Friday, March 02, 2007


No vacillation in Iraq

Guardian article misrepresents the advisers' view

Today’s Guardian article (“Military Chiefs Give US Six Months to Win
Iraq War”) misrepresents the Baghdad advisers. So much so, it makes me doubt the
reliability of the single, unidentified source responsible for much of the
article’s reporting.

I hope SWJ colleagues will forgive this more "personal" post than usual,
but as Senior Counterinsurgency Adviser I have a duty to set the record straight
on this.

There is a real country called Iraq, where a real war is going on, with
real progress but very real challenges. We are not going to "win the war" in six
months -- nor would anyone expect to. But the Guardian seems to be describing
some completely different, (possibly mythical) country, and some imaginary group
of harried and depressed advisers bearing no resemblance to reality. As
counterinsurgency professionals, we take an evidence-based approach and we are
well aware of the extremely demanding task we face. That makes us cautious
realists -- but we are far from pessimists, as the Guardian's anonymous source
seems to imply.

The article is littered with inaccuracies:• the “advisers” are not bunkered
down in the Green Zone, but in another location, and frequently out on the

• the article (incorrectly) describes me as a serving military officer
– I’m a civilian diplomat, as any source truly familiar with the team's thinking
would be well aware.
• while recognizing the severity of the challenge, the team's mood is far from pessimistic. Success will take months or years, not weeks or days, and although early signs are somewhat encouraging it's really far too early to say how things will play out. The war has been going for four years, the new strategy for less than four weeks. Give it time.
• the State department is not failing to meet its personnel targets. On the contrary, more than 90 % of civilian positions in Iraq are filled, and we will grow to 20
Provincial Reconstruction Teams soon.
• the coalition is far from disintegrating – British redeployment from the South reflects improved security, not lack of will, and the same day the British announced their move the Australians announced a force increase in both Iraq and Afghanistan.
• The plan is not “unclear” or “constantly changing” – we all know exactly what the
plan is. The article seems to be mistaking the freedom and agility which have
been granted to us, allowing us to respond dynamically to a dynamic situation,
for vacillation.

I am hoping that the press is forced to acknowledge not just the failings in Iraq, but its own failing. To have the ability to shape opinions is wonderful, but to do so dishonestly is, well, dishonest.