Thursday, June 30, 2005

Biden on Iraq: A speech to the Brookings Institute

A New Compact for Iraq

So you want to know what's happening in Iraq? Forget the TV. Forget the New York Times and The Economist and the Washington Post. Forget the bloggers and Newsweek and Time magazine. Of course don't even consider our current regime. Instead, read the speech of Senator Joe Biden.
First, the insurgency remains as bad as it was a year ago. But more jihadists are coming across the Iraqi border, and they are an increasingly lethal part of the problem. Insurgent attacks are back up between 60 and 70 per week. Car bombs now average 30 a week, up from just one a week in January of 2004. In the seven weeks since the Iraqi government has been seated, more than 1,000 people have been killed. The good news is—and there is some good news—the good news is that some disgruntled Sunnis are finally beginning to make the switch from violence to politics. The bad news is, a whole not of them are not. And Iraq's porous borders are being penetrated by well-trained fanatical jihadists who find a seemingly endless supply in what should not surprise us, somewhat of the excessive 600,000 tons of munitions that we acknowledged existed, that we pointed out we could not guard because we had insufficient forces to guard them as long as 18 to 20 months ago.

Our military is doing everything that is possible, and I would suggest more. But there's not enough of them and they are not enough fully trained or capable Iraqi forces to take territory and maintain it from the insurgents. Our forces go out and clean out towns. But then they move to next hornet's nest. They lack the resources to leave a strong residual force behind to prevent the insurgents from returning to and intimidating the fence-sitters, who are too afraid to take a chance on behalf of the government.

I heard with every general and every flag officer with whom I spoke about the inability to mount a serious counter insurgency effort.

Second, Iraqi security forces are very gradually improving. But they are still no match for the insurgents without significant coalition support. General Petreus, who I think is an absolutely first-rate, absolutely first-rate general, who has been in charge of our training of late. And I would argue, had we listened to him much earlier, we wouldn't have squandered the 18 months we've squandered in actually bringing on a more competent, more fully trained and larger number of Iraqi forces. But we have a long way to go. When the American people heard the Secretary of Defense back in February of '04 brag about the fact we had 210,000 Iraqi forces in the security force, and then when 16 months later the administration suggested that there were 168,581—pretty precise number—trained Iraqis, I don't know about where you all live, but I tell where I live, folks asked, "Well, Joe, what's the deal? You got 200,000 Iraqis or 150,00 Iraqis trained, why do you need to keep my kid there? Why do we need 136,000 American forces?"

And the next thing they'd say: "Is even if they're trained and you need all of those forces, then Joe, you're telling me we need well over 300,000 forces to get this thing done?" Remember, remember a guy named Shinseki. Well, ladies and gentlemen, the answer is that there are very few of those Iraqis who are trained to the only standard that counts—that is the ability to take over for an American troop. That's the ultimate exit strategy we've announced a long time ago, be able to replace essentially one for one—an Iraqi for an American force.

Right now, there are 107 battalions in uniform being trained by us. Three of those are fully capably. Translated—it means they can do the job without any American hanging around with them. They can do the job. Somewhere around 27 are somewhat capable, meaning they can do the job is backed up by a significant American presence—backed up by. The rest are in varying degrees of ability to be able to in any way enhance the security circumstance with American forces...
It's a long and very educational speech. But why are we getting our news from senatorial speeches?

No comments: