Monday, September 11, 2006

The lost province?

This is what playing whack-a-mole will get you.

The chief of intelligence for the Marine Corps in Iraq recently filed an unusual secret report concluding that the prospects for securing that country's western Anbar province are dim and that there is almost nothing the U.S. military can do to improve the political and social situation there, said several military officers and intelligence officials familiar with its contents.

The officials described Col. Pete Devlin's classified assessment of the dire state of Anbar as the first time that a senior U.S. military officer has filed so negative a report from Iraq.

One Army officer summarized it as arguing that in Anbar province, "We haven't been defeated militarily but we have been defeated politically -- and that's where wars are won and lost."

It's one man's opinion, of course; but that one man is a very senior intelligence officer whose job is to make assessments like this.

And how did this happen, in Col. Devlin's opinion? No surprise:

Devlin offers a series of reasons for the situation, including a lack of U.S. and Iraqi troops, a problem that has dogged commanders since the fall of Baghdad more than three years ago, said people who have read it. These people said he reported that not only are military operations facing a stalemate, unable to extend and sustain security beyond the perimeters of their bases, but also local governments in the province have collapsed and the weak central government has almost no presence.

I'm stunned. Really. Not enough troops? Who would have thunk it?

A caveat: the Post did not see the report, and is relying on anonymous sources to describe it. But nobody is disputing the nature of the report, not even people who disagree with its conclusions. So it strikes me as genuine.

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