Friday, June 15, 2007

"Surge" is complete

The full contingent of U.S. reinforcements for the "surge" in Iraq arrived today.

Now the surge -- and assessments of its effectiveness -- will begin in earnest.

Two reasons for pessimism:

the additional troops bring the total U.S. forces here to about 165,000, the most ever. But when put in the context of all U.S. and foreign coalition forces in Iraq, the extra troops bring the number roughly to where is was for most of 2004 and 2005, when the coalition fluctuated between 161,000 and 183,000 troops.

So while everyone agrees we need more troops, this isn't a meaningful increase.

Now, that ignores the continued build up of Iraqi forces. But that's the other reason for pessimism:

U.S. military officials have complained that the surge got off to a slow start because Iraqi police and army units performed poorly and Iraqi officials did not provided all the units they had promised. Many of the units also are considered infiltrated by Shiite militias.

The surge simply cannot work with U.S. troops alone.

And, of course, there's the political dimension -- a third reason for pessimism:

In addition, the Iraqi government and parliament have not delivered on what U.S. officials believe are the most important elements of the new strategy -- the political reconciliation measures. There has been little or no apparent progress on key issues such as dividing the country's oil revenues, reforming the constitution, readmitting more members of Saddam Hussein's banned Baath political party to public jobs and scheduling provincial elections.

Stuff like this is why I remain in the "hope it works, while suspecting it won't" camp.

Expect a bloody summer and a politically explosive fall.

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