Calling the situation in Iraq a “national emergency,” retired U.S. Army Gen. Barry McCaffrey said April 16 that the country is ripped by a catastrophic low-grade civil war. Returning from a March visit to Iraq and Kuwait, the retired Gulf War veteran issued a March 26 report detailing problems in the war-torn country and calling for stronger political and economic efforts to defuse the violence.
“There is no reason Iraq can’t be a successful nation-state, except that it is in a civil war. The place is too dangerous to work. I don’t see a good outcome until we have more security,” said McCaffrey.
There are roughly 130,000 contractors in Iraq, said McCaffrey; about 4,000 of them have been wounded and 600 have been killed, he said.
McCaffrey spent roughly a week touring Iraq, meeting U.S. military personnel, U.S. and Iraqi political leaders, and Iraqi regional leaders. “If they [the U.S. coalition] go after 100 Shia and Sunni leaders with logic, they will moderate their behavior. We must stay engaged with serious levels of economic involvement,” McCaffrey said in an April 16 speech about his report to the Atlantic Council, Washington.
McCaffrey said as many as 3,000 Iraqi citizens are murdered per month.
“The population is in despair. Life in many of the urban areas is now desperate. The population is terrorized by rampant criminal gangs involved in kidnapping, extortion, robbery, rape and massive stealing of public property,” McCaffrey writes. U.S. military forces are targeted by as many as 2,900 improvised-explosive-device attacks per month. Tracer fire from insurgent guns can be seen at night while flying above Iraq in helicopters.
“No Iraqi government official, coalition soldier, diplomat, reporter, foreign non-government organization nor contractor can walk the streets of Baghdad, nor Mosul, or Kirkuk, nor Basra, nor Tikrit, nor Najaf, nor Ramadi — without heavily armed protection,” McCaffrey writes.
McCaffrey said the Bush administration’s temporary tactical increase of 20,000 troops, referred to as the “surge,” is not likely to halt a bitter civil war.
“Reconciliation is the way out. There will be no imposed military solution with the current non-sustainable U.S. force levels. Military power alone cannot defeat insurgency — the political and economic struggle for power is the actual field of battle,” McCaffrey wrote in his report.
McCaffrey predicted that National Guard brigades will likely be called for an involuntary second combat tour, and said the U.S. Army and Marine Corps cannot sustain the current levels of deployment.
McCaffrey did say some of the tactics employed by Gen. David Petraeus, Multi-National Force-Iraq commander, were making a difference. For instance, going back into cities with platoon-size forces is helping U.S. soldiers find insurgents and stabilize certain communities, McCaffrey said.
“Some things have changed for the better in Baghdad,” McCaffrey said.
Also, there are indications that some of the millions of Iraqi refugees who fled to Syria and Jordan are starting to come back to their houses. McCaffrey also calls for more money and equipment to stand up the Iraqi Security Forces who, he said, have taken horrendous casualties. They need 150 U.S. helicopters, 24 C-130 airlifters and 5,000 light armored vehicles, he said.
“We must give them the leverage to replace us as our combat formations withdraw in the coming 36 months,” said McCaffrey.
The report credits Petraeus with making progress in this area, indicating that 3,500 armored Humvees, 3,500 rocket-propelled grenades 1,400 heavy machine guns, 900 mortars and more than 80 helicopters are now arriving for the Iraqi Security Forces.
Additionally, McCaffrey’s report says there is a groundswell of Sunni opposition to al-Qaida in Iraq. The opposition is in the Anbar province, the report says, and was fostered by the U.S. Marines. “There is now active combat between Sunni tribal leadership and al-Qaida in Iraq terrorists,” the report says.
Dean Popps, Director of the U.S. Army’s Iraq Reconstruction and Program Management, said more than $35 billion has been spent on 14,275 reconstruction projects in Iraq since the 2003 invasion. “It is the equivalent of the Marshall Plan without a name, with projects including water, power, public works, security, education, and oil,” said Popps. So far, $10 billion has been spent on the Iraqi Security Forces.
Crediting the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Gulf Region Division, Popps said in many areas “pipelines have been restored, ports are open, there is lots of commerce and goods on the street”