"Holding their own" includes more than just troops training, or political reconciliation - assuming... when you view the US DNC vs GOP... there is such a thing as political reconciliation. Part of Iraq's battle to be self-sufficient also depends upon competent structure in their finance/budget execution departments. For what good is having a stellar military if they cannot appropriate gear and ammunition? And what good is political reconciliation if they can allocate funds for national projects, but can not implement them due to bureaucratic red tape?
Today's Telegraph finds some US senior advisors giving our UK ally a discreet slap on the hand for governing via poll results.
Although British commanders in Basra still intend to play only a back-seat role, the deteriorating security picture nationwide prompted harsh comments from the principal architect of the surge strategy.
Mr Kagan, a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute think-tank, told The Sunday Telegraph: "British forces have an obligation to step up when needed and it sure looks here like they're needed.
"It is rather a watershed moment in the Anglo-American alliance. I understand that your Prime Minister has already said that the special relationship is over. There's an issue here of fulfilling your obligations as an ally, freely undertaken."
His fellow surge architect, retired US general Jack Keane, also voiced doubts that the Iraqi security forces would be able to pacify Basra unassisted. "There are about 8,000 armed militiamen with a stranglehold on the people of Basra. The situation in Basra has deteriorated since the British pulled out."
Their comments are likely to embarrass Downing Street and anger British commanders in Basra, who have insisted their policy of scaling down their presence is to encourage Iraqi security forces to take the lead. Senior officers also said that the coalition command in Baghdad approved their plans.
Mindful of US unease over Basra, Des Browne, the Defence Secretary, will signal this week that there will be no withdrawal of UK troops from Iraq this spring.
He will tell the Commons that "all options remain under review", but government sources said it was accepted within the military that any troop withdrawal at this time would be "presentationally unacceptable".
This is the same British Sec'y of Defense who - just days ago in the thick of the Basra battle (March 29th) - stated in an interview that Britain should negotiate with the Taliban and Hezbollah. But, in the next breath, also noted that there was *no* negotiating with al Qaeda.
In short, you can no more separate al Qaeda from Hezbollah or the Taliban than you can separate the differing membership of medical professionals from the AMA.
The Basra battle was looming - and is necessary in Iraq's long term future - prior to it's recent kickoff. Or, as Iraqi visiting fellow, Nibras Kazimi put it in his 3/25/08 blog post, "Operation Calavary Charge (Updated)", at Talisman Gate:
This is Operation ‘Cavalry Charge’, which is the best translation I could come up with for صولة الفرسان.
Its chief objective is to flush out the organized crime cartels that control the port of Basra and the oil pipelines of the province. One major criminal force in the Basrawi scene are groups that affiliate themselves with the Sadrist movement and its Mahdi Army. Many of these criminal rings are also associated with certain factions of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard that operate in Basra both for intelligence/sabotage purposes as well as enriching themselves. By knocking out these egregious manifestations of lawlessness, Operation Cavalry Charge will have the accrued benefit of mashing up the more subtle patterns of Iran’s malignant influence in Iraqi Shiism’s foremost economic prize, the oil fields and port of Basra.
But is this how this story is being reported by the US and Arab media? Of course not!
The dominant false narrative du jour goes something like this: the Sadrists are angry over a number of things (arrests, political wrangling with the Hakim family and the Da’awa Party, etc.) so they decided to back away from Sadr’s seven-month ‘ceasefire’ (a term invented by the western media as a deliberately wrongful translation of تجميد وإعادة هيكلة جيش المهدي: “freezing and restructuring the Mahdi Army”) by staging ‘civil disobedience’ (…such as shutting down primary schools and shops by threatening teachers, students and the middle class) but things quickly deteriorated into the perpetual cycles violence that these journalists and pundits are mentally wedded to and have staked their thin expertise on predicting as Iraq’s inevitable fate.
If little old me had known about Operation Cavalry Charge a month ago then it stands to reason that the Sadrists and the Iranians had heard about it too. In fact, it was supposed to start a week ago, but got delayed allegedly because Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim got cold feet. However, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki forced the issue and flew down to Basra a couple of days ago (media reports said he got in yesterday; I was told something else) to personally oversee his boldest move yet: demonstrating that he’s got the gumption to use Iraqi security resources to battle Shia militias and crime cartels and take back Iraq’s vital economic nerve-center, all without appealing for American help and in a direct challenge to Iranian objectives.
The events in Basra are a lose-lose scenario for the DNC posturing on Iraq. They lose in their calls for withdrawal as a way to further Iraq's progress. The British turned over control of Basra to the Iraqis prematurely. Were they still in control, Operation Calvary Charge would have been delayed, allowing yet more time for Iraq military progress and increased equipment.
Yet the British semi-abandoment is somewhat of a blessing in disquise, as now the world can envision Iraq's future with a US premature withdrawal under Obama or Clinton. The Iraqis demonstrated their intents and desires to clean out the criminal cartels in their country. And, despite their fledgling status (and with a little help from US air strikes and some British side fire) they have won the battle. Sadr has called his street dogs off.
The DNC naysayers also lose when they deem Iraq as ungovernable, and in the midst of a civil war. This is about as much a "civil war" as US police actions against mobsters, cartels and gangs operating in US borders. To call Iraqis killing Iraqis (irrespective of Sunni or Shia) civil war demands the same label apply to American on American gang and criminal violence. It should also be noted we have a higher number of of those "American insurgent" deaths.
There are most definitely "wins" here in Iraq progress. The plan and will to secure Basra by the Maliki gov't is a step forward. The fact they lasted so long on their own before getting coalition aid a few days later shows they not only have the will to police their own country, but they are getting better at doing so.
Another win is for Maliki himself, long portrayed as Sadr's puppet and paid official. While it held some truth in the past, as Sadr's support catapulted Maliki to a position of power, that relationship has been altered.
But the biggest win goes to the Iraqis themselves. For it not only shows the govt plans on policing the entire nation, sans cartels, but shuns Iranian influence simultaneously. It is their way of saying their intrusive neighbor - "our port... our control... hands off".
Now picture our future. A newly elected DNC POTUS pulls US troops, leaving Iraq's so-called "civil war" in the hands of the Iraqis. Basra now goes nationwide wide, and the new Iraq police and military forces are overwhelmed, and under supplied with gear, vehicles and munitions. The jihad radicals are, of course well armed with black market war supplies by Iran, Syria, and every other underground channel they can tap. Thre is no dearth in middle east nations that want to see a free Iraq fail.
Iraq's failure or success will lay squarely on the hands of the next CIC, and how he/she chooses to continue our presence in Iraq. And yet, I will wager that if they do the right thing, and Iraq assumes competent control over their future without US troops, the DNC will bemore than willing and quick to take credit for success.
But they will be just as quick to dig a mass grave for the plethora of 2005-2008 press stories of their past - filled with withdraw/surrender demands.