqi Army and Police troops to deploy. More incredibly, they did deploy in good order, arriving in less than a week, with some units traveling hundreds of miles. And they fought. And they evacuated their own wounded using their own aircraft back to medical facilities.
Was the performance of the PM or the Iraqi forces up to our standards? Certainly not. Their pre-deployment planning was weak, as was their logistical support. As water and ammunition ran low, their ability and willingness to stay in sustained offensive small-unit combat wavered. The Iraqi units in Baghdad also fought against the Mahdi Army in supporting operations, exhibiting some of the same weaknesses.
To unbiased observers, this is significant progress. Critical to the Iraqi performance was the Coalition training teams in their midst (not all of them US), Coalition air support, and Coalition logistical re-supply. If you want to know what the future of the Coalition effort in Iraq might look like after al-Qaeda is defeated, this would come close.
Speaking of the Coalition, more than 30 nations still have boots on the ground here as official members of the Coalition, as part of the NATO training mission, or under UN authority. Unofficially, about 1000 Peruvians serve in a private security company that guards the perimeter of the US Embassy. Several hundred Ugandans working for another contractor also serve as guards at some Coalition bases. Another aspect of the coalition-of-the-willing that receives little mention are the nations that permit us to sustain our effort — Ireland, Germany, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait — even though they deploy no troops. Without access to airfields and ports in these countries, the global reach of the US would be much curtailed. After five years of war, this commitment still amazes.
I’m incredibly honored to be given the opportunity to serve here one more time.
Our reader has asked us to preserve his anonymity, for obvious reasons. We salute his service and note that his observations provide a useful contrast with such mainstream media reports on the Basra offensive as today’s long Washington Post article by Sudarsan Raghavan and Ernesto Londo